MINNEAPOLIS — Roughly eight hours before tip-off, Kevin Durant provided a forecast for what would unfold Friday night between the Thunder and Timberwolves.
The way he saw it, one of two things was bound to happen.
“Ever since I got in the league, every game against the Wolves has been either a great game or a blowout,” Durant said at the Thunder's morning shootaround. “Either they blow us out, or we beat them pretty bad.”
Well, this one wasn't close, and it wasn't the Thunder that did the beating.
This time, Minnesota thumped the Thunder, taking it to OKC from start to finish and constructing a 34-point lead before cruising to a 100-81 win inside the Target Center. “They just kicked our (rear) tonight,” Durant said after the game.
Kendrick Perkins ranked the romp right up there as the worst he's been a part of as a member of the Thunder, adding that the thrashing was one the team won't want to sit through in the film room on Saturday.
As for what went wrong, the answer was pretty much everything.
The Thunder turned the ball over far too many times and in nearly every possible way, settled for jump shots all night and failed to muster anything in transition. And that was just the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, the Thunder couldn't guard without fouling, couldn't keep the Wolves out of the paint, and couldn't cover the 3-point line.
“They beat us in a lot of areas of the game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We take pride in the defensive end, and we didn't establish our defensive intensity. We didn't have a defensive disposition tonight, and that's unacceptable.”
It was the Thunder's most lopsided loss since a 23-point rout at Orlando on Feb. 25, 2011, but it didn't go down as its worst defeat in this building. Back in January 2009, the Thunder's inaugural season, the Wolves laid a 42-point whipping on OKC.
Far more significant than the eyesore that was the final score was the way the Wolves game-planned and exposed the Thunder's offensive deficiencies. Taking advantage of Russell Westbrook's absence, the Wolves loaded their defense on Durant and played an old-fashioned game of “make someone else beat you.”
The Thunder couldn't.
And after two games, that dirty little secret could be out.
In the opener at Utah, the Thunder rode Durant as he dumped in 42 points and carried the Thunder to a three-point win. Minnesota, however, is far superior to the Jazz, and the Wolves' defense limited Durant to 13 points, the fewest he's scored since New Year's Eve 2011. Durant had as many turnovers (four) as made field goals.
Minnesota sent two defenders at Durant each time he caught a pass in the post, and the Wolves had three sets of eyes watching Durant whenever he had his defender isolated on the wing.
“It's not just one guy,” Durant said when asked about Wolves forward Corey Brewer's defense. “If they play one-on-one, I felt I had the better matchup. But every time I caught it, it was two guys guarding me. So I got to kick it to my teammates.”
Right now, they're not much help.
The Thunder went 7-for-31 from 3-point range Friday and is now 13-for-50 from that distance in two games. Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and Reggie Jackson, presumably three players who need to make up the bulk of the scoring in Westbrook's absence, combined to miss 23 of their 30 shot attempts. It contributed to the Thunder's 34.9-percent shooting on the night.
Jeremy Lamb was the only other Thunder player to score in double digits, but much of his career-high 16 points came in garbage time.
“Just keep trusting,” Durant said when asked the counter for opponents' obvious game plan of making others beat them. “Just keep trusting my teammates and give them confidence and it's going to start opening up for me.”
For Durant, the balancing act of continuing to trust streaky teammates versus taking over is a difficult one. But it's one he must figure out, and figure out quickly, in order for the Thunder to stay afloat while Westbrook is sidelined.
“That's still what I'm learning,” Durant said. “I got to keep trusting my teammates first and foremost. But sometimes, when the shots are not falling, if they're not hitting them, maybe I got to be a little bit more aggressive against the double-team. I just got to figure it out.”