Oklahoma City Thunder 111 - Minnesota Timberwolves 104
A tough loss at the Target Center. Up 40-22, the Target Center was buzzing - having just seen a beatdown of Cleveland in a similar way only four days prior, the crowd was expecting more of the same. Unfortunately, our shots stopped falling, their shots started falling and we had no one to guard the paint, which is where the Thunder won the game (50-38).
When I say that the Wolves can't close, its not entirely being fair. Sure, we blew this lead. But we started blowing it well before the 4th quarter came around. And sure, we've blown leads in the 4th to Charlotte and San Antonio, but when you look at every game this year, those tend to be exceptions more than rules.
Let's look at our record quarter by quarter (total points vs.):
1st Quarter: 9-11-2 (583 - 594)
2nd Quarter: 8-13-1 (593-656)
3rd Quarter: 7-15-0 (523-590)
4th Quarter: 11-10-1 (550-550)
The 4th quarter has actually been our best quarter this season and the only one in which we actually have a record above .500. It's the 2nd and 3rd quarters where we are losing the vast majority of our games. The 4th quarter is when we notice it most and when the loss of a lead is the most heartbreaking. But if we could end the 1st half and start the 2nd half better, we would be winning a lot more of these close ball games.
My other take aways:
1. Sebastian Telfair gets a lot of grief on this board, and some of it is admittedly undeserved. But tonight, Telfair was beyond horrible. I don't like to use +/-, but in this case, his -17 only serves to back up what was easily observed by fans watching in the stands. Although the Wolves had pretty good ball movement and made 39 shots on 21 assists - a decent ratio by Wolves' standards - Bassy contributed none of those assists but was responsible for 2 of our 12 team turnovers. Jonny Flynn, who will play back-to-back D League games through the weekend, needs to get back in the worst way.
2. We missed Darko. All of those points in the paint don't happen as easily with Darko in the middle. Pekovic doesn't have the vertical or the length to block those shots and Koufos doesn't have the basketball IQ. Instead of Westbrook killing us on drives, he would've been forced to dish on many of those with better inside defense.
3. The Wolves have a bad habit of getting down on themselves. When things are going well, like in the first quarter, things click. The ball moves well because people are looking for the open guy and are making the extra pass. The defense is not more intense, but its smarter, because we're playing within ourselves.
As soon as other teams start making shots or getting calls, though, we shrink. We give the ball to Beasley for his jab step move, give it to Ridnour to let him create, or force it into the post when its not there. The ball rarely moves around the perimeter, we get very few open shots and our offense grinds to a halt - often resulting in turnovers and easy points off of them for the other team. We're young, so that's to be expected, and as they gain confidence over time, hopefully they can overcome missed shots and continue to run the offense.
4. Corey Brewer may be solely responsible for the rising stock of drugs for bi-polar disorder. One minute, you want to throw things at him. The next, you want to cheer for him. His moves seem to have no reason or rhythm to them. It's just an unpredictable mess that sometimes ends up good and sometimes ends up with 10,000 heads in hands at the Target Center. I love the guy but he may be the most frustrating professional athlete I've ever watched.
Those were my observations. A lot of positives and I think we can beat Detroit pretty easily if we keep up our level of play.