Defense, persistence, and a much louder crowd than the opener became the identities of the Timberwolves tonight. They put on a show at the Target Center, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-81.
Getting off to a quick start, the Wolves only time trailing came when the game started off at 2-0. From there, they took the lead and it grew quickly, getting as large as 34, when they led the Thunder 99-65 early in the fourth quarter. Despite shooting 42.9 percent from the field - only 0.9 percent better than their overtime win against Orlando - the Wolves were able to hold Oklahoma City to 34.9 percent in an impressive defensive display.
The Timberwolves defense passed both the eye test and the statistical meter tonight. Their energy was high on that end in the game and the level of verbal communication on that end was existent through all four quarters. As a team, the Wolves also managed to 17 points off 21 turnover. Alternatively, the Thunder forced 15 Minnesota turnovers, only to manage 2 points off of them.
One key to making the game a blowout rather than a victory was Corey Brewer's disruption on Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. Coming off a 42 point bashing on Wednesday night against Utah, Kevin Durant came away shooting 4/11 from the field, finishing with 13 points in 27 minutes. The last time Durant scored 13 points or less was against Phoenix on December 31, 2011, when he scored 12.
Though Brewer played a great game defensively, it was the team defense that caused both Durant and the Thunder as a whole the most problems.
"They double-teamed me every time I caught it; they loaded up every time I caught it," Durant said following the loss. "It made me trust my teammates. Just tried to find my team in the crowd. I need to make better decisions in better positions to score. They kicked our butt."
Rick Adelman's concern after Durant was clearly point guard Reggie Jackson, who is currently filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook as the team's starting point guard. Jackson struggled as well, finishing 8 points on 3-9 shooting (0-5 from the three-point line), 4 assists and 7 turnovers.
"We felt that Durant was the number one guy, obviously, and Jackson was the next guy. He was the most aggressive for them preseason and in the first game," Wolves head coach Rick Adelman said. "We wanted to be very aware of where he was."
Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio each had double doubles for the Wolves, and got the already-excited crowd going even more in the third quarter. The only quarter where the Timberwolves shot over 50 percent, Rubio and Love each had 10 points in the quarter. Love added 4 rebounds and 2 assists, with Rubio recording 3 assists and 3 steals.
For the game, Rubio finished with 14 points, 10 assists and 5 steals on 4-8 shooting and 2-3 shooting from beyond the stripe. Love came away with 24 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 3-4 from beyond the arc.
"We were just very focused tonight," Love said. "We got the rust off after opening night and it was a Friday night game in front of a very good crowd. We're happy with the way we played defensively."
The win gives Minnesota their first 2-0 start since the 2006-07 season, and is only the fourth time the franchise's history they have accomplished that feat.
The Wolves will now travel to New York, where Corey Brewer will get another test against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. The game will be at 6:30pm CST and will be broadcast on Fox Sports North Plus.
A few final notes:
- Ronny Turiaf took a hard fall in the first half, and had to immediately go to the locker room. He has a right elbow contusion and there is no word as to his availability for Sunday.
- Derrick Williams got in tonight after sitting in the opener, and had some good moments, including a nice post move on Thabo Sefolosha. He finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds on 4-6 shooting.
- All three rookies had their debuts tonight, none of them scoring the basketball. Gorgui Dieng had the most minutes, going 0-4 from the free throw line with 4 fouls. He did not record a block or a rebound. Shabazz Muhammad went 0-1 and had a turnover on a drive late in the fourth. Robbie Hummel went 0-3, but did record 2 rebounds and a steal. The crowd seemed most invested in Hummel getting his first NBA basket, more so than Muhammad and Dieng.
- Against his team from a year ago, Kevin Martin finished 4-11 from the field, scoring 9 points in 24 minutes. He also received the game's only technical, following a missed shot he believed to be a foul.