And on it goes. The Thunder, playing without Serge Ibaka (and Kevin Durant) more or less toyed with the callow Timberwolves tonight, showing just enough interest to keep the Wolves at bay, and finally blowing the game open late when Russell Westbrook woke up enough to record yet another triple double.
The game started with the Thunder embarrassing the Wolves inside behind Enes Kanter and Mitch McGary, as Gorgui Dieng and Adreian Payne were rendered absolutely helpless. Time and again the Thunder bigs either bullied or finessed their way to the basket, a domination that would continue throughout the game. The Thunder outscored the Wolves 54-38 in the paint tonight while scavenging 19 offensive boards, nine from Kanter alone who finished with 23 and 15 on the night.
Andrew Wiggins once again had a strong start to the game, getting to the line 10 times in the first quarter (and making them all). He finished the quarter with 12 points and several active plays to keep possessions alive on the boards, but as we've seen far too often lately, he faded badly after that. He finished with 19 points on 4-13 from the field and was a non-factor after the first quarter.
The Wolves, once again without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Garnett, were just outmanned tonight. Adreian Payne had a particularly egregious outing, recording one rebound in his 20 minutes of action, and looking utterly clueless at the defensive end. He really has little business on the court at this point, but with the injuries and roster, here he is. Flip Saunders appears to be quickly running out of patience for him, as he put Justin Hamilton in the game as much as possible tonight.
Both Hamilton (17 and 10) and Dieng (21 and 14) finished with double-doubles, but neither really distinguished themselves defensively, and Dieng added six turnovers to his line. Hamilton looked playable for the 2nd night in a row, which was good to see, but that about covers it for the good news tonight.
I'm not going to linger. Three straight losing recaps of poor performances...what is there to say?
- In further bad news, Ricky Rubio tweaked his ankle in the third quarter and did not return to the game. It didn't look too bad, but I wouldn't be surprised if he misses Sunday's game in San Antonio.
- The Wolves got within 3 at the end of the 2nd quarter until Westbrook hit a 35 footer a the buzzer to send the Thunder to the break up six. The Wolves got the first basket of the 2nd half to get within four, but they never got any closer as the Thunder went on a 9-0 run after that.
- The Thunder went 11-24 from three while the Wolves went 3-12. Painful.
- Next up is San Antonio on Sunday to finish the road trip, though they are only back home for one game before heading out again.