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Thunder 126, Wolves 123: LaVine drops 35 but KD, Russ, and Co. get the last laugh

So many good things happened tonight, it's hard to be upset with another loss. This was the most entertaining home game of the season.

Durant remains a bad mother(expletive)
Durant remains a bad mother(expletive)
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — From an entertainment standpoint, tonight was the most thrilling home game of the 2015-16 season despite the 126-123 loss to Oklahoma City. It was an offensive outburst from both sides, a back-and-forth affair that saw 19 lead changes, 14 different ties, and each team shooting over 50 percent from the floor.

The Wolves played with outstanding pace from the jump, finishing with 23 fast break points to the Thunder's 15. They had 31 assists and only eight turnovers (!!!) and had an answer for the Thunder at every turn, except the last one.

Zach LaVine flashed his elite scoring potential along the way as he finished with a season-high 35 points on 17 shots. He made a career-high 14 field goals off the bench in 29 minutes of playing time (including a season-high 5-8 from 3-point range). Tonight marked his second career 30+ point game and he was two points shy of his career-high (37 at Golden State on Apr. 11, 2015).

LaVine's 35 points are the most by a bench player in Wolves history and the most by a reserve in the NBA this season (h/t Timberwolves PR for all of these stats). 29 of those points came in the second and fourth quarters (14 in the second, 15 in the fourth). On the first possession he was in the game, Westbrook clearly shoved LaVine (no call was made) and said "Lift some weights" to the sophomore guard, who didn't take kindly to the advice.

He must have lit a fire inside of Zach, because this was the potent scoring guard Flip Saunders probably envisioned at his ceiling when swinging for a home run in the summer of 2014. LaVine almost couldn't miss tonight.

Kevin Durant finished with 27 points, including nine in the fourth to walk away victorious on the back-to-back after arriving in Minneapolis around 3:30 a.m Wednesday morning (they beat the Knicks in overtime at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night). Tonight marked Durant's 33rd consecutive game with 20 or more points, the longest current streak in the NBA. As an aside...great to see KD back after last season's nightmare.

Russell Westbrook tallied 24 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds in 36 minutes, his 31st double-double of the season and the seventh time he's handed out 15+ assists this season.

While KD and Russ were sensational, Enes Kanter was the real x-factor. He poured in 23 points of mostly layups and dunks, grabbing 10 boards for the Thunder along the way (seven offensive ). One of the big advantages Oklahoma City had came on the glass as they outrebounded the Wolves 47-31. Both teams were bad on the defensive glass (OKC snatched 15 offensive rebounds while Minnesota, led by Dieng's six, grabbed 12).

Karl-Anthony Towns was excellent yet again, finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds, a season-high five assists, and three blocks (two of the "that guy is a monster rim protector" variety). Towns now has 23 double-doubles in his rookie season and when talking about the future and what to be hopeful about...well, the conversation starts with "Special K."

Then there was Gorgui Dieng, who made his fourth start of the season next to Towns in the front court as Garnett sat out nursing a sore right knee that doesn't figure to get all that much better given his age and the 50,000+ minutes he's logged on the hardwood. Dieng scored a season-high 21 points, on 10-of-13 shooting (10 made field goals are a new career high) to go with nine rebounds.

Andrew Wiggins finished with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting in his 26th 20+ point effort of the season (nine in the last 11 games).

After the game, Tayshaun Prince was talking with Andrew Wiggins at great length in the locker room, sharing defensive tips and little veteran tricks he's learned along the way. The two were keeping the conversation on the down low, so unfortunately I don't know many of the specific details, but one thing was clear: Wiggins was soaking up everything Prince, who occupies the locker stall next to Mr. Maple, had to say.

Prince was sharing his experiences with Wiggins, mainly defensive technique and strategy from what I could gather. He must have dropped at least a decade of knowledge on Wiggins after the game while the prized sophomore wing just listened and took everything in, shaking his head in agreement and asking various questions back to Prince. The entire exchange was inspiring to watch, especially given the criticism of the mentorship program in Minneapolis.

Sam Mitchell

On the game:

"We had 31 assists and eight turnovers, the guys played with pace, got some easy baskets. Our guys started figuring out that this is a good way to play. They made some tough shots. Durant, it's just a luxury when you can throw the ball to a guy 20 feet from the basket and he squares you up and just shoots over you at six-foot-eleven. There's nothing we can do about it. We made some mistakes, but the way we're playing, I just like it. We're moving the ball, we're just playing like a really good basketball team."

On Zach LaVine:

"I think you guys can see he's playing fast but he's thinking slow, does that make sense? That's what we want - we want Zach to play with pace because he can get the ball down the court and he can put pressure on the defense. Before, he was playing with pace, but his mind was going just as fast. Now he's playing with pace and his mind is slowing down. He's letting things develop, he's waiting on screens, he's reading screens, he's using the screen. The thing that's making him tough, is when he starts hitting Gorgui [Dieng] and [Towns] and [Bjelica] for those roles, and getting layups and and-1's, it opens up things for him to have an opportunity to score."

On Karl-Anthony Towns:

"I just think from when Karl was playing at Kentucky with all of those All-Americans and playing 20 minutes a game and having to play unselfish has been great for him. I think with the way we're passing, if you're open, you're going to get the ball back. You're a willing passer when you know that when you're open, your teammates going to do everything to try to make the right decision to get you the ball. I just think the way we're playing with our big guys, Gorgui and Karl and Nemanja, we're seeing how skilled they are with the basketball. It allows us to do some things 15-16 feet from the basket in that high post with those guys passing the ball and cutting off those guys."

Gorgui Dieng

"It's fun when the ball is moving. It brings positive energy to everyone who touches it and we play unselfish. Right now, I think we're playing good basketball.

We've got to play like this almost every night. We've got a chance. If we can hang with Cleveland, we can hang with Oklahoma City like we did tonight. It means we've got a good chance if we can play like this and win more games. We're getting better every game. You guys can see, we're just playing good basketball right now."

Shabazz Muhammad

"I thought we really got off to a good start from the get-go. I thought everybody did a good job contributing on the offensive/defensive end. They played really well off the back-to-back. They're one of the best teams in the West, so I definitely thought we got better on both ends of the floor.

Coach said we played pretty well and with the assists everybody got to touch the ball and that's why everyone has so much energy. It's all a team effort. It's too bad we came up short, but it's a good team and we'll be ready for our next game."

Zach LaVine

"It was a big game. We could have won that one. That was a good game and [Kevin Durant] just turned it up another notch tonight in the fourth so you can't do much about it."

"I feel like we should be winning with the way we've been playing. It gets annoying trying to appreciate a loss, but you can't do that. You've just got to keep pushing and we've been playing really well, so we've got to stay on that."

"I was thinking pretty fast and making the right reads, but it slows down when you're on, so thank God for that. Just trying to learn the point and it's helping me at the two a little bit, too, because when I move to the two, I know what Ricky's looking for, at least. It's starting to build that chemistry more."

Billy Donovan

On the win and road trip:

"I was really proud of our guys this road trip. We obviously had to battle a lot of different things. We dealt with Steven getting hurt and having to sit out, and then Andre having to go down. I mean, two really good defensive players. Coming in tonight, Cameron had some concussion-like symptoms. We don't know exactly what's going on, probably will find out more tomorrow. We had a group of guys that logged a lot of minutes yesterday. I thought we had great bench production today. I thought Anthony Morrow gave us a good lift, D.J. Augustin gave us a good lift. Nick (Collison) did, Kyle (Singler) did. Enes (Kanter) I thought coming off the bench played very, very well. We battled foul trouble. And certainly the defensive numbers, I think some of it can contribute to the end of a long four-day trip, but I really thought our guys gave great effort considering the fact that it's a tough turnaround coming out of yesterday's overtime game in New York, getting in at 3:30 in the morning and then having to turn around and play again. I give these guys a lot of credit for having some resiliency and perseverance to battle through it when all the time it didn't look pretty. I thought we had really good ball movement on offense. We shot a real high percentage; the three-point helped us. I thought we executed. Obviously Kevin made some plays coming down the stretch and that helped, and I think we got stops when we needed to."


  • Tonight was the team's third-highest field goal percentage of the season and its 7th time shooting 50%+ (3-4). Over the last three games, Minnesota is now shooting 52.0% from the floor.
  • The Wolves 50 field goals were a season high, while their 123 points were their most in regulation this season and matched a season high (123 in OT vs. LAL on Dec. 9).

  • Tonight marked Oklahoma City's 10th straight win over the Wolves.

  • 64 points in the paint were a season high.