Oklahoma City Thunder 126 - 123 Minnesota Timberwolves
This game was a close one. The Timberwolves have some good young players and they played to their talent level against the Oklahoma City Thunder on this night. The Wolves also got some help from players you would not expect to have career type nights. Minnesota was led by Zach Lavine who finished with an absurd 35 points off the bench. Lavine only played 29 minutes but made 14 of his 17 shots. His only three misses were from behind the arc where he went 5-of-8. Lavine did not play a great team game however, as he finished with just one assist. Gorgui Dieng, the third year man out of Senegal, nearly tripled his career scoring average (7.9 points per game), and finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds. The young Minnesota transplants had impressive games as well. Rookie of the Year frontrunner, Karl Anthony-Towns showed why he is the frontrunner. The rookie logged a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while dishing out five assists as well. His second-year teammate, Andrew Wiggins, added 20 points to the total.
The Oklahoma City Thunder ultimately staved off the Wolves though and pulled out the victory. The Thunder relied heavily on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, while Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters also turned in solid performances. Durant scored 27 points on ten-of-twenty shooting and pulled down nine rebounds. Westbrook scored 24 points on just 13 shots (making seven) and a generous 15 assists. He missed the triple-double by just two rebounds, finishing with eight. Kanter pitched in a double-double taking advantage of Minnesota’s young big men. He finished with 23 points in 23 minutes, and 10 rebounds. Getting the rare start at shooting guard, Waiters made the most of his opportunity and scored 16 points.
This was a weird game. Oklahoma City’s offense was clicking as it shot 52.7% (48-91) from the floor, 50% (10-20) from long distance and 95.2% (20-21) from the charity stripe. Putting up these numbers would typically be a blowout Oklahoma City win, however, Minnesota’s offense was clicking as well. The Timberwolves shot an outstanding 55.6% (50-90) from the floor. Free throws (64.3%) and the three-pointer hurt (35.7%) the team the most.
Houston Rockets 108 - 116 Oklahoma City Thunder
It is always a great win when it comes at Houston’s expense. Patrick Beverley’s shenanigans will never be forgotten and James Harden will likely never be forgiven. This game was never really as close as the scoreline indicates. After losing the first quarter 29-22, Oklahoma City bounced back and won the remaining three quarters.
Kevin Durant had the best game for the Thunder, scoring 33 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Russell Westbrook logged another triple-double. Westbrook scored 26 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, and dished out 14 assists. Dion Waiters logged another solid game as a starter. Waiters finished with 16 points for the second game in a row on an efficient six-of-nine shooting. Enes Kanter took Dwight Howard to the woodshed and finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Thunder played good defense this game, holding Houston to an abysmal 37.9% shooting from the floor. Houston was also terrible from the free throw stripe - largely due to Howard’s presence on the court. The team shot just 62.8% from the stripe. Howard was four-of-fifteen from the line. Harden made 15 of the teams 27 made free throws. The Thunder also limited the Rockets’ longball. Houston shot a laughably bad 23.1% from distance in the game.
Washington Wizards 98 - 114 Oklahoma City Thunder
It is always nice to get an old fashioned blowout at home. The Thunder starters jumped out to a huge lead and the team never looked back. Four of the five starters scored in double digits - Dion Waiters had just eight points. Russell Westbrook got his second triple-double in a row in a game in which two premiere point guards were going head-to-head. Westbrook torched John Wall for 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists. Kevin Durant turned in another great game against his hometown team finishing with 28 points on 9/18 shooting while pulling down 9 rebounds.
The biggest, and most welcoming, contribution of the night came from Serge Ibaka. The centerpiece of the Thunder defense has been up and down offensively this season, but this game he put it all together and showed just what he was capable of doing. Ibaka managed a double-double scoring 19 points on an impressing 8/12 shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds. It was good to see the Thunder big return to his offensive prowess. If he can continue knocking down shots and find a groove for the remaining 30 games of the season, he will be a huge boost to the Thunder’s offense.
This was a strong week from the Thunder. The team went 3-0 (11-1 in the last 12 games) and improved its season record to 37-13. Oklahoma City is 13 games above Portland for first place in the Pacific Division. This week the Thunder will take on the Orlando Magic at home, the Golden State Warriors on the road, and the Phoenix Suns on the road as well. The game against Golden State on Saturday will be a huge barometer of where the Thunder currently is as a team.