Paul George’s return to the lineup wasn’t enough for the Oklahoma City Thunder (39-25) on Tuesday night at the Target Center, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves (30-24) by a final score of 131-120. There’s plenty of blame to go around whenever you give up 131 points, but the primary culprit was Thunder’s inability to stop Karl-Anthony Towns, as the former Kentucky Wildcat erupted for 41 points on 15-of-27 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three. Russell Westbrook led the way for OKC, scoring 38 points on 15-of-28 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from long range. Tonight’s defeat marks OKC’s sixth loss in their last eight games.
The Thunder left a lot to be desired in the opening quarter, with Westbrook and George combining for a 1-of-10 start from the field. Despite the struggles from the Thunder’s All-Stars, OKC used a 12-2 run capped by Terrance Ferguson’s free-throws to put OKC up by three midway through the quarter. Minnesota responded by closing the first on a 13-4 run after Derrick Rose’s floater gave the Timberwolves a 30-24 advantage after one.
Oklahoma City found their groove offensively in the second — only problem was they forgot to hold up their end of the bargain on the defensive end. The Timberwolves shot 65.2 percent from the field, including 4-of-5 from three in the second quarter. Steven Adams’ nosebleed stopped after the first quarter, but the metaphor lived on by way of Towns erupting for 13 of his 15 first-half points in the second quarter alone. George’s three at the buzzer helped cushion the blow for OKC, as they trailed 57-71 at the break.
Westbrook shouldered the load for the Thunder by going 11-of-16 from the floor after starting the game 1-of-6, scoring 30 points (including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc) through three quarters. But similar to the first half, the Thunder defense was essentially nonexistent as Towns continued his onslaught, scoring 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the third. Andrew Wiggins’ three-pointer with the clock winding down was the exclamation point for the Timberwolves, taking a 102-87 advantage with them into the fourth.
The Thunder had plenty of quality looks, going 6-of-13 from deep in the fourth quarter, but just couldn’t string together the necessary stops to make this an honest contest. George’s 13 fourth-quarter points weren’t enough, as the Timberwolves hold on for the 131-120 victory, marking Oklahoma’s sixth loss in their last eight games.
Welcome Back, PG: George returned to the Thunder lineup after missing the past three games. It took three quarters for PG to find his rhythm, but he wasn’t too far off. Many of his misses were of the in-and-out variety before piling in 13 points in the fourth quarter. He’ll look to bounce back Thursday night in Portland. Final line: 25 points (8/25 FG, 4/14 3P), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, -10
Brodie: After starting the game 1-of-6 from the field in the first quarter, Westbrook carried the Thunder throughout, scoring 38 points on 15-of-28 from the field. The Brodie also chipped in 13 rebounds, six assists, and only two turnovers. The former MVP didn’t receive enough help from the supporting cast in this one.
Turnovers: After the Thunder forced five turnovers in the first quarter, the Timberwolves only turned the ball over four more times for the remainder of the game. This team is at its best when it generates stops, creates turnovers, and gets out in transition. Not nearly enough transition opportunities tonight for the Thunder.
Big Meow: The Thunder didn’t have any sort of answer for Towns tonight. The All-Star scored 41 points on 15-of-27 shooting, including 3-of-5 from long distance. Billy Donovan kept sending different looks at Towns, whether it was Adams, Jerami Grant, and/or Nerlens Noel — no one was stopping him tonight.