Thunder Avoids Collapse, Escapes with Win Over Minnesota
The Thunder finally figured out how to get one in crunch time.
After building an early 21 point lead, Oklahoma City nearly again watched a large advantage get erased — narrowly defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final score of 111-107. Paul George paced the Thunder with 36 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds. Steven Adams was also a huge factor in the outcome — scoring a career-high 27 points on an 11/11 shooting effort from the field.
The win moves OKC to 9-12 on the season and gives the Thunder its first win over a Northwest Division opponent. It’s also a small step in the right direction in figuring out how to win close games.
Let’s get into some notes.
Taking The Punch
Oklahoma City posted 42 points in the first quarter, shooting 56 percent to take a nine point lead into the second. Things continued rolling for much of the next frame, with the Thunder building a lead as large as 21. It felt very familiar in that OKC is no stranger to building massive cushions early in contests.
The tide turned at the 4:50 mark of the second when Jamaal Crawford hit a three-pointer to cut the Thunder lead to 16. Jeff Teague followed that up with a three of his own, capping an 8-0 Timberwolves run over the course of a minute –resulting in a 13 point Thunder advantage.
Billy Donovan was forced to take a timeout to stop the slide, but the entire thing had a “Here we go again..” feeling to it. Minnesota would trim the Thunder lead to 10 points by the time halftime struck.
The Timberwolves would go on to outscore OKC 25-21 in the third quarter, cutting the Thunder lead to six with 12 minutes to play. After scoring 42 points in the first quarter alone, Oklahoma City mustered only 43 in quarters two and three combined. Still — the lead was intact.
A series of mini-runs by both teams ensued in the fourth, as the Thunder built an 11 point lead, carried it to the 5:40 mark, and then watched it trimmed to five over the course of the next 46 seconds. The OKC defense stepped up and covered for the faltering offense down the stretch here — including back-to-back Thunder possessions that ended in turnovers as the game entered crunch time.
Minnesota would get as close as three points with about 30 seconds remaining, but a huge Steven Adams putback on a missed three by Russell Westbrook pushed the lead back to two possessions. The Thunder would go on to play the free throw game successfully, escaping with a four point win.
While the Thunder did build and essentially blow another huge lead, Minnesota was never able to catch and pass OKC when the game was on the line. The 21 point lead never felt safe — and for good reason — the Timberwolves were able to erase it with a slow march that nearly culminated in another OKC meltdown. Except this time the Thunder found a way to win, which isn’t something you can say about many of the games so far this season. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a start.
If you were looking for an offensive renaissance or some sort of turning of the corner — there’s nothing you can really point at as the reason for the Thunder coming out on top. The lead was built, it was nearly lost, but the team finally closed one. It was nice to see OKC absorb a furious rally and not lose the game because of it. The next step is sustaining the leads built early.
Steven Adams & Paul George Were Elite
Simply put — Steven Adams was electric tonight. He scored a career-high 27 points on 11/11 shooting — and also went 5/5 from the free throw line. He logged just 32 minutes due to foul trouble, but was beyond effective offensively all night.
You knew it was going to be his night when he hit this move in the second quarter:
More importantly, he avoided getting that sixth foul late in the game — coming up with the putback score that pushed the Thunder lead to two possessions with less than 30 seconds remaining. Big night for the Kiwi.
Paul George had a night of his own, recording 36 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and shot 5/9 from downtown. He went 11/11 from the free throw line — including the final two that iced the game — and was his usual self defensively. He was by far the most effective member of the OK3 tonight.
As icing on the cake, both George and Adams looked particularly comfortable working with one another in the halfcourt. George recorded nine assists — his connection with Adams being part of the reason why. If they can continue to develop a two-man game that works, it will be a big boost for the Thunder.
Notes & Highlights
Russell Westbrook. It wasn’t a great game for Russell Westbrook, as he wrapped up the night with 15 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds and 7 turnovers. He looked in command early, showing a bit of restraint offensively. That went the wayside as the game progressed, as he finished just 6/21 from the field and 0/8 from downtown. Too many possessions ended with him stopping the ball — a trend that can’t continue.
Carmelo’s Quiet Night. Carmelo Anthony logged 29 minutes, shot 4/7 from the field, and wrapped up his evening with 9 points and 6 rebounds. He seemed content letting the offense run through others, which is good, but was shooting well enough to justify some more looks. Regardless — him not forcing shots is a plus.
Minnesota’s Big 3. The Minnesota Big 3 of Karl Anthony-Towns (23 points), Andrew Wiggins (23 points) and Jimmy Butler (22 points) was effective tonight. KAT actually left the game for a stretch due to a headbutt with Andre Roberson — a stretch that may have played a big part in the Thunder win.
- OKC shot 51.9 percent from the field, but just 30.8 percent from deep.
- The Thunder was 21/22 from the stripe — and 4/4 when the game was on the line.
- OKC won the rebounding battle 42-26 and won in the paint 52-44.
- Despite turning it over once in the first quarter, OKC had 19 turnovers to Minnesota’s 17.
Steven Adams discusses his night/the Thunder win. Via FSOK.
Back in action on Sunday with a visit from the San Antonio Spurs. 6:00 PM CT tip-off on NBA TV and Fox Sports Oklahoma.