The Oklahoma City Thunder (21-11) fell at home on Sunday night, as the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied in the second half to take a 114-112 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Paul George led the way for OKC in the loss, posting 31 points and 11 rebounds on 11-of-24 shooting. Russell Westbrook recorded his ninth triple-double of the season with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. However, Andrew Wiggins scored 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting and hit the eventual game-winning layup with 14.3 seconds to go. George had a look at a game-winning three as time expired, but bobbled the inbounds pass and eventually fired a contested heave from 27 feet that did not fall.
Second Quarter Signs of Life. The Thunder trailed by 10 after the first quarter and watched as the Timberwolves pushed their lead to 12 at the 10:18 mark of the second. The OKC offense came to life shortly thereafter, getting out in transition and making life difficult for Minnesota. George scored 15 points in the second and the Thunder shot 52 percent as a team — outscoring the T-Wolves by a score of 38-18 across the 12 minutes of play. OKC finished the half on a 19-4 run to take a 63-53 lead into the halftime break. Things were looking pretty, pretty good after a poor start.
Out of Gas. Fatigue appeared to set in for OKC after halftime, as the Timberwolves erased their 10-point halftime deficit and took the lead back with a dominant third. Minnesota outscored the Thunder 33-17 in the frame — doing most of their damage with Karl Anthony-Towns on the bench. KAT went to the sideline in foul trouble with the T-Wolves trailing by 10 at the 7:45 mark of the third. Minnesota outscored OKC 24-8 from that point forward, and hit 5-of-8 from long range in the quarter as a whole. The Thunder shot 7-of-18, good for just 38.9 percent.
Final Rally. The Thunder came back to life in the fourth, as Westbrook and George combined to shoot 7-of-13 and rallied to take a 110-108 lead with 53.7 seconds remaining. On Minnesota’s next possession, Jerami Grant blocked a KAT shot at the rim — but the offensive rebound made its way to Dario Saric in the corner. He knocked down the three to push the T-Wolves to a 111-110 lead. Westbrook quickly answered with a layup to put the Thunder back in front at 112-111 with 23 seconds to go. However, Wiggins dropped in a shot at the rim to put Minnesota up 113-112 with 14.3 seconds remaining — which, after some madness — proved to be the game-winner.
The Abrines Shot. After Wiggins put the Wolves in front with 14.3 seconds remaining, Billy Donovan called a timeout and inserted Alex Abrines for Dennis Schroder. Westbrook drove left toward the rim and kicked out to Abrines, who had a wide-open look from the perimeter. Unfortunately for the Thunder, his shot failed to go down and Minnesota corralled the rebound. Wiggins was quickly fouled and went 1-of-2 from the line — giving the Wolves a 114-112 lead — but also granting the Thunder another chance to tie or win with 3.9 seconds to go.
The Last Shot. George mishandled Abrines’ inbounds pass on the Thunder’s last possession, fumbling the ball backward before gathering and rising for a deep, contested three that failed to drop as time expired.
Final Thoughts. This was likely a scheduled loss for the Thunder, as they came in after a tightly contested game last night in Utah. Even still, it’s a tough loss in a contest that was there for the taking late.
Westbrook was improved, as he shot 10-of-19 from the floor and made his only three-point attempt. George continued his torrid scoring streak, dropping 31 points and appearing locked in during the second quarter. However, the consistency just wasn’t there from start to finish. The Thunder erased a 12-point deficit, then built a 12-point lead before watching it get away in the pivotal third quarter. The opportunities were there late — and the look Abrines got couldn’t have been more open — it just didn’t work out.
With the four-game winning streak over, the attention is turned toward James Harden and the Rockets on Christmas Day. That games tips off at 2:00 PM CST and will be televised nationally on ABC.