Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s loss in Minnesota: “Coming into this one the Thunder knee the Minnesota Timberwolves were a highly talented group, particularly on the offensive end of the floor. At shootaround on Tuesday morning the team was locked in and focused. In the first quarter, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s squad ripped off a 17-4 run to regain control and punch back from an 11-0 Minnesota burst. After that, the Timberwolves got a boost from its bench in the form of Derrick Rose who hit five mid-range jump shots in the first half on his way to 19 total for the game. Karl-Anthony Towns got going from both the perimeter and interior with his remarkable combination of size and skill and racked up a game-high 41 points as the Thunder fell 131-120 on the road. “We started with really good energy,” said Donovan. “They made some tough shots and then I think they got going and as that first quarter started to wear on and it got into the second quarter I think some of our offensive struggles or missing shots, I don’t want to say it impacted us defensively, but that’s when you have to dig in more defensively.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on another rough night for the Thunder defense: “The Thunder didn’t put Wiggins on the line once in the first half. But Wiggins wasn’t the problem in the Thunder’s 130-121 loss to the Timberwolves. The problem was stopping everyone else. Entering Tuesday’s game, the Thunder wasn’t getting away with any defensive strategies in regard to Wiggins. In the first two meetings between the Thunder and Timberwolves this season, Wiggins averaged 35 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 assists, including 50 percent from the field. Just 1:45 into the third quarter, Ferguson had four fouls. Much of it wasn’t his fault. The Thunder switches constantly on defense and those switches put the slender Ferguson in the post against bigger defenders he has no choice but to foul. Wiggins only had 13 points on 10 shots entering the third quarter and finished with 18 points. Derrick Rose, Karl-Anthony Towns and the T-Wolves’ mid-range game was the real issue. The T-Wolves shot 9-of-11 from mid-range in the first half, shooting out to a 71-57 halftime lead.”
RotoWire on Paul George struggling in his return to action: “George registered 25 points (8-25 FG, 4-14 3Pt, 5-7 FT), five rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 38 minutes during Tuesday’s 131-120 loss to the Timberwolves. George rejoined the lineup following a three-game absence with a shoulder injury and struggled to find his form from the field. Moreover, he didn’t do as much damage as usual across the other categories. George will look to get back on track during Thursday’s bout with a Trail Blazers team that sports the same 39-25 record.”
Jonathan Tjarks (Ringer) on a dream playoff matchup of Thunder & Rockets: “The stakes wouldn’t be quite as high in this potential first-round series since James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Chris Paul are all under contract for a few more seasons. The takes, though, would be incredible. My eyes are already bleeding from what would be said if Westbrook loses in the first round for the third consecutive season, or if Harden is knocked out early after a regular season in which he shattered the limits on usage and 3-point rate. Westbrook and Harden are two of the most polarizing stars of their generation, and it would only be fitting for them to square off with their reputations on the line. This series should be better than the lackluster one between the two in 2017, when the Rockets defeated the Thunder in five relatively underwhelming games. The overall talent level is much higher on both sides: Neither CP3 nor PG-13 were in that series. Both teams have spent the last two seasons loading up to complement their franchise player rather than trying to wait out the Warriors. The winner of this series would probably be the biggest threat to the two-time defending champions in the West.”
Tim MacMahon (ESPN) on the Rockets rising in the West: “Sure, it was nice to get some help across the border as they pulled off another impressive win, fighting off a comeback bid and finishing strong in a 107-95 win over the Toronto Raptors. As the Rockets were running up a 38-point fourth quarter, the clock was ticking down on the two teams directly above them in the Western Conference standings, with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers suffering losses to lottery-bound teams (adding to the theme of the night, the West-leading Golden State Warriors also fell). So the Rockets — a team that sat second to last in the West a few months ago — headed back to Houston in a three-way tie for the No. 3 seed. Not that they considered that information especially relevant. “A whole lot of games left; can’t pay attention to it,” Chris Paul said. “We’ve just got to stay focused on how we’re playing. We’ve been saying that since early in the season since we were, what, 11-14? And we was the Bad News Bears everybody was talking about.”
Berry Tramel (Oklahoman) on a potential Thunder slide in the Western Conference standings: “It won’t be easy for the Thunder to retain third place, much less catch the Nuggets, and it won’t be easy to even finish fourth and get first-round homecourt advantage in the playoffs. We are past the three-quarters pole of the regular season, so every team has well-established a level of play. With that in mind, projecting the finish to the regular season is much more credible than lookaheads done in December or January. With that in mind, I went through the remaining schedules of the West teams to see what the finish might look like. Home games against weak teams, I counted as a victory. Road games against good teams, I counted as defeat. All other games, I used a percentage of how the teams in question had done pertaining to home/road performance.”
Around the League: The Celtics handed Golden State their worst loss of the Steve Kerr era…. Gordon Hayward looked like himself again…. Kyle Kuzma will miss up to a week with an injured ankle…. Are the Jazz the NBA’s sleeping giant?…. Should the Lakers tank for the lottery?…. Trae Young is built for today’s NBA…. Recapping last night’s NBA action.