Reality Check in OKC: THUNDER 106, Wolves 84

1. Excuses

The Wolves had plenty of them.  Coach Rick Adelman remained away from the team, for the second consecutive game, for undisclosed personal reasons.  Without more (or any, really) information, I won’t comment other than to say I hope everything is okay with the Adelman Family and he comes back soon.  Along with Adelman’s absence was the continued loss of Chase Budinger and Kevin Love.  Love indeed does need to have surgery and the expected recovery time is 8 to 10 weeks.  That means roughly 30 games.  That means the Wolves need to figure out an alternative path to the playoffs that they have explicitly labeled as the team’s 2013 destination.  J.J. Barea also sat out tonight with back spasms.  You might recall that he dominated the 4th Quarter of the Wolves recent win over OKC.  Along with absent players and coaches was the simple fact that the Wolves traveled last night and were playing on 0 nights rest.  Their opponent, who also happened to be the best team in the conference, had not played since Monday; a night they lost to the lowly Wizards.  Oklahoma City was certain to come out looking for blood in tonight’s game.

All of this is to say the Wolves were not favored to win.  The excuses were built in.

2. Bright Spots & Silver Linings

In case you missed the game, the internet, and this post’s headline, I should add that the Wolves did lose this game.  Badly.  But there were a few bright spots and silver linings.  Emphasis on the “few.”  The Rockets lost to the Hornets tonight.  The Lakers lost to the Spurs.  Houston is a team we’d like to catch.  LA is a team we’d like to stay on top of.  In our game, Pekovic was very good, once again.  His early altercation with [suicidal?] Kendrick Perkins set the tone: Don’t mess with Pek.  For the remaining 45 minutes, the Thunder abode.  Pek had 17 points (on 10 shots) and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes that the Thunder [only] won by 3 points.  When Pekovic was not on the floor, for the other 21 minutes, the Thunder won by 19.

The Timberwolves have three players that tend to operate as stabilizing forces when times are tough.  One is Kevin Love, who is obviously out with injury.  Another is Ricky Rubio, who is playing half-time right now and still recovering.  The final, and most important for the season’s remainder, is Nikola Pekovic.  His ability to be a go-to post scorer and clean-up-the-garbage man under the hoop are one of the few things that consistently goes right for this injury-ravaged squad.

Also tonight, Alexey Shved had a hot streak at the end of the 2nd Quarter.  Derrick Williams scored a little bit after the game was no longer in doubt.  Kirilenko played okay.  That’s about all I can dig up in the positive column.

3. Very Poor Performance

But let’s be real: This was a terrible game.  The Wolves looked to be on the edge of getting blown out in the 2nd Quarter before the aforementioned Hot Shved Streak tied the game shortly before half.  Even after a few Thunder buckets made it a 5-point deficit at halftime, the Wolves seemed to be breathing heavy and hanging by a thread.  Coming out of the half the Thunder rolled.  They quickly built a double-digit lead that became 20+ halfway through the fourth.  It was kind of a total meltdown in terms of Timberwolves being weak and careless on offense (19 turnovers; 7 by Shved), the Thunder converting turnovers into transition baskets, and the Thunder’s halfcourt offense ending in layups or open three-pointers; often from the preferred corners.

Russell Westbrook, often operating on the low block, flirted with a triple double (23/8/7).  Kevin Durant, with a few exceptions when defended by Kirilenko, could do anything he wanted.  He ended with 26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 4 blocks.  Ho hum.  Durant is firmly entrenched between always-MVP LeBron and Chris Paul as the league’s second-best player, right now.  Until injury updates say otherwise (either one of those guys suffers one, or Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard recover from theirs) that Top 3 seems pretty set for now and the foreseeable future.  I’m getting off track.  Point is: Durant is incredible and he helped Russell Westbrook annihilate the Timberwolves tonight.

4. Tomorrow: Check out Wolves Live at Noon CST

Mark Remme and John Focke graciously asked me to appear on their Wolves Live show on timberwolves.com.  It’ll air live at noon, Minnesota time, so hit me up with any questions.  The Wolves do a lot of great things with their team site, and I’m flattered that they asked me to appear as a guest.  My studio speaking experience is none at all, so be kind!

Until next time.

Season Record: 16-16

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Reality Check in OKC: THUNDER 106, Wolves 84

  1. Dave A.

    In the MIAC tonight at Hamline University, St. Olaf College men were behind with 0.2 seconds to go, 73-70. Nathan Kuck of the Oles made a three to tie the game. He was fouled and made the free throw for the victory — 74-73. That’s right. A four-point play to win the game. Oles win! Oles win! Uff da.

  2. Pingback: Gophers dominate, Wolves don’t dominate - MN Sports Daily

  3. Nathan Anderson

    I wonder if Shved will ever be careful with the ball or if it is in his nature to always be careless.

    • @Nathan Anderson: I think it’s in his nature to always be careless. Fortunately, he’s skilled enough that this becomes an asset most of the time. But you’re right – it can be incredibly frustrating when things are going wrong. Question is, can you leave the ball in his hands down the stretch when protecting a small lead?

      • Nathan Anderson

        Patrick J: I think Shved does not like to lose. I agree that he’ll always be a bit careless but it’s my hope that he will mature and eliminate some of the lazy soft passes. I love him in the fourth quarter even when he screws up.

        • Shved and Kirilenko both play without fear of mistakes. Same with Ricky. One factor that separates Shved from the other two in a negative direction is that he doesn’t seem to respond to contact very well. (Ricky and Kirilenko are good at drawing fouls when opportunities present themselves.) One factor that separates Shved from those two in a positive direction is that he’s a much more pure shooter than either Ricky or AK. It’s an interesting mix we’ve got. I think a stretch 4 is badly needed with this crew. When Williams hits 3’s, you can see how everything immediately turns wildly positive.