Unfamiliar Territory: A (Wolves) Blowout Win (WOLVES 100, Thunder 81)

Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan shrugs after sinking a basket to set a new points record for scoring in one half of an NBA finals game during first half play against Portland in Chicago

The Wolves blew out the Thunder last night. Corey Brewer couldn’t even explain it.

I’m well familiar with this struggle. Blogging about the Timberwolves has often meant trying to think up interesting observations of a blowout game. It was a 15-point game after the first quarter, 20 at half, and 28 (!) after three. When the majority of the game was played with the outcome no longer in serious doubt, the details and nuances somehow seem less important. I’m familiar with this struggle.

What I am not familiar with is facing this struggle when the Timberwolves were the victors in the blowout. Even more unusual is that the lopsided win came against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the heavyweights of recent Northwest Divisions past. Sure, OKC was without Russell Westbrook. And while we’re discounting things, the Thunder’s return on the infamous James Harden trade no longer includes Kevin Martin (Hey, he plays for us now!) and is pretty much limited to Jeremy Lamb. Scott Brooks’ lineup is so thin that he’s doling out minutes to young Perry Jones (The Third!).

But even with those qualifiers, this was a great win. The Wolves kicked ass, start to finish. Kevin Love led the way with a super-efficient 24 points (12 shots) and 12 rebounds, in just 29 minutes. Love continued a positive trend of shooting threes while stationary and squared up. He made three of them. Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic also had double doubles; Rubio with 14 points and 10 assists, and Pekovic with 15 points and 10 boards. Early in the game, a seeming point of emphasis was finding Pek in the low post. Not a bad idea after Wednesday’s opener, when Pek was barely involved. By the end of the third quarter, it almost seemed like the Wolves were running up the score, what with Love catching and firing (and making) 25-footers with 20 on the shot clock. The whole thing was a rout.

Perhaps most crucial of all factors was the way Corey Brewer and the Wolves team defense were able to limit Kevin Durant. Brewer worked, well, the way you’d expect Brewer to work to deny Durant the ball as far outcourt as possible. When KD had it, he faced multiple defenders and often found WIDE open shooters in the corners. The problem (for them) was that they kept missing those wide open threes, the juiciest non-dunk shot options in pro basketball. Through 3 quarters, the Thunder were 1 for 7 from the corners. Ibaka in particular was clanking away great opportunities.

A few bullets to wrap this up:

* Kevin Martin struggled last night, and took out his frustrations on the officials. (He eventually received an overdue technical foul.) Martin was flopping off minimal perimeter contact and hoisting bad jumpers (expecting a whistle). Between him, Barea and Love, refs will have their hands full officiating this Timberwolves team.

* Derrick Williams played 27 minutes, and played them well. He scored efficiently (10 points on 4-6 shooting) using baseline cuts for dunks. He also pulled down 7 rebounds. Good for him, I hope he builds on a good start to the season.

* Gorgui Dieng played last night — in the first half, even — because Ronny Turiaf landed violently on his arm and had to leave the game. The team defense looked good with Gorgui at the 5, forcing a slew of Thunder turnovers in the 2nd Quarter. More to come on that Turiaf injury report, I’d guess.

* Alexey Shved played better than he did in the opener. He didn’t mope, and got to the line for 6 free throws, making 5.

That’s it for now. We’ll have more to come tomorrow when the Wolves visit Madison Square Garden.

Season Record: 2-0

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