Wolves lost at Oklahoma City, 106-97.
Five points about the game:
* Kevin Love didn’t play. This meant a few things, but most significantly, it meant that the entire Bruise Brothers front line was missing. That’s 43.6 points, 22.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, gone. The Wolves don’t have a good bench to begin with. A starting front line of Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf — jokingly referred to by me as the Snooze Brothers, before the game — is not going to win against the Thunder. Earlier in the day I was surprised to see the Wolves set as 9.5-point underdogs. Maybe the gamblers knew that Love wouldn’t play.
* In Love’s (and Pek’s) absence, Ricky Rubio was more assertive offensively. Ricky had 19 points (on 6-12 shooting) 8 rebounds and 5 assists in 33 minutes of action. It makes you wonder how his poor scoring stats might be affected by playing with such a ball-dominant (and superstar) power forward, and also a scoring off guard and scoring center. Ricky wasn’t exceptional tonight or anything, but he was certainly freed up to pursue scoring chances.
* Kevin Durant had 18, 6, and 5 at the half. That was not ideal. I was hoping Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would do a better job of making KD work for his points, but Durant was dominant throughout the game. He finished with 26, 9 & 7.
* The Wolves got some great bench performances, particularly from JJ Barea and Dante Cunningham. Barea played his second straight solid game in as many nights, chipping in 11 points and 4 assists in 15 minutes of action. Cunningham had his favorite 20-footer behind the elbow rolling all night. He ended up with 18 points on 9-13 shooting. Six of those were mid-range jumpers. If you want to craft a reason why the Wolves should’ve won tonight, despite the absences of Love and Pek, it would be based on how well Dante shot the ball.
* Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson has really improved. Tonight, he had an efficient 20 points and 9 assists, and was a game best +17. Thunder coach and former Timberwolf point guard Scott Brooks takes a lot of heat for playing Kendrick Perkins too much. Bloggers are good at nitpicking coaching decisions with a tone usually suggesting they could do the job better themselves. Brooks seems to develop young talent rapidly and significantly. Jackson, along with Jeremy Lamb, are going a long way in replacing superstar James Harden, which is fiscally necessary in Clay Bennett’s world of team ownership. Brooks deserves more credit than he deserves. His players always improve and never take nights off. Isn’t some of that on the coach?
Next game is Friday at New Orleans.
Season Record: 24-25