MINNEAPOLIS — J.J. Barea ended Oklahoma City’s 12-game winning streak almost all by himself.
Playing with the tenacity that made him so important to the Mavericks’ run to the title two years ago, Barea scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 99-93 victory over the Thunder on Thursday night.
Kevin Love had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Nikola Pekovic had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. But it was Barea who was the key, scoring 12 straight at one point for the Wolves to hold off the team with the best record in the league.
Kevin Durant had 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder, who had not lost a game since Nov. 23 at Boston.
That it was Barea, and not the Olympian Love or the sensation Ricky Rubio who was chiefly responsible was the biggest surprise of all.
Barea didn’t join the Timberwolves until training camp had already started last season, then languished through the first injury plagued year of his career. Finally healthy, he’s getting back to the super pest that helped the Dallas Mavericks to the title two years ago.
With the Thunder charging early in the fourth quarter, the smallest guy on the court played the biggest.
After Durant’s two free throws cut Minnesota’s lead to 80-77, Barea hit two 3s and scored on a putback under the rim amid the tall trees, an 8-0 run by himself that gave the Wolves a little breathing room. His long 3 with 5:26 to play made it 92-81, and the Wolves held on.
Barea was also a nuisance on defense, drawing an offensive foul on Durant with 2:24 to play. The normally super-cool Durant uncharacteristically lost his composure, picking up a technical foul for arguing the call as well.