The Norman Transcript

January 10, 2013

Defensive effort lifts Thunder in win against Timberwolves

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City knows it can score at will. The NBA’s second highest scoring team is never worried about going into a prolonged slump.

So when the Thunder had only 16 points in the first quarter Wednesday when facing a beleaguered Minnesota squad, Kevin Durant said his team wasn’t worried. He knew the offense would come around at some point. Until then, they relied on their defense to keep them in the game as they went on to defeat the Timberwolves, 106-84, at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“We will take that every day,” Durant said. “We are not worried about our offense because we know that can come around. We always say we give ourselves a chance to win if our offense isn’t clicking, but we play defense.”

The win moved the Thunder (27-8) to 18-3 at home this season. The Timberwolves tried to overcome the injury bug that has hit them hard this season, but they just didn’t have the manpower to duplicate the victory they got over Oklahoma City last month.

“Our guys played hard,” Timberwolves assistant coach Terry Porter said. “But we just ran out of gas.”

The Timberwolves (16-16) kept the game tight for a half, but the Thunder seemingly learned a lesson from its loss Monday to Washington and pulled away in the third and fourth quarters.

Oklahoma City forced 19 turnovers and scored 26 points off them.

“We talk about having that mindset defensively because we are a defensive team that wants to score off of our defense,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought our hands were very active. We talked about just having multiple hands on the basketball. When you do that, you can create turnovers.”

Playing without Kevin Love, Chase Budinger, J.J. Barea and Brandon Roy, Minnesota got 18 points from Alexey Shved, while Nikola Pekovic added 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Durant scored 26 points on 10-for-17 from the field to go along with eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and four blocked shots. Russell Westbrook collected 23 points, seven assists and eight rebounds for the Thunder. Kevin Martin came off the bench to chip in with 19 points, including going 4-for-7 from behind the arc.

Martin had been in a shooting slump from 3-point range. His coach was glad to see him shoot his way out of it.

“All of our players have a lot of pride in how they play and he works on his game quite a bit,” Brooks said. “If you put your time in, sooner or later your shots are going to fall, and they were falling tonight.”

Coming off Oklahoma City’s loss to the Wizards, Brooks had wanted his team to come out and put its foot down on the injury-riddled Timberwolves from the very start. It didn’t work out that way. The teams were tied at 16-16 when the first quarter ended.

Pekovic was a force for Minnesota early on. He pounded the glass and pulled down five rebounds to go along with six points in the first 12 minutes.

Durant and the Oklahoma City bench came out running in the second quarter and helped push the lead into double digits.

But Shved and Andrei Kirilenko spearheaded a 12-2 run to tie the game at 42-42 with less than a minute left in the half. The Thunder scored the final five points to take a 47-42 lead into halftime.

“Our best offense is our defense, I think,” Durant said. “Once we get those guys turned over, we get out with some transition baskets, and that’s when we excel — especially in our building when our crowd can get into it.”

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