After an extremely bad loss on Monday night, the Thunder bounced back against a injury-riddled Minnesota team, 106-84. Kevin Love is out for eight to 10 weeks after having surgery on his hand, and J.J. Barea was out with back spasms. Those are two very important players for the Timberwolves against the Thunder, and the Thunder made sure that they took advantage of that. After an awful first quarter for both teams, each one scoring 16 points, I started wondering if we were in for another long night. But after the slow start, the Thunder started to pick it up and ran away from the Wolves.
Scott Brooks went away from his normal rotation and started DeAndre Ligginsin the second quarter, and he provided a spark for the Thunder. Just like he did in their last game against Washington, he created hustle plays and gave the Thunder an advantage just from his hard work. He ended up with four points, one steal, one assist and an offensive rebound in 12 minutes. He played five minutes after
the game was already decided, but it was his hustle to start the second quarter that really turned the game for the Thunder. The stat line doesn’t give Liggins justice to just how important he was, and maybe could be for the Thunder the rest of the season. He is one to keep an eye on and to see if his minutes increase, or if he was just in their as a reward for all his hard work during practice.
Kevin Durant had another solid game. It wasn’t just his scoring, 26 points and the leading scorer for the game, but it was all the other things he did on the court that were really impressive. He had eight rebounds, three assists, three steals, and four blocks tonight. That line should show you how much he has grown from just last season. His game is becoming almost as complete as LeBron James and this year Durant is really going to give James a run for his money when it comes to MVP. It is just amazing to me how much Durant has grown since that loss in the Finals. He knew once Harden was gone that he was going to have to pick up his game, and that is exactly what he has done. The scariest part of all is that Durant still has things he has to work on, and he is still needs to become more consistent with his all around game. One thing that I see that he really needs to focus on is he needs to stop having defensive lapses, which sometimes happens several times a game, although I didn’t really see one of those lapses today.
Russell Westbrook had a much better shooting night, and he seemed to be taking smarter shots tonight as well. He shot 50 per cent from the floor tonight and 3-4 from three-point range. The one three-point shot he did miss tonight was an air ball and not a good shot, but other than that his shot selection was much improved from the other night. Add in his seven assists and only one turnover and this was a very good game for Westbrook.
Kevin Martin also had a much better game. He started zero-for-three from three-point territory but finished the game four-for-seven from three-point range. He also hit seven of eight free throws for all of his points tonight. He is still struggling from inside the paint, but the fact that he is attacking the lane and trying to get easier shot inside, even though they weren’t falling tonight. He did get to the line when he was attacking though, which is one of his biggest assets because he is shooting over 93 per cent from the line.
The Thunder took care of the ball very well tonight, having only 12 turnovers. They also forced the Timberwolves into 19 turnovers, 13 of those coming off steals from the Thunder players. The Thunder hit 11 three-pointers at a team, and shot better from three-point range than from the field, 55 per cent to 47 per cent.
The Thunder head to LA for a game against the struggling Lakers, who lost their fifth straight tonight against San Antonio. The Lakers are without Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, but the Thunder still need to show up ready to play on a nationally televised game. It is a late tip-off time, 9:30 local time, and will be on ESPN. This should be another win for the Thunder, but we saw Monday what happens when a team doesn’t show up.