After a gut-wrenching loss in Oakland on Thursday, the Oklahoma City Thunder desperately needed to play a solid game, and they did just that as they defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-92 at home. The Thunder led by six at halftime, but it was not even close in the second half as Oklahoma City played solid team defense and ran away with the win.
Team Effort Fuels Scoring
Five different Thunder players scored in double-figures, and three others scored at least six as tonight’s high scoring output was a team effort. The starters rested in the fourth quarter, which gave the bench some extra play time in which they played well.
Russell Westbrook, led all Thunder scorers with 28 points on 9-18 shooting while dishing out eight assists. After only playing three minutes against the Warriors on Thursday, Enes Kanter had a big night as he scored 20 points on 9-14 shooting and added 10 rebounds in 21 minutes. Steven Adams shot an efficient 6-7 from the field for 14 points, Victor Oladipo shot 5-9 for 12 points, and Semaj Christon came off the bench to shoot 4-8 from the floor for 10 points while adding five assist.
Some other interesting stats to note are that Andre Roberson scored nine points on 3-6 shooting (2-3 from 3), Joffrey Lauvergne tacked on eight points, and Domantis Sabonis scored six.
Defense Leads to Offense
The Thunder were lit up by the Warriors the other night, and it is safe to say they did not want that to happen again tonight with Minnesota visiting the Peake. The Thunder defense had probably its best stretch of basketball so far this season in the third quarter as Oklahoma City went on a 20-2 run.
Entering the game, Minnesota was 4th in the NBA in turnovers giving up only 15.5 per game, but Oklahoma City was able to cause disruption as they forced the Timberwolves into turning the ball over 17 times. The Thunder had nine steals (3 by Westbrook) and nine blocks (4 by Jerami Grant) as they held Minnesota to shooting 39.3% from the field.
In the process of playing such disruptive defense and forcing the Timberwolves into so many turnovers, the Thunder were able to dominate in the transition with 17 fast break points, including an incredible pass from Enes Kanter to Steven Adams for a dunk.
Perhaps the most impressive defensive effort of the night, albeit quiet statistically, belonged to Andre Roberson as he held Timberwolves’ leading scorer Andrew Wiggins to seven points on 3/13 shooting. Roberson is typically tasked with the job of guarding the opposing team’s best player, and he stuck on Wiggins like glue most of the night, contesting nearly every shot, including an impressive block at the rim.
Starters Build Lead, But Bench Maintains It
The starting five were far and away the primary reason for the 20-point lead built in the first three quarters as Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo, and Andre Roberson all finished with a +/- of at least +22. Enes Kanter was the only bench player with a positive +/- figure, but that is not say that the bench did not play well.
The Thunder’s second unit has struggled at times to maintain leads early in this season, but tonight, they came in carrying the same intensity as the starters, and that was good enough to keep the lead and win in a dominant fashion.
Dion Waiters Returns to Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City hosts the Miami Heat on Monday at 7 PM as former Thunder shooting guard Dion Waiters makes his return to Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time since signing with Miami over the summer. The Heat have struggled against quality opponents as they sit at a 2-3 record, but Hassan Whiteside should be a good matchup for Steven Adams, and it will be fun to hear Dion yell “AND 1!!!” after every missed layup.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter.