Less than 24 hours after falling to the Jazz in Utah, the Thunder looked to pick up a win at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it looked like that was going to happen. However, in an unlikely turn of events, Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins launched a buzzer-beating three to win the game for the Timberwolves 113-115 as the Thunder lost their second game in as many days.
The Thunder started off the game by scoring first and taking an early lead, but that would not last long as the Timberwolves jumped ahead quickly. The teams traded blows for most of the first quarter, but little by little, Minnesota managed to finish the first period ahead, and the Thunder trailed 23-28.
The second quarter stayed close for the most part, and the Thunder even took the lead halfway through, but defense was an issue and Minnesota would not let up. The Timberwolves managed to put up 33 points in the period and enter halftime ahead 54-61.
Oklahoma City needed to come out in the third quarter with a sense of urgency, but Minnesota ran off five quick points before the Thunder could get on the board. The Timberwolves stayed in control throughout the period as they built multiple 12-point leads before ending the quarter up by 13 as the Thunder trailed 75-88.
After three periods of nobody really stepping up to lead the way, Russell Westbrook took over in the fourth in attempt to lead the Thunder to victory. Westbrook shot 6-9 for 15 points while dishing out three assists, including one to Carmelo Anthony with just five seconds left in the game, which gave Oklahoma City a 113-112 lead.
This was the first time that the Thunder led since midway through the second quarter, but that was when Andrew Wiggins hit a crazy shot on a scrambling possession to end the game and giving the Timberwolves the victory.
3 Keys to the Game
- Offensive Chemistry is an Issue: Nobody said putting together a few stars would automatically equate to easy wins. Simply put, the Thunder’s big three needs to figure out their roles in the offense and settle down. Far too often do offensive possessions end with barely any passing and a deep shot going up with most of the shot clock remaining. When Oklahoma City manages to penetrate down low, space the floor, and find an open man, they are successful. Just because the Thunder have multiple talents who are capable of scoring in isolation does not mean they should rely on it. Spread the floor and keep the ball moving, and this offense will be able to put up some serious points.
- The Bench is Reliable: Through three games, the Oklahoma City bench is averaging just 21.7 points per game, which is 29th in the NBA. Tonight, they managed to score 28 points, but that is simply not enough for a group of guys who are capable of doing much more. Raymond Felton and Jerami Grant led the way with with 12 points apiece, and Alex Abrines scored 4 points in 14 minutes, but Patrick Patterson and Josh Huestis were scoreless in limited action. Part of the lack of scoring is due to Billy Donovan figuring out rotations still, but another reason is the lack of sharing the ball. If the starters can get the second unit involved, there won’t be nearly as heavy a burden for scoring from the first five.
- Talent is There, but Effort Needs Works: With three starters whose career averages are more than 20 points per game, there is plenty of skill to go around for the Thunder. However, the lack of effort through these first three games has been an issue. Individually, there have been certain players step up and make clutch plays, but as a team, the Thunder have not quite figured out how to play together and play hard at the same time. These things take time, so fans need to be patient, but the team needs to figure it out sooner than later.
After playing three games in four nights to start the season, Oklahoma City will be back in action on Wednesday as the Thunder host the Indiana Pacers. This will be the first opportunity for Paul George to play his former team, and Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis will be back at the Peake since being traded. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM CT and will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM the Sports Animal.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.