With Thunder starters Lu Dort (left toe soreness), Darius Bazley (shoulder), and Al Horford (rest) out for Monday’s meeting, the short-handed Oklahoma City toppled the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-103. The Thunder with the win closed their road-stand 2-2, and have now climbed to 11th in the West at 19-24. The Timberwolves remain dead last in the standings at 10-33 following their loss.
This night started promising. Both sides posting counteracting 10-2 runs in the first four-and-a-half minutes — but that’s when things turned south. Sloppy play ensued from that point on as the Thunder and Timberwolves 35 and 23 percent respectively for the remainder of the period. This shaky start was epitomized at the 3 minute, 20 second mark as Theo Maledon broke out in transition blowing a right-handed dunk turned one-inch floater, only to corral the rebound to get rejected back iron off an uncontested two-handed standing dunk. Oklahoma City’s first quarter performance was nothing to eulogize about as they mounted a paltry three-point, 25-22 through twelve.
Minnesota remained in striking distance for the entirety of the second quarter, but Oklahoma City’s persistence prevented the T-Wolves from taking the lead for a single second of the frame. Minnesota’s closest glimpse at the lead came with just under two minutes in the half tying the game 50-50 off a Ricky Rubio close shot, but a 7-0 Thunder run to close the quarter shot Oklahoma City up 57-50 by the buzzer. Ty Jerome invigorated the Thunder in the period, sounding off a perfect 4-of-4 performance from three stretching the lane out for highlight finishes — headlined by a Svi Mykhailiuk two-handed bunny-hop jam.
Oklahoma City totaled an oddity in the first half, shooting a higher percentage from three (52.9 FG%) than inside the arch (46.4 FG%), that was no different to kick off the second half. The Thunder displayed limitless range in the third, dusting the Timberwolves up with 18 of their 26 quarter points off six made triples (6-of-10 3pt FG.) Minnesota intended on making things a three-point contest hoisting nine threes in the third, but their 3-of-9 performance was not enough. Despite this, the T-Wolves covered their differences getting converting on three free throws (Thunder shot none.) In yet another enigma, both teams shot identical 10-of-23 (43.5 FG%) meaning their disparities in three-balls and free-throws cross eachother out — tying the period 26-26, and entering the fourth with Oklahoma City up 83-76.
Oklahoma City reignited early into the fourth period, catching fire on an 11-0 run from the “Bench Mob.” Svi Mykhailiuk and Ty Jerome showed off ball-handling skills while getting defenders to bite for threes, opting to pull the trigger or kick the ball back up top for points — with a 15-point lead, this game seemed over. Minnesota clawed their way back into the conversation down just six with a hair over a minute left, but shanked Karl-Anthony Towns three coupled with an SGA free throw put a lid on the night.
Karl-Anthony Towns did much of the heavy-lifting for Minnesota, tracking a double-double of 33 points (10-of-28 FG) and 10 rebounds across 38 minutes. Rookie phenom Anthony Edwards took his time to heat up off a scoreless first quarter, but he collected himself for 16 points.
Oklahoma City set yet anther accolade on Monday, surmounting their season-high of made threes with 21 triples. All but one Thunder player converted from downtown on the night, with Moses Brown being the outlier.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showed no signs of his apparent shoulder injury Monday, starring yet again for 31 points (11-of-23 FG) and 4 assists, even heating up from distance going 4-of-6.
Ty Jerome directed the shooting barrage, reigning down all of his 15 points on a perfect 5-of-5 on threes. Jerome’s pin-point accuracy lodged T-Wolves players right into his grill, leaving the combo-guard 6 assists.
Kenrich Williams garnered high-praise from Minnesota’s commentary crew for his all-around performance, piecing together 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assist on 5-of-7 shooting (2-of-2 3pt FG.)
“He does a lot of winning things out there,” said Mark Daigneault postgame. “He can fit in with anyone out there.”
Svi Mykhailuk backed up his last performance, matching his 15-point outing again, this time on 4-of-7 shooting. Svi looks to have caught his mojo along Oklahoma City’s four-game road trip, without a doubt saving his best for last. Svi let loose his three-point capabilities (2-of-5 FG,) decision making skills (4 assists,) and defensive prowess (2 steals) off a mere 14 minutes.
Aleksej Pokusevski had an ill-favored first half going 2-of-7, but he turned things around going 3-of-6 in later segments of the game for 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Although Pokusevski recorded one his best games of the season Monday night, he’ll be remembered for his contribution on the sidelines. The 19-year-old busted out a dance number in the backend of the Thunder’s 11-0 run in the fourth, leaving his trace all over social media.
Though the fans were (for the most part) jealous of Pokusevski’s moves, Shai thinks there’s some room for improvement, “Yeah I’ve seen him dance like that. We gotta work on it a little bit, but yeah I’ve seen him dance like that.”
Moses Brown faced his biggest obstacle of the year in Karl-Anthony Towns, riddling off a career-high 33 minutes — he lived up to match. Brown only placed 4 points (2-of-6 FG) in his stay, but the 21-year-old placed KAT in abyss snagging 17 rebounds on the contest.
Oklahoma City (19-24) will have a day off before setting their sights onto the Memphis Grizzles (20-20) at the ‘Peake.