The Thunder and the Timberwolves usually play close games. It’s no surprise considering how often they see each other, being divisional rivals. Tonight was a different story, though, at least in the second half. The score was 59-53 at halftime, but the Thunder opened it up midway through the third quarter and never looked back.
Russell Westbrook was masterful in just 28 minutes of play tonight: he scored 28 on 9-18 shooting (including 4-5 three-pointers), adding eight assists and six boards. In what has become a routine performance for Russ, he impacted all facets of the game: scoring, playmaking, rebounding, and defending. He was the catalyst who engineered the 31-19 third quarter by the Thunder. Minnesota rookie point guard Kris Dunn drew a tough assignment in his third career start.
Karl-Anthony Towns was simply magnificent in the early going, submitting a 25 point performance in the first half. There was little the Thunder could do to stop him. His length and ball handling skills make him almost unguardable, like an even more skilled iteration of Anthony Davis. In the second half however, the Thunder muddled up the post, denying most entry pass attempts and generally making life difficult for Towns and the Wolves’ backcourt. Towns ended the game with 33 points, two points short of tying a career high.
After an eventful night in Oakland (despite playing just three minutes), Enes Kanter finished the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He played with high energy and aggression, going at Towns routinely. Kanter had the underrated play of the game, in my opinion, finding Steven Adams with a beautiful outlet pass in transition:
After the game, he was back to throw more shade on Kevin Durant. Kanter was asked about Westbrook’s leadership after the game:
Enes Kanter on Russ: “he’s the leader of the team this year. And last year.” Walks off saying “I had to say it!”
— Matt Ravis (@mattravis) November 6, 2016
Andre Roberson showed out again defensively, limiting Andrew Wiggins to just seven points on 3-13 shooting. Roberson also had an encouraging offensive showing, hitting two of three three-pointers. Victor Oladipo also played very well on defense, limiting Zach LaVine to four points on 1-6 shooting. The Thunder defense–one of the most highly ranked in the league by most metrics–needed a game like this after a tough game against the Warriors on Thursday night.
All in all, the Thunder hit the formula for winning basketball: swing the ball around the perimeter, maintain a good balance between inside and outside shots, play gritty defense, and hustle for loose balls and rebounds. This Minnesota team is better than their 1-4 record, and the Thunder played their best game of their season against them.
The Thunder improve to 5-1, while the Timberwolves fall to 1-4. Next up for the Thunder: Monday night against the Miami Heat at Chesapeake Energy Arena.