A game involving 18 lead changes, three technical fouls, and one stretcher finally came to an end with the Minnesota Timberwolves taking a 119-117 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Timberwolves, under new interim head coach Ryan Saunders, were led by Andrew Wiggins’ season high 40 points, 40 trips to the free throw line, and 37 bench points to leave the Thunder right where they left them back on Dec. 23; down by two at the final buzzer.
“I’d be lying if I said there weren’t [any butterflies],” Saunders said pregame. “I feel very comfortable with this group of coaches and group of players, so I think I’m good.”
Minnesota, overall, shot 42 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from behind the arc, but their 80 percent shooting from the free throw line essentially sealed them the one-possession game, and Saunders took home his first win as a head coach on his first night coaching.
Paul George dished out major heat on offense picking up 27 points on 24 shots and went 5-13 from downtown. Russell Westbrook picked up a double-double with 25 points and 16 assists, while Steven Adams had a double-double of his own at 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The biggest mishap from tonight’s game came with a little more than 5 minutes left in the third quarter when Nerlens Noel took an elbow to the head from Andrew Wiggins on an attempt to dunk over him, and Noel took a hard, scary fall to the hardwood where his head made rough contact with the floor.
A stretcher and medical crews were immediately ushered over to Noel’s lifeless body, and he was carted off the floor, while Thunder players and coaches gathered around saying silent prayers and showing support for their teammate.
Nerlens was taken to OU Medical in Oklahoma City, and his status remains unknown to the media.
The Thunder will fall to 25-15 in the season, 13-6 on their home court, and Minnesota will advance to 20-21, 6-15 on the road.
Next up for the Thunder will be the Spurs for the first time this season in San Antonio on Thursday night before returning to Oklahoma City to host the Spurs for a second matchup.
Watch below as Billy Donovan and Thunder players weigh in on tonight’s loss and Nerlens Noel’s devastating injury.