Posted on January 11, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Acquiring a ‘big three’ is the key to success for many NBA teams these days. When the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired one, fans thought their team would roll through the regular season. But that has not been the case and it certainly wasn’t Wednesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The game was tied after the first quarter (23-23) and again at halftime (47-47). But the T-Wolves caught fire (10-16 from the floor) in the third quarter while the defense clamped down on the Thunder (28.6 percent shooting). When the final quarter began, Minnesota had an 11-point lead, 76-65.
It didn’t get any better for the Thunder in the fourth. Oklahoma City couldn’t chip away at the lead and went on to lose 104-88.
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Fans had hoped that Westbrook wouldn’t have to do it all anymore when the team acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But having a ‘big three’ doesn’t matter much when two of the three can’t hit a shot. Neither were of much help Wednesday night.
Paul George shot 5-14 from the floor for just 13 points. Carmelo Anthony barely did any better (5-19; 15 points). But Oklahoma City’s struggles were not all because of them. Everyone not named Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 17-56.
Westbrook finished the night with 38 points and ten rebounds.
Jimmy Butler didn’t score as much as Westbrook, but he had a much better overall night for the T-Wolves. He did a little bit of everything with 26 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, four steals, and two blocks on the night.
Karl Anthony Towns chipped in 18 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh consecutive double-double. Andrew Wiggins added 19 points.
The previous three games this season between Minnesota and Oklahoma City were much closer. Minnesota won the first two by two and three points while the Thunder won the third by four points.
“We’ve had some great, great games against them,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said (StarTribune). “We played three times in a short timeframe. Because both teams were dealing with new rosters, it was a feeling-out process. We very easily could have won all three and they could have very easily won all three.”
Minnesota will try to keep the good times rolling when they face the Knicks at home Friday night. Oklahoma City will try to back on the right side of the scoreboard Saturday night when they travel to Charlotte.
The win is the third in a row for the T-Wolves and the seventh game in a row where they held their opponents under 100 points. Their record improves to 27-16 and seven games back of the Golden State Warriors.
Should they keep the scoring up along with the defensive pressure, it is not hard to imagine them making it to the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
Life was supposed to be better for the Thunder this season, but it has really been more of the same this year. The loss is their third in a row and drops their record to 22-20. But fans have nothing to worry about. George, Anthony, and Westbrook still have 39 games to find some kind of rhythm.