The Minnesota Timberwolves ended the OKC Thunder’s 11-game win streak with a 99-93 win at Target Center. The Timberwolves raced out to a 30-18 first quarter lead and fought off several Thunder runs to end a 2-game losing streak.
Kevin Love scored 28 points with Nikola Pekovic (24 points) and J.J. Barea (18 points) making major contributions. Pekovic did most of his damage (18 points) in the first half while Barea scored 14 of his 18 points in the 4th quarter.
The Thunder were led in scoring by Kevin Durant (33 points) and Russell Westbrook (30 points). Durant was an impressive 12-21 despite the Timberwolves focusing on slowing him down. Westbrook added 11 rebounds and 9 assists but he struggled from the field (9-28) and committed 8 turnovers.
More after the breakdown:
The Timberwolves executed their offense to near perfection with swift passing for open 3-pointers or interior shots for Pekovic. In Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio, Barea and Alexey Shved (12 assists), the Timberwolves have plenty of creators who exploited what the defense provided in pick-and-roll situations.
The Timberwolves run various sets (1:13-1:43) to create a high pick-and-roll with Pekovic as the screener, Love spotting up for a 3-pointer and two shooters camped in the corners. In the screenshot below, Shved has passed the ball to Pekovic as the defenders trapped the ball handler in a pick-and-roll situation.
At this moment the Timberwolves have a 3-2 advantage with Pekovic, Love and Kirilenko versus Durant and Serge Ibaka. In most of the plays we show, Ibaka stays on his man (Love) yielding various easy shots for Pekovic.
This was a winnable game for the Thunder but without Kevin Martin, and having just played in Atlanta, they didn’t play well enough to beat a tough Timberwolves team.
From 4:58-7 we breakdown some of Thunder’s 4th-quarter offensive struggles. There’s a lot of dribbling from Westbrook, plenty of misses from Sefolosha and Westbrook, and many shots taken early in the shot clock. For the game, the Thunder shot only 25% (5-20) on 3-pointers and the starting backcourt of Westbrook and Sefolosha (2-11) was particularly awful.
Some of this poor play is on the players but you can also fault the Thunder coaching for not running plays with better ball movement. One thing we see is that the Thunder have no post play. This allows the Timberwolves to focus their defense on guarding the perimeter and containing dribble penetration. Some post play, or better execution in pick-and-roll situations, could have spread the defense out to get better shots.