Junior members of the pack

If anyone was wondering if the Timberwolves had any depth, the answer is clearly Yes: with three starters sidelined — Kevin Love, Corey Brewer and Nikola Peković were all hors de combat — the depleted Wolves trailed the Thunder by only one after the first quarter, by two at halftime, by three after the third quarter. Did they lose by four? Surprisingly, no: Minnesota faltered a bit late, and the Thunder were able to send them back to their barely-colder-than-here home town on the wrong side of a 106-97 final. (Temperatures at the horn: Oklahoma City 12°; Minneapolis-St. Paul -1°.)

Maybe there was some fatigue involved: the Wolves were at home last night, thrashing the Lakers. Then again, big minutes didn’t seem to hurt Ricky Rubio (19 points, 33 minutes) very much until the very end, or Dante Cunningham (18 points, 43 minutes) at all. And the Wolves got 40 points out of what was left of their bench, led by the ever-pesky J. J. Barea with 11. The Wolves also didn’t foul very much: the Thunder took only 11 free throws all night. (There have been times when Kevin Durant got that many by himself.)

But the Thunder, who lost the first game of this season series, weren’t about to split 2-2 with another Northwest team. KD checked in with a below-average 26 points — how often is 26 points below anyone’s average? — and Reggie Jackson rose to the occasion with 20 points and nine assists, the latter a career high. Guarding the middle, Kendrick Perkins managed six points (above his average) and 12 rebounds. Derek Fisher led the bench with 13. Jeremy Lamb’s assignment toward the end of the game was to guard rookie forward Shabazz Muhammad; while Muhammad was calmly knocking down six points in six minutes, radio guy Matt Pinto was wondering if maybe Lamb didn’t know, or had forgotten, that Muhammad was left-handed. Some days life is like that.

The Thunder are off to Orlando for a Friday-night contest, and will be back home Sunday afternoon to entertain the struggling New York Knicks.







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