Did anyone really think that the Thunder, thrashed last night by the Trail Blazers, would manage to make their Big Comeback tonight in the Timberwolves’ house? I’m sure somebody did, perhaps as late as halftime, when the scoreboard bore a pair of 47s; it had been just as knotted twelve minutes before, and it would not have been unreasonable to expect a game as close as the three previous Minnesota/Oklahoma City games this season. Then you look at Russell Westbrook’s double-double line: 38 points, 10 rebounds, five assists. Why only five dimes? Because to get one, Westbrook had to get the ball to a teammate to score, and the teammates weren’t scoring. Between them, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were 10-33. And the Thunder bench in aggregate didn’t reach double figures until Billy Donovan pulled all the starters late in the fourth quarter. (The 10th and 11th points came fro Kyle Singler at the foul line.) Minnesota 104, Oklahoma City 88, the Wolves win the season series, and, should it become necessary, the tie-breaker.
Take out Westbrook’s better-than-presentable 15-23, and you have a Thunder team shooting 17-56. Just barely 30 percent. The Wolves outrebounded the Thunder, 44-41, and OKC came up with only six fast-break points. Six. Fast-Break. Points. Minnesota didn’t have to do a whole lot to dispatch this bunch, and with only three players in double figures, they managed to do what they needed, when they needed to do it, without getting 64-point type in the Star Tribune. Jimmy Butler led with 26; Jeff Teague, back after seven games out, scored only eight, but he apparently hasn’t lost a whole lot of agility.
So Minnesota solidifies its hold on fourth place in the West. Does this mean they’re better than everyone but the Spurs, the Warriors and the Rockets? The Magic 8-Ball will confirm, if not now, certainly at the end of the season. OKC, now third in the Northwest, will go home, lick its wounds, and show up Saturday afternoon in Charlotte. The Hornets right now are 15-23 (didn’t we see those numbers once already?) and stand 11th in the East. On the other hand, when they showed up in OKC in December, they came away with a 116-103 win.