Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: Postgame Grades and Analysis
For the first time since November 23rd, the Oklahoma City Thunder have tasted defeat.
In a nationally televised game on TNT, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Thunder by a score of 99-93. J.J. Barea led the way with 18 points for Minny, scoring 14 in the fourth quarter.
So how did the rest of the players fare?
From Russell Westbrook's near-quadruple-double to Nikola Pekovic's double-double, there was much to rave about. Although OKC came up short, both sides had their statistical wonders to make this game interesting.
Before we proceed, a quick bit of praise to rookie Alexey Shved for his first career double-double. Let's get this started.
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Russell Westbrook, OKC: B
Well, that was the sloppiest near triple-double you'll ever see.
For the game, Westbrook finished with 30 points, nine assists and 11 rebounds. He also had three steals and eight turnovers.
Almost a quadruple-double.
Things didn't start too hot for Russell Westbrook, as the explosive lead guard converted just three of his first 11 shots. He'd hit just six of his next 16.
That's 9-of-28 shooting.
During the fourth quarter, Westbrook would score quick but disappear for nearly eight minutes. Even his late and-one would prove meaningless, as the Thunder crowded the perimeter and did not allow for the proper spacing to mount a comeback.
Westbrook's nine turnovers and poor shooting will garner headlines. The truth of the matter is, No. 0 was not the reason OKC lost. It was a team-wide letdown.
Luke Ridnour, MIN: C
Luke Ridnour played in this game?
With Barea and Shved going off for monster evenings, you might not have noticed that Ridnour was on the floor. If that's the case, don't worry. He had an average evening and merely played the role of a floor spacer, more than anything else.
For the game, Ridnour finished with a responsible four points, three rebounds, one assist and two steals in 23 minutes. He shot 1-of-4 from the field, but he also had a plus-minus of plus-11.
If nothing else, he knocked down two clutch free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining.
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Thabo Sefolosha, OKC: C-
Not only was Thabo Sefolosha weak on the offensive end of the floor (nine points in 44 minutes), but he also put forth one of his worst defensive performances of the season, as Barea and Shved torched him in every way possible. The two would combine for 30 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.
On the offensive end, Sefolosha missed two wide open three-point attempts during the final five minutes of the game. He also botched a driving lay-up in that time, thus helping hinder the OKC comeback.
A very poor performance by Sefolosha, whose four steals save him from a D+.
Alexey Shved, MIN: A-
Alexey Shved was marvelous, accumulating 12 points, eight assists, four rebounds and one steal by the end of the first half. He'd complete the double-double in the third quarter.
For the game, Shved compiled 12 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and one steal.
Although his second-half performance was lack luster, he stepped up when need be. With solid defense and a respectable effort along the perimeter, Shved's second half secured his best grade of the season.
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Kevin Durant, OKC: A-
Kevin Durant played an excellent game for three quarters, but missed multiple shots in the fourth. Perhaps that clutch bug decided to take a night off in Minnesota.
Even still, Durant finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Late in the game, Durant was called for a controversial charge against J.J. Barea for his fifth personal foul. The three-time scoring champion would proceed to slam the ball down in frustration and draw a technical foul, as well.
Although Minnesota did not convert the free throw, it was a costly play that ended up deciding this game.
One would be hard-pressed to fault Durant for such a solid shooting output, however, and it was not him alone who lost this game. Russell Westbrook struggled to shoot, Serge Ibaka failed to keep Kevin Love off the glass, and Thabo Sefolosha forgot how to defend.
Andrei Kirilenko, MIN: D-
Andrei Kirilenko shot 3-of-10 from the floor, committed five turnovers and fouled out. I believe that's worthy of a failing grade.
All night long, Kirilenko appeared to be out of his comfort zone on Durant. Whether he was lost in transition or out of position on the perimeter, Durant scored far too easily.
The only reason Kirilenko managed a D- was his plus/minus of plus-nine.
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Serge Ibaka, OKC: B
On paper, Ibaka had a solid evening. He finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, even knocking down a three-pointer.
With that being said, Ibaka failed to box out and allowed Kevin Love to grab two critical offensive rebounds down the stretch. It's the small things that decide games.
This is another example of Ibaka's athletic prowess, statistical wizardry and fundamental shortcomings. Although he has marginally improved from a year ago, Ibaka still has a long way to go before we can consider him elite.
There has been progress, but lapses in focus such as failing to box out an opponent are what count most in close games.
Kevin Love, MIN: A
Kevin Love continues to be the most offensively dominant player in the NBA from a statistical standpoint.
Love finished the game with 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. He came up huge on the offensive glass late in the game, drew a foul on an inadvertent poke to the eye and hit 6-of-8 free throws. With four three-pointers to boot, Love's second half secured the A.
As for the defensive end, Love picked up nine rebounds on that end of the floor, and surprised the masses by blocking two shots.
Love had four blocks total in 13 games entering the evening.
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Kendrick Perkins, OKC: F
Kendrick Perkins faces the same question as Luke Ridnour: He was on the floor?
Perk finished with no points, two rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes. In that time, he also committed four personal fouls and allowed Pekovic to go off for a monster scoring output.
What more do we need to say? Perkins failed to play his role.
Nikola Pekovic, MIN: A
Kevin Love may steal the headlines, but the best big man on the floor Thursday night was Nikola Pekovic.
Pekovic was flat-out dominant in the first half, putting up 18 points in a hurry. This set the tone for the game and created the lead OKC was unable to overcome.
When the final buzzer went off, Pekovic finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He did so on 10-of-18 shooting.
Pek is the first dominant center the 'Wolves have had since, well, ever. His presence is creating even greater opportunities for K-Love to shine.
An A for Pekovic, as he dominated OKC's enforcer.
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Nick Collison, OKC: C+
Nick Collison is the type of player that anyone would want on their team.
Collison grabbed six rebounds in 19 minutes, and though he failed to score a point, Collison continues to provide a positive presence for the Thunder.
His plus/minus of negative-two was third best on the team.
Collison played well but made one thing perfectly clear. OKC is desperate for the return of Kevin Martin.
J.J. Barea, MIN: A+
Barea won this game for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Whether it was Westbrook or Sefolosha, neither of the Thunder's elite perimeter defenders could slow him down. Even the athletic Reggie Jackson couldn't get in his way.
Barea scored 14 fourth-quarter points, including 12 consecutive from the 8:30 mark to 5:26. He started the push with the T-Wolves up 76-75. They led 92-81 after his scoring onslaught.
For the game, Barea finished with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 23 minutes. He shot 7-of-13 from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also took a controversial charge on Kevin Durant during the fourth which sealed the victory.
When you single-handedly seal a victory, you earn yourself a perfect grade.
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Oklahoma City Thunder: C
Reggie Jackson came on and provided quality minutes and—not counting Eric Maynor's four-plus minutes—a team-high plus/minus of plus-one. Unfortunately, that was the extent of the contributions by the team's reserves.
Without Kevin Martin, that's what we could only expect.
OKC's reserves contributed seven points, nine rebounds and a block. Six of those rebounds were made by sixth man Nick Collison.
Disappointing, to say the least.
Minnesota Timberwolves: C
J.J. Barea may have played an excellent game, but the Minnesota Timberwolves second unit had a disappointing outing.
Outside of Barea, the reserves combined for just four points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks. They also committed three turnovers.
Ricky Rubio failed to get anything going (zero points, three rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes), as his rhythm was broken by the inconsistency and brevity of his minutes. As his coaching staff begins learning to trust his knee more, the reserves will improve, as either Shved or Ridnour move back to the second unit.
Until then, a poor outing.