Spurred by a brilliant first-quarter run and scintillating play from their big men, the Minnesota Timberwolves survived a late-game run to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 99-93, on Thursday.
Playing ultimate team basketball, Minnesota stormed right out of the gate and captured a lead it would never relinquish. Assisting on 13 of their first 14 baskets, the Timberwolves ended the first quarter ahead, 30-18, as the Thunder offense struggled to keep up.
It would be the only individual quarter Minnesota won on Thursday, but that 12-point lead survived thanks to a valiant effort from Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.
Love was nothing short of an all-around marvel. The nimble big man dropped 28 points, knocking down 4-of-9 shots from distance, and added 11 rebounds and seven assists for good measure.
Pekovic's numbers weren't much worse. With 24 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, the seven-footer worked well into the interior and had a symphonic rhythm with Alexey Shved, who assisted on half of Pekovic's 10 field goals.
Oklahoma City, on the other hand, got yet another Jekyll and Hyde game from Russell Westbook. The star point guard scored 30 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished nine assists, but shot only 9-of-28 from the field and had eight turnovers to boot.
Kevin Durant added in a relatively quiet 33 points as well, but the Thunder got only seven points from their bench and just 23 from the remaining starters.
While it may have been an off night for Oklahoma City, don't think for a second this win can be discounted. Minnesota went out, got the job done and announced its presence among the Western Conference elite on Thursday.
Player of the Game: Kevin Love
While he's obviously still not 100 percent healthy, Love looked it on Thursday. Getting involved with every facet of the game, the Timberwolves superstar stepped up against elite competition and had a strong all-around game.
Things will continue to get better from here on out, but this was a glimpse at just how brilliant Love can be when his body will allow it.
What's Next for the Thunder?
The 21-5 Thunder will get a rare extended break in their schedule, as they will have the entire weekend off before playing the Miami Heat on Christmas.
What's Next for the Timberwolves?
The 13-11 Timberwolves will also get a nice little break, as they don't play again until Sunday against the New York Knicks.