It has become a theme in Minneapolis for some time now: the Wolves start off huge and get everyone excited about their potential, then they give it up.
Last night was no different. Playing without Darko Milicic and Anthony Tolliver didn't seem like it was that big of a struggle early, as the Wolves shot 76 percent and led 40-22. At half they led by 11. Three quarters in they led by just two.
Kevin Love and Michael Beasley continue to play well, but the weakness of guard play continues to be exploited whenever the Wolves play a team that has tough guards, and the Thunder have Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefalosha, two young guards who produced last night.
Love posted his consecutive double-double, a category that he leads the league in. He recorded 22 points and 21 rebounds, struggling later in the game after having 13 and eight in the first quarter alone.
Beasley led the team with 26 points, and Montenegrin center Nikola Pekovic had his best game of the season with 15 points. Corey Brewer chipped in 13, and interestingly enough the Wolves outscored the Thunder by 14 when he was on the floor.
With the score 104-103 in favor of the Thunder with a minute left, Kevin Durant sealed the deal with a three in the corner. Quite possibly the best scorer in the NBA's recent history, he finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Russell Westbrook also contributed 25 points and eight assists.
So what exactly is wrong with the Wolves and why can't they ever close out? A lot of it has to do with the lack of energy and talent. The Wolves lose that dynamic heat, if you will, when the second half begins. Time after time they give up leads because of this. If this is a team that can finish ballgames, then we're looking at a .500 club that is hungry for the playoffs.
Instead, we're looking at a 5-17 franchise that needs to learn to finish who remains at home for a Friday night game against the also-struggling Detroit Pistons.
In this contest, however, when stripes were shown late by the Thunder, it really gave me the impression that they were in position to make a deep playoff run.
This thought makes me jealous, but as soon as Minnesota can finish off a game maybe they can join the same rank. The talent is there but for now we have to finish.