Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: Breaking Down the Game

Ricky FrechCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2011

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 22:  Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on December 22, 2010 in New York, New York.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Can I just start by asking this question, when did Kevin Love become a three-point assassin? The man is one of the best rebounders in the league AND he can step out and go 3-for-3 from deep? That's just ridiculous. Anyway, let's get down to the real game.

This game definitely showed how young both these teams are; at times it felt like a sloppy high school contest. The Thunder had 17 turnovers and the biggest offender was Russell Westbrook, who had eight. Westbrook had an okay game statistically, but he only had six points in the second half and overtime and probably wants to forget this game pretty quickly with how careless he was with the ball.

The Timberwolves also had some difficulties holding onto the ball and had 22 turnovers of their own. This was more of a team effort, though, with more than just one man playing sloppy. Michael Beasley had the most with six, but his 30 points, nine boards and seven assists more than made up for it. Beasley had a great first three quarters, but in the fourth and overtime he could only manage four points to five turnovers.

Luckily for him, Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour were there to bail him out. I hadn't gotten a chance to watch Love play yet this season, but I must say I came away more than impressed. He simply manhandled the Thunder's smaller power forwards on almost every offensive possession. It's almost unfair to play against him because he has so much skill and works harder than anyone else on the glass.

Ridnour was less of an offensive presence than Love, but he did a great job covering Westbrook. As I said earlier, Westbrook had eight turnovers and I give credit to Ridnour for almost all of those. He came prepared to play against Westbrook's speed and had obviously watched lots of tape with his multiple strips on Westbrook drives.

On the Thunder's side, I thought that Nick Collison had an excellent game. He didn't contribute much on the stat sheet, but he was able to match Love's hustle on both sides of the ball. Not only that, but he had a couple of big blocks and a key steal in overtime.

James Harden also had a solid game off the bench, with a stat-stuffing 13 points, four boards, three assists, two steals and a block. If he can produce like that more often, he may have an outside shot at sixth man of the year.

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Jeff Green seems to have finally found his game again, with a solid 19 points and eight rebounds. He did a great job taking on Minnesota's bigs on the offensive side, especially in the first half. His speed and skill set allowed him to get off shots against Kevin Love and Darko Milicic that not many others could.

His 11 points in the second quarter mostly came in the paint off of some nifty post moves. When he spins to his right on the low block I almost assume he's going to make it every time. It's nice to see a guy who doesn't have the size to really play down there put in work to become a viable low-post option on offense.

Finally, I want to bring up how impressed I was with this game's star, Kevin Durant. His 36 points after halftime is going to get the majority of the headlines, but I thought his 18 rebounds were much more important.

Against a great rebounding team like the Timberwolves, it was paramount that one of the Thunder's long wing players get in the scrum and pull down as many rebounds as he could while the bigs kept Love and Milicic blocked out. Surprisingly, Durant was the one who stepped his game up this time and had a career high on the glass.

It's also nice to see him begin to elevate his clutch play following his game winner against the Knicks. If he can continue to play this well in the second halves of games, the Thunder might have a real shot at a title run, even with their lack of size.

This wasn't the prettiest game to watch, but if you're a fan of either team you walked away happy. Thunder fans can take pride in the fact that their team was challenged on the road and they fought their way to a win. Timberwolve fans will walk away a little sad, but they should be happy that their team proved they can hang with one of the better teams in the West.

One team had to lose, but this was a game that both teams can find a lot of positives in.


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