By Michael Doutey
The Oklahoma City Thunder have now lost two home games in a row following their 119-117 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. The Thunder trailed nearly all game and couldn’t quite get over the hump as the T-Wolves came up big down the stretch. The Thunder fall to 25-15 on the season.
For the second consecutive game the Thunder didn’t do the little things well. Instead, the T-Wolves won the offensive rebounding edge by five which lead to Minnesota outscoring OKC 22-15 in second chance points. The Thunder, who feast off creating turnovers, only forced 10. These are things the Thunder typically win at every single night. OKC always forces turnovers. OKC always wins the battle of the glass, especially on the offensive end. When OKC doesn’t do those things, the Thunder typically take an L. That is exactly what happened tonight. The Thunder had been doing a really good job in those areas all season but have come up short the last two games. OKC needs to get back to what they do well when they head to San Antonio to take on the Spurs, because the Thunder cannot afford a losing streak in the Wild Wild West.
OKC just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. Jerami Grant and Steven Adams both went to the line but split their pair of free throws. Wiggins went to the line four times in crunch time and converted all four attempts. Then Paul George had three wide open three point attempts in the final 1:48 of the game where he missed all of the them. On the other hand, rookie Josh Okogie hit a corner three with 27.8 second left to give Minnesota a four point lead, which basically iced the win for the Timberwolves. I know people are going to kill Westbrook for the final play. But in the sequences leading up to that play Russ hit a clutch three that gave OKC a lead with 1:14 to go. Russ also hit two free throws to make it a two point game with 21 seconds remaining. Russ had to shoot the ball on the final play. Minnesota took away all other options with a nice defensive stand. He had the open look. It didn’t go in. But if you want to blame something, blame Grant and Adams each for missing key free throws and blame PG for missing three wide open three’s in crunch time.
The Thunder hurt themselves themselves with fouls. They did a really bad job of defending without fouling. The Thunder sent Minnesota to the free throw line 40 times. FORTY! The T-Wolves cashed in with 32 makes. OKC went 19-26 from the line, giving the Wolves a 13 point advantage at the free throw line. OKC isn’t a talented enough offensive team to overcome that. Looking back, that killed OKC in this game.
OKC wasted a big night from Terrance Ferguson. T-Ferg has been playing really well defensively as of late. His offense has been hit and miss all season, but it was nice to see him play a well rounded game. Tonight, he scored 14 points and went 4-4 from beyond the arc. He was a plus plus-12 in his 25 minutes on the floor, the highest on the team. He has become a really nice defensive player who has flashed signs of being a nice three point shooter. It was nice to see tonight, but OKC didn’t capitalize on his performance tonight.
A really scary moment happened with 5:16 left in the third quarter. Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins barreled toward the rim looking for a monster slam when he collided with Nerlens Noel in midair. Wiggins elbowed Noel in the face, sending him to the ground hard. Noel landed head first and was clearly knocked unconscious and had to be wheeled off the court in a stretcher. Somehow, Noel was called for a foul on the play. Billy Donovan said that Noel was transported to OU Medical for further evaluation and that was the only update he had on his condition.
The Thunder are back in action on Thursday night in San Antonio to take on the Spurs for the first time this season. Tip is set for 8:30 inside the AT&T Center.