Photo by Torrey Purvey
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – When Oklahoma City was ran off the court Thursday in Oakland, most of the attention was directed toward their offense. Questions about Russell Westbrook needing more help started to surface.
However, what the coaching staff and players were more concerned about was the defense the had let slip as they allowed Golden State to run up and down the court on them.
That was not the case Saturday when the Thunder returned to action. Looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, Oklahoma City rolled to an 112-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Timberwolves shot on 39 percent from the field and 21 percent from behind the arc.
“The defense was aggressive,” Westbrook said. “Did a good job of making them shoot tough shots. Just made it tough for those guys all night.”
Oklahoma City was especially glad to see the re-emergence of Enes Kanter, who used sparingly in the previous two road games in L.A. and Oakland
“We know what he does,” Steven Adams said of Kanter. “We know he’s obviously not going to perform every night. Russell (Westbrook) did the best job of maintaining his confidence. Giving confidence to help him come out and perform.”
Russell Westbrook led the Oklahoma City charge as he scored 28 points on 9 of 18 shooting from the field. He also collected eight assists, six rebounds and three assists. Kanter came off the bench to pour in 20 points and grab 10 rebounds. Adams added 14 points and eight boards.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves (1-4) with 33 points on 13 of 20 shooting. Shabazz Muhammad came off the bench to post 15 points. No other starter reached double digits.
“We didn’t play good,” Andrew Wiggins said. “We had a good first half, bad second half. We needed to compete harder.”
It was a battle of big men to start the evening. Towns and his ability to shoot jumpers and take defenders off the dribble was the main focus of the Minnesota offense early on. He scored 13 points in the first quarter on 6-for-9 shooting.
“I messed up on him,” Adams said of his defense on Towns. “I was just trying to feel it out at first.”
The Thunder (5-1) countered with the combination of Adams and Kanter. While Adams was able to score with close jumpers and offensive putbacks, Kanter used a variety of moves in the paint to rack up points.
Westbrook began to take control in the second quarter by continually attacking the basket. He was able to bully rookie Kris Dunn and fight his way into the paint for dunks or assists that led to dunks.
The Thunder took a 59-53 advantage into halftime.
“Our defense was poor from start to finish,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But there is no excuse for not having floor balance and protecting the basket. So we have to get that straitened out.”
Oklahoma City went on a 22-8 run to kick off the second half. While Westbrook provided the highlight plays, they were able to get contributions from several sources. That included bench players Jerami Grant, Joffrey Lauvergne and Semaj Christon.
Towns was was unable to find any help on the offensive end. Guard Andrew Wiggins couldn’t buy a basket with Andre Roberson guarding him. The rest of the Timberwolves missed open shots.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Towns had 33 of his teams 72 points. But his squad trailed by 18 and would get no closer.
“We just turned it up a notch,” Victor Oladipo said. “Now we have to do that for four quarters. When we play like that defensively, we give ourselves a great chance to win.”
NEXT: The Thunder will host Miami Monday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.