Thunder snap 3-game skid, beat Minnesota 127-111
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant leading the way, the Oklahoma City Thunder can outscore any team in the NBA on any given night.
That still isn’t good enough for a team with the highest of aspirations.
Westbrook scored a season-high 37 points, Durant added 27 and Oklahoma City snapped a three-game losing streak Friday night with a 127-111 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves that did little to fix what was wrong during the skid.
“A baby, minor step” was how Westbrook described it.
“I think we could have (done) a better job defensively, but we got a win. That’s all we needed this time after losing three games in a row,” he said.
The Thunder avoided losing four in a row for the first time since April 2009, near the end of their first season in Oklahoma City, but were hardly better on defense after allowing 113.7 points per game during their longest losing streak of the season.
Instead, they relied on an offense that regained the NBA lead in scoring average while shooting 58 percent. It was the Thunder’s second-best shooting performance of the season, behind only a 60.6 percent effort in a win at Brooklyn in December.
“That was good offensively. Offensively I don’t think is our problem,” said Westbrook, who had nine of Oklahoma City’s 28 assists. “We’ve just got to find a way to continue to get stops.”
Alexey Shved led Minnesota with 17 points, and Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham had 15 points apiece. The Timberwolves shot 53 percent in the first half but couldn’t keep up that pace and wound up hitting on 43 percent after halftime.
Seven Timberwolves reached double figures in points, and leading scorer Nikola Pekovic wasn’t one of them.
“Tonight we moved the ball better, we attacked better. I think we were a little more aggressive,” said J.J. Barea, who had 12 of his 14 points in the first half.
“We just couldn’t stop them.”
Kevin Martin had 19 points off the bench for the Thunder, who went 9 for 14 from 3-point range and hit all 22 of their free throws. Oklahoma City came in first in the league in foul shooting and second in 3-point accuracy.
“We made a lot of shots and shot a good percentage,” coach Scott Brooks said. “I’m not thrilled with our defense.”
The Thunder doubled their lead by scoring the first six points of the second half and then used a couple more bursts during the third quarter to start opening the gap.
Kendrick Perkins hit a jumper in the lane to finish a string of seven straight Oklahoma City points, making it 87-70 midway through the third. Then, after an immediate 9-0 response by Minnesota, Westbrook had three buckets during an 8-0 flurry by Oklahoma City to push the lead right back to 16.
The Timberwolves never got closer than nine after that, cutting it to 120-111 on Luke Ridnour’s two free throws with 1:40 remaining. It was just the fifth time all season that Minnesota eclipsed 110 points, and one of those came in overtime.
Greg Stiemsma and Ricky Rubio had 13 points apiece, and Ridnour chipped in 10. Rubio also had nine assists and five steals.
“If we play on offense like that every night, we’re going to have better chances to win games. So hopefully we carry this on to the next game,” Barea said.
Oklahoma City’s midseason swoon had come on suddenly after a run of four straight wins by at least 20 points that matched a franchise record.
“It was good to get a win. We had a tough little stretch there. It happens, though, so I’m glad we were able to get out of that little funk we were in and get a W,” Durant said. “We still can be a lot better.”
Neither team put up much resistance in the first half, with both teams shooting over 60 percent through the first 21½ minutes before a stretch when Minnesota missed six out of seven shots to allow Oklahoma City to expand its lead to 66-58 at halftime.
The Thunder led by as many as 13 midway through the second quarter, but the Timberwolves were able to trim the deficit to 57-54 after making 10 of 11 attempts from the field. In the first half, Minnesota’s reserves were a combined 16 for 18 from the field and the team overall was 23 for 43.
Oklahoma City clamped down a bit to start to create some breathing room, and Minnesota went just 12 of 30 to start the second half while falling further behind.
“We know we have 27 games to figure it out, so we just have to keep taking steps in those kind of situations and just get better,” Martin said.
“We have to get better. We know that,” he added. “But we will.”
NOTES: After trading away Eric Maynor, Oklahoma City is down to only two point guards on the roster. If Westbrook and backup Reggie Jackson both get into foul trouble, Brooks said he likes the option of putting Durant at the point. “He’s actually handled the ball more this year, bringing the ball up. As his career continues to evolve, he’s going to be a point forward,” Brooks said. “And I think this year — even a little bit last year, but this year more — hopefully next year it’s going to be even more. It just helps all of us. It takes the pressure off our ball-handlers when he’s able to bring up the ball.” ... Brooks said new addition Ronnie Brewer should get in a film session during practice Saturday. ... Oklahoma City, which lost its last game at Chesapeake Energy Arena to Miami, hasn’t lost consecutive home games since dropping two of the first three games of the 2010-11 season.