OKLAHOMA CITY – OK, just a nice, easy exhale will do.
That’s really all you can do when this kind of Minnesota team comes town, at this point in the schedule, after a sorry, embarrassing road loss.
Sure, Oklahoma City had its way with the Timberwolves Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, as the Thunder distanced themselves from Minnesota in the second half for a 106-84 win.
But big-picture this thing and what you’re left with is a January “Get Well” victory.
That’s about it.
Nothing fancy, nothing to get worked up about. Just a home win when they needed it against a T-Wolves team run down by injuries in a spot that just happened to set up pretty good for the Thunder.
“We just had more energy tonight,” forward Nick Collison said. “The urgency was higher. I think that’s what it was.”
Just 5-4 since a pre-Christmas loss to this same Minnesota team, albeit this time without the injured Kevin Love, J.J. Barea and Chase Budinger, the Thunder were shaky at home in a loss to Brooklyn last week and sorry on the road in a loss to Washington last game.
“I talked to them briefly about last game,” coach Scott Brooks said of the loss at Washington on Monday night. “It was quick, to the point and everybody locked in and focused on Minnesota. I knew they would. We take pride in how we play.”
So, if not now against the T-Wolves, then when? Because next up is nine of 10 games on the road and an opportunity to make a stand at the top of the Western Conference Standings or lag behind.
That’s why you exhale after beating up on a 16-16 Minnesota team that didn’t have its All-Star in Love and didn’t have its coach in Rick Adelman, who has now missed the last two with what the team is calling “personal issues.”
The situation set up well and played out predictably. The Thunder scored just 16 points in the first quarter but rallied for 31, 29 and 30 the last three, outscoring the Timberwolves by 17 in the second half.
Kevin Durant had 26 points, Russell Westbrook had 23 points and Kevin Martin had 19 points as the Thunder tinkered around with lineup maneuvers, featuring playing time from DeAndre Liggins and Reggie Jackson.
“There have been games where we haven’t played well lately,” Brooks said. “We were locked in, and now we’re moving on. We know we have a lot of games on the road and we’re ready for the challenge of it and we’ll embrace it and have some fun with it.”
That “fun” starts Friday at the Lakers and continues Sunday at Portland and Monday at Phoenix before a home game on Jan. 16 against Denver.
Little chance that road trip will set up as well as well as Wednesday’s game against Minnesota did. The Timberwolves had already beaten the Thunder this season and were also coming off a win on Tuesday night against Atlanta. That meant the Thunder got to face a depleted team on the second night of a back-to-back in Oklahoma City.
Doesn’t get much better than that if you’re the Thunder, and that’s why there was no reason to take anything from this game other than a simple win.
The Thunder had fewer turnovers, more rebounds, shot better and led by as much as 26.
“We just ran out of gas,” acting Minnesota coach Terry Porter said. “We did a good job in the first half, but we went through a couple phases where offensively we really struggled.”
You could kind of see that coming. And it was just what the Thunder needed.
“We have an opportunity to play much better,” Brooks said before Wednesday’s game. “We have a chance to regroup after a loss.”
The Thunder played much better. And they were supposed to. They regrouped, too. Now, we get to see what they do when things aren’t set up just right.