Preview: Wolves at Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have spent the last six weeks surging to a big lead in their division. The Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, have been sinking deeper into the cellar.
Given the history of this series the last seven years, both trends seems likely to continue Friday night when the Thunder try for their 12th straight home win over the Timberwolves.
Oklahoma City (28-12) went 17-4 from Dec. 6-Jan. 13 and tied San Antonio for the most wins in that span. That’s allowed the Thunder to build a comfortable lead in the Northwest, while Minnesota (12-28) has spent that time plummeting into last place.
Those positions were further solidified when Oklahoma City won its eighth straight in the series Tuesday, 101-96 at Minnesota. Kevin Durant scored the final 12 points for the Thunder to finish with 30 and Russell Westbrook chipped in 22 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
Oklahoma City has won 22 of 25 over the Timberwolves.
The Thunder followed their latest win in the series with Wednesday’s 108-89 victory over Dallas to improve to 13-1 against the Western Conference at home. The club did so without one of its best players, as Westbrook was ejected after receiving two technical fouls in the first half without scoring.
It was just the second scoreless game of his career, but Durant and Serge Ibaka combined for 49 points and 21 rebounds and Oklahoma City benefited from the Mavericks, who had played the night before, sitting out their starting five.
The Thunder matched a season high with 15 made 3-pointers for their 13th win in the last 15 home games. Oklahoma City topped the 100-point mark for the 10th straight game and held Dallas to 39.0 percent shooting.
Opponents have made 41.6 percent from the field against the Thunder in the last seven games.
"We didn’t relax on the defensive end and that shows growth in us," Durant told the team’s official website. "That’s not our barometer because they didn’t have their whole team there, but it was good for us to stay locked in, stay on pace and stick to what we do."
All Minnesota has done lately is lose, suffering through an eight-game skid and losing 12 of 13 – part of a 4-20 stretch. The Timberwolves are tied for the league’s worst road record at 1-9.
Minnesota is the only team yet to win in the new year, though the Wolves have been more competitive of late with their last three defeats coming by six or fewer points.
Minnesota cut an 18-point deficit against the Thunder to two and then fell 107-104 at Houston on Wednesday.
"It’s very frustrating not being able to win," said guard Andrew Wiggins, who’s averaged 26.5 points in the last four games and scored 22 against the Thunder. "Every game we play good, but it’s something that we’re not doing right or a mistake we made and we just have to fix it."
Turnovers have been the culprit in the last three contests with the Wolves’ total climbing from 17 to 18 to 21.