Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks.
Minnesota Timberwolves Team Overview
The Timberwolves finished last season with a 26-40 record missing the playoffs by 10 games. Last season started with a lot of promise and excitement as Ricky Rubio became one of the most entertaining players in the league. When Rubio went down with a knee injury though, Minnesota’s season went down with it.
Kevin Love continued his rapid progression last season turning in MVP-like numbers averaging 26.0 points and 13.3 rebounds per game with a 25.41 PER.
The other pleasant surprise for Minnesota was Nikola Pekovic’s development who averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season while shooting .564 percent from the field.
Minnesota made some roster changes this offseason taking a chance on Brandon Roy who is coming out of retirement and signing Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved as well. They also traded for Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham, signed Greg Stiemsma and drafted Robbie Hummel.
Wesley Johnson, Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington and Brad Miller will not be on the roster next season.
There is some unknown with how the Timberwolves will look next season with so many new faces. Also, Rubio probably won’t be ready for the start of the season and is aiming for a December return to the court.
Minnesota made a leap last season and is expected to be contending for a 7-8 seed in the Western Conference if all goes well.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Timberwolves three times last year and beat them each time. Every game was very close and entertaining though and the two teams seem to be developing a nice little rivalry.
The Thunder played Minnesota in the first game of the season last year in Minnesota and won 104-100. Kevin Durant led the way with 33 points and Russell Westbrook had 28. James Harden scored 16 off the bench.
Love had 22 and 12 and Rubio had six points and six assists in 26 minutes of his NBA debut.
The next meeting between these teams was perhaps the game of the year in the NBA. The Thunder won 149-140 in double-overtime as Love and Durant exchanged clutch baskets down the stretch.
Love scored a career-high 51 points to go with 14 rebounds in the game. J.J. Barea had a triple-double for the Timberwolves off the bench with 25 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.
Durant had 40 points and 17 rebounds for the Thunder. Westbrook scored a career-high 45 points on 17-for-28 shooting. Harden had 25 points, six assists and six rebounds off the bench.
In the final meeting between these teams, Love and Rubio did not play for Minnesota and the Thunder won 115-110.
Durant scored 43 while Westbrook had 35. Harden had one of his worst games of the year going 1-for-11 from the field with just six points.
Durant averaged 38.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game vs. the Timberwolves in the three games. He shot .583 percent from the field and .529 percent from three.
Westbrook averaged 36.0 points and 6.7 assists per game. He shot .527 percent from the field and .400 percent from three.
Harden averaged 15.7 points and shot .211 percent from three.
The Timberwolves played well against the Thunder last year but overall had just the 21st best offense in terms of points per possession while the Thunder defense was 5th best.
Minnesota was best at the pick-and-roll, ranking 7th in the league, thanks to Love’s great ability as a pick-and-pop threat and their cast of point guards. That is the only real advantage they have against the Thunder defense which was 11th best defending pick-and-roll plays last season.
The Timberwolves were also solid scoring in the post led by Pekovic and Love. They were 13th best in the league but the Thunder were 4th best defending post-up plays.
Minnesota had just the 20th best defense in terms of PPP last season and it is no secret that the Thunder put up a lot of points against them, Durant and Westbrook in particular. Minnesota had no one who could slow down either.
The Timberwolves weren’t horrible defending the pick-and-roll and isolation plays last year, ranking 15th in both.
If Minnesota is healthy next year, they should be able to give the Thunder some good games again. They will play each other four times, first on Dec. 20 in Minnesota, then Jan. 9 in OKC, then Feb. 22 in OKC and finally March 29 in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves will have more of a European flavor next season with the additions of Kirilenko and Shved. Kirilenko may be one of the best options in the league to defend Durant but still should have a lot of trouble slowing him down.
Westbrook plays particularly well against Minnesota too which really makes the Thunder a tough team to beat.
The Thunder and Timberwolves gave us some of the most entertaining games in the league last season and hopefully they continue with that trend.