The Oklahoma City Thunder set a franchise-record winning their 12th consecutive game last night on the road vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Tonight, they will look to keep going on the road again in a back-to-back vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves are just above .500 right now and having a decent season but it’s hard to judge where they will be by the season’s end. They just got Ricky Rubio back from injury and Kevin Love has played only 13 games for them as well.
Last season, the Thunder and Timberwolves gave NBA fans some great games including a double-overtime thriller on March 23 that the Thunder won 149-140. Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 45 points in that game and Kevin Durant had 40 points and 17 rebounds. Love scored a career-high 51 points including seven 3-pointers.
In three wins vs. the Timberwolves last season, Durant averaged 38.7 points per game and Westbrook 36.0 points per game.
Defense has been the biggest reason Minnesota is winning games this season. They are ranked 8th in the league in defensive efficiency and are just 20th offensively. Rubio should help both of those areas as he is one of the best passers in the league and defensively great at getting in passing lanes and disrupting a team’s offense.
The other calling card for Minnesota is offensive rebounds. Love and Nikola Pekovic each are averaging 3.7 offensive rebounds per game and both are good at finishing inside and getting to the line as well.
On the heels of a back-to-back, it may be a challenge for the Thunder to go on the road and not give up more offensive rebounds than usual to a team like the Timberwolves. But the Thunder have been so impressive in this 12-game winning streak.
Serge Ibaka will be looking to bounce back from a tough game shooting the ball last night in which he made only 2-of-9 field goals. Ibaka rebounded very well though which will be key again tonight.
The other matchup to keep a close eye on will be Andrei Kirilenko covering Durant. Kirilenko has been one of the best defenders in the league over the past decade and just the kind of defender who could give Durant fits.
Durant is coming off a season-high 41-point outburst last night in Atlanta so slowing him down will be tougher than usual for Kirilenko and company.
This is the last game the Thunder will play until next Tuesday on Christmas when they will take on the Miami Heat. Head coach Scott Brooks knows this so don’t be surprised if Durant and Westbrook each log 40-plus minutes. When they do that, they are very tough to beat.
The game will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. EST on TNT.