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Oklahoma City Thunder (39-11) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (24-24) preview

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Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (39-11), Minnesota Timberwolves (24-24)

Last time they met: Oklahoma City Thunder (115) defeated Minnesota Timberwolves (111)

Pre-game Notes:

The last time these two teams met, the Thunder were able to get away with a close win, but it took a 48 point explosion from Kevin Durant in order to do so. These two sides match up quite well and the Timberwolves took the honors in the first encounter of the season, showing they are capable of defeating the Thunder if allowed to stay close enough for long enough.

Oklahoma City are coming off a good solid win against the Memphis Grizzlies. They were tested early and the game was close throughout, but the Thunder always seemed to have the Grizzlies at arms length. Durant put in a terrific all around display and Serge Ibaka continued his terrific form alongside the NBA scoring leader.

Minnesota have been up and down for most of the season and have hovered around the .500 mark. They are currently without starting center Nikola Pekovic, but Kevin Love has regained his early season form and is carrying the TWolves in a big way. Ricky Rubio has been solid but his lack of shooting prowess is starting to cost the Timberwolves at key times. The same can’t be said for Kevin Martin though, the former Thunder shooting guard who will line up against his former team again in this one. He is coming off a scorcher where he lit up the Lakers for 32 points and Thabo will get the job of slowing him down.

Key Matchups:

Reggie Jackson vs Ricky Rubio

Both very talented and defensive minded point guards, this is going to be a great matchup to watch. What Rubio lacks in quickness he makes up for in spacing and there is a reason he racks up a handful of steals per game. Jackson is going to want another solid outing to support Kevin Durant, but also for his own confidence against one of the leagues better point guards. Reggie needs to avoid turnovers at all costs – not an easy task against Rubio who reads the passing lanes so well. If the Timberwolves can get out into the open floor, the Thunder are in trouble. Without Pekovic holding down the middle, we would like to see Reggie be really aggressive at getting the ball to the front of the rim. Stay tuned!

Kevin Durant vs Corey Brewer

In his last game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Durant showed us all again why he is the front runner for the MVP award. Sure, he dropped in 31 points but he also had 8 rebounds and 8 assists and an all-around game like this is going to make the Thunder difficult to defeat. Corey Brewer is one of the leagues better defenders and he is going to want to have similar success to Trevor Ariza in holding Durant to under 50% shooting. Brewer will try to make it as difficult as possible for Durant but he is going to find it pretty tough if Durant is hitting shots or able to get OKC into their offense. Brewer is going to not only have to slow Durant but he is going to have to give the Timberwolves something on the offensive end if they are wanting to win this.

Serge Ibaka vs Kevin Love

Love is very similar to the Kevin we spoke about above in that he is a huge talent and basically has his teams fortunes on his back. Love started this season in scorching form and while he has had a bit of an up and down month, he seems back on track now with a huge game over the Atlanta Hawks. Serge Ibaka has been playing supremely well and if it wasn’t for a stacked Western Conference front court, he would be making a case for an All Star berth. He had 21pts and 12rebs against the big front line of the Memphis Grizzlies and will be looking to replicate that against Love and the Timberwolves. Ibaka is going to have to be especially wary of Love’s ability to shoot the ball – if it wasn’t for a couple of missed free throws in the last matchup, the TWolves might hold a 2-0 season advantage over the Thunder. Love had a huge game against the Lakers last night with 31 points and 17 rebounds, he can’t be allowed to do that again if the Thunder want a win.

Prediction:

Realistically the Timberwolves without Pek and on the second night of a back to back, traveling into Chesapeake Arena should stand much of a chance – but they will be full of belief after their previous meetings this season. The Thunder are rolling as well, but the game against the Wizards showed just how fickle form can be. Durant was superb against the Grizzlies and I am expecting a similar performance in this one. Reggie Jackson should bounce back after some solid but less than spectacular outings and Ibaka is in sensational form. So long as the Thunder take care of the ball, they should take the W 110 – 100.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder

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