The OKC Thunder battled with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday in a tilt between the two top teams in the Western Conference at the time. Minnesota held a fantastic home record (8-1,) while the Thunder were equally impressive on the road (7-1).
The Oklahoma City Thunder stumbled in Minnesota after some stifling defense by the Timberwolves. OKC only produced 103 points in this countless and were doomed by multiple scoring droughts along the way.
This young OKC Thunder team has to limit scoring droughts in order to have a successful season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played to his usual MVP standards, dropping 32 points, hauling in four rebounds, and dishing out four assists. Gilgeous-Alexander shot 59 percent from the floor and 6-for-6 at the charity stripe.
The Oklahoma City Thunder supporting cast did not play to their standards. Rookie big man Chet Holmgren shot a lowly 30 percent from the floor, sharpshooter Isaiah Joe went 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, and rising star Jalen Williams shot just 2-for-10 from the floor.
That led the Thunder as a team to shoot just 41 percent from the floor, 36 percent from beyond the arc, and 78 percent at the charity stripe.
Despite Minnesota's 19 turnovers, OKC could only muster up nine fastbreak points, which was by no means good enough to counterbalance the Timberwolves' alarming 19 second-chance points.
This game highlighted a flaw that had hurt the OKC Thunder before this season. Long scoring lulls dooming the secondary unit put the Thunder behind the eight ball. The issue against Minnesota is they already play elite level defense.
The Timberwolves were able to limit the Thunder to just 17 third-quarter points, which really hurt the Bricktown boys due to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's rotational minutes. With Gilgeous-Alexander playing the entire first and third quarters and half the second and fourth quarters, a bad third frame with the MVP on the floor really puts stress on an already lackluster secondary scoring group.
Along with the usual scoring droughts, Minnesota took advantage of their ability to play zone defense. This season, the only way to throw off Mark Daigneault's offense has been switching to a zone shell, which is tough for some NBA teams to pull off.
However, Minnesota's ability to funnel the action into Rudy Gobert, who had a fantastic day deterring shots to the tune of four blocks, just really ruined the offensive flow of Oklahoma City. Mark Daigneault even commented the stark difference in the first and second half was the zone wrinkle from Chris Finch.
In the first half of this game, the Thunder generated good shots and made 53 percent of their shots from the floor, in the second half, OKC labored their way to 30 percent from the floor.
This is a long season, and the Oklahoma City Thunder still represent one of the youngest teams in the sport. Their first big hurdle as a collective unit is to figure out how to limit the offensive drop-off throughout games.