Oklahoma City Thunder roll past Minnesota Timberwolves

By Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 16, 2016 at 1:02 AM
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Minnesota coach Sam Mitchell wants his team to learn every night they take the floor. Even in defeat, he feels his young, talented players can come away with something if they want to one day be great.

That means learning from severe beatings like the 113-93 loss to Oklahoma City Friday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"You are always concerned when you get beat," Mitchell said. "But you are also going to find out about them. You find out about character when you go through tough times. You find out about mental toughness. You find out about who's going to grind. Those are the guys you continue to go forward and build with. It's going to turn around. This team was where we were at one time and people remember that."

Forward Kevin Durant scored 21 points to lead Oklahoma City. He shot 7 of 14 from the field to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. Guard Dion Waiters came off the bench to post 20 points. Guard Russell Westbrook tallied 12 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds to reach his fourth triple double of the season. That is the second most in the NBA behind Golden State forward Draymond Green, who has eight.

"We played good defense and kept them out of transition," Durant said. "And we didn't turn the ball over. We had 31 assists, so that's good."

Guard Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points to lead the Timberwolves. Forward Shabazz Muhammad scored 15 points while guard Zach LaVine added 13.

"I left some of my young guys out there even though the game was out of reach," Mitchell said. "I wanted them to understand how it feels when you are getting your butt kicked. This is part of the growing pains of learning in the NBA. You can't save them every night. Sometimes you leave them out there and let them play through it. I want you to feel that sting. I want you to stay up tonight. I want it to bother you. Sometimes you have to do that."

The Timberwolves (12-29) offensive struggles started from the opening tip. Even though Oklahoma City (29-12) wasn't playing air tight defense, it took until the 4:22 mark before they scored their first points of the night.

The Thunder took advantage early and sprinted out to a 16 point led. Durant led the charge, but eight different players had at least four points in the first half as they led 57-43 at halftime.

When Oklahoma City was in Minnesota on Tuesday, they allowed the Timberwolves to hang around and keep it a tight game until the final minutes. They didn't make the same mistake this time around.

The Thunder attacked the basket in the third quarter and came away with dunk after dunk.

Oklahoma pounded the middle to the tune of 72 points in the paint.

"Everyone is trying to be physical," rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns said. "That's both teams' game plans. Just go out there and be physical."

Oklahoma City stretched its lead to 25 points before sitting Durant and Westbrook down. Minnesota closed the deficit to 14 points with nine minutes left and it looked like Thunder coach Billy Donovan was going to have to bring his starters back.

However, Donovan stayed with his reserves and they rewarded him by pushing the lead to 26 points and closing the game out.

"We just wanted to keep getting stops once we came in," Thunder guard Cameron Payne said. "Our goal was to keep Russ and Kevin and all those starters on the bench."

NOTES: Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant was voted No. 4 on ESPN.com's best ever small forward rankings, ahead of several Hall of Famers. "I've always been a firm believer in waiting until guys' careers are over, but a lot of people nowadays get caught up in the moment, get caught up in what have you done for me lately and forget about the great players," Durant said. "I'm not downplaying myself, because I feel like I'm as good as any small forward that's played, but at this point in my career I don't think I should be on that list." ... Minnesota coach Sam Mitchell says youth is at the core of his team's recent struggles. "Every night it has been something," Mitchell said. "That's what young teams do. It's just mental mistakes. Mistakes that young players make. To their credit, they try correct them." ... In the lastest NBA All-Star voting, Durant (774,782 votes) is second in front court voting and G Russell Westbrook (609,901) is second among guards, which means they both would be in starting line up if voting ended today. "It's right where it should be," Durant said. "Us two should be starting."

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