Russell Westbrook showed why he is one of the NBA’s most dynamic players his last time out.
Unfortunately for the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, they will have to face him Sunday night after taking advantage of his absence the last time they played the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook drained an amazing corner 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left in overtime in Friday’s 113-112 home win over Golden State. He got the ball with time running out after Thabo Sefolosha’s diving save kept it in play.
It marked the sixth win a row for the Thunder, who improved to 8-0 at home and now try to avenge a lopsided defeat exactly one month ago to the Timberwolves.
Westbrook was still recovering from torn knee cartilage when Minnesota cruised to a 100-81 home win Nov. 1. The Timberwolves led by as many as 34 and handed Oklahoma City (11-3) its worst loss since a 111-88 defeat to Orlando on Feb. 25, 2011.
The Thunder shot a season-low 34.9 percent without Westbrook, but coach Scott Brooks believes his team must defend better in this rematch.
“They’re a hard team to guard,” Brooks said. “We have to do a much better job than we did up there.”
Oklahoma City has a chance to sweep a six-game homestand. It would mark the second time the franchise will have swept a homestand of at least that length, having taken all seven games in a stretch from Dec. 30, 1977-Jan. 15, 1978, as the Seattle SuperSonics.
“We’re getting used to staying at home, so we have to take advantage of our last home game,” Westbrook told the Thunder’s official website.
Oklahoma City has also taken its last seven home meetings with Minnesota, although Timberwolves star Kevin Love has missed three of the last four visits.
Love had 24 points and 12 rebounds in the first matchup. Nikola Pekovic added 15 and 10 and Ricky Rubio finished with 14 points, 10 assists and five steals.
“Their strengths are they can really move the basketball, they’re a great passing team,” Brooks said. “They have great sets, they have good scorers. They have guys that can make plays, Kevin Love is an All-Star player.”
Minnesota (9-9) ended a five-game road slide with Saturday’s 112-106 win over Dallas. All the starters reached double figures in points, with Kevin Martin leading the way with 27 and Love notching his league-best 17th double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Martin makes his return to Oklahoma City after he averaged 14.0 points as a reserve with the Thunder last season.
Luc Mbah a Moute, acquired Tuesday from Sacramento, had four points and seven rebounds Saturday in his Minnesota debut.
”He looked good. A little rusty, but the more he plays, the more he gets in tune with what we’re going to, the better he’s going to be for us,” Love said. ”He’s going to be very good for us because he’s so versatile.”
Some of the best scorers will be on display. Kevin Durant leads the NBA with 28.0 points per game, Love is fourth at 24.1 and Martin is seventh at 23.1.
Durant, however, is averaging 22.7 points and shooting 37.0 percent over his last three contests. He had a season-worst 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting against Minnesota last month.
Rubio, who will likely match up with Westbrook, leads the NBA with 3.0 steals per game.