Thunder-Timberwolves Preview


The last time the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves met, the teams' three All-Stars put on a show in the highest-scoring NBA game of the season.

The chances of a contest resembling that one is highly improbable considering the state of the depleted Timberwolves, with Kevin Love leading a lengthy injury list.

The Western Conference-leading Thunder have won 11 straight in the series heading into Saturday night's matchup at Target Center.

In one of the most entertaining games of the season, Oklahoma City (43-16) needed two overtimes to win 149-140 on March 23. Love scored a franchise-record 51 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a duel with former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook, who led the Thunder with a career-high 45 points.

Kevin Durant had 40 points and 17 rebounds, as he and Westbrook became the first set of teammates to score at least 40 in two games in a season.

J.J. Barea recorded his first career triple-double and the first for Minnesota since Kevin Garnett in 2007. Barea finished with 25 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

He's one of the few Timberwolves currently available and had eight stitches in his lip due to a collision suffered in Thursday's 95-82 loss to the Clippers. Minnesota (25-35) has lost eight straight as it plays without Love (concussion), Ricky Rubio (knee surgery), Luke Ridnour (ankle) and Wayne Ellington (back spasms).

"It can't get any worse, man," Barea said. "It can't get any worse."

Only Chicago has a better record than the Thunder, who led by as many as 32 points in Friday's 115-89 home rout of Sacramento. Durant led Oklahoma City with 29 points and nine rebounds and was the only Thunder player to log 30 minutes in preparation for Saturday's start of a five-game trip.

With the outcome of Friday's mismatch never in doubt, all Oklahoma City wanted to talk about afterward was a dunk by Westbrook that could only be described as "Thunder-ous" - a one-handed, high-rising slam of Durant's alley-oop.

"That was one of the most athletic plays I've ever seen," Durant said. "I think it was probably the dunk of the year."

Westbrook added 22 points and Serge Ibaka blocked seven shots to hike his league-leading total to 213.

Oklahoma City leads San Antonio by one game in the West ahead of its final trip of the season.

"We just have to take it one day at a time," center Kendrick Perkins told the Thunder's official website. "I think one game at a time and keep getting better, keep taking steps forward and none backwards and I think we'll be alright."

Westbrook could be out to attack Barea since he is the only healthy point guard available for the Wolves. Minnesota is enduring its longest skid since a 15-game slide to end last season.

"It's really hard to run an offense because we just don't have any chemistry right now because of all the different players that are playing," coach Rick Adelman said. "We're missing the ballhandling, we've gotta have J.J. with the ball and it's really been difficult."