Minnesota and Oklahoma City already played one instant classic in the last week and will try for another when the Thunder visit the Timberwolves on Friday. Minnesota guard Andrew Wiggins banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer on Sunday to give the Timberwolves a 115-113 road win, seconds after Thunder star Carmelo Anthony had given his team the lead with a 3-pointer.
Wiggins and the Timberwolves haven’t had things go their way since that win and are coming off a pair of blowout losses. “That game at OKC, you get a couple of pats on your back and then you come home thinking everything will be easygoing,” Minnesota power forward Taj Gibson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after Wednesday’s 122-101 loss at Detroit. “We got humbled by the Pacers (Tuesday). (Wednesday), we come out with a little bit of energy and set the tone the right way and then we just laid an egg in the second quarter and didn’t play well the rest of the night.” The Thunder bounced back from that loss to Minnesota by refocusing on the defensive end and holding Indiana to 33.7 percent shooting in a 114-96 win on Wednesday. “We played well. Our principles, we stuck to them,” Paul George, who was playing his first game against his former team, told reporters. “Our defense got a whole lot better from the game before.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, FS Oklahoma, FS North (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (2-2): The biggest question for Oklahoma City coming into the season was how reigning MVP Russell Westbrook would mesh with George and Anthony, and so far, Westbrook is getting glowing reviews. “Russ has gotten great encouragement from his teammates and he’s at his best when he’s playing aggressively,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters after watching Westbrook collect 28 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds on Wednesday. “Overall, I felt like he surveyed and managed the game and the floor and moved guys around. He did an exceptional job.” Westbrook is leading the NBA in assists (12.8) to go with 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds - just off his triple-double pace from last season.
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (2-3): Minnesota was without star swingman Jimmy Butler the last two games due to an upper respiratory infection and clearly missed his defense on the perimeter while Pistons small forward Tobias Harris was going off for 34 points on Wednesday. “Of course, we’re going to need Jimmy to win games,” Gibson told reporters. “But we have more than enough to get the job done. I’ve been in this league a long time. I’ve won games with less than the talent we have in here. It’s all about believing and coming together.” Butler was reportedly feeling better on Wednesday but did not travel with the team and could return for Friday’s contest.
1. Timberwolves C Karl-Anthony Towns recorded a double-double in four of the first five games and is averaging 23.2 points and 10.4 rebounds.
2. George is 4-of-20 from 3-point range over the last three games.
3. Minnesota PG Jeff Teague enjoyed his best game of the season at Oklahoma City on Sunday with 19 points and nine assists.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 106, Thunder 104