Wessel: Victory over Oklahoma City is just a start for Timberwolves
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the NBA's best team Thursday night at Target Center, adding the type of signature victory that hasn't come around very often for this franchise during its seemingly never-ending rebuilding process.
The Wolves will enjoy their 99-93 victory over Oklahoma City that ended the Thunder's 12-game winning streak. However, that enjoyment can only be momentary because now the hard part begins.
If the Wolves are as serious as they claim to be about being a power in the Western Conference, they need to make it so that a victory at home over one of the best teams in the league is commonplace. Just another day at the office.
Coach Rick Adelman echoed that sentiment after the game, "I would like to see us get to the point where this is not a big deal," he said.
This started out like many Wolves' games the past few seasons. They came out of the gates firing against a powerhouse, using the home-court momentum to take a big lead. But unlike last season, when the Wolves usually came apart by the time the buzzer sounded, the other shoe never dropped and they were able to withstand every charge made by the Thunder.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook got their points -- they combined for 63 -- but the Wolves never let them gain control whenever they tried to make their push. Whether it was Andrei Kirilenko frustrating Durant or the guards taking away Westbrook's penetration to the basket, the Wolves played an all-around game on defense that was necessary to beat the Thunder.
"What I really liked about it is that we played four full quarters," Adelman said. "We just played and played. We knew they were going to make a run at us. We got some stops, made some shots down the stretch."
Kevin Love played perhaps his best game of the season, getting 28 points with 11 rebounds and finishing only three assists shy of a triple-double. He also added a pair of blocked shots in 40 minutes, despite admitting after the game that the hand he broke before the season is still bothering him.
Love was quick to point out the Thunder was coming off a back-to-back, but didn't discredit the win over a team the Wolves came so close to beating three times last season.
"These kinds of wins need to happen more often," he said.
And with the formula used Thursday, this type of win can happen more often.
Love scored his points, Kirilenko made the other team's superstar miserable and a host of other players stepped up.
J.J. Barea scored 18 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 3 of 4 from three-point range. He even took a charge -- something Adelman has been imploring his team to do -- against Durant that got the scoring champ so fired up that he received a technical foul.
Nikola Pekovic scored 24 points, including 18 on the first half, when he kept rolling to the hoop, the guards kept finding him and the Thunder couldn't stop him.
It was a big win. And a team win.
Now comes the hard part. The Wolves can't pat themselves on the back for too long.
They won't have to wait long for their next chance, either. After knocking off the best in the Western Conference on Thursday, they will face the Eastern Conference-leading New York Knicks (19-6) on Sunday. The Knicks are 11-1 at Madison Square Garden.
If the Wolves are to hand New York its second home loss, they will have to play as well as they did Thursday night, if not better.