Timberwolves blow big lead in loss to Thunder
MINNEAPOLIS — While the Timberwolves painfully continue to search for a player whom coach Kurt Rambis identifies as "that one guy," the Oklahoma City Thunder once again demonstrated Wednesday it not only has its guy, it might have two.
And in a 111-103 comeback victory at Target Center, the Thunder just might have had a third for this one night: Reserve forward Serge Ibaka had eight blocked shots, including six in the fourth quarter alone.
The Wolves led 40-22 after a quarter, but they again blew a big lead when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook stepped forth when it mattered most. Meanwhile the Timberwolves' tandem of Michael Beasley and Kevin Love combined to shoot 3-for-18 in the final quarter.
"We really still don't have a leader on the team, a go-to guy, that calming force that takes control of a situation," Rambis said. "That's Durant for them. He calms them down.
"Any time they get in trouble, they just give it to Durant and everybody else goes, 'Well, OK, everything's good now. Everything's fine.' We have to reach for that guy. We have to find a guy like that."
Durant found foul trouble early, then scored 20 of his game-high 30 points after halftime. His clutch three-pointer just before the end of the third quarter tied the score for the first time since the opening seconds and ended a 13-2 run that brought the Thunder back into the game.
Another long three with Beasley in his face with five-plus minutes left punctuated a fourth quarter in which the Thunder outscored the Wolves 27-17, thanks to Durant's 11 points, Westbrook's steadying hand and Ibaka's shot swatting, even though Durant fouled out in the final minute.
Durant, Love and Westbrook all are 22 and Beasley is 21, so Wednesday's outcome wasn't simply a case of the Timberwolves' youth and inexperience.
"You've got an elite player," Rambis said, referring to Durant. "That changes the complexion of the game. You've got an elite player who can create his own shot, handle most defenses. In situations like that, you kind of forget somebody's age because you have somebody special. Probably in all likelihood, if he continues to grow, you're looking at a future MVP player."
Rambis lauded his team's ball movement in the first half, when he said the ball moved "almost blindly," and lamented the lack of it and lack of composure in a second half when Love and Beasley each probably attempted to step forth too much to be that guy for whom the Wolves are searching.
"It happens just about every game," Beasley said, referring to another lost big lead. "We've got to stop getting comfortable. Our emotions ... when we're up, we're up. And when we're down, we're down. We can't celebrate until after the night. We've got to keep our composure and find our balance."