Thunder 127, Timberwolves 111
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 37 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 127-111 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The win broke a three game losing streak by the Thunder that started before the All-Star break.
Despite still playing without Kevin Love, the Timberwolves (20-32) were able to keep the game close at times. That included getting within 11 in the fourth quarter behind Andrei Kirilenko and J.J. Barea.
But the Wolves had no answer for Westbrook. With Ricky Rubio guarding him, the All-Star guard drove to the rim at will and found ways to make contested layups. Oklahoma City (40-15) pushed its advantage back to 15 and didn't look back.
Westbrook added nine assists and seven rebounds to add to his scoring barrage. Kevin Durant scored 27 points on 9-for-17 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Martin came off the bench to chip in with 19 points in the win.
The Timberwolves had seven players score in double figures led by Alexey Shved, who had 17 off the bench. Kirilenko shot only nine times, but posted 15 points.
Even though Oklahoma City came away with the victory, its defense was once again suspect as it allowed a team to score more than 109 points for the fourth straight game. On the season, the Thunder only allows an average of 97 points per outing.
Oklahoma City's defensive struggles followed it into the first half against the Wolves. After holding Minnesota to 42 percent shooting and leading by 10 in the first quarter, the Wolves raised it to 60 percent and trailed 57-54 with 3:02 left in the first half.
Minnesota had a chance to go into halftime down only five, but Rubio fouled Westbrook with 0.1 of a second on the clock as he attempted a desperation 3-pointer. Westbrook knocked down all three free throws and sent Oklahoma City into the locker room leading 66-58.
Over the past month, the Timberwolves had counted on the front-court combination of Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams to carry them offensively. But Oklahoma City did a good job of limiting their touches in the paint and forced others to score. That finally caught up to Minnesota in the third quarter when its jump shots stopped falling.
Oklahoma City took full advantage behind Durant and Westbrook as it raced out to a 17-point advantage heading into final period.
Notes: Williams has been on a scoring tear the last two weeks. He reached double-digit scoring in five of the last six games before scoring nine on Friday. That includes a season-high 24 points against the Utah Jazz. "I think he has been a little more impressive than he has been, which he has to do," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "He's been taking it to the basket and not settling for jump shots." ... Newly-acquired Ronnie Brewer has chosen to wear the No. 8 jersey with Oklahoma City, but he was not in uniform Friday against Minnesota. Despite that, his new teammates had only praise for his defensive reputation. "I hate playing against him," Durant said. "I'm glad he's on our team now. He's a tremendous defender." ... Kirilenko is taking time off from the Russian national team for family reasons. But the departure could be only temporary for the 32-year-old, who returned to the NBA last summer after playing one season with CSKA Moscow. While he will not play for Russia at the European Championship, he may return for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. ... Coming off his second career triple-double, Durant has his coach looking into the future of the three-time scoring champion. "He has handled the ball more this year," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "As his career continues to evolve, he's going to be a point forward."
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