Big guys, Westbrook lead OKC to 113-99 win

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Thunder center Steven Adams attempts to block the shot by Minnesota's Gorgui Dieng Friday night.
Oklahoma City's D.J. Augustin dribbles past a T-Wolve defender during Friday's 113-99 win.
Enes Kanter finishes a slam dunk, scoring two of his 23 points.
Thunder center Mitch McGary tries to block a shot by Minnesota's Andreian Payne.
Russell Westbrook moves toward the basket as Ricky Rubio defends. Westbrook finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
Kyle Singler, right, defends Minnesota rookie Andrew Wiggins during Friday night's matchup.

By Tim Farley

Oklahoma City’s front line accounted for 38 points and 27 rebounds Friday night, pushing the Thunder to a 113-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

In addition, superstar point guard Russell Westbrook notched his eighth triple-double of the season with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.

“They (bigs) did a great job of rolling and finding points around the rim,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “Mitch (McGary) is a guy who can roll. He’s a big body that catches and has a soft touch around the basket. Enes (Kanter) does a good job of rolling and finding points around the basket. Russell and D.J. do a good job of finding plays for them and that’s what we have to continue to do.”

About Westbrook’s triple-double, Brooks said, “He is just displaying his all-around game and he is doing it at a consistent level. It seems like every night he is right at those numbers and those are signs of a very special player.”

The win put Oklahoma City (36-29) into a tie with New Orleans for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Both teams play Sunday as the Thunder hosts Chicago and Denver plays at New Orleans.

Newly-acquired center Enes Kanter tallied 23 points and pulled down a team-high 15 rebounds, including nine offensive boards, to lead the front line. Meanwhile, rookie Mitch McGary scored 12 and grabbed a pair boards while Steven Adams scored three points but had nine rebounds. Veteran Nick Collison contributed two rebounds.

Kanter and McGary combined for 14 points in the first quarter and was the recipient of four Westbrook assists. By halftime, the duo of Kanter and McGary had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

“He (Westbrook) just helps us out on the court and off the court,” Kanter said. “He’s the leader of this team right now and it isn’t just me. He’s trying to help everyone on this team. He’s trying to get everybody on the same page.”

Dion Waiters, inserted into the lineup for the injured Serge Ibaka, tallied 12 points on three of 12 shots and four free throws.

The game, tied eight times to go along with five lead changes, remained close as Oklahoma City took a 31-26 lead after the first quarter. The Thunder maintained a slim lead throughout the second quarter, fell behind briefly and took a six-point lead into halftime as Westbrook hit a 32-foot running jump shot as time expired.

Up by four, 55-51, early in the third quarter, Oklahoma City went on a 9-0 scoring spurt to take a 64-51 lead. The T-Wolves cut the lead to five, 79-74, early in the fourth quarter before Oklahoma City’s defense buckled down and the Thunder hit a series of three-point shots to lead, 98-83. Oklahoma City’s largest lead, 110-92, came with 2:13 left in the game.

Minnesota (14-50) was led in scoring by Gorgui Dieng with 21 points followed by rookie Andrew Wiggins with 19. Wiggins hit only four of his 13 shots from the field but was good on 11 of 12 free throws.

“It was just too much,” Minnesota head coach Flip Saunders said, referring to Oklahoma City’s 34-point fourth quarter. “You know, on the road we just didn’t have enough when it boiled down to it. Overall, we did well until the end. I think we got tired. Our three bigs got worn down a lot fighting inside and didn’t get back on defense so our little guys got caught guarding the basket.”

Oklahoma City travels to Dallas for a March 15 game before returning home for another four-game home stand with games against Boston, Atlanta, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers.

GAME NOTES: The Thunder played again without Kevin Durant, who is expected to return to the lineup next week against Boston…Oklahoma City has won four of its last six games…On Friday, the Thunder tallied more points in the paint (54-38), more second chance points (19-11) and fast break points (28-22)…The Thunder also grabbed more rebounds, 48-42…Both teams shot 43 percent from the field while Oklahoma City was perfect from the free throw line while the T-Wolves connected on 28 of 31 attempts.

 

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