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News » Thunder-Timberwolves Preview

Thunder-Timberwolves Preview

Thunder-Timberwolves Preview
For two teams that have been among the NBA's weakest for the last two seasons, both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves are on relative hot streaks going into Wednesday's meeting at the Target Center.

The Timberwolves only need to beat the league-worst Thunder to notch their first four-game winning streak in exactly two years, but Oklahoma City also is playing its best basketball of the season, having won two of three for the first time.

Minnesota (9-25) had lost 13 straight going into a brief Christmas break, but since the holiday the team has won five of seven, averaging 104.7 points over that span.

That includes three straight wins to start 2009, something the Timberwolves hadn't done in nearly two years. They won four straight from Jan. 1-7, 2007, then won three in a row later that month.

After a 102-92 win in Chicago Saturday, their current run continued with a 94-87 victory in Memphis on Tuesday. All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures, led by Randy Foye's 23, but it was the Timberwolves' effort at the defensive end that helped them close the game on a 7-0 run.

"It was defense, rebounding and communicating," said Foye, who hit a 3-pointer to break an 87-87 tie, then blocked O.J. Mayo's shot at the other end. "We just had to clamp down on defense."

Al Jefferson also had his 19th double-double of the season, scoring 19 points and adding 12 rebounds. Jefferson ranks in the NBA's top 10 in that category.

After starting 2-12 at home, the Timberwolves have won back-to-back games at home, with Jefferson averaging 35.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and more than 43 minutes in those games.

Oklahoma City, meanwhile, is just 1-15 on the road this season, having lost its last eight away from home. But the Thunder (5-30) appear to be gaining confidence offensively, averaging 109.0 points and shooting 52.9 percent from the field in their last four games.

They nearly beat Denver on Friday, losing by two on Carmelo Anthony's last-second 3-pointer, but they've still won two of three for the first time since moving from Seattle.

Three of their recent top-5 draft picks continued to emerge in Tuesday's 107-99 win over New York, as the Thunder burst out to an early lead they never relinquished. Kevin Durant and Jeff Green each had 27 points and Russell Westbrook added 22 and nine assists.

"We showed a lot of character," said Durant, who also had 12 rebounds. "They came back and got within two but we continued to work hard and kept our composure and fought on the defensive end and got some key scores."

Durant, the No. 2 overall pick in 2007, has averaged 27.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in his last 14 games. Green, selected three picks later and acquired by the franchise in a trade, has also turned it on lately, averaging 23.2 points and shooting 53.3 percent from the field in his last five games.

Westbrook, the fourth overall pick last summer, has averaged 15.6 points and 5.2 assists since joining the starting lineup on Nov. 29. All three players are 22 or younger.

The Northwest Division rivals have split two meetings in Oklahoma City this season, but the Thunder franchise has won its last three visits to Minnesota, all as the SuperSonics.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: January 7, 2009


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