MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Ricky Rubio added 14 points, 10 assists and five steals to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 100-81 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Nikola Pekovic had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota, which played surprisingly good defense against Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Derrick Williams had 10 points and seven rebounds for Minnesota after not playing in the opener.
Durant scored 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting and had trouble finding clean look against a Timberwolves team that was supposed to be porous on defense. But the Thunder shot 35 percent and turned the ball over 21 times to get run out of the building.
After scoring 42 in the season opener against Utah, Durant scored his fewest points since Dec. 31, 2011 when he had 12 against Phoenix. Jeremy Lamb was the only other Thunder player in double figures with 16, and it has become abundantly clear very early in the season how much they miss Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and the Thunder offense has lacked its usual zip and explosiveness with the fiery guard on the bench.
Westbrook or no Westbrook, it was a bit of a statement for the Wolves, who enter this season with hopes of getting to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They led by as many as 34 points in the game, allowing coach Rick Adelman to rest his starting five for the entire fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves shot poorly in the first half as well, but they used some opportunistic defense and made good at the free throw line to build a 20-point lead. They made 18 of 19 shots at the foul line while Durant, Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams piled up the fouls early.
The Wolves, who figured to struggle on the defensive end this season without a true shot-blocker in the paint, forced 13 turnovers in the first half, which led to 19 points. Williams blocked two shots and the Wolves made Durant work for his touches while limiting his shot attempts. The Thunder star was just 2 for 5 from the field in the first 26 minutes, and it looked at times like he was deferring to his younger role players to try to get them involved.
All it did was dig the Thunder a bigger hole.
The Wolves offense got clicking midway through the second quarter with a 21-9 run that ended on a beauty of a no-look, wraparound bounce pass from Rubio to Pekovic in transition for a 59-37 lead.
For the second straight season, the Thunder lost a key player off their bench. They traded James Harden before last season, then let Kevin Martin go to the Timberwolves, who signed him to a four-year deal to ail their perimeter shooting woes. The departures have left a second unit lacking in firepower, and with Westbrook still on the mend, the bench is even thinner.
NOTES: Timberwolves C Ronny Turiaf left the game in the second quarter after taking a nasty spill while fighting for a rebound against the Thunder’s Nick Collison. He was diagnosed with a right elbow contusion and did not return. … The Thunder head back to Oklahoma City for their home opener against Phoenix on Sunday. … Martin finished with nine points.
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