What a confusing game, right?
Once it was known Kevin Durant would be healthy and playing in this game, I didn’t have much hope for the Wolves’ recent stretch of good play to keep going. After all, it has to end eventually, right?
Throughout this game, it felt like the Wolves had either no control over the outcome of this game or complete control over the outcome of this game. They went through stretches in which they controlled the tempo, played impeccable defense for stretches and got good, quality shots on offense. There were also stretches in which it looked like Jeff Green, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were just taking turns getting efficient scoring opportunities.
The Thunder are a very good team and sort of the model every rebuilding franchise wants to grab a hold of and make their own. Draft lots of young pieces and assets and either have them develop into stars or have them waiting in the wings to move for veteran pieces. With Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder has those young guys who developed into stars. With Green, they have a potential trade asset and with Harden and Ibaka, they have guys who are probably going to become very important role players to this team’s future on the court.
And seeing the end result of a rebuilding program in front of you like this makes you hopeful for where the Wolves hopefully are headed. Even though it was just one game, it was troubling to see the Wolves alleged future star, Michael Beasley, revert back to bad Michael Beasley. First possession of the game in which he had a scoring opportunity, he took Green into the post, took a couple of retreating dribbles and shot a bad fadeaway. From there, it seemed like he was settling more than dictating. It’s not something to be concerned about because it was just one game but it instantly made me miss good Beasley.
As for the big men of the future (until Love gets dealt), you saw a ton of good and bad out of them. With Darko, it was almost all good. He only had two assists but his passing was pretty crisp and fantastic for much of the night. He didn’t rebound much at all but Love was snatching up the rare misses in the game (combined 52% shooting by both teams). Offensively, he was very smart with the way he attacked. He used Krstic’s lack of mobility to get good quick shots. When a better but smaller defender was switched on to him, Darko kept his off-arm naturally up so when he turned, it was just “coincidence” that it invaded the space of Collison’s throat and created space for a nice clean look at a hook shot. He was methodical and precise in the way he attacked in the post.
Love on the other hand was extremely good as well. He efficiently scored the ball and rebounded like a mad man. His passing was clean for the most part and he knocked down four 3s. However, he took a couple of rushed, forced 3-pointers late in the game and played pretty atrocious defense. Darko was +8 heading into the latter stretches of this game and yet thanks to some late free throw score padding and a lack of execution on his and his team’s part (although he did fake Jeff Green out with his eyes and dropped a nice dump pass to Wes on the baseline for a dunk), he ended up being a -1. The Wolves put themselves in every situation to control and win this game and they just couldn’t stop from fouling OKC and giving them easy scoring chances.
While Beasley was pretty awful in this game and the Bassy/Wes backcourt didn’t do much, I loved the effort from Tolliver, Ridnour and Brewer off the pine. Brewer didn’t waste a lot of time or effort needlessly dribbling the ball. When he had the ball in his hands, he made quick moves and decisions. Ridnour did a really nice job of running the team for much of this game and keeping this team clicking when they got defensive stops.
And Anthony Tolliver was just fantastic on defense. You look at Durant’s line of 28 points with 17 free throw attempts and it doesn’t show you the job Tolliver did on him in the second half. He shadowed and hounded KD very well and used swarming help defense by his teammates to force the ball out of his hands or force him into forcing possessions. He didn’t stop Durant by any means but he made him work, despite the fact that he was guarding a position that should torch him on most nights.
Ultimately, as good as Ridnour was on offense, he just couldn’t stop Westbrook on defense. Not really his fault either because nobody can really stop Russell Westbrook. He’s just one of those guys you have to hope is off. The Wolves weren’t terribly aggressive in finding contact when they scored inside. They couldn’t get the freebies OKC had (Durant shot one more free throw than the entire Wolves team).
I don’t like to tout moral victories at all but you can feel good about a loss like this compared to some of the other losses the team has had this year. All I ask this season is that they’re competitive and they didn’t disappoint against a team that should blow them out in theory.
The construction plan was shown to them again tonight in the form of their successful opponent. Let’s just get back to good Beasley and stop wasting the good efforts by the bench and Darko.