OKLAHOMA CITY — Leading throughout three quarters, the Timberwolves on Sunday discovered in a 113-103 loss that this isn’t the same Oklahoma City team they faced just a month ago.
Back then, the Wolves — and Corey Brewer’s exhaustive effort —took away superstar Kevin Durant from a Thunder team missing injured Russell Westbrook and the Target Center visitors had no other answers during a 19-point thumping.
On Sunday, the Wolves led by nine points after six minutes, by 11 points in the second quarter and still by five after three quarters. Then they watched it all come completely apart in a fourth quarter when the Thunder outscored them 35-20, including 25-7 to start while Wolves stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio mostly were on the bench getting some rest and coach Rick Adelman experimented with his defense.
While the Wolves played their eighth game in their sixth city during the same time, the Thunder ended a two-week, six-game homestand Sunday by remaining perfect at home this season at 9-0.
“They took control of it,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “They did what they had to do. That’s a team that’s been together for a while, and they know each other and they know what it takes. They turned it up in the fourth quarter. We need to experience that and respond to that next time.”
A month ago, Durant made just four of 11 shots and scored 13 points, still a season low for him. On Sunday, he delivered his fourth career triple-double with a 32-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound game that included four blocks and four steals as well. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first NBA player since blocks and steals became official stats 40 years ago to record a 20-12-10-4-4 game.
“You never know when K.D. is going to go off,” said Wolves guard Kevin Martin, who returned to Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday after playing with the Thunder there last season. “That’s what he does.”
A month ago, Westbrook still was sidelined by a knee injury sustained in last spring’s playoffs that required two surgeries to repair. On Sunday, he scored eight of his 19 points in the final quarter, but sat and watched while Reggie Jackson teamed with Durant to score 13 of the Thunder’s first 18 points in the fourth.
Jackson was inconsequential when the teams played last month. On Sunday, he got to the basket at will, scoring 18 points off the bench as his team’s reserves outscored their counterparts 39-23.
“When he and Westbrook are playing well on top of Durant, that adds a whole new dynamic to their team,” Love said.
Adelman paired newcomer Luc Mbah a Moute with like-minded defender Dante Cunningham in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s victory at Dallas with considerable success. On Sunday, he tried it again, but this time against an experienced Thunder team that used a smallish lineup to exploit the absence of both Love and Rubio to start the quarter.
By the time Love and Rubio checked back in for Mbah a Moute and J.J. Barea with 5:39 left, the Wolves had gone from up five points to down six.
The Thunder quickly ran its lead to as many as 14 points after that.
“We’re playing with people who haven’t played together,” Adelman said. “It’s one of those things we have to live with right now. I had to get Kevin Love rest. He played the [entire] third quarter. He was really tired. That’s the way it is. They turned it up and were very physical. We have to learn from that. You have to play with physicality and you’re not going to get calls.”