OKLAHOMA CITY – Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau likes to say all games count the same, but some may be more equal than others. Some day late this season losses to the Eastern Conference teams Indiana, Detroit, Miami and Washington might not mean as much as victories over Western Conference foes if the Wolves keep their current pace.
The Wolves have started the season 10-4 against Western opponents and are 7-2 in games against West teams third through 10th in the standings — teams they’re competing against to reach the playoffs — in the conference.
So far, they’re 1-1 against San Antonio, 2-0 against New Orleans and Utah and now 2-1 against Oklahoma City after Friday’s 111-107 loss.
“It’s great, but every game counts, every game matters, but especially within your division,” Wolves veteran forward Taj Gibson said. “We want to win the division. We want to keep pushing. We understand we have a lot of games left to play, a lot of tough games. Every game we can scratch out on the road is a good one.”
After Friday’s loss, the Wolves have 59 regular-season games remaining.
“That’s a good feeling, knowing where we stand,” Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins said. “I guess it’s only the beginning, only the start of this. We know how much better we can get.”
Point guard Jeff Teague returned to the Wolves lineup after he missed four games because of Achilles’ tendon soreness. He had played 168 consecutive games until he missed a Nov. 24 game against Miami.
“Good first game back,” Thibodeau said of Teague. ‘‘Some rust, but overall I thought he was solid.”
Teague had 11 points and 10 assists in 34 minutes.
“Little winded, but I was OK. I didn’t know I’d play that much. Tyus has been playing really well. I figured he’d play more, too.”
Tyus Jones returned to a reserve role after he averaged 11.3 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and four steals filling in. He was scoreless in 11 minutes of action.
Nemanja Bjelica experienced soreness in his left foot after a thorough workout Thursday and did not play Friday.
“I don’t know why it’s sore again,” said Bjelica, who missed his fifth game in a row because of a mid-foot sprain. “Next game, we’ll see. I feel bad not being able to help my teammates, but the season is long. I really want to play. Everybody know that. Maybe I just need to rest a few day. We’ll see what happens.”
Touched by Taj
Gibson received a warm ovation during pregame introductions. He was traded from Chicago to OKC near the trade deadline and played the rest of last season with the Thunder.
“I loved him,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I think it was a very difficult time for him being in Chicago as long as he was and coming here, but he came ready to play every night. Very, very reliable. I’ve always been a big, big fan of Taj. He’s a really good player. He’s a professional.”
• Thibodeau failed at his first chance to earn his 300th career victory. “It has been a long, long journey,” he said. “They’re all reprieves. I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of good players and great coaches. I guess it’s a sign of getting old.”
• Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns received five stitches after he bumped heads in the first quarter with the Thunder’s Andre Roberson, who received four stitches of his own from the collision. Each player soon returned to the game.
• Thibodeau said injured rookie Justin Patton has been cleared for 5-on-5 contact practice.