(The Sports Xchange) - The last time the Minnesota Timberwolves visited Oklahoma City, they were ran out of the gym. In the 20-point loss, coach Sam Mitchell left his young stars on the floor till the final buzzer so they would learn to hate the feeling of losing.
The lesson must have been learned well.
Ricky Rubio buried a 3-pointer with 00.2 left in the game to give the Timberwolves a 99-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“This was a big win for us,” Andrew Wiggins said. “It’s the first time we’ve beat them in a long time. It’s huge. It’ll do a lot for our confidence going into the next game.”
Gorgui Dieng scored 25 points to lead the Timberwolves. He was seven of 12 from the field and 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. Wiggins scored 20 points and Ricky Rubio posted 12 assists and 13 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer as the Timberwolves improved to 21-45.
“We just talked about it. We have got to start competing better against some of the better teams in the Western Conference,” Mitchell said. “I‘m proud of our guys.”
Kevin Durant scored 28 points on 11 of 20 shooting for the Thunder. Russell Westbrook added 26 points and eight assists. Enes Kanter came off the bench to pour in 17 points and 14 rebounds. But it was not enough as the Thunder fell to 44-21.
Oklahoma City racked up 24 turnovers on the night that led to 26 points. Durant, who had six turnovers himself, took the brunt of the blame.
“That’s all on me,” Durant said. “It’s contagious. I‘m the leader. Everyone expects me to be on my game every night. So I take full responsibility. I have to better at every part of the game.”
With 5:26 left in the game, Wiggins hit 1 of 2 from the free-throw line to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 85-80. Westbrook then missed a long 3-pointer and Dieng made them pay with a layup.
Zach LaVine drained a 3-pointer to give the Timberwolves its first lead of the fourth. But Westbrook drove the lane for an easy layup to give Oklahoma City the lead back at 87-86. After the T-Wolves hit a pair of free throws, Durant knocked down a 3-pointer.
The Thunder came up with consecutive defensive stops. The second one led to Westbrook throwing a no-look back pass to Durant for a fast-break dunk. It put the home team up 92-88 with 2:28 on the clock.
Dieng hit a pair of free throws to get the Timberwolves to within two. Durant missed a short jumper and Minnesota had a chance to tie the game. But Dieng and Towns both missed their opportunities and it led to a reverse dunk from Durant with 1:00 left in the game.
After Dieng hit two more from the free-throw line, Oklahoma City held a 94-92 advantage. A moving screen was called on Steven Adams, giving Minnesota the ball. Karl-Anthony Towns then tied the game with a short jumper in the lane and 41.9 seconds left.
After Anthony Morrow missed a 3-point attempt, Towns hit a clutch fade-away jumper with 16 seconds left.
Durant got the ball and drove the baseline. He missed, but Adams came up with the put back with 10 seconds on left in the game.
That was enough time for Wiggins to find Rubio alone at the 3-point line and he buried the game-winning shot to close out the night.
“It felt pretty good,” Rubio said. “I felt it was going in. I’ve been working a lot so it feels good to see the results.”
When the night started, Minnesota looked like the team that was supposed to getting itself in playoff mode while the Thunder looked like it was playing out the season.
Led by the scoring of Wiggins and the defense of Gorgui Dieng, the Timberwolves raced out to a 21-9 lead.
However, Durant and the Thunder bench went on a 12-3 run to close out the quarter and only trailed 24-21.
Oklahoma City’s offense was still off kilter in the second quarter. Every shot was a struggle and the turnovers didn’t help the situation.
However, the one constant for the Thunder has been its work on the glass. Kanter came off the bench and controlled the offensive rebounds and kept Minnesota from getting out and running.
“I think this team has got it,” Kanter said. “We just have to stick together and forget about this loss. It is a tough loss, but I think the most important thing right now is to forget about this loss and start thinking about tomorrow because the Spurs are going to come to.”