Dennis Schroder leads fourth-quarter surge in Thunder's 132-126 win at Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — As Dennis Schroder’s shot fell through the hoop, a Timberwolves fan yelled, “Is anyone going to play defense on him? Anyone at all?”
In a game the Timberwolves had controlled for much of the previous two periods, Schroder scored with alarming ease in the fourth quarter, propelling the Thunder to a 132-126 win over the Timberwolves on Sunday at Target Center. It was OKC’s first win over Minnesota (36-44) this season, and a critical victory over a Western Conference opponent as the Thunder fights for playoff position.
“You want to have guys that can handle and play-make, and Dennis is a guy that can do that," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "The guys have confidence in him, they look to him, and Russell (Westbrook) got the ball to him in areas of the floor where he can be who he is. You put the ball in his hands and he got some drives, he got some runners, he made some pull-up jump shots. It’s great to have a guy like that because he can generate offense by himself.”
After the Thunder’s afternoon victory and before the Clippers’ game against Golden State later Sunday night, the Thunder (47-33) remained in seventh place in the West, with the same record as No. 6 L.A.. OKC extended its winning streak to three games, its longest since the All-Star break.
Schroder’s 14-point fourth quarter began with a layup two minutes into the period, which regained the Thunder’s lead.
He did a bit of everything, and not just when it came to scoring. When Thunder forward Markieff Morris fell to the ground after his layup gave the Thunder a 121-111 lead, Schroder pulled Morris to his feet so they could both get back on defense.
“Pick-and-roll, did a good job of getting downhill, getting to space, getting to spots,” Westbrook said of what Schroder was able to exploit in the fourth quarter.
Two of Westbrook’s 15 assists Sunday were to Schroder in the final period.
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Two possessions before the Timberwolves fan made clear his displeasure with the way his team was guarding Schroder, the Thunder point guard sprinted down the length of most of the court, curling his route past two Minnesota defenders and to the basket.
“Just being aggressive,” Schroder said of drives like that one. “Just try to attack the rim, and if they commit, I just tried to make the right read.”
Schroder’s last bucket of the game, which gave him 21 points on the day, made the fan decide enough was enough.
Schroder banked in 9-foot floater to stretch the Thunder’s lead to 12 points with six minutes left in the game.
The Thunder had opened the game on a 7-0 run, a rare explosive start for Oklahoma City. It led by as many as 14 points in the first quarter, but let that lead slowly faded.
The Timberwolves gained a lead and stretched it to as many as 10 points in the third quarter. It took a series of free throws by Paul George for the Thunder to cut Minnesota’s advantage to two points heading into the final period.
Then along came Schroder.