Thunder journal: OKC gets off to rare hot start in
MINNEAPOLIS – With a corner 3-pointer by Terrance Ferguson, driving layup by Russell Westbrook and a putback by Steven Adams, the Thunder opened an eventual 132-126 win over Minnesota on a 7-0 run.
“We came out making a statement,” Thunder forward Paul George said. “We came out imposing our will and really just setting the standard of how we were going to play.”
Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders called a timeout just over a minute into the game, and it worked temporarily.
Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins got Adams to switch onto him, and he drove past him. But then Ferguson countered with a layup of his own. With a second 3-pointer soon afterward, Ferguson racked up eight points before the quarter was three minutes old. After getting hot early, Ferguson played all 12 minutes of the first quarter.
As the Thunder transitioned into its second unit, the Timberwolves began to find success getting out in transition. The Thunder’s quick start helped it maintain a seven-point lead heading into the second quarter.
“I thought as the quarter wore on, later in the first, as we started to get into the second, we lost some of that intensity,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “and they made some shots and got back in the game very quickly.”
Raymond Felton started the second quarter, making Sunday his fourth straight game in the Thunder rotation. Donovan has reiterated several times that Felton’s increase in playing time had to do with matchups. Patrick Patterson, who Markieff Morris replaced in the rotation when he first arrived in OKC, made his second appearance in as many games, while Abdel Nader did not play.
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After practice Saturday, Donovan said he doesn’t plan on rigidly setting his playoff rotations.
“You, in the playoffs, get caught doing different things,” Donovan said. “And I think that’s why you always want to keep your roster engaged during the course of the year because I think everybody’s got to be in a position to step up because if you’re in a seven-game series, adjustments, matchups, how you’re looking to play, you want to be able to rely on guys in different situations.”
Flip Saunders Legacy Award
Before the game Sunday, Ryan Saunders presented the fourth annual Flip Saunders Legacy Award to Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones. Every year, rostered Timberwolves players vote on the recipient of the award for excellence in community service.
Sunday marked the first time Ryan Saunders has presented the award, which bears his late father’s name, as the Timberwolves head coach.
“Obviously my family and I are in a fortunate position where we have a bit of a platform to keep someone we loved and love so much, keep their legacy going,” Saunders said. “Other people aren’t as lucky at times, but this is just a nice way to honor one of our players in terms of the things they’ve done in the local community, a community that my dad loved so much and a community that my family loves so much, that it does mean a lot.”
Ryan Saunders was promoted from assistant to interim head coach in January, and he won his debut at OKC on Jan. 8.