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01/09/2013 11:28 PM EST
Thunder avoid another letdown, pound Wolves 106-84
OKLAHOMA CITY 106, MINNESOTA 84

By JEFF LATZKE
AP Sports Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma City Thunder got caught
overlooking a short-handed opponent once.



Not twice.



Kevin Durant scored 26 points, Russell Westbrook added 23 and
the Thunder pulled away for a 106-84 victory Wednesday night
against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were without All-Star
forward Kevin Love and four other injured players.



Oklahoma City had lost its last game on a buzzer-beater against
a last-place Washington team saddled by injuries to its top
three players.



Thunder coach Scott Brooks mentioned before shootaround that
Minnesota was in a similar situation as Washington, and his team
left nothing to chance.



"Everybody locked in and focused in on Minnesota tonight,"
Brooks said. "I was glad they came out, and I knew they would.
We've always been a team that takes pride in how we play, and
they did tonight."



The Thunder took control with a string of seven straight points
early in the second half and stretched their lead to 24 before
pulling Durant, Westbrook and the other starters with 5:44
remaining.



"We don't really change anything different when we have a bad
game," said Durant, who blocked four shots. "Every time we lose
and we don't play well defensively, it's just miscommunications
and lapses. Once we take those out of the game, we'll be all
right."



Alexey Shved scored 18 points for Minnesota, which announced
earlier in the day that Love would miss eight to 10 weeks after
breaking his right hand for the second time.



The Timberwolves were also without guard J.J. Barea (back
spasms), who has given the Thunder fits since the Western
Conference finals two seasons ago. Terry Porter, filling in for
a second game with coach Rick Adelman out for personal reasons,
said Barea was a game-time decision.



Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee were already
sidelined with knee injuries for Minnesota.



"Guys have been in and out all year, so we can't use that as an
excuse," said Luke Ridnour, who had 11 points, six assists and
four steals.



"Obviously, we hope he's back soon but we've got to keep
pressing forward. The games, nobody takes it easy on you because
you've got guys out. You've got to get ready to go anyway."



Shved also had seven of Minnesota's 19 turnovers, leading to 26
points for the Thunder and helping Oklahoma City to a 23-8
advantage in fast-break scoring.



"You know a team like that's going to explode," Porter said. "I
think the one thing, again, you try not to feed it. The thing
that we did, we turned it over and that fed their break, got
them out in the open court and gave them some easy
opportunities.



"That kind of ignited their offensive thrust that they had."



It was tied 16-all after Oklahoma City's lowest-scoring first
quarter of the season, but the Thunder were still able to
surpass their NBA-best 105.6-point average.



"It was an ugly game early, but I think we were happy we weren't
giving up easy shots and making them score on jump shots over a
hand," Thunder forward Nick Collison said. "That's what we try
and do."



Nikola Pekovic added 17 points and 10 rebounds in the opener of
a four-game road trip for the Timberwolves. Derrick Williams,
forced into playing time at guard because of all the injuries,
had 14 points and a season-high 11 rebounds.



Kevin Martin chipped in 19 points off the bench for Oklahoma
City, which had a 12-game winning streak in the series snapped
last month in Minnesota. Love had 28 points and Barea scored 14
of his 18 points in the fourth quarter of that 99-93 win.



"They're definitely a different team with all of their players
on the floor. But we did a good job," Brooks said. "We played
whoever they had and we did a good job of guarding them and
making them miss shots."



After the slow offensive start by both teams, Oklahoma City used
a 12-2 run to move ahead in the second quarter, also getting
above 30 percent shooting in the process. Westbrook converted a
jumper and a three-point play, then set up Serge Ibaka's
two-handed slam that made it 36-24 with 5:15 left before
halftime.



Ridnour had back-to-back steals against Durant to set up
fast-break dunks and fuel a comeback as Minnesota tied it at 42
before giving up the final five points of the first half.



Shved opened the second half with a jumper before the Thunder
reeled off seven straight points. Oklahoma City led by double
digits for the final 20 minutes.



Notes: Brooks got his first technical foul of the season for
arguing a foul called against Collison in the third quarter. ...
The Thunder had the same starting lineup for the 59th straight
game, plus another 20 in last year's playoffs. No other NBA team
has had the same starting five in every game this season.
"There's no question health is such a good thing to have in this
league, and we've had good fortune the last so many years,"
Brooks said. "Hopefully that continues. You want your best
players healthy. You want your entire team healthy." ... Brooks,
who grew up in northern California and served as an assistant
coach in Sacramento and Seattle, side-stepped a question about
his thoughts on the potential for the Kings to be sold to
Seattle investors. "My reaction is I'm just focused on the group
that I have, the game that we have tonight. I can't focus on any
other thing other than that," he said.

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