NBA Basketball

Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
Minnesota 29 35 32 23 119
Oklahoma City 23 41 29 24 117
5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)02:0020:00 ET7:00 PM CTNaN:� , January 8, 2019
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  Attendance: 18,203

Timberwolves-Thunder Preview

According to STATS
According to STATS

Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. The Timberwolves have won four of their last five games against the Thunder, including a 114-112 win in Oklahoma City on December 23, the only meeting this season. The Thunder led twice in the last minute before letting the lead slip, their third of four last-minute losses this season.
  2. The Timberwolves defeated the Lakers at home on Sunday, 108-86, tied for the fewest points they have allowed in a game in the last two seasons (November 15, 2017 vs. SA). Of the ten teams who are undefeated this season when they allow less than one 100 points, Minnesota has the most wins (8).
  3. The Thunder lost to the Wizards at home on Sunday, 116-98. Oklahoma City has not lost two home games in a row since its first two home games of the season (Kings and Celtics). The Thunder are 11-1 when they get 10 or more steals at home and 2-4 when they do not.
  4. Jeff Teague had 11 assists in the win over the Lakers, his fifth straight game with double-digit dimes. It is the longest streak of consecutive games with 10-plus assists in his career and the second-longest streak in the NBA this season (Kyle Lowry -- nine games in October and November)
  5. Russell Westbrook had another triple double in the loss to the Wizards (22 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists), his 12th of the season. Westbrook's 11.0 rebounds per game this season is on pace for a career high but his 21.1 points per game would be his lowest since 2009-10 (16.1).
  6. The Timberwolves have committed 13.2 turnovers per game this season, the third-lowest mark in the league. The Thunder's opponents have committed 18.2 turnovers per game this season, the highest average in the NBA.

The Minnesota Timberwolves expected much more out of this season.

But the drama surrounding Jimmy Butler before his Nov. 12 trade to Philadelphia, and dropping six of seven games during one stretch in December, eventually cost coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau his job.

Thibodeau was fired Sunday after the Timberwolves blew out the Los Angeles Lakers at home for their second consecutive victory.

Minnesota (19-21) will have its first chance to move on from the three-year Thibodeau era when the Timberwolves play at the Oklahoma City Thunder (25-14) on Tuesday night.

No player was more shocked about Thibodeau's firing than Derrick Rose, who was with the Chicago Bulls for the entirety of Thibodeau's five-year run there and who has resurrected his career in Minnesota under Thibodeau.

"I was basically out of the league," Rose told reporters, adding that he was shocked and hurt by the dismissal. "Even coming here, everybody didn't know I was going to play this way. He believed in me."

Rose has missed the past five games and is questionable for Tuesday's game with an ankle injury. He had some questionable words for those who thought his comeback might be undone by the firing.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself. Thibs was just the coach that believed in me. He jump-started my career again and for that I'll always be thankful, but for everybody that thinks that it's going to stop, kill yourself."

Rose later apologized for his language, writing on Twitter that, "I did not mean it literally and regret using it so I apologize."

With Thibodeau gone, the Timberwolves will move on with 32-year-old Ryan Saunders as the interim coach.

Saunders' late father, Flip, had two stints as Minnesota's coach.

Although Timberwolves management said the rest of the season would be a trial for Saunders' consideration for the permanent job, Saunders said he wasn't looking at it that way.

"If you look at something as a tryout, that's when you start putting pressure on yourself or the situation or other people that isn't there," Saunders said.

The Thunder are trying to bounce back from a disappointing 116-98 home loss to Washington on Sunday, when Oklahoma City was dominated on the boards and its defense - which has been the team's strength this season - sagged.

Minnesota won the first meeting between the teams, Dec. 23 in Oklahoma City, forcing the Thunder into 27 fouls.

"We're at our best when we rebound because it allows us to get out in transition and get out on the fast break," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.

"It's the same thing with fouling. If we're fouling, it's obviously slowing the game, it's having teams shoot free throws and it's taking away our strength of being able to play in transition.

"The rebounding and the fouling are going to be critical, and with their size and their length and how physical they are across the frontcourt, their ability to offensive rebound and their ability to generate free throws are going to be important."

Thunder guard Alex Abrines is expected to miss his eighth consecutive game. Abrines, who is averaging nearly 20 minutes per game, was initially injured but has missed the past few games due to personal reasons.

Updated January 7, 2019

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