Following their loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves currently sit in 12th place in the Western Conference with five games left to play in the season.
The Timberwolves lost touch with the playoff contenders in the West after Ricky Rubio was lost for the season. The team closed out the last three weeks of March with a 4-9 record which started a slide down the standings that has since gained momentum.
With additional injuries to Luke Ridnour and all-star Kevin Love, the Wolves continue stumbling, going 0 for April so far while losing nine straight overall. That leaves Minnesota in 12th place just two games ahead of the Golden State Warriors. Considering that Minnesota's final five opponents include three playoff teams and the aforementioned Warriors, dropping one more slot in the standings is a distinct possibility at this point.
Regardless of where Minnesota ends up in the standings, they will be in good shape to land another talented young player in the upcoming NBA draft which should eventually ease the pain of the late-season tumble down the standings.
It might have looked like a 20-point route on paper, but the Minnesota Timberwolves, depleted as they are, turned in an admirable performance on Saturday night in a 115-110 loss to Oklahoma City.
In the end, the T-Wolves simply could not stop Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, who torched a hapless Minnesota defense for 43 points and was nearly perfect from the perimeter (4-for-6). Durant's running mate, point guard Russell Westbrook, was equally as impressive with 35 points, eight assists, and two steals.
Minnesota's leading-scorer in the first half, J.J. Barea finished the evening with 24 points, and buried a three-pointer with 15.6 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma's lead to two points. Despite not being able to take advantage down the stretch, Barea did manage to dish out 10 assists, representing his third straight double-double. The T-Wolves shot just 62.5% from the free-throw line as a team in the loss, and gave the ball away nine times in the second half after being judicial with the rock early on.
Now losers of nine straight games, Minnesota will travel to Indiana on Monday before returning home Tuesday to host Memphis.
Even with five key players out of the lineup, a depleted Minnesota Timberwolves squad is still hanging tough with the best team in the Western Conference after two quarters on Saturday night, and trails 59-58 at the break.
J.J. Barea has poured in 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting for the T-Wolves to keep pace, while Oklahoma City Thunder elite scorer Kevin Durant has matched him with 18 of his own. Durant is also a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range and has chipped in four rebounds, and remains a threat to go off for 30 to 35 points any given night.
Minnesota managed to outscore Oklahoma City 27-25 in the second quarter, and still holds a higher field goal percentage after 24 minutes of play (45.7% to 44.4%). The key for the T-Wolves early on, in addition to only having four team turnovers, has been the bench combo of Anthony Randolph and Michael Beasley (combined 17 points, 12 rebounds). The two lanky big men will be counted on for huge nights if Minnesota plans to keep up with the Thunder in the second half.