Timberwolves-Thunder Preview

A matchup between the high-powered Oklahoma City Thunder and defensively challenged Minnesota Timberwolves has the makings of being one-sided.

Not surprisingly, the Thunder have reeled off 10 straight victories in the series, but they needed clutch performances from their All-Stars to escape with a victory in the last meeting in Minnesota.

Before turning their attention to a prime-time matchup with a Western Conference power, the red-hot Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant look to help Oklahoma City continue its home dominance over the Timberwolves on Friday night.

The Thunder (44-20) easily took care of one West stalwart Wednesday, leading by as much as 19 in a 120-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the second straight victory following a 2-6 stretch for Oklahoma City, which moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the Clippers for third place in the conference.

Westbrook led the way with 25 points, a career-high 20 assists and 11 rebounds for the NBA's first triple-double with at least 25 points, 20 assists and 10 boards since Magic Johnson did it in 1988. It was the second straight triple-double for Westbrook, and the Thunder are 11-0 this season when he records one.

''More important just to see all my teammates happy and see all my teammates enjoy the game and enjoy this win," he said. "That's the most important part for me."

Westbrook's heroics overshadowed another outstanding night from Durant, who nearly had a triple-double of his own with 30 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He has scored 30 or more in four straight and has racked up seven consecutive games of at least 25 points, 10 boards and five assists, the longest such streak in 30 seasons.

Oklahoma City, which visits San Antonio in a national TV game Saturday night, shot 52.7 percent and had a season-high 33 assists.

"We moved the ball, we moved our bodies and we had a really good groove on the offensive end," Durant said. "We have to keep it up."

That shouldn't be a problem against the Timberwolves (20-45), who are allowing an average of 112.6 points in their last 16 games.

Second in the league in scoring, Oklahoma City averaged 113.3 points in winning three January matchups with Minnesota.

The most recent wasn't easy, however, as the Thunder needed two big shots from Durant in the last two minutes and seven points from Westbrook in the final 3 1/2 to win 126-123 on Jan. 27.

The Thunder, though, cruised to a 113-93 home victory over Minnesota on Jan. 15, as neither Durant nor Westbrook played in the fourth. Oklahoma City's 12-game home winning streak against the Timberwolves is currently its longest over a single opponent.

The Timberwolves have also lost 12 straight in Toronto for their longest active road skids.

Losers in 17 of 19 away from Minnesota, the Timberwolves are coming off Tuesday's 116-91 defeat to the Spurs. Minnesota was pushed around in the paint, allowing San Antonio's starting frontcourt to make 24 of 34 shots.

''If you're ever going to get better, if you're ever going to win," interim coach Sam Mitchell said, "you have to remember the times where you got your butt kicked."

That's been happening a lot to the Timberwolves, who are allowing an average of 50.4 points in the paint over the last nine games. That poses problems against a Thunder team averaging 50.3 points in the paint over its last seven.

Zach LaVine had a season-high 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting in the last meeting while Andrew Wiggins scored 25 at Oklahoma City.

Wiggins is averaging 24.7 points over the last three games.

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