Minnesota’s burliest player took over in the first half. Its smallest came through with a giant sleight-of-hand charge in the fourth quarter to ice the 99-93 win. Ding, dong, a pair of Thunder dozen-game winning streaks are dead — their overall streak, plus a 12-gamer just over the T-Wolves. The lesson: Good things happen when Nikola Pekovic scores 20 points — the Timberwolves were 5-0 when he hit that entering Thursday night, when Pekovic knocked down 8-of-12 shots in the first half alone for 18 points. He’d finish with 24 and 10. Conversely for OKC, bad things happen when a back-to-back sends you from Atlanta to Minnesota. Kevin Love (28 points, 11 boards) has ended his bizarre consecutive 3-for-17 nights, getting a much more efficient 9-of-20 from the field. … Kevin Durant (33 points) had a chance to get the game to two possessions with a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter when he caught J.J. Barea with a forearm, sending Barea (wearing KD IVs, even) flying. It walked that line where you knew it wasn’t a charge, but weren’t sure if it was a genuine flop (flopping is an art), but he had been in full pest mode all night — 18 points in 23 minutes. It just looked exaggerated because KD is about a foot taller than Barea. There still were two minutes left after the call, which was followed by a tech on KD, but the rally was neutered after the charge. Not that the Timberwolves didn’t try their hardest to give it back. It was like they were running at full speed all game, then someone tied their shoelaces together in a late fourth-quarter timeout. Alexey Shved passed to a baseline cutting Dante Cunningham, who lost control and they threw it out of bounds with 30 seconds left. Before that, Barea drove the lane only to run into the back of Love while shooting. Without scoring more than a point in 90 of the final 120 seconds, they somehow held off the league’s best team. All of which is a testament to how well they’d played to put themselves in that position. … We haven’t even mentioned Russell Westbrook‘s mind-bending line: 30 points, 11 boards, nine assists, eight turnovers, and 9-of-28 shooting … Also, PG Malcolm Lee is out for the year in Minny with microfracture surgery. … LeBron (24 points and nine boards) started Miami’s game against Dallas like he’d entered an invincibility cheat code, hitting his first six shots and setting up two more. He hit running jumpers sideways with a man on him; jumped for a full-court pass and brought it down for a layup with two guys covering him; found teammates on cutting assists; hit a high-arching three-pointer when Vince Carter didn’t close out fast enough. It was like watching a boxer go to the body with vicious jabs over and over at the start of a 110-95 win. The lead would only get bigger — 32-point Heat still in the third quarter — but a couple signs of life should make Dallas happy. One, Dirk Nowitzki has been practicing in the past few days and he said during the game in a Jumbotron interview that he expects to return between Christmas and New Year’s. If that doesn’t make you happy as a Mavs fan then, uh, you’re not a Mavs fan. Second, Mavs rookie forward Bernard James (finished with 12 points and nine boards) showed some very nice development well before garbage time kicked in. He had six points and four boards in about a four-minute stretch, bodying Chris Bosh (17 and seven) and Joel Anthony and showed nice help defense on LeBron, too. Other than that, though, this game was a certified mess for Dallas. … Hit the jump to hear about the insane record Denver set …
Smack / Dec 21, 2012 / 1:34 am
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