Jimmy Butler finished with 26 points and eight assists on Wednesday as the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated struggling Oklahoma City 104-88, handing the Thunder their third consecutive loss.
Centre Karl-Anthony Towns tallied 18 points and 12 assists for the Timberwolves who are playing some of their best basketball of the season and have three straight resounding home wins in a row.
“When we start to compete on the defensive end like that we are tough to beat,” said Butler.
Butler, who is in his first season with Minnesota after coming over from the Chicago Bulls, said he is trying to be one of the veteran leaders on a young team.
“Last year this team didn’t understand how important every possession is,” he said.
Andrew Wiggins finished with 19 points in 42 minutes of playing time for the Timberwolves.
Thunder star Russell Westbrook had a game-high 38 points and 10 rebounds but he didn’t get much help from his supporting cast. Carmelo Anthony continues to struggle with his new team as he finished with 15 points and one rebound.
Paul George was the only other Thunder player in double figures with 13 points as Oklahoma City has lost five of their last seven games.
The loss drops the Thunder to 22-20 on the season and into seventh place as they sunk below Portland and Denver in the Western Conference standings.
Minnesota is on the rise having beaten New Orleans, Cleveland and Oklahoma City in recent home games thanks to their improving defence and consistently solid offence.
Minnesota had won seven of eight games before a disappointing East Coast road trip featured losses at Brooklyn and Boston.
Then the Wolves beat New Orleans at home and led by as many as 34 points, a season-high mark to that point.
Hosting LeBron James and Cleveland on Monday, Minnesota dominated play, led by as many as 41 points on its way to a 127-99 victory.—APP