Thunder, Wolves battle on 2nd half of back-to-backs

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The Oklahoma City Thunder hope to work more of their road magic Saturday night when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Both teams will be contesting the second game of a back-to-back set, with the Thunder having run their winning streak to four with a 140-111 demolition of the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night while the Timberwolves were dropping their eighth straight, 131-124 at home to the Houston Rockets.

The Thunder will be seeking a fifth straight road win in a stretch that includes a previous visit to Minnesota.

That night will be remembered forever — at least in the mind of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — as the one in which the 21-year-old not only recorded his first career triple-double, but at the same time became the youngest player in NBA history to register one with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.

He finished with 20 of each, and he complemented the feat with 10 assists.

“Coach (Billy Donovan) had challenged me before the game to fill up the stat sheet more and do more things,” Gilgeous-Alexander told reporters after the game. “Because he thought, as well as myself thought, that I was (capable of more than) what I was doing.”

While he hasn’t come close to duplicating the feat in the Thunder’s past six games, Gilgeous-Alexander has become a bit of a double-double machine, recording three in a row before contributing 24 points and six assists to the Friday win.

The Canadian poured in 29 points, but had just five rebounds and two assists, when the Thunder went to overtime for a home win over the Timberwolves last month. Oklahoma City had more of a balanced attack that night, with five players going for 20 or more points.

The Thunder demonstrated similar balance with seven players in double figures Friday in the 140-point explosion against Atlanta. Danilo Gallinari led the way with 25.

Balanced scoring has not been a strength of the Timberwolves this season, a trend that continued when just four guys reached double figures in the Friday loss to Houston.

Karl-Anthony Towns paced the team with 30 points, following up a 40-point outing Wednesday in Minnesota’s road loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Towns, who missed last week’s meeting with the Thunder as part of a 15-game absence caused by a knee injury, has to be considered a bit of a question mark on the second night of a back-to-back. He played both games when the Timberwolves dueled Indiana and Toronto last Friday and Saturday, but struggled in the second half of the doubleheader, held to 12 points in 27 minutes by the Raptors.

Timberwolves management made it clear earlier this week that the priority is a healthy Towns for the long haul. That includes not trading him before the February deadline.

“Karl-Anthony Towns is as untouchable as they come,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “He’s the best player on our team, and he’s the guy we’re building around. Everything we do is to help him become the best player and to help us become the best team we can be. He’s a special talent that we’re going to do anything possible to help him achieve his highest potential.”

–Field Level Media

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