Russell’s late 3-pointer lifts Timberwolves past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — D’Angelo Russell made a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds remaining to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves over the Oklahoma City Thunder 106-103 on Friday night.
Russell dribbled near midcourt to let the clock run, took a couple of steps toward the basket and pulled up a few feet behind the 3-point arc for the winning shot.
“Late in the game, D-Lo’s been a big shot-maker in his career,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence and faith in D-Lo.”
Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
“We had some chances,” said Thunder center Al Horford, who scored 26 points. “We had opportunities. ... That happens sometimes.”
Malik Beasley scored 24 points and Russell added 21 for the Timberwolves, who had lost nine of their previous 11 games.
Diallo had 16 points and a career-high 10 assists.
Oklahoma City was missing starters Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left knee sprain), George Hill (thumb) and Lu Dort (sore left knee) along with backup point guard Theo Maledon (health and safety protocols), who had been starting in Hill’s place.
The Thunder had just eight players available, and they all played at least 14 minutes.
“There was great output tonight physically,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “That was like a high effort game. I thought we played really hard, I thought we competed really hard.”
The Timberwolves, who still have the worst record in the Western Conference, were without Karl-Anthony Towns again (health and safety protocols). He has played in just four games this season.
The Thunder led 55-51 at halftime after making eight of their final nine shots before the break. Horford scored 16 points in the first half.
The Timberwolves dominated the third quarter and took an 85-76 lead into the fourth, but the Thunder rallied. Horford’s 3-pointer tied the game at 103 with 25.7 seconds remaining and set up the final sequence.
Saunders didn’t like the fact that Diallo got a shot off at the end of the game, but he was pleased with the win.
“I don’t want to take anything away from that,” he said. “I’ll say it again — it’s hard to win in this league on a night-in, night-out basis. Players are good. Everyone’s talented. So it definitely provided a morale boost.”
Timberwolves: Beasley scored 10 points in the first quarter. ... G Ricky Rubio had eight assists. ... Naz Reid had 17 points and nine rebounds. ... F Jarred Vanderbilt had nine rebounds.
Thunder: Scored the first eight points. ... Held the Timberwolves to 38.5% shooting in the first half. ... Horford scored seven points in the final 1:05 of the first half. ... Horford had eight assists and seven rebounds. ... C Mike Muscala had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Thunder forward Darius Bazley had 10 rebounds after grabbing 12 on Wednesday against Houston. He finished with 12 points on Friday.
Diallo’s career-high 10 assists passed his previous high of four. He handled the ball more than usual with Hill and Maledon out.
“Even the fact that we put the ball in his hands that much over the course of a game — that’s not something I think he would have handled as well in past seasons,” Daigneault said. “So it’s certainly growth. And I think he did a good job of moving it.”
Saunders, on Rubio, who missed time because of league safety protocols and is just getting back into a groove: “He’s found some more Ricky Rubio-like moments. There’s a reason that guys want to play with him. And that’s because he organizes players, competes, and he does the right things. He’ll continue to get better and better, especially coming off a little bit of a layoff.”
The teams meet again on Saturday night.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.