After losing its last game on a buzzer-beater against a last-place Washington team saddled by injuries to its three top players, Oklahoma City left nothing to chance with the Timberwolves missing All-Star forward Kevin Love and four others.
The Thunder took control with a string of seven straight points early in the second half and stretched their lead to 24 before pulling Durant, Westbrook and the other starters with 5:44 remaining.
Alexey Shved scored 18 points for Minnesota, which announced earlier in the day that Love would miss eight to 10 weeks after breaking his right hand for the second time.
Nikola Pekovic added 17 points and 10 rebounds in the opener of a four-game road trip for the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves were also without guard J.J. Barea (back spasms), who has given the Thunder fits since the Western Conference finals two seasons ago. Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee were already sidelined with knee injuries for Minnesota.
Kevin Martin chipped in 19 points off the bench for Oklahoma City, which had a 12-game winning streak in the series snapped last month in Minnesota.
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After a slow start on offense by both teams, Oklahoma City used a 12-2 run to move ahead in the second quarter, also getting above 30 percent shooting in the process. Westbrook converted a jumper and a three-point play, then set up Serge Ibaka's two-handed slam that made it 36-24 with 5:15 left before halftime.
Luke Ridnour had back-to-back steals against Durant to set up fast-break dunks and fuel a comeback as Minnesota tied it at 42 before giving up the final five points of the first half.
NOTES: Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks got his first technical foul of the season for arguing a foul called against Nick Collison in the third quarter. ... The Thunder had the same starting lineup for the 59th straight game, plus another 20 in last year's playoffs. No other NBA team has had the same starting five in every game this season. "There's no question health is such a good thing to have in this league, and we've had good fortune the last so many years," Brooks said. "Hopefully that continues. You want your best players healthy. You want your entire team healthy." ... Brooks, who grew up in northern California and served as an assistant coach in Sacramento and Seattle, side-stepped a question about his thoughts on the potential for the Kings to be sold to Seattle investors. "My reaction is I'm just focused on the group that I have, the game that we have tonight. I can't focus on any other thing other than that," he said.
Press; By JEFF LATZKE]
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