MINNEAPOLIS — J.J. Barea ended Oklahoma City’s 12-game winning streak almost all by himself.
Playing with the tenacity that made him so important to the Dallas Mavericks’ run to the title in 2011, Barea scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 99-93 victory over the Thunder on Thursday night.
Kevin Love had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Nikola Pekovic added 24 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. But it was Barea who was the key, scoring 12 in a row at one span for the Timberwolves to hold off the team with the best record in the league.
Kevin Durant had 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook chipped in 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder, which had not lost a game since Nov. 23 at Boston.
That it was Barea, and not the Olympian Love or the sensational Ricky Rubio who was chiefly responsible was the biggest surprise.
Barea didn’t join the Timberwolves until training camp had started for the 2011-12 season, then languished through an injury-filled season. Finally healthy, he’s getting back to being the super pest who helped the Mavericks to the title season before last.
With the Thunder charging early in the fourth quarter, the smallest guy on the court played the biggest.
After Durant’s two free throws cut Minnesota’s lead to 80-77, Barea hit two 3-pointers and scored on a putback under the rim amid the tall trees, an 8-0 run by himself that gave Minnesota a little breathing room. His long 3-pointer with 5:26 to play made it 92-81, and the Timberwolves held on.
Barea was a nuisance on defense as well, drawing an offensive foul on Durant with 2:24 to play. The normally super-cool Durant uncharacteristically lost his composure, picking up a technical foul for arguing the call.
Serge Ibaka added 14 points and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City.
Alexey Shved had 12 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds for Minnesota.
Shved wasn’t intimidated by the team with the best record in the league. He glided along the perimeter, surveying the defense and finding teammates with pinpoint passing.