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Saunders wins 1st game, T'Wolves top Thunder 119-117

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Ryan Saunders went right into the fire in his first game as the Minnesota Timberwolves' interim coach.

His debut was a down-to-the wire finish with the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

His team came through. Andrew Wiggins had a season-high 40 points and 10 rebounds, and the Timberwolves beat the Thunder 119-117 on Tuesday night.

Saunders deflected credit after the game.

''It's unbelievable how they stayed connected throughout the whole game,'' he said. ''Down the stretch, there were so many times where we could have disbanded and then the crowd could have got into us. I can't say enough about that team.''

Saunders, just 32 years old, is the son of former Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders. The team fired Tom Thibodeau on Sunday.

The players went all out for their new leader.

''He fed off our energy, and we fed off his energy,'' Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson said. ''We were just trying to get a win for him.''

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 20 points and Dario Saric added 15 for the Timberwolves.

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook missed two 3-pointers in the closing seconds that would have given the Thunder the lead. He finished with 25 points and 16 assists.

''We just tried to stay solid, really,'' Wiggins said. ''We knew they were going to try to be aggressive with either (Paul) George or Westbrook. If we're going to foul, make a hard foul. And don't let them hit the 3. That was the main thing.''

George scored 27 points and Steven Adams added 20 points and 12 rebounds for Oklahoma City.

Thunder reserve center Nerlens Noel was taken off the court on a stretcher in the third quarter after Wiggins made contact with him on a dunk attempt.

Noel took an elbow in the face as Wiggins went up, and Noel hit the ground hard. A defensive foul was called on Noel. The play was reviewed, and no additional fouls were called. Noel was down for several minutes before being taken from the court. Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Noel was taken to the University of Oklahoma's OU Medical Center.

''I just tried to make an aggressive move and dunk,'' Wiggins said. ''He tried to contest it. I think he fell wrong. I didn't really see it until I saw him on the ground. Hopefully, he's good. I hope nothing but the best for him. I hope he gets healthy soon and comes back stronger.''

In the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder somehow won a jump ball with Towns, and Westbrook hit a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a 111-110 lead.

Josh Okogie's corner 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds left put the Timberwolves up 119-115.

Westbrook made two free throws, then Minnesota's Tyus Jones traveled with 15.5 seconds left to give the Thunder a chance.

TIP-INS

Thunder: G Alex Abrines missed his fifth consecutive game for personal reasons. ... Schroder was listed as questionable with a left quad contusion, but he entered the game in the first quarter. ... Westbrook fell one assist short of his season high.

Timberwolves: G Derrick Rose missed his sixth straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... F Robert Covington missed his fourth straight game with a bruised right knee. ... Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague was ejected in the third quarter after a skirmish with Schroder. He finished with eight points in 26 minutes. ... Wiggins and Towns both finished with five fouls.

STAT LINES

Wiggins made 16 of 18 free throws, one short of his career high for made free throws. Oklahoma City made 19 free throws overall.

HE SAID IT

Wiggins, on run-in with Schroder in the third quarter: ''I don't know what's wrong with him ... I looked right through it. He's not someone I see as a problem.''

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Thunder: At the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday.

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Key Players
K. Towns
32 C
R. Westbrook
0 PG
34.8 Min. Per Game 34.8
21.1 Pts. Per Game 21.1
10.1 Ast. Per Game 10.1
11.0 Reb. Per Game 11.0
49.6 Field Goal % 42.0
49.4 Three Point % 41.5
83.1 Free Throw % 62.7
  OKC team rebound 0:00
  Paul George missed jump shot 0:00
  Offensive rebound by Paul George 0:00
  Russell Westbrook missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:02
  Russell Westbrook missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:07
  Traveling violation turnover on Tyus Jones 0:15
+ 1 Russell Westbrook made 1st of 2 free throws 0:21
  Personal foul on Taj Gibson 0:21
  OKC team rebound 0:21
  Paul George missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:23
+ 3 Josh Okogie made 3-pt. jump shot, assist by Andrew Wiggins 0:27
Team Stats
Points 119 117
Field Goals 38-90 (42.2%) 43-85 (50.6%)
3-Pointers 11-31 (35.5%) 12-30 (40.0%)
Free Throws 32-40 (80.0%) 19-26 (73.1%)
Total Rebounds 54 55
Offensive 15 10
Defensive 27 33
Team 12 12
Assists 25 22
Steals 9 4
Blocks 4 5
Turnovers 10 16
Fouls 23 30
Technicals 2 1
40 PTS, 10 REB, 4 AST
25 PTS, 5 REB, 16 AST
1234T
away team logo Timberwolves 20-21 29353223119
home team logo Thunder 25-15 23412924117
Team Stats
away team logo Timberwolves 20-21 112.4 PPG 45.3 RPG 24.5 APG
home team logo Thunder 25-15 114.5 PPG 48.1 RPG 23.1 APG
Key Players
A. Wiggins SF 17.6 PPG 4.8 RPG 2.3 APG 40.3 FG%
P. George SF 28.2 PPG 8.1 RPG 4.2 APG 44.1 FG%
Top Scorers
A. Wiggins SF 40 PTS 10 REB 4 AST
P. George SF 27 PTS 9 REB 1 AST
42.2 FG% 50.6
35.5 3PT FG% 40.0
80.0 FT% 73.1
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
A. Wiggins 40 10 4 11/24 2/4 16/18 5 37 1 1 1 3 7 -3 59
K. Towns 20 9 1 8/14 2/5 2/3 5 24 0 0 2 4 5 +4 29
J. Okogie 9 1 1 3/9 1/5 2/3 3 36 0 1 0 0 1 -2 13
J. Teague 8 2 5 3/7 1/1 1/2 0 25 5 0 3 0 2 -16 22
T. Gibson 5 5 2 2/7 0/1 1/2 3 24 1 1 1 2 3 -23 15
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
A. Wiggins 40 10 4 11/24 2/4 16/18 5 37 1 1 1 3 7 -3 59
K. Towns 20 9 1 8/14 2/5 2/3 5 24 0 0 2 4 5 +4 29
J. Okogie 9 1 1 3/9 1/5 2/3 3 36 0 1 0 0 1 -2 13
J. Teague 8 2 5 3/7 1/1 1/2 0 25 5 0 3 0 2 -16 22
T. Gibson 5 5 2 2/7 0/1 1/2 3 24 1 1 1 2 3 -23 15
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
D. Saric 15 7 2 5/12 2/6 3/5 2 25 1 0 2 4 3 +22 25
A. Tolliver 10 4 2 3/6 2/5 2/2 0 20 1 0 0 1 3 +14 19
T. Jones 10 1 4 3/7 1/4 3/3 2 23 0 0 1 0 1 +13 18
G. Dieng 2 3 4 0/4 0/0 2/2 3 22 0 1 0 1 2 +1 14
J. Bayless - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Rose - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
R. Covington - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Nunnally - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Bates-Diop - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Terrell - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
C. Williams - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
L. Deng - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 119 42 25 38/90 11/31 32/40 23 236 9 4 10 15 27 +10 214
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
P. George 27 9 1 9/24 5/13 4/7 5 37 0 0 2 3 6 +4 36
R. Westbrook 25 5 16 11/22 1/6 2/2 2 38 1 2 7 1 4 +7 58
S. Adams 20 12 1 8/9 0/0 4/6 4 37 2 0 5 3 9 +5 31
T. Ferguson 14 4 0 5/8 4/4 0/0 3 25 0 1 0 2 2 +12 19
J. Grant 7 3 0 1/4 0/2 5/6 4 33 1 2 1 0 3 +6 12
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
P. George 27 9 1 9/24 5/13 4/7 5 37 0 0 2 3 6 +4 36
R. Westbrook 25 5 16 11/22 1/6 2/2 2 38 1 2 7 1 4 +7 58
S. Adams 20 12 1 8/9 0/0 4/6 4 37 2 0 5 3 9 +5 31
T. Ferguson 14 4 0 5/8 4/4 0/0 3 25 0 1 0 2 2 +12 19
J. Grant 7 3 0 1/4 0/2 5/6 4 33 1 2 1 0 3 +6 12
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
D. Schroder 9 2 4 3/8 1/3 2/2 4 27 0 0 0 0 2 -19 19
N. Noel 6 1 0 3/4 0/0 0/0 3 5 0 0 0 1 0 -2 7
P. Patterson 5 3 0 1/2 1/2 2/3 0 14 0 0 0 0 3 -8 8
H. Diallo 4 3 0 2/2 0/0 0/0 2 10 0 0 0 0 3 -6 7
A. Nader 0 1 0 0/2 0/0 0/0 3 9 0 0 1 0 1 -9 0
A. Abrines - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Roberson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Burton - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Grantham - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Luwawu-Cabarrot - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
R. Felton - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 117 43 22 43/85 12/30 19/26 30 235 4 5 16 10 33 -10 197