Nothing is more important than getting fourth quarter defensive stops in the NBA. Well other than TV ratings, jersey sales, BRI, age limits, dress code limits, complaining limits, shoe deals, Jimmy Goldstein, YouTube marketing and Twitter, NOTHING is more important than getting fourth quarter stops in the NBA.
While the Wolves played very solid defense in the entire second half and got stop after stop in the fourth quarter, I’d say their offense in the final 12 minutes was the most important part of the Wolves pulling out their second win in a row. Sometimes, being able to pour it on is the way to go. I know it sounds simple. Score more points and win the game. Offense is the best defense. Save the cheerleader and save the world. They all work.
Yeah, the Hornets missed shots in the final period. Yeah, the Wolves got key stops throughout their two big runs that finally put New Orleans out of the game. But I was most impressed with the way the Wolves put the game away on the offensive end of the floor. Aside from the fun bombardment of Wes Johnson 3-pointers in the third quarter, watching Kevin Love and Michael Beasley put the game to bed, tuck them under the covers like a burrito and turn the night light on was as fun to watch as anything during this game.
B-Easy took a lot of shots to get his 12 points in the fourth quarter. In fact, it took him 11 shots to get the 12 points and he didn’t attempt a single free throw. But what he was able to do was score timely baskets and create for his teammates too. I don’t really care that Beasley ended up with an impressive line of 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. What I liked were the four assists in the final period to secure the victory. He set up Jonny Flynn and Wes for two huge 3s that extended the lead well into double digits. He got Corey Brewer an easy score in transition and he found Kevin Love under the hoop for a layup.
Seeing the leadership and playmaking from Beasley gives you hope for the Wolves in crunch time and when they need it most. The eventual game-winner against the Cavs was fun because Beasley just sized up his man and broke him with a quick, concise crossover on his way to the basket. This performance was more fun because he didn’t just have the one good play. He was creating and dominating for a large stretch of the game. Knowing he can take over the game and not just create for himself but also create for the team is some nice artillery to have at Rambis’ disposal.
As for Kevin Love, he turned what was seemingly a mediocre and inconsequential game into a fourth quarter romp that put him well into his 26th double-double of the season. Love had just nine points on nine shots to go with five rebounds after three quarters. The Wolves were making a lot of shots and he didn’t get his usual opportunity to dominate the glass. Instead, we saw him fight through a ho-hum showing and explode six points on three shots and six rebounds in the fourth to close out the game. His activity all over the court helped match the Wolves high offensive energy.
The Wolves used two big runs in the fourth to exude their offensive prominence. A 10-3 spurt at the beginning of the quarter to give them some breathing room (12-point lead) and then a nice 12-4 run later on ratchet the lead up to 19 points. The impressive thing about the 12-4 run is it came during a time in which you’d expect the Wolves to ease up a bit. This is what happened against the Jazz this past week and that ended up costing Minnesota a nice victory that is becoming more of a regular thing against their Utah opponents.
However, this time the Wolves never lost momentum. They did what good teams do and that’s not play prevent offense. Too many teams in the NBA get conservative, milk the clock for what they can and hope they get stops on the other end. Minnesota instead used their offensive prowess as a catalyst to keep the defensive intensity at an acceptable and lead-increasing level.
Other notables and potables from this game –
– Wesley Johnson was fun to watch tonight. I don’t know if he’s ever going to be an All-Star or even a poor man’s Josh Smith in the NBA but I know it’s hard to root for anybody as hard as I root for Wes to have good games. Get his jumper to fall and he has a lot of extra energy that seems to permeate out to his teammates. They love to see the young guy get confidence and make the defense pay for leaving a rookie along in the corner. With his six 3-pointers in this game, Wes became the only player since the start of last season to hit six or more 3s in a game for the Wolves. In fact the last player to do it was Rodney Carney in March of 2009. It’s nice to know Wes is already surpassing the Rodney Carney legacy and standard within the first 30 games of his career.
– After the first quarter, Darko didn’t do a whole lot for the Wolves. But that first quarter was so big for this team. 10 easy points for Darko against the Hornets big men meant the Wolves could keep pace with a scorching Hornets team. Without Darko pouring on the buckets early, this lead could have gotten out of hand and left Minny with an uphill battle all game long.
– I thought Jonny Flynn did a nice job of managing the game off the bench but Luke Ridnour took on the task of matching up with the best point guard in the NBA and succeeded. Yes, Chris Paul’s final line looks like a fantasy basketball league’s wet dream, but Luke held his own. He ran this team extremely well and got teammates a lot of quality shots in rhythm. On the materialistic surface, it appears CP3 was obliterating Luke. But delve a little bit deeper and we get to see that Ridnour controlled his team and kept them in a position to take over this game.
– Two wins in a row with a chance to push it to three on Wednesday. We’re going streaking, boys! Bring your green hat.