Timberwolves 101, Clippers 98: Astronomy Domine
Against the Clippers, the Wolves did at least three things that they haven’t done consistently for years. They: came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half when it appeared that the game was slipping away; made poised, aggressive plays down the stretch; executed a last shot out-of-bounds play–and actually made the shot. (In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time they did it was Michael Beasley against these Clips last fall, and that game was no where near as interesting or encouraging as this one). This was a wild, ragged, competitive, thrilling game–with Hubie Brown providing the breathless, grandfatherly commentary. In short, its a game we’re not used to seeing our Timberwolves even playing in, much less winning. It was an awful lot of fun.
|Kevin Love, PF 36 MIN | 5-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 14 REB | 3 AST | 17 PTS | -5As he has his entire career, Love continues to struggle with finishing under the basket. And when his jumper is off like it was against the Clips, his shooting numbers can get a little ugly. But, as per usual, the man did some exhaustive work on the glass. And after Darko fouled out he put together some nice defensive sequences on Blake Griffin. Oh also, that last shot was calm and clean and sweet.|
|Darko Milicic, C 34 MIN | 10-15 FG | 2-5 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 22 PTS | -9Darko gets an A-, which, for him, is like an A quadruple plus. He had his normal share of terrible fouls, callow passes and granite-handed drops. But he also made shots and competed awfully hard for four whole quarters. Hubie was over the moon.|
|Luke Ridnour, PG 38 MIN | 3-11 FG | 7-9 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 13 PTS | -1Luke didn’t have his best shooting game but he played like a pro, which is something the Wolves always desperately need. When the Clips were blitzing the ball and playing passing lanes and the Wolves were slogging for contested jumper upon contested jumper, Luke did the veteran work of breaking down the defense, making the simple pass, taking the open shot.|
|Ricky Rubio, PG 32 MIN | 1-11 FG | 6-8 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 9 PTS | +2Uh, what? F-? L++? Some grade in some new digital/post-human language that hasn’t been invented yet? All’s I know is, he played about as badly as he could play for three quarters and then absolutely crushed in the fourth. He attacked the paint with real fury, drawing fouls and serving up some truly pegasus-unicorn-on-ecstasy dimes. He was kinetic and disruptive on D and swallowed up Chauncey Billups on that last crucial possession. And, of course, after missing his first 10 field goals, he calmly stroked number 11.|
|Wayne Ellington, G 31 MIN | 6-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | +9Another very nice game for Wayne. Asking Ellington to handle the ball and create shots, as Kurt Rambis did, was just a really strange, unrealistic request. And so it’s refreshing to see him being used appropriately: spotting up; coming off curls; competing on D. He had some trouble closing out on Mo Williams in the first half, but he played with real energy and his shot, boy, sure was pure.|
|Nikola Pekovic, C 12 MIN | 4-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +9Solomon Jones wishes that Nikola Pekovic was never born. Did you see Pek bulldoze Jones under the basket over and over? And then did you see that massively unlovely, glacially slow post move that he put on DeAndre Jordan? And through some heavy sorcery, the ball actually went in! I love this guy.|
|Derrick Williams, F 14 MIN | 4-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | +17Derrick Williams quietly had a pretty nice game. His jumper still looks awfully gangly but he was aggressive to the rim and finished under control and with some skill. I was happy to see it.|
Three Things We Saw
- Bringing out that small lineup for the last two offensive possessions–Love at the 5, Derrick Williams at the 4–turned out to be a crafty move by Rick Adelman. Thanks, I’m thinking, to his inexperience guarding the perimeter, DeAndre Jordan seemed shocked that would Love pop out for a three on the game’s last possession. Jordan was unprepared to fight through the screens or contest the shot and Love had a nice, open look.
- It always kills me when Randy Foye hits shots against the Wolves, but I should try to get over it because he always does. Heat-checking stepbacks (even when there’s no heat to check), acrobatic, double-pumping scoops–these are, and always have been, Foye’s stock and trade. Just have to remind myself that 1) all that noise never really helped the Wolves get any better and 2) trading Foye brought us Ricky Rubio. Feel a whole lot better now.
- In the first half, the Clippers were defending like their lives depended on it. They were rotating hard, denying passing lanes, collapsing on the ball in the paint; accordingly, the Wolves really struggled to get looks. I was impressed, though, about how, in the second half, the Wolves used their defense to revive their offense. They were energetic, forcing turnovers and rushed shots. This pushed the pace of the game, allowed the Wolves to get into transition, move the ball and get easy shots. Suddenly things were flowing again.