Timberwolves 140, Thunder 149: Gasp
When the Spurs ground the Wolves into little dusty pieces on Wednesday, I was disappointed but not surprised. The Wolves looked every inch the team laboring through an epic mid-season road trip, missing their starting point guard, starting center and best wing scorer; the Spurs crushed them with superior talent, energy and savvy. Truth be told, I was expecting the same thing on Friday against the Thunder. There was, it seemed to me, very little chance that this undermanned, road-weary crew could make a game of it on the road against the best team in the Western Conference.
And sure enough, there were moments in which the Wolves looked like just another version of their bad, old selves. They were shredded by opposing guards; they made absurd defensive mistakes (ah, two straight goaltends on Kendrick Perkins shots that had very little chance of going in?); during one incredibly annoying stretch of third-quarter, they took, and missed, five consecutive hurried threes. Also, though, they scored 140 points, put on one of the most inspiring displays of resolve and endurance I’ve seen in a while and maybe ought to have won the game. Did I mention how incredibly intense and exciting and exhausting this game was? I’ll have more on this tomorrow when I’m less wiped out, but for now enjoy some grades.
|Wesley Johnson, SG 16 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -10Um, this was very bad. On paper, Wes is probably the T-Wolf most qualified on to guard Kevin Durant. In real life, though, he brought almost no passion to the task and was very quickly relieved of his duties. I don’t even remember the one shot he took.|
|Derrick Williams, F 24 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-6 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -6Williams had some nice moments in the first half. He took the ball to the basket aggressively and hit some jumpers. But he also took some ill-advised shots and made some very foolish decisions–that ridiculous goaltend among them–and Anthony Tolliver’s superior energy and defensive savvy kept Williams off the floor for all of crunch time.|
|Kevin Love, PF 49 MIN | 16-27 FG | 12-16 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 51 PTS | +4Do you see that he scored 51 points on 33 true shots? And hit a truly cold-blooded game-tying three at the end of regulation? This fellow is just very good at basketball.|
|Luke Ridnour, PG 48 MIN | 4-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 13 PTS | +3Given the ridiculous matchups that Ridnour was forced into in his adventure as a two-guard, its somewhat ironic that the player who punished him most resoundingly is another point guard. Westbrook is bigger, stronger and faster than Ridnour; Luke was never able to stay in front of him. Making matters worse, Ridnour rushed his shots all night and never really found an offensive rhythm.|
|Martell Webster, SF 22 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -17Webster was another casualty of the Thunder’s perimeter assault. He was, at the very least, more engaged and energetic than Wes Johnson when it came to checking Durant. Still, both Durant and James Harden had their way with him. And Webster was at his indecisive, ball-stopping worst on offense.|
|Anthony Tolliver, PF 44 MIN | 9-13 FG | 3-3 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 23 PTS | 0It is really not fair to ask Anthony Tolliver to guard Kevin Durant. But he was just playing so much harder and with so much more passion than any other Wolves’ forward–you can’t really blame Rick Adelman from handing him the task down the stretch. It was also nice to see AT finding himself a role within the offense apart from missing corner threes. Those rolls to the rim, those open floor runouts, those offensive boards: this is how Tolliver will keep himself in the rotation.|
|Jose Juan Barea, PG 47 MIN | 10-22 FG | 3-3 FT | 10 REB | 14 AST | 25 PTS | -5J.J. Barea will kill you (Wolves fan) with his ceaseless ball-pounding and his quick shots and his turnovers. But his quickness and attitude of relentless attack also puts extraordinary pressure on opponents. Watching might make you feel seasick, but he ran the show for the Wolves. Especially as the game wore on, Barea was the only perimeter player capable of creating offensive opportunities. And that overtime offensive rebound over Westbrook and the subsequent dish to Tolliver for a three-point play was massive.|
|Wayne Ellington, G 36 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -4It is good to see Ellington hitting some shots. He needs to do that. Unfortunately, James Harden twisted him into a noodly mess all game. Ellington simply could not handle him.|