Timberwolves 123, Mavericks 122: Ricky Buckets 2.0
I’m not going to be unrealistic here. That was a bit flukey.
Ricky Rubio became the new Ricky Buckets, if only for a night, and it was largely due to a pretty mediocre at best Dallas Mavericks’ defense. I don’t know why Jose Calderon was pressuring Rubio when he had the ball 30 feet from the basket. I don’t know why Calderon lets guys turn the corner on him with such little resistance. I don’t know why Samuel Dalembert wears cement shoes. I don’t know why Monta Ellis plays horrendous defense and then pretends it’s the refs’ fault. Whatever the answers to those issues are, Rubio did arguably the best job attacking a defense I’ve ever seen.
And while I’m going to be realistic about a game like this and note its flukey nature like I did above, it’s not going to stop be from enjoying the hell out of this performance. 22 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, and four steals with 8/12 shooting from the field and 7/9 in the restricted area.
I don’t by any means believe Rubio’s scoring woes and accuracy struggles are fixed. The mechanics, footwork, and strength still need work. But in the nine games in the month of March, Rubio has made 48.4% of his field goals and 44.4% of his 3-point shots. He’s only taking 6.2 shots a game and has only attempted nine 3-pointers in these nine games, but the results have been nice to see. Since the turn of the calendar on January 1st, Rubio has made 40.5% of his shots and 36.9% from downtown. That’s a decent stretch of 35 games.
During those 35 games, Rubio is averaging 9.4 points on 7.4 shots, 8.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 turnovers, and 2.1 steals. Coupled with 40.5% FG and 36.9% 3FG, wouldn’t you take that as his numbers over the course of next season? A big reason for his improved field goal percentage since January 1st is his finishing in the restricted area. It’s still not good or acceptable, but prior to 2014, he was scoring in the restricted area 40.2% of the time and that’s up to 48.3% since then. It’s good seeing that improvement and you hope you see more of what we saw tonight.
Tonight, Rubio recognized spacing on the floor, had his steps down, and didn’t rush to get the shot up to the rim. I’m not making the comparison that he played as well as Rajon Rondo, but the way he attacked the basket at times was Rondo-esque. That’s exactly what you want to see out of him; he recognized a mismatch advantage for him and exploited it.
As for the rest of the team, we saw a lot of positives and some recurring negatives:
– With 4:54 left in regulation, the Wolves were up 12. They proceeded to give up a 13-1 run. The offense got stagnant and the isolation post-ups for Kevin Love were just not well-executed. When they got him the ball cleanly, he seemed to wait far too long to make a move. He needs to attack quickly then and the Wolves need to give him some action on the weak side to keep the opponent uncomfortable.
– Gorgui Dieng was fantastic. Could he have played more in this game? Absolutely. But him being out of the game wasn’t hurting the Wolves from making stops. Dallas shot 10/19 from the field over the last five minutes of the fourth quarter and the in overtime. Five attempts and three makes occurred at the rim. The Wolves were giving up jumpers and the Mavericks were making them pay. But Dieng managed his second straight double-double and he alone should be making grumpy Wolves fans not give a damn about Trey Burke right now.
– Kevin Love was really good in this game, including a game-winner that may have been a travel. But his defense on the final possession when isolated against Dirk Nowitzki was both terrifying and remarkable.
I’m not sure how Love could have defended the situation any better, and the Wolves were fortunate to have Dirk miss a shot he’s buried teams with countless times.
– JJ Barea tried a tip dunk! I SEENT IT!
Here’s the video I pulled from the Mavs’ broadcast:
Here’s the video @cjzero pulled from the Wolves’ broadcast:
Don’t forget, JJ Barea is capable of dunking a basketball, even if it seems rather unlikely to the point that it would be UTTERLY AND FANTASTICALLY INSANE TO ATTEMPT IT IN A GAME.
Regulation rim, son.
Wolves are back to two games over .500 at 34-32 and they’re only four games behind the Phoenix Suns, who also won Wednesday night, as Minnesota tries to keep first round dream alive.