It wasn’t a fun night to be a Wolves fan. The Timberwolves played a tightly-contested game with the young Orlando Magic for the entire game, neither team grabbing a double digit lead in regulation. With 28 seconds left in the fourth, the Wolves were up 2 with the ball, and had a chance to put what would likely be the seal on the game.
Instead, a well-executed triple team on Kevin Martin forced a turnover. Eventually, Nikola Vucevic made a pair of (the most suspenseful) free throws (of all-time), tying the game at 94-94. Martin eventually failed at his chance of redemption, missing a reasonably good look near the paint.
The Magic ran away with the game in overtime behind nice play from rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton.
And that was just the final 5 minutes, 28 seconds of the game. Unfortunately, there was some more potentially sad news from tonight’s game.
Ricky Rubio turned his ankle late in the 2nd quarter. I’m not going to post the video or the gif of it happening, but it looked pretty bad. The good news: x-rays came back negative. There is no break, but the ankle will still be re-evaluated before their game in Miami.
This forced the Wolves to run Mo Williams with the starting unit. Williams had already been struggling, and the struggles continued into the second half and overtime, finishing just 1-7 from the field in 31 minutes.
This also meant sparsely-used Zach LaVine was going to get a chance to play some point in the second half. While his point guard skills didn’t necessarily shine through, some other things did. He caught a lob in the paint and finished with contact in traffic. He also played some steady defense, and even came away with some deflections and a steal. The sample size may be miniscule, but it was a good sight for Wolves fans, especially considering the circumstances.
It’s been a strangely quiet start to the season for Corey Brewer, but maybe that will start to change. Tonight was Brewer’s best offensive output by far, as he finished the game with 16 points on 6-11 shooting. He attacked well, hit a couple shots from mid-range, and looked for his shot more than we’ve seen all season.
Andrew Wiggins was somewhere on the other end of the spectrum tonight. He shot the ball fine, but didn’t really look for his shot. Finishing with just 6 points, he seemed invisible on the floor at times. That is something that Flip Saunders has said in past press conferences he is working on fixing.
The rookies for the Magic, on the other hand, had it going. Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon both played their best games so far in their young careers, combining for 32 points on 12-24 shooting from the field. Payton took advantage of Rubio’s absence in the second half, using his speed to shake Mo Williams around the hoop.
It was not a fun game for the Wolves, or their fans. Despite the blow of losing Rubio, the Wolves persevered and battled hard through regulation. Ultimately, the home team had the edge, and kept that edge into overtime, where they finished the job and then some.
But, like Nikola Pekovic said after their win in Brooklyn, they’ll need to try to forget this game, and move on to the next one. It might just be tougher this time.