Wolves 111, Magic 105: The Legend of Ricky Rubio’s Heat Check Three

A collection of thoughts about The Ricky Rubio Heat Check Three Game, as last night’s win over the Magic will henceforth be known:

1. Watching KAT and Serge Ibaka battle it out was a lot of fun. KAT wound up with 23-12-7 and 3 blocks, and Serge wound up with 17-10-2 and 2 blocks, but don’t mistake the gaudy numbers for a passive, your-turn-my-turn back and forth. Ibaka did a great job mucking things up for the Wolves’ offense, which runs through KAT elbow and post touches more than ever, by fighting for position, fronting entry passes, and pushing Towns around at every opportunity. Karl still did a pretty good job passing out of doubles when they came, but he did turn the ball over 5 times, one shy of a career high. Towns also took zero shots in nine fourth quarter minutes – a pretty stunning shutout for the team

2. Towns was pretty bad on the defensive end of the floor. He struggles especially in scrambles after the Wolves allow second chance opportunities; as John Meyer of Canis Hoopus pointed out (comically during a 4th quarter possession)… “Karl… he’s not guarding anyone. He’s not guarding anyone. Look! He’s not… he’s not guarding anyone!” Thankfully Ibaka missed the open two. There was also a sequence where he bumped Jeff Green on a drive then committed an unnecessary goaltending violation when Green tossed the ball at the hoop.

3. Despite how clunky the offense looked at times, the Wolves did a pretty good job at patiently swinging the ball to find the open man. They finished with 29 assists on their 40 made field goals, compared to 22 dimes on 41 baskets for the Magic.

4. D.J. Augustin got a technical for throwing the ball (underhanded, mind you) in an aggressive manner at an official after a call he didn’t like. He probably could’ve gotten tossed.

5. With 10 seconds to go in the 1st half, Gorgui Dieng hit the 11th corner three of his career. I have seen him hit, like, 20 in a row from the corners in pregame shootarounds and warmups. It’s obviously not the first option on any play, but he is now 7-of-21 from beyond the arc this season, so it definitely isn’t a bad shot.

6. Also, Gorgui had a really great game, making tons of hustle plays and little plays when it mattered most. He is, by far, the team’s most consistent player.

7. There was a crazy man yelling at the top of his lungs at every single call that went against the Wolves; anyone in the lower bowl near the Wolves’ bench can attest to it. I felt legitimately terrible for his wife and his kid (who was maybe around 10?) for having to deal with it. Guys: don’t be that guy. Don’t ever be that guy.

8. If you were at the game you get some FREE CHERRY BERRY tomorrow! Cherry Berry! Yeah! Loudest cheers of the night! Cherry Berry! Woo-hoo! Thanks, Bismack Biyongo!

9. Rest in peace, Nikola Vucevic. He has been buried in pretty much the same spot That One Plumlee From the Bucks was buried; he died on the court when Andrew Wiggins kilt him dead with a big slam jam:

 

10. Bazzerbeater! Shabuzzerbeater Muhammad! Or as Dave Benz put it, “Bazz, the Great and Powerful!”

11. It felt like a classic Thibs-Vogel matchup in a lot of ways: lots of physicality, loose balls, diving on the floor, etc. It’s just that Thibs has a very defined group of players to work with, and set rotations. There is a clear understanding by all involved that Towns, Wiggins and LaVine are the core. The Magic don’t have that luxury, so they’re just sort of lost, trying all sorts of goofy shit to see what sticks. Ten different players have started for Orlando, and only one (Serge Ibaka) has started in all of his appearances this season. Eight different Timberwolves have started games, and the Rubio-LaVine-Wiggins-Towns-Dieng group has started 42 of their 48 games together. When Minnesota is a more stable situation than you, you’re in trouble.

12. Thibs and Vogel may have worked out a gentleman’s agreement prior to the game regarding Nemanja Bjelica and Damjan Rudez; the agreement, I speculate, was that those two players had to both be in or out together, and had to exclusively guard one another. It was nice seeing ol’ Damjan; I first noticed him when I saw a man jumping up and down near the scorer’s table, waiting to check in, and it was Rudez (of course) doing his patented calisthenics routine to get loose.

13. Speaking of Bjelica… He set the tone for overtime in the first 30 seconds. He started by swatting away C.J. Watson’s layup attempt, then made a nice dish to Karl-Anthony Towns for a slam. The Wolves were never tied or behind again. This postgame exchange, in which he tells Ricky Rubio he was just “trying to save (his) ass,” was also pretty elite:

14. The real hero of the latter portion of the game was Andrew Wiggins, who hit a tough jumper to tie things up with 10 seconds to go in regulation, then scored 6 points in the overtime frame, along with a big block and the game-sealing rebound with 6 seconds left.

15. 22-8-8, with 6 made threes and 2 blocked shots… Ricky Rubio was absolutely fantastic. Over the past four games, Ricky is shooting 46% from the field and averaging 14 points and 9 assists per game, and the Wolves are 3-1. They’re 8-3 over their last 11, and 13-11 since December 13th. Things are looking up, and Ricky is looking comfortable.

16… Maybe a little too comfortable. He hit two threes in a row, then came across half court on the Wolves next possession and acted like he was Steph Curry. He clanked it. But I will never forget the moment when Ricky Rubio felt bold enough to take a heat check three.

17. The Wolves head to Cleveland to face off against the defending champions on Wednesday night.

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8 Responsesso far.

  1. Tom says:

    It ended well, but this game came close to ending with a thud. The boys escaped another stupid collapse with some last minute clutch shots and stops. For about four minutes in the fourth with an eight point lead, they were as professional as a fifth grade pick up game with several stupid passes, quick rushed shots and dumb plays from our starters. It was awful.

    Now they have a stretch of games starting Wednesday , where that disregard for the basketball, will get you killed. If they can keep pace with Denver, Sacramento and Portland for the next five games, they will have a legitimate shot at making the eighth seed. Something that seemed ludicrous a month ago.

  2. Jello says:

    When we talk about this team’s defense, I think it’s obvious a lot of these guys can play great 1 v 1 defense. We saw it at the end of the fourth with Town’s contesting the three and we’ve seen him guard Curry on an island. We know Wiggins can guard 1 v 1 as can Rubio. The problem has always been team defense, fighting screens, and switching. A big reason for this has to be that they haven’t had a consistent system in place. This is Wiggins third coach in three years. The defense is already starting to get better, but I think just being able to have a stable management/coach in place will help tremendously going into year 2 and onward.

    I LOVED the way the team opened up OT. Two great passes for two dunks and a block on the other end. That’s what this team is ideally with a stretch four who can pass and provide a defensive presence. Seeing Bjelica give us some minutes as the player we desperately need was infuriating given how he plays so terribly most of the time.

    It’s pretty nice having a PG who can hit threes. A dominant big who can pass out of double teams to a wide open three point shooter, sounds a lot like the Magic formula that got them to the championship game (with some added defense of course). With Rubio shooting like that it’s really pick your poison. Let Towns go to work or give us a wide open three to LaVine/Wiggins/Rubio/Bjelica?! (no most likely not Bjelica unfortunately). Unfortunately Dieng wasn’t hitting his usual shots today, generally it’s hard to double off him as well because even with his long release he’s still deadly from midrange and his offensive IQ might be second highest on the team. If Ricky can get back to (or daresay even better than) his corner three point shooting numbers from the past that opens up a lot for this offense and may even be enough for Thibs to consider keeping him. I want him to stick around and making three point shots is how he can do it. Just keep putting up those corner threes in practice, Rick.

  3. gjk says:

    I didn’t think Rubio played well aside from the 3s. Obviously, those can’t be discounted, but he looked uncomfortable on offense when he was dribbling around, and the combination of fouling out and giving up so many drives to Payton were problems defensively. The backcourt in general got outplayed; LaVine looked like he was modern-day Vince Carter out there.

    The new play they’ve set up off of free throws where Towns and LaVine are in opposite corners and they try to generate a 3-on-2 with Rubio is an interesting thing that I can’t remember seeing by another team; it gets them some good looks and tries to exploit an opponent who assumes a free throw rebound won’t lead to a fast break.

    A game like that is a good barometer. If they’re still playing like that in a month, the playoffs will be a distant dream. Their help defense is still so bad against teams who move the ball and attack the rim.

  4. That video frame with Bjelly smiling…somebody screencap it!!

    It’s a look I’ve not seen before.

    Seriously, though – great recap, thanks!

  5. pyrrol says:

    Honest to god, I was going to start my response to this game by giving Thibs credit for how much better our offense is looking in the last few games. It’s still pretty basic from a systematic level, but he’s got the guys moving without the ball more and with purpose, and they are moving the ball, making the extra pass and not ball stopping quite so much. Well, I guess I ended up starting out with a Thibs pat on the back.

    But he changed that headline in my mind. With about 5 minutes left, he went from our normal, simple, but not overly predictable (due to all our weapons) offense into one in which Rubio dumped the ball off the Wiggins. Quite frankly, this stilted us, threw us off, caused turnovers and is the reason we even had to go into overtime. Once there, we continued to often use the Wiggins dump offense, but Wiggins had just enough sparkle in his step and Orlando died on the vine so we pulled it out. Of course the Wiggins dump (and to a degree just point Wiggins without dribbling from half court) made the flashy dunk happen and Wiggins is a dangerous weapon. But having him be a major ball handler every possession for the last 5 minutes and then overtime is stupid. Orlando knew this, and doubled and even tripled Wiggins every time. He had trouble passing out. He turned the ball over. He also hit a very tough jumper, the biblical dunk and passed out of the double well a couple of times. But we barely escaped with this win. Even with Wiggins on, playing one dimensional offense for the last 5 (or 10) minutes of the game is a bad bet. We got lucky this time. But Thibs basically threw the team under the bus after they showed him they could play his offense better as of late.

    Other folks above did a good job of emphasizing how much work our team D still needs. To the eye, we look like we are OK at D at times because we make good individual plays often enough to seem like we’re doing alright. Truth be told, we are not alright on D. We’d have a really good offensive stretch in the game and Orlando would be right there with us. And I’d ask myself, how do they have this many points? It didn’t seem like they were ever playing that well offensively. But they just stick there on the basis of our horrible team D. I will say it is improving slightly and that at least gives us hope. But this could have been an easy, blow out type win with an average D.

    I’m not enough of a grinch to grumble about the imperfections in Rubio’s night when he hit 6 threes and helped carry the team to an overtime win with scoring that should be LaVine’s dept. That was pretty cool.

    Shabazz is stepping up. Playing hard, half court shot, RIGHT hand.

    I think Wiggins’ shoes are a not so subtle demand to bring green back into our color scheme. We are overdue for a redesign. We need a snappier, cleaner look, and we need green back. We need less black and white.

    • pyrrol says:

      Also of note, a reason why we pulled away in OT is because we got away from running everything through Wiggins a bit, opened things back up (although we still used the through Wiggins stuff too much).

  6. Nate says:

    In regards t #7 was it Tom Thibodeau?

  7. Tom says:

    Rumor has it that Rubio is not getting trade interest because Thibs and Layden are asking too much in return. That is encouraging, because past regimes would have gotten antsy and took less or given up more to make a move. I’m not against moving Ricky if you get a key piece in return, but I have always felt that his contract (smaller than Orlando’s Elfrid Payton) is manageable for a quality backup point guard, which if Dunn ever reaches his potential, could be perfect for the wolves. Ricky coming off the bench in three years with players like Baz and Bjelly and G wouldn’t be a bad second group. Getting his agent to see that only teams with worse records than the wolves would want Ricky as a starter, could mean that the Spanish Unicorn could finish his career as a Wolf.

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