Wolves 119, Lakers 104: Ricky Rubio and Opening Up the Floor
On a late March night where two teams with equally gone playoff chances face off, some non-traditional occurrences might take place. A Thibs-led team we can have 37-37 first quarter scores, 67-60 first half scores, Ricky Rubio dropping 20 first half points, and also Thomas Robinson.
This game was a tale of two ends of the floor. Offensively, the Wolves looked stellar. Ricky Rubio had 20 first half points (and kept up the productivity in other ways in the second half), KAT and Wig got theirs, and Gorgui Dieng was as productive a “utility infielder” offensive player as they come.
Defensively, it was not there. As mentioned, the points totals were atrocious in the first half, especially after an early ankle injury to Ivica Zubac. When replacement Tarik Black entered the game, he proceeded to start the game of 6-6, and finish 7-8 from the floor. The team followed, and quickly erased a double digit lead the Wolves built from the gate.
The Wolves ended up clamping down enough defensively in the second half (all while keeping up the offense) to come out with the win, but it never felt like a game where the team was fully in sync on offense.
Except for Ricky Rubio. Oh man, Ricky Rubio.
Defensively, the game was a mess all around. For everybody. But offensively, the team flowed brilliantly. Because of Rubio.
It started off with his 20 point first half, specifically from deep (he finished 4-4 in the first half). From there, Towns and Wiggins were able to get their nice nights off to an easy start. As Tom Thibodeau said after the game, “It opens the floor up. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. He’s put a lot of time in, and it’s paying off for him.”
As a result, Ricky Rubio’s career high 33 points was only 1 point better than Towns, who also had 9 rebounds and this dunk (nice pass by Tyus here, too).
Andrew Wiggins had a quiet 27 point game on 20 shots, if that’s possible. And, most quietly perhaps, Kris Dunn had a game that really may be his future. Perhaps some scoring will come eventually, but he did everything else. He got 5 rebounds, made some extra passes, and played the point when the defense started to deny Rubio the ball.
On defense, he didn’t let D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson get any sort of offense going. And when there was a scuffle, Dunn was there to get involved. If there is any role that fits Dunn going forward, “enforcer” is the one most likely to stick.
But all that: the KAT/Wiggins outbursts, Dieng’s “do everything” stat line, Dunn’s freedom to make mistakes and play limited on-ball offense, came because Ricky Rubio scored 33 points. It came because he then knew how to move the ball around when the defense began to respect his scoring. And it came because he never let up, and was able to keep his consistency throughout the game. Whether this will be a staple or not remains to be seen, but Rubio has definitely found his confidence, and his groove, for now. And he’s going to ride it for as long as it goes.