After penning his name on a gigantic four-year contract extension (approximately $62 Million over 4 years, with player option after third year) Kevin Love went out and played a near-perfect game of basketball against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Spearheading a dominant second half for his team (53-36) Love posted 31 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks without any of the disruptive, gimmicky tactics that I whined so much about the other night. Love shot 6 treys and hit 4 of them, he played hard defense all over the floor (not his type of matchup when Yi draws him outside the paint) and provided the uber-efficient productivity that makes him special. One game in, Love looks well-worth the dough.
Beating Dallas at its home court is a bit less (okay, WAY LESS) impressive when Dirk is on the sidelines with a knee injury. The Mavs started this game with some red-hot shooting, particularly from Jasons Kidd and Terry, Yi Jianlian, and Rodrique Beaubois. I wondered whether the Wolves (shorthanded themselves without Ridnour, Barea, Beasley, Webster, Miller, and Lee) would have enough legs to ramp up the defensive pressure and hang in this game.
They did. Rubio in particular was relentless in attacking the defense, staving off defensive pressure, and constantly seeking out steal opportunities (4 times successfully) for 46 crucial minutes of point guard play. Only for a short two-minute stint of Wayne at the point did Ricky get a breather.
My one problem with Rubio’s game (no, not his 7 turnovers; those are part of the package for this type of playmaker) is that he shot too much. His jumper is quickly molding into its Euro League form, with his field goal percentage now plummeted to 38.6. He shot 4 of 16 from the floor, tonight. On too many possessions, Rubio’s first decision was to penetrate the lane and look for his own shot. It wasn’t working for him tonight. His overall efficiency (17 points on 16 shots) was partially saved by an ability to draw fouls (8-9 FT’s) that is second only to Love on this team. Ricky stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals. Triple doubles are in this kid’s future.
A road win is a good win, especially with the Spurs and Lakers on the horizon. Additional jottings:
* I lobbied for Anthony Randolph to take the center minutes from Darko and Pekovic. Rick Adelman disagrees, obviously, because Randolph played 9 minutes tonight, while Darko and Pek combined for 44. Darko had an efficient 8 points, 7 rebounds and a whopping 7 blocks in 24 minutes. Pekovic shot 4 for 5, for 13 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes. Randolph? The only Wolf in the minus column (-5) with a 1 for 4 shooting night. Perhaps Coach knows what he’s doing.
* Lamar Odom looks horrible. He is notoriously inconsistent, but tonight looked cranky, out of shape, and not at all ready for an NBA basketball game. As he has done throughout his career, he took the bait on jump shot opportunities, and put together a 2 for 14 shooting performance in just 16 minutes of action. Mavs fans must miss them some Tyson Chandler.
* Solid game for Derrick Williams. He is not a small forward–that much should be obvious by now–but on plays when Rubio was cycling the half court with the ball, D-Thrill found opportunities to dive in the paint. He was rewarded with Rubio passes and easy hoops were had. On one instance, it was Rubio-to-Williams-to-Darko without the ball touching the floor. On another, Williams finished it off himself. 10 points (4-7 shooting), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 0 turnovers in 25 minutes is good work for a rookie playing out of position.
Season Record: 8-10