With the Wolves playing again tonight (at Houston, 7:00 CST, FSN North) I’m going to wrap up last night’s loss to the Lakers rather briefly, Clint Eastwood style.
The end-of-third-quarter lineup of Rubio-Webster-Beasley-Randolph-Love. After the struggling through two and a half quarters of ugly basketball and trailing by 18 points, Rick Adelman called timeout. He subbed Webster in for Wes Johnson, Beasley in for Luke Ridnour, and Randolph in for Brad Miller (made his season debut, managed to get T’d up in 8 minutes of action).
This group, arguably the five most talented Timberwolves, ripped off a 19-6 run to end the quarter that FINALLY got the crowd rocking on a cold Sunday Night in Minneapolis. Ricky pushed the tempo, jumpers started falling, and the ones that missed were tipped in by aggressive crashing of the boards. This momentum carried into the fourth quarter with the Wolves eventually taking small leads late into the game. The +/- numbers were kind to Beasley, Randolph and Webster due to this stretch of play.
Also in the “good” column: Kobe Bean Bryant. He’s become even-more polarizing than ever this year, chucking shots at a higher rate with (slightly) diminished ability on a Laker team that is struggling to meet the championship-level standard to which it is held. Kobe’s historically-great skill set was on display last night as he put together a 35-point, 14-rebound performance that left Wolves fans shaking their heads and Laker fans (lots of them showed up in their Number 24′s) going wild.
Timberwolves shooting. The Wolves shot 25 more times than the Lakers did from the floor, and the same number of times from the free throw line. The problem was that LA hit 50.6 percent of shots, and Minnesota hit 38.5 percent (40-104). The worst offenders were Rubio (2-13) and Webster (4-15). On a night when the Wolves pulled down 24 offensive rebounds, turned the ball over only 4 times, and shot the same number of free throws as the opposition, a defeat is rather puzzling. Shots weren’t falling.
The “defense” being played on Andrew Bynum in the last three minutes of the game. Adelman had the Wolves playing some zone defense in the fourth, and it was successful in part in forcing difficult shots and containing Kobe. But in a key sequence late in the game, it left the enormous Andrew Bynum open in the paint for easy dunks. The first one gave the Lakers a 95-94 lead with 3:04 to go. The second extended a one point lead to three, with 1:49 to go. In these crucial possessions, it isn’t asking much to prevent uncontested dunks. Defensive breakdowns were ugly to watch and helped lead to a disappointing loss.
Season Record: 9-11