In a comment yesterday, I said the Wolves hadn’t really owned a game since their last victory over Houston. They broke that streak Friday night, again against the Rockets, in a 111-98 victory in Houston.
Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love were the big stories.
Pek carried the team offensively for most of the first three quarters and ended with 30 points and 12 boards on 13-20 shooting in 42 minutes. The Rockets had no answer for Pek, who with each game looks more-and-more like the next Marc Gasol. It’s amazing Rambis didn’t get anything out of this guy and that it took an injury to Darko for Adelman to give him a chance. We all know about his problems with foul trouble and question marks with defense, but when Pek is in the game, Love can float around the perimeter and the Wolves still have an interior presence to score and hit the offensive boards. And, there were moments when both Pek and Love were under the basket, getting board after board, until one of them finally scored the basket. They dominate with their strength, but it reminded me of how Bynum and Gasol’s length used to cause all kinds of problems for our Jefferson/Love pairing due largely to their physical advantages. It’s nice to be on the right side of those kinds of mismatches.
Love was clutch. He played well all game, but he hit two big threes when the Rockets were threatening in the 4th that sealed the victory. As a guy who’s questioned in the past whether Love really elevates his team to wins, well, I’m glad he’s proving me wrong. And he certainly did last night. Does someone else step up and make shots if Love wouldn’t have been in those places at those times? Tough to say. But fact is, Love *was* there and *did* hit those shots. He moved well on defense too. Before the season, I was worried that his weight loss would reduce his strength and hence his rebounding, but it has only helped his mobility, both on offense and defense.
A few other notes:
- Rubio did a nice job on Kyle Lowry. Lowry is another all-star caliber guard whom Rubio has completely taken out of his rhythm. Kyle got 17 points on 16 shots, but didn’t impact this game like he has most this year. That really hurt Houston–for the Rockets, it all starts with Lowry.
- Johnson didn’t suck. He wasn’t great, but he made most of the shots NBA players should make, grabbed a few boards, added 3 assists, 2 steals, and made Rockets star Kevin Martin earn his points. All things considered, this was probably Wes’ second-best game this year.
- Beasley was passing the ball as well as I’ve ever seen from him in a Wolves uniform. But he still only got 19 minutes. It’s hard to criticize rotations in a win, but it’d be nice to see this kind of behavior rewarded, especially when you know the solid Wes play can’t be counted on each game.
- Overall, the rotations were really tight: Only Beasley, Webster, and Williams got in off the bench. Williams only got 10 minutes. Barea was the biggest surprise as DNP-CD. I like shortening the rotations, but if we’re not going to play the guy to whom we just gave a multi-million dollar multiyear free agent contract, Kahn better have a good plan to trade him. (UPDATE: J.J. was out for last night’s game, not a DNP-CD. I missed this watching the Rockets telecast and not prodigiously (enough!) reading Jerry Z’s column.)
The Wolves play Philly and PDW favorite Jrue Holiday on Sunday as the quest for .500 continues. Until then.
(Season record: 15-16)