Was it a coincidence that the first seven quarters of Wolves ball that I missed in weeks were the first seven quarters of Ricky-less ball? Yes, actually. Saturday’s TV coverage was FUBAR’d by the NBA, with reciprocal blackouts for paying customers of NBA TV and paying customers of NBA League Pass. I actually thanked the NBA (to myself, at least) for this blunder. It sounds like I missed a wretched display by the home team. Tonight’s contest mostly conflicted with my men’s league game (we won, thanks for caring) so I was only able to listen to the 3rd Quarter on the drive home and watch the 4th on FSN.
Based on the box score, radio commentary, and my text inbox, it sounds like Mike Beasley, Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic collectively carried the Wolves through the first half as K-Love struggled with his shot. Beasley in particular (15 points on 6-7 shooting in 16 minutes, (tied for) team-high +8) must have been crucial to the 7-point halftime lead.
The radio broadcast of the third quarter sounded like Suns matchups of recent past. Al Horton repeatedly described Suns action begun by Steve Nash and finished by an open jump shooter. The Wolves 7-point lead quickly became a deficit. But then, as is happening more and more often, K-Love came to the rescue by bombing from outside. Love hit 5 threes in the second half (5-9 total for the game) en route to another 30-point game for the superstar.
Now, the part I was actually able to watch: the fourth quarter. Or as Magic Johnson and Roger Dodger call it, Winning Time.
The Key Players of #winningtime, in reverse order:
5. Derrick Williams – The rookie was on the court for the first 7:42 of the fourth and seemed to be involved in every play. He aggressively and stupidly goaltended a floating shot that had no chance of going in (sound familiar?) BUT–he got away with it, somehow. On offense, he hit a pair of square-up J’s, one from downtown, and converted his own backcourt steal into a dunk. Defense was another story. His “defense” on Channing Frye reminded of recent Kevin Love efforts against Magic stretch four, Ryan Anderson. Put simply, Williams does not want to guard out to 24 feet. You know why? He’s a power forward. (This dilemma of the stretch four is exactly why I want K-Love to embrace his own shooting talent, as he is doing of late.)
4. Channing Frye – As I just mentioned, Frye’s shooting was a problem. He entered the game with 8:26 to go with his team down by 2. He quickly hit a pair of 3′s, each giving his team the lead. While the Wolves were ultimately able to hold off the Suns, Frye’s sniping was nearly a deciding factor in the other direction.
3. Sebastian Telfair – Bassy played well in the last Wolves-Suns tilt, too. He must have it out for his old team or something. In the early part of this 4th Quarter he was pretty dominant, even if in ways that are UNSUSTAINABLE. When JJ went under a ball screen, Bassy buried the jumper. A moment later on another ball-screen sequence, he hit a three and D-Thrill fouled him for good measure and a fourth point. RIGHT AFTER THAT, he ripped Luke on a careless dribble and converted a layup. 8 quick points in the 4th Quarter.
2. Kevin Love – The MVP candidate had 13 points in the 4th Quarter, despite resting from 8:26 to 4:18. Not much else to say.
1. Luke Ridnour – Notwithstanding the turnover to Bassy, Luke was huge down the stretch. He made a layup with 4:35 to go, and a long 2 with 3:55 to go. With 1:50 to go he made a sick little hesitation move on Frye (I think) and an even-crazier layup in traffic with the shot clock winding down. He collected an offensive board with 1:15 to go and a key defensive board with 0:54 to go. With 17 seconds left and a 1-point lead, he calmly went to the line to extend it to 3 and help seal the win. Great Winning Time performance for Luke.
Nice to get a win. It’ll be interesting to see if any moves are made before the trade deadline on Thursday. Also on that day is the next game, a nationally televised (EXCEPT MAYBE IN MINNEAPOLIS!) contest against the Utah Jazz, a key rival for the 8-seed. Big Al scored 33 tonight on 14-18 shooting in an easy Jazz win, so we’ll have to have our interior defense ready to roll. Until then.
Season Record: 22-21