Minnesota beat Portland tonight for the second time in five days. The following facts describe the two matchups:
- Three point guards (Rubio, Ridnour, Barea) played a combined 88 minutes in each game. The team was essentially going without a two guard.
- Kevin Love averaged 35.5 points, 13 rebounds, and 3.5 assists over the two victories. While he didn’t guard LaMarcus Aldridge all of the time, he certainly outplayed him.
- Wes Johnson played a combined 37 minutes. In that time he scored 25 points on 10-13 shooting. In tonight’s game, he even dribbled and cut a few times.
- Coach Adelman was able to find 56 minutes of playing time for Derrick Williams, despite his playing Kevin Love’s position. The rook averaged 12 points and 7.5 rebounds over the two games, off the bench.
- The Wolves won both games; the first two victories over Portland since Kevin Garnett was wearing #21 for the good guys. If Saturday was a rite of passage, tonight was a statement game.
- Most importantly, the Wolves combined for 25-46 shooting from downtown. 54 percent shooting from 3 is going to lead to victories for almost any team. Especially in high volume.
What does it mean?
If you haven’t noticed already I am as prone as any NBA rube to making kneejerk reactions. One minute my trade machine has Derrick Williams going to Boston for cap space and the next I’m lauding him as the next Amar’e Stoudemire (that used to be a compliment.) But as more games are played–not just Wolves games but all around the league–what I’m finding more and more is that there is no such thing as a prototype NBA roster. A team with a classic 1-2-3-4-5 is no more likely to be successful than one with some oddities. Dallas won the championship last year with a 50-year old point guard and (for the deciding Game 6 at least) our very own midget, J.J. Barea, playing the two. Miami, the perpetual title favorite for as long as Wade and James are playing, has an offense built around two wings that are almost the exact same offensive player. Chicago built a contender around a single offensive threat who (oh by the way) happens to play point guard.
The Wolves are winning games with a weird team. Not only do they start two point guards, but they bring a third off the bench for big minutes. It is all point guards all the time. And it works. Luke is showing off what a tremendous shooter he is, relieved of primary playmaking duties that he sometimes struggles with. When J.J. comes in and inevitably finds himself defending the post, he draws a charge. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Ricky is versatile on defense, often switching and jumping the passing lanes. On offense, he’s a true point. It seems to work.
On the front line, things were just starting to reek of conventionality when Pekovic went down with a foot injury. Tonight (and Monday versus the Clippers) we saw extended sequences with Williams at the 4 and Love at the 5. I’ve made my feelings clear on this idea.
I write about this because the trade deadline is looming (March 15) and every Wolves fan has their own shooting guard who the team MUST pursue. Some want Kevin Martin while others prefer Jamal Crawford or Monta Ellis. I’ve clamored for Eric Gordon.
Well, the Wolves have now won 8 of their last 11 games and if the season ended right now they would be in the playoffs. Is it really time to deal away a starting player? The Wolves are a weird team. When they’re hot, they chuck away from downtown and shots fall. Kevin Love is the league’s most-productive and stabilizing force. He is our Batman; a constant force. His Robin walks through a revolving door with a new face on, each game. A trade isn’t likely to bring in a star player of real notoriety. Kevin McHale isn’t walkin’ through that door. Neither is, I’m guessing, his current shooting guard, Kevin Martin.
In a Western Conference that looks more wide open by the day, why not just embrace the weirdness of a dual point guard/power forward/Balkan center lineup that has all sorts of personalities and nearly shatters the Likeability Scale?
Of course, after Friday’s Laker game the Wolves play New Orleans and Phoenix. If they drop that pair I promise to write 5,000 words about the need for a veteran wing, balanced roster, go-to hero scorer, and every other adage and convention I can think of.
I hope that doesn’t happen.
Season Record: 21-19 (Currently 8th in Western Conference)