J.J. Barea continued his productive play with 12 points (5-10 shooting) and 7 assists (compared to 2 turnovers) in 29 minutes of +9 action off the bench. He was the Wolves best option at point guard tonight, as Washington borrowed whatever game plan Mike Brown used in Cleveland to completely neutralize Ricky Rubio.
Also good: Kevin Love’s early three-point shooting. Love buried 3 jumpers in the first quarter. Had his hot hand continued, or had the Wolves given a reasonable effort on defense — particularly transition defense — they would’ve won tonight’s game. But neither of those things happened. (Love finished the game 4-10 from downtown after a 3-4 start.)
The final good: Robbie Hummel, who made shots (2-3 total, 2-2 from three), collected 6 rebounds, and even drove the lane and dished off an assist for a layup. Hummel made 0 turnovers and had a +3 in 22 minutes. He continues to correlate with positive minutes for the team.
Free throw shooting: The Wolves were 16-24 at the foul line where so much of their bread is usually buttered. In crunchtime, Pek went to the line and clanked two in a row. A moment later, Love went up and made only 1 of 2. Those misses contributed to the loss. (It also didn’t help that Washington made all 15 of its free throw attempts.)
Speaking of shooting, Kevin Martin couldn’t do it tonight; not until the very end anyway. K-Target finished just 4-17 for the game.
Ricky Rubio was also bad tonight. His shooting stats (10 points on 3-5 shooting) don’t tell the story as well as his plus minus of -13 does. John Wall owned him tonight. These two seem to have a lot of one-sided matchups. I remember their first, played in Washington, when Rubio destroyed Wall with all sorts of funky passes to open Wolves shooters, in a blowout win. I watched firsthand last year at Verizon when Wall returned the favor, making Rehabbing Ricky look like a minor leaguer. Tonight’s matchup went to Wall and it wasn’t close. He cruised past Ricky (and, to be fair, the entire Wolves team) in transition for easy baskets. He blew up the Wolves halfcourt defense and found shooters to the tune of 16 assists. Ricky got himself in early foul trouble, forced passes that weren’t there (3 turnovers to just 2 assists) and never found a rhythm. Coach Adelman did not put him back in for Winning Time and I can’t say I blamed him. He’ll be needed tomorrow night to defend Chris Paul at Target Center.
There’s a lot to choose from in a loss to Randy Wittman’s reeling Wizards team. The fumbled passes, or wild shots? The front running attitude starting up in the early second quarter — way before the game was even remotely out of hand?
The ugliest part of tonight’s game was a blast from Timberwolves past: The exaggeration of contact on offense, followed by standing and bitching to the refs instead of either: a) going after the ball, which some of the time wasn’t even secured by the opponent!; or b) just shutting up and getting back on defense. Obviously, Kevin Love is the team’s biggest offender here. It’s been a stain on his otherwise exemplary career in Minnesota. I realize the payoff comes when the refs reward the behavior with a whistle that he thinks is overdue. (And he got one tonight, late in the game after a lot of whining.) But on the road in a game where the team needs REAL ACTUAL LEADERSHIP from a superstar forward, it has the opposite effect. Love wasn’t the only one who struggled to get back on defense tonight, but his performance in the second through fourth quarters was well within the bounds of this ugly category.
Bad loss tonight, and a chance for a great win tomorrow. Until then.
Season Record: 7-5