Wolves fans could hardly ask for two more entertaining preseason games to whet their appetites for the upcoming season. While tonight’s tilt at Milwaukee was much more to the Bucks’ liking in terms of style, the Wolves won again; this time in dramatic fashion. Down 11 with a few minutes to go, the Wolves combined Kevin Love three-pointers and multiple steals to close with a 12-0 run and victory. A few thoughts with the obvious caveats that apply to preseason games and knee-jerk reactions:
* Ricky Rubio was missed. Milwaukee is an excellent defensive club and the young Wolves had a helluva time getting into their offense, tonight. While Malcolm Lee did some nice things, he was sometimes still dribbling with less than 10 on the shot clock and had a turnover or two trying to make the first entry pass. Rubio’s floor vision that wowed Target Center fans on Saturday was noticeably absent, and his teammates were mostly unable to recreate that type of offensive initiation.
* Of all NBA “areas for improvement” in 2011-12, the Timberwolves perimeter defense is at or near the very top. On this night, the rotations were as intense as they were intelligent (and in both categories, the opposite end of the spectrum as last season.) When switching was appropriate, they switched, and everything seemed to be done with purpose. An 85-84 victory hardly seemed possible only a season ago.
* WAY too many offensive mistakes, particularly in the 4th Quarter. There’s no reason for Luke Ridnour and Anthony Tolliver to be coughing up the ball down the stretch as they did, tonight. The miracle finish will not change Coach Adelman’s take on this game, which is that it was sloppily played, especially down the stretch. Ridnour did himself no favors tonight with an opportunity to shine without Rubio and Barea.
* Mike Beasley missed a few shots early and it seemed to take him out of his game. Later on, he thought he got fouled once or twice and seemed irritated throughout. He finished the game well, which is a good sign, but overall this was not his night. For a wing scorer though, I’ll take 1 for 2 against a great defensive squad like the Bucks. Also, Beasley is clearly fighting harder for position than he did last season. There was no better example of this than when he threw S-Jack to the ground en route to an easy bucket. Plus-minus, particularly in small sample size, can be misleading. For whatever it is worth, Beasley led the team with a +10 on this night.
* Love worked his ass off from start to finish and was a big reason the Wolves even stayed in this game. His fourth-quarter heroics led the improbable comeback. His defensive matchups were less kind to him tonight, pitting him against fellow Bruin Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova. Each was able to beat Love off the dribble for fouls and/or points. Drew Gooden scored on him down low in a crucial possession. Still, these things happen, and Love’s work on the glass and in drawing fouls, not to mention the three-point shots, were huge. Without a doubt he was the team’s MVP, tonight.
All things considered, it was a short and successful preseason. I think Ricky Rubio’s value was more obvious tonight in his absence than when he was on full display last weekend. He is the starting point guard. The rest of it will sort itself out. I continue to believe that Anthony Randolph and Wes Johnson will struggle to find playing time in this rotation. We shall see.