There was a matter-of-fact, ho-hum sort of feel to tonight’s 99-82 victory over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. That sort of language has not been in Timberwolves lingo since the departure of Kevin Garnett in 2007. The precious few victories that Wolves fans have enjoyed in recent seasons have typically come against non-playoff teams. A win like this one marks a clear change of course that early moral victories against contenders Miami and OKC hinted towards.
This goes to Kevin Love for his 25-point, 17-rebound, 1-turnover performance. Love led the team in +/- with a +15. In the fourth quarter holding an 84-75 lead, the Wolves called a full timeout. Immediately after the break, Dirk proceeded to hit three jumpers, the second of which was a trey, cutting the deficit to two points. With the crowd growing restless and sensing another late-game collapse, Love answered the call. He hit a pair of 25-footers, stepping back off the dribble to show off some increased mobility from his offseason workout efforts. The eight-point lead quickly extended to sixteen and victory was sealed. I should point out that Love continues to play solid defense against most types of bigs, including Dirk and Odom in this game. If he will quit head-faking and just SHOOT from downtown, he may become the MVP-type of player that Dave Berri and some others already think he is. He’s playing outstanding basketball in the early part of this season.
I feel obligated to write something about Ricky Rubio after each game, because he is so by far and away the biggest draw of fans returning to Wolves games. Tonight was a tale of two halves for Ricky. In the first half, with speedy Rodrique Beaubois picking him up full court, Rubio struggled some. He made one careless turnover in the backcourt leading to a Dallas layup. He also forced some decisions that were atypical of his aggressive-but-smart self. In the second half, often being defended by Jason Kidd, Rubio flourished with both scoring and passing. His perimeter set shot continues to drop when he is left open. Ricky’s baseline bounce pass to Tolliver for the dagger-trey was something we’ll see plenty more of. Let’s hope AT’s teammates (WES JOHNSON!) can copy the obvious and successful strategy of catch-and-shoot basketball with the wizardly point guard they’ll so benefit from playing with.
* Beasley can’t get a shot to fall, and fans are growing restless with him. Adelman stuck with him tonight, and Mike didn’t make him regret it. His 8-point, 7-rebound stat line is hardly anything to write home about, but he met his shooting woes appropriately by taking a deep breath and making some easy passes. Mike also hit the defensive glass hard, down the stretch. His defensive play remains a noticeable improvement from a season ago. He badly injured his finger in the closing minutes of the game. As the injury is reported to be on his shooting hand, I doubt he will play tomorrow night.
* Wes Johnson can’t play. There isn’t much else to add. His 13 minutes of playing time (and (-3) in a 17-point win) is indication that his days as a starter are numbered. Wayne Ellington is plenty mediocre, but he hurts the team less than Wes by a long shot.
* Between Love, Anthony Tolliver, and Derrick Williams, the Wolves have interior players who fight tooth and nail for every rebound and loose ball near the basket. The outrebounded Dallas 54-35 in this one. The Wolves collected 17 offensive rebounds to the Mavericks’ 6.
* J.J. Barea, I think, has drawn an offensive foul in each of his three games played, this year. If memory serves, each instance was when a bigger guard was posting him up. It seems as if the feisty five-ten guard has grown used to this position and learned how to flip a weakness into a strength. It steals possession and frustrates an opponent all at once.
Around the NBA
DeMarcus Cousins has apparently demanded a trade from the Sacramento Kings. His team has met this demand by banishing him from team facilities and events. In other words, he is likely to get his wish. This is an interesting development for Wolves fans who followed the 2010 Draft lead-up with interest. A great many—perhaps a majority—of Wolves fans desperately wanted the big man from Kentucky with center size, soft hands, and advanced footwork. Another sizeable contingent dreaded what was expected to be a cancerous on-court persona and attitude. He was often seen berating Coach Cal on live television, in college. If he is ultimately shipped out of Sac-Town for marginal value, his pre-draft detractors will have been proven correct. Unfortunately for Wolves fans, Greg Monroe and probably Paul George appear to be infinitely-better than the player we drafted, Wes Johnson. For what it’s worth, I’d love to see the Wolves trade for Cousins and see if a new environment can get him happy and productive. He has a rare combination of size and skill, and could be a legitimate third stud next to this quickly-developing duo of Rubio and Love. Perhaps an ironic flip of Wes for DMC would help both players and teams.
San Antonio Spurs come to town, tomorrow night. Not much time to enjoy this one. The Spurs will have 24 extra hours of rest on the Wolves, having had tonight off.
Season Record: 1-3