The Wolves extended their winning streak to two on Monday night, defeating the Spurs 106-96. 294 days passed between the last Wolves regular season victory and last night’s win over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. They only needed 24 hours to get this one. Life is good.
The Wolves put away the four-time champs from the get-go and never looked back. The loss was especially bad for the Spurs, who lost Manu Ginobili in the second quarter to a broken hand.
The New Wolves showed that (1) their starting five is capable of playing well (2) that they can run an NBA offense .
Fans have criticized Rick Adelman for starting the same 5 Kurt Rambis started last season. On Monday, the starters looked like they all deserved to be there. They led the Wolves to a 35-25 lead after one quarter and again played well together in extended 3rd quarter run.
The offense was crisp. The team put a lot of pressure on the Spurs D, whipping the ball around the perimeter to open shooters or running the pick-and-rolls that were so rare under Rambis. All five starters scored in double figures, with Kevin Love putting up 24, Beasley and Ridnour adding 19, Wes Johnson with 14, and Darko with 10 in 22 minutes.
As good as Kevin Love was in 2010/11, Adelman’s offense has helped him as much as anyone. Love still can’t create his own shot in iso opportunities, so this is key. Love’s increased scoring this season–25.8 so far in 2011/12 compared with 20.2 in 2010/11–comes from his finding more 3PFG opportunities in the seams of half-court sets and as a trailer on the break. Some of this comes from better conditioning (“Skinny Kevin”) and some from playing with the Spanish Ricky Buckets, but Love’s ability to find and get to open spaces on the floor so far this season has been nothing short of remarkable, as has been his rebounding (15.3 per so far) given that he’s spending more time away from the basket.
Beasley appeared to buy into Adelman’s offensive schemes for the first time all year, and Adelman rewarded him with 43 minutes. Beasley was both more selective with his shot and more efficient than usual, getting his 19 on 15 shots and letting the game come him. He looked like he trusted that he’d get the ball back if he were to pass it off to his teammates first. Beas played some nice two-man games with Rubio and looked to attack the basket more, rather than settling exclusively for jumpers, and although he only got to the line twice, he appeared to have been fouled a couple of times when the refs didn’t blow their whistles. Beasley’s scoring efficiency will pick up as soon as he attends the Kevin Love School of Drawing Fouls.
Wes Johnson. What to say? For once, I felt like I enjoyed Wes’ smile as much as David Kahn must have during Wes’ pre-draft workout: those toothy grins came out after WJ made a few jumpers and loosened up en route to shooting a perfect 6-6 and being +7 in 30 minutes. More important, Wes looked truly confident for the first time this year, and while confidence unfortunately can’t help Wes dribble, it can help him make open jumpers and increase his trade value.
* Ridnour played great–better than Rubio tonight. Ridnour shot and passed well, getting 9 assists to go with his 19 points, while Ricky looked uncomfortable, especially after the Spurs sagged off of him and dared him to make open jumpers. Ricky has been a huge difference-maker all season, but it was nice to see Luke remind us why he’s been respected around the league for a long time.
* Williams looked very good in only 12 minutes tonight, and the Williams/Tolliver/Love trio is clearly a tougher and more physical frontcourt than the Beasley/Love/Darko group that starts. In rapid succession, D-Will hit a three, stuck a deep two after going behind his back and crossing his man over, and spun off his defender for a SICK alley-oop from Rubio. When’s Adelman going to give him more rope?
* We missed J.J. Barea. Even with Wes stepping up at the SG, the Wolves lack backcourt toughness without J.J. You really notice how important the little guy is when he’s absent. Here’s hoping both he and Malcolm Lee can get right soon.
That’s all for now. The Wolves try to extend their winning streak to three at home on Wednesday against the Grizz. See you there.
Season Record: 2-3