Tonight’s matchup with Philly turned into an interesting contest. It was interesting because a near-capacity crowd showed up on a Sunday night even though the Sixers don’t have a “superstar” talent that typically draws big attendance. It was interesting because it was very close for nearly the entire game. It was interesting because Jrue Holiday and Ricky Rubio are each fascinating players in different ways. And it was interesting because the Wolves won by a single point, in somewhat bizarre fashion.
Love Steps Up in #winningtime
For the first 38 or so minutes of this game, Kevin Love couldn’t do anything right with the ball in his hands. His shot was blocked repeatedly, and his jumpers weren’t falling. Trailing by 4 with 10:52 to go, the Wolves called timeout. At this point, Love was shooting 2 for 15 from the floor. Watching from the stands, I was perplexed as to why the Wolves continuously focused the offensive sets around Love in the post. It wasn’t working. Of course, when I took this confusion to Twitter, Love immediately began dominating the game with his one-on-one scoring. He finished the game by going 5 for 8 from the floor, scoring 13 points in those final 11 minutes, including the game-winning free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining. Despite struggling for much of this one, Love still ended up with a 20 & 15. Not so bad.
Jrue & Rubio
I hadn’t seen Jrue Holiday play live, before. Seeing him tonight, I was immediately taken by the incredible defensive pressure that he puts on the ball. He’s like a bigger, stronger Roddy Beaubois. (Me thinking this was kind of ironic, as Rubio scored 14 points in the 1st Quarter.) He’s also got pretty sick handles, carves up the lane and creates for himself and others, and is improving as a jumpshooter. Holiday was the 17th Pick in the draft where the Timberwolves selected Jonny Flynn 6th. Oh well, at least we have that Rubio guy. He was awesome again for stretches in this game, scoring in the 1st Quarter, and hitting Pekovic repeatedly for easy baskets in the 2nd Half.
* Many NBA players choose to not attempt long buzzer beaters, certainly protecting their field goal percentage at potential cost to their team. Tonight, Lou Williams carefully waited for the third-quarter buzzer to sound before launching, and hitting, a long shot. His team went on to lose the game by a single point. Stats are for losers.
* Corey Brewer (a player who ALWAYS took that shot–and even forced overtime with a 60-foot heave, one time) takes on his former team in Denver tomorrow night. Due to injuries (Danilo Gallinari) Brew has been starting for the Nuggets in recent games. He even led them in scoring the other night with 26. He’s a flawed player, but it would have been cool to see his winning attitude be a part of this Wolves resurgence.
* Wes Johnson (the player occupying Brew’s old spot in the rotation) played a scoreless 22 minutes, tonight, chipping in a couple turnovers for good measure. When I second guess Rick Adelman, I’m usually proven wrong (like going to Love in the post, tonight) but I don’t think I’ll be proven wrong when I say Adelman is making a mistake by giving minutes to Wes. His defense is fine–sometimes helpful–but it’s hardly “elite” or noticeably better than Martell and Mike, who are both better offensive players than Wes.
* Having won 3 games in a row, Minnesota is now back to .500, and within 1 game of the 8 Seed, currently occupied by the Blazers. Of the current Top 8, I view Houston as the one most likely to be displaced as a playoff team. The Wolves are currently 2 games behind the Rockets.
Season Record: 16-16
10 responses to “JRUBIO (WOLVES 92, 76ers 91)”
I thought last night was going to be the night when Webster would replace Johnson’s minutes. It wasn’t. To my eyes, however, Webster looked as comfortable as he’s looked this year and should start chipping into Johnson’s minutes if not taking them in one fell swoop. Let us hope.
Webster did something his team badly needed in last night’s game when he started getting tough in the (defensive) paint, pulling down those rebounds that the starting unit was losing in the early going. He’s a physical player.
My one disappointment with Martell was that he missed the easiest jumper in the game–the corner three off the “extra pass” (this one from K-Love, wing to corner) in a late moment of the game. That shot would have been huge and I fully expected it to go down.
@Andy G: Couldn’t agree more. It was like that shot was *meant* to drop. But it didn’t. That’s the kind of shot he’s here to make, and I think he will. I was just glad to see Love trust him enough to pass up his own look for an even better one from Martell.
What I find interesting about the playing time thing is how marginalized Beasley is becoming. Fewer and fewer minutes on a nightly basis since coming back from injury. Had the one big game against Houston, and since then has just seen his minutes reduced to the point where he’s becoming an afterthought.
Fascinating, since as I noted on CH, Beasley was one of the central characters in the T-Wolves drama coming into this year, and he’s completely fading into the background now.
I’m not judging it, really, but it does make you wonder. I have never been a fan, but Johnson is so terrible it begs the question. My WAG here is that Adelman prefers Johnson because he’s better at staying out of the way.
@Eric in Madison: If there’s one thing Johnson excels at, it’s staying out of the way. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say he’s the team MVP at staying out of the way…
Good point on Beasley though–he really is becoming an afterthought, and it doesn’t seem to be because his play is deteriorating. If anything, it seems to be improving, ever so slightly (that is, he’s passing the ball better in the rhythm of the offense and paying attention on D). But his minutes become fewer and fewer.
It’s one thing to have one guy like this, but you could do a find-and-replace with Beasley and Williams, and the same would apply. How long can that talent–fwiw–be left to languish on the bench before Kahn/Adelman/Taylor/whomever/ makes a move?
As a general rule, I like a shorter rotation, and Adelman is definitely using a shorter rotation than his predecessor (or many other NBA coaches). But if Beasley can get you 17 & 7 or so in starters’ minutes and present a different type of scoring option than the better players (Ricky, Love, Pek) I would think that’s something that helps the team. Maybe it is as Eric suggests–that they’d rather have a “get out of the way” guy out there filling the 3 spot, allowing for as much Ricky creating and Pek-Love scoring as possible? I don’t know. Also, if the idea is to have a standing shooter, Martell would seemingly have Wes’s job here in the very-near future if health allows.
@Andy G: I prefer Beasley, but this is why Martell should have Johnson’s job, like, well, now.
Yes, I developed this theory over on CH, so I’ll just copy that take here:
First, look at the starting lineup. You obviously want Rubio creating with the ball. Ridnour is the guy (along with Love) you want taking jumpers when you take jumpers. (In a dream world, he would be 6’5″ and an actual shooting guard, but this is reality). You have two uber-efficient scorers in Love and Pekovic, who have also (especially Love) become volume scorers.
So what do you want in a 5th guy? Someone who stays out of the way, or at least that’s how I think Adelman sees it. Johnson, as you have documented, is terrible, but I think the sins of omission are what Adelman prefers, for better or worse. He wants the other 4 guys doing the offense, and with Beasley that won’t happen. In that dream world, of course, Johnson would actually do things like make open 3 pointers.
As for the bench, it’s clear that Adelman prefers Barea as the “take over the offense” guy, perhaps because he gets to the line so much more effectively than Beasley. That leaves a diminishing role for Skittles.
That’s well put, and quite possibly explains what is going on. It could also have to do with behind-the-scenes factors (practice habits, roster management considerations, something else) but that’d be pure speculation. Of course I would never speculate on such matters:)
It is an interesting idea, and it could be what’s going on. My main question still would be why it’s Johnson rather than Webster playing this role. They both do a whole lot of nothing, with Webster doing it slightly better–especially given his ability to make open threes throughout his career. Here’s hoping Skittles will get his redemption and Webster can fill that void left by Johnson.