As my preview post made clear, I thought the Wolves should beat the Cavs without too much difficulty. That is, unless they came out lethargic or complacent against a heavy underdog. Cleveland is a developing team that was playing without its go-to guy. So the Wolves’ 18-point victory in last night’s game is less cause for celebration than relief. Along with Kevin Love’s return to form (36 points and 13 rebounds, importantly regained free-throw stroke) Andrei Kirilenko’s return to the lineup prevented a letdown. AK47 never stands still. Even if he’s stationary in a set, it’s like he can’t keep himself from bouncing on his toes. Never long strides. Short, choppy steps, and quick, short jumps. Rarely flashy. Always efficient. He continues to cut at an elite level, and it seems that his teammates are following suit. Kirilenko sometimes defers on easy passes, knowing that a backcut is only a moment away. He had just 4 baskets last night, but on 5 shots. He had 6 assists, some for backdoor layups. His defensive energy manifested itself with 4 steals and 3 blocks that set the tone that lasted for most of the game. In 31 minutes, he was a team-best +23. It’s natural to wonder what the Wolves’ all-important “ceiling” is. (Other fan bases are doing the same about their own teams.) I don’t know whether it’s an 8-Seed, or a Larry O’Brien Trophy. But I suspect the answer depends strongly on keeping Andrei Kirilenko healthy and allowing his habits to influence his ‘mates.
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