Wolves vs. Lakers. 9:30 PM. Staples. TNT. Boom.
Let’s have some fun with…
PG: Ricky Rubio vs. Steve Nash: Before we knew Ricky, we thought he’d be something like Nash minus the jumper. Turns out that the only things Rubio has in common with Nash are his skin color and uncanny court vision & passing skills. Nash is a great scorer and weak defender; Ricky’s a poor scorer and great defender.
SG: Luke Ridnour vs. Kobe Bryant: It’s no fun leading half the stuff I write with “How can they expect Luke to match up with [insert big, physical shooting guard’s name here]?” But that’s the reality. Ben McLemore would be nice, but he plays for Kansas. Here’s hoping Adelman does the sensible thing and has Ridnour guard Nash and Rubio guard Bryant. In any case:
SF: Mickael Gelabale vs. Metta World Peace: This physical mismatch is almost as daunting as the potential Luke-Kobe one. I’m starting to doubt Kirilenko is going to get right again this season; it’s a shame, as he’s certainly been our best player when healthy. If he were matching up against World Peace tonight, the potential for physical harm to be done would have been high. And unlike Gelabale’s case, it’s unclear whether who would be the harmer(!) and who’d be the harmed.
PF: Derrick Williams vs. EARL CLARK: Williams is still maddening, but at least he’s starting to do stuff. It’s amusing (and kinda sad) how surprised even he looks when he does something good. So that’s the baseline we’re gauging D-Thrill from. That said, Pau Gasol is out. And Earl Clark stinks. For the Wolves, no Gasol = no worries.
C: Pek vs. D12: Tough call. Pek may be the most likable player in the League; Howard may be the least. Each is a unique physical specimen but in a tototally different way. (Pek sort of has the Rocky from Rocky IV thing going to D12’s Drago.) I’m an admitted D12 hater, so I’ll say:
Advantage: Wolves. (If for no other reason, agree with me because of D12’s ManSpanx.)
Predicted outcome: Lakers by 13
Last night was one of those when despite having paid for a cable subscription, an NBA League Pass subscription, and even Timberwolves season tickets, I was unable to watch the Timberwolves game. Comcast was not showing the game on “FSN Plus,” as was advertised. That is the bad news.
The good news is that by all accounts I missed one of the ugliest games of the season, with two struggling teams trading missed shots for turnovers. The score was 47-33, Advantage Suns, at the half. The Wolves clawed back and forced overtime, eventually missing two buzzer-beater shots, either of which would’ve won the game. (One fadeaway jumper by Ricky, another semi-contested layup by Shved.) The Wolves shot 34.4 percent from the floor. If you take out with Williams and Pekovic front line (combined 39 points) the Wolves shot 27 percent from the floor. Phoenix committed 20 turnovers and is a bad team. So I don’t feel all bad about missing this one. I took the opportunity to listen to the 2nd Half on the Wolves radio feed that League Pass makes available for blacked out games. Alan Horton does a great job.
Anyway, that’s all I can really say about the game, so I’ll continue my world famous Breaks Running Diary.
In a rare matinee, the Wolves lost by one point to the playoffs-bound Warriors. After a near-perfect first quarter of play, things became more difficult. Golden State got serious, beginning with Jarrett Jack nearly getting ejected for JACKING Greg Stiemsma in the chest, after a whistle. (What do these people have against Stiemer?) Golden State got serious, the game got close, and a Luke Ridnour runner barely missed with one second left, leaving the Wolves one point short.
1. Ricky Rubio flirted with a quadruple double.
Ricky had 16 points (10-11 free throws) 11 assists, 8 rebounds, 6 steals. I guess if we throw in his 6 turnovers he wasn’t too far from a QUINT DUB. Rubio was incredible on defense in this game, AGGRESSIVELY hunting steals and getting out in transition where he did stuff like throw passes between his legs to Pekovic. He’s really getting into a groove.
Sometimes the simple game flow image tells 90 percent of the game story. Last night the Thunder built an early lead — 10 points after the first quarter — and never looked back. The Wolves almost had the lead cut to 5 at half, but Luke Ridnour blasted Russell Westbrook as he attempted a desperation trey at the horn, sending him to the foul line for a gratuitous three points. The 8-point halftime deficit was as close as the game would get from that point forward, with much of the second half showing the Thunder ready to blow the game completely open. They led by as many as 17 points at different moments and ultimately won by 16. It was not a close game, nor was it a particularly interesting game to dissect. But there were some sub plots.
The Thunder are good.
If ya don’t know, now ya know — Oklahoma City has a great pro basketball team. Here’s something interesting about that: OKC’s winning percentage is .727 — obviously great — which if the season ended today would mean improvement for the FIFTH consecutive season. Coach Scott Brooks takes an undue amount of heat (Bill Simmons took his umpteenth jab at him during ESPN’s pregame show, not-so-subtly suggesting that Russell Westbrook’s temper tantrums are somehow on Brooks) for a coach who inherited an incredibly young, 1-12 team and has molded them into a steadily-improving Western Conference superpower. Obviously the talent of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant — on full display last night — is the overriding factor in the Thunder’s success. But there’s so little to criticize about such a successful team that it seems discussion for discussion’s sake leads to Brooks getting ripped way more than he should.
In any case, the Thunder are awesome and reminded everyone of this last night. Durant was his usual studly self. He poured in 27 smooth points along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. When standing near the Wolves sideline during free throws, he took a moment to extend well wishes to Rick Adelman and family, dealing with a scary medical situation. Dude is true class. Russell Westbrook, whose volatility perhaps makes him less endearing to fans, was the better of the two superstars on Friday night. Russ had 37 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds. When he’s hitting that mid-range pull up he’s just a half-click below LeBron James on the Unstoppable Scale. His historically-ridiculous explosiveness was on display when he was isolated one-on-one with Alexey Shved. Shved is very good at staying in front of dribble penetration, erring on the side of backing off too far. But Westbrook made him look knee-deep in quicksand, cruising past back-pedaling Shved for an easy two.
So yeah, the Thunder are good. This isn’t news, but it is the primary piece of information gleaned from last night’s loss at Oklahoma City.
I’m on the road today – lovely Pittsburgh is the destination – so I’ll keep this light.
The Wolves beat the Thunder on December 20th. The Wolves were above .500 back then. The Thunder had the best record in the League.
Good J.J. did stuff that night. If you don’t believe me, there video evidence above.
I was in Mpls for the holidays on December 20th. I was at Target Center. I saw Good J.J.’s Good Outburst. Stuff got real.
That night, you could see the potential this team had back before injuries *completely* ravaged it.
It was Business Time tonight. The Wolves were coming off of All-Star Break with excuses limited to the absences of Kevin Love and Chase Budinger. Ehh, I guess that’s my way of saying Andrei Kirilenko was back. Oh, and the opponent, Philadelphia, was as usual without their new, yet-to-play center, Andrew Bynum. The Sixers aren’t playoff bound. They aren’t that good. So yeah. It was Business Time. And the Wolves took care of business.
I don’t mean to skirt my game wrapping duties, but this’ll be brief. There just isn’t a whole lot that we don’t know about this ’12-13 group. Nik Pekovic? A beast. 27 points, 18 rebounds, and by far the game’s MVP. (PAY THE MAN.) Kirilenko was phenomenal on defense. Evan Turner embarrassed himself trying to take AK47 off the dribble. Pockets were picked. Ricky drew fouls. He shot 12 free throws compared to just 4 field goals. Scoring efficiency numb#rs will forever hide the flaws in Rubio’s stroke. He was off with his passing tonight, but on the whole played a nice game. (11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 turnovers, 3 steals).
Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers come to Target Center tonight
Tonight it’s back to the grind. The Philadelphia 76ers come to town for a 7 PM (FSN) tilt at Target Center.
The 76ers are 22-29 on the season, 6-16 on the road. If the season ended today, the Sixers would be the 9th seed in the East. They’re sniffing the playoffs. Every game matters.
The Wolves are 19-31, and 12-13 at home. They’ve lost 16 of their last 19. The playoffs are pipe dream, but the Wolves are still trying to win now – no one’s calling in the tanks yet. A deal before Thursday’s trade deadline does not appear imminent. But you never put it past Wolves POBO David Kahn to find a way to move pieces. (We floated this on Twitter earlier today for fun, and it provoked some, errrm, “strong” reactions (here, here, here.)
What does this mean for tonight’s game? We’re not looking at a Battle of the Titans, but we are looking at a couple of relatively evenly-matched teams. Both teams have stuff to prove. It’s a winnable game. It will be fun.
So who are these 76ers I speak of? Continue reading