1. A win! Normally a hard-fought home win over the Wizards in March wouldn’t feel like cause for celebration. But this was — like all too many games this season — an extremely shorthanded Wolves lineup without Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love and Chase Budinger. This collection that trots out Mickael Gelabale and Greg Stiemsma in the starting lineup (and Luke Ridnour starting at shooting guard) should be laughably overmatched. But they play hard and, for the most part, make the best ball decisions within their abilities and tonight that was enough for a win. The Wizards aren’t so bad anymore, either. At least not since John Wall returned from injury, they’re not. With the dynamic young point in the lineup they were 14-11 heading into tonight’s game. For the Wolves to win without 80 percent of their preferred starting lineup is impressive indeed.
2. Ricky Rubio remains the reason to keep watching. 15 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds and 6 steals. By my count he had 2 “Kobe Assists” when his driving attempts that missed were immediately tipped in by a teammate. (Once in spectacular fashion by Gelabale.) Rubio is as active of a player as I can ever remember seeing in the NBA. His shot remains broken — particularly off the catch. (He was 4-15 from the field, tonight). But everything else looks great. Whether he’s pestering an opposing guard, surveying the floor to set up a teammate or driving hard to the rim, he commands fan attention at all time.
3. Going purely off of observation, I’ve felt like the Wolves struggle to get out and run in transition. It’s noticeable at times when Rubio is in the game because he’ll either corral a long rebound or catch and outlet pass and look up the floor to no avail. Nobody else is running very fast. (An exception tonight was Chris Johnson, whose extra effort was rewarded with a 50-foot lob pass from Rubio.) At nba.com they’ve got all these data points in one place. The Wolves currently average 11.7 fast break points per game. That’s good for 21st in the league, and it’s much closer to the bottom (8.6, Brooklyn) than the top (Denver, 19.7). What’s interesting is that the Wolves are 11th in points off of turnovers. In other words, their secondary fast break must be pretty weak to have them 21st in fast break points despite converting steals into points at a better than average rate. To the extent there are any shake-ups this off-season, I wouldn’t mind seeing some speed added to the roster. Rubio is always looking up for streaking receivers.
4. Derrick Williams had 16 points and 8 rebounds. Not too bad. But man– there are so many moving parts to this guy’s game. He can get in a weird groove where he’ll ride his natural athleticism to 2 or 3 difficult makes in a row and then follow those up with a needless traveling violation and then brick the crap out of a wide-open 20 footer. It’s in such stark contrast to the player he’s filling in for, Kevin Love. Love has such perfect balance and fundamentals when pivoting, passing and shooting. Williams has more bounce in his step than Love but wastes it and then some with his loose cuts and sloppy footwork. This is more negative-sounding than he deserves tonight. He played okay. Still 0 assists though.
5. I remarked on the Twitter machine that Alexey Shved often finds himself with the ball when the shot clock is winding down. This means an impossible shot attempt that will inevitably ding his field goal percentage. I blame this on both he and J.J. Barea who too often stand out on top, wasting away precious seconds while stationary dribbling. On a team without great one-on-one scorers every second of the shot clock needs to be put to use. Passes and cuts until a defender screws up or a cutter finds an open seam. J.J. and Shved hold the ball too much.
Good win tonight, need as many of these as possible to build something positive for next year when everybody is healthy.
Season Record: 21-37