About twenty minutes ago, Matt Barnes and Serge Ibaka were both ejected from a basketball game. Ibaka fouled Blake Griffin under the basket and the two star big men got their arms twisted up. Whether it was aggressive basketball or showy machismo, the interlocking continued. Serge pushed Blake and Barnes quickly dove in and shoved Ibaka back. Serge then balled a fist, a crowd swarmed between them, and — one Ken Mauer video review later — two key players were headed to the showers before the half. The period ended with Russell Westbrook sticking a pull-up trey in Chris Paul’s eye, turning and signaling double holsters to drive the point home:
It was on now.
That game is still being played, now entering the fourth quarter as I write. No matter who wins (Clips lead by 5 at the moment) tomorrow’s game wraps are certain to include a few sports-cliche buzzwords. It was a “playoff atmosphere” out there on the Staples Center floor. The game was “a preview of what’s to come” in the playoffs, next spring. There “will be no love lost” the next time Ibaka and Griffin match up in the post.
I begin with this because it is the polar opposite of what went down at Target Center tonight.
The Timberwolves cruised to a 29-point win over the Cavaliers that was the NBA’s version of an easy Sunday drive.
Kevin Love dominated, as usual. He made shots, drew fouls, and helped initiate ball movement. Ricky Rubio was scrappy and continually found open shooters. He wowed fans with no-look passes.
Those shooters, which included the erratic Corey Brewer and first-time starter Robbie Hummel (replacing the flu-ridden Kevin Martin) converted opportunities. Brewer was particularly hot, making 5 of 5 from downtown with less hesitation off the catch than a heat-checking Steph Curry against a broken transition defense. Hummel, an obvious question mark due to a dearth of career minutes on his resume, was refreshingly “solid.” After the game, Coach Adelman referred to him as a “glue guy.” He knows where to stand (and, importantly, where NOT to stand) and he is a credible threat that spaces the floor for the dribblers and cutters around him.
After one quarter the Wolves led by 14. After two the lead was 23 and after three it was up to a whopping 32. On the jumbotron, Rubio and Love were shown next to their gaudy stat lines (16/16/6 for Ricky, 33/8/6 for Love) with the implicit invitation to stand and applaud a job well done. They got their work done early on this Wednesday Night, allowing rookies Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad some time to run up and down in front of a crowd that hadn’t left or lost all interest yet.
The whole thing was fun. And easy.
Assuming that this unfamiliar thing called winning continues — and forgive me for beginning to drink some of the Kool-Aid — there will be enough games like the one being played between the Clippers and Thunder. The West is, as always, loaded with good teams. It’s Paul and Griffin one night, Westbrook and Durant the next, and Harden and D12 the following week. With Ricky and Brew relentlessly pressuring passing lanes, Love jostling for rebounding position, and J.J. Barea being J.J. Barea, the Wolves will likely engage in a few scraps of their own this season. Those will be their own type of fun. If things go to Flip and Rick’s plan, those dog fights will continue deep into the playoffs.
But when a middling Eastern Conference foe comes to Target Center on a night when the home team is rested, it’s refreshing to see this type of win.
An ass-kicking Sunday drive.
Season Record: 6-3