The Wolves snapped their three-game losing streak last night in Dallas. Nikola Pekovic dominated early, posting up Samuel Dalembert. He also made a great slip cut on a play that also had Love cutting before him. Ricky, of course, delivered that pass. The offense was great for most of the game, thanks to the Wolves shooting 11-26 (42.3 percent) from downtown. I don’t know how much later success stemmed from establishing Pek inside, early and often, but that recipe makes logical sense to me. Rubio struggled with his jumper, as he often does.
Team defense was better than against Denver on Wednesday (hardly a high hurdle to clear) but not necessarily good. Dallas scored 106 points in a relatively slow paced game. Some of these points resulted from the elite skills of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis more than the lethargy we saw versus the ordinary Nuggets players. But there were more than a few basic breakdowns defending pick-and-roll, where the second helper wasn’t there and Dalembert was fed for an open dunk.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made his Timberwolves debut and logged a surprisingly-high 26 minutes. In that time he registered 4 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks. His defensive skills are evident on one viewing. Luc could probably defend all five positions and defend three of them really well. Whether out of jitters or poor hands, he made 3 turnovers that were pretty ugly. He also botched a layup when he rammed the ball way too hard off the backboard. As he sometimes could also be seen out of place in Adelman’s offensive sets, I’m guessing the turnovers stemmed from nervousness and/or excessive thinking. The guy’s barely been to practice yet. Given his playing time — without any practice — it seems likely that Adelman views him as a much-needed viable bench option.
This game was close. I should emphasize that. Kevin Martin was huge down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 27 points in the final six minutes. When he has his jumper going, the Wolves offense can be pretty damn good.
Final note: Gorgui Dieng played 4 minutes and 37 seconds of first-half action. He grabbed two rebounds, but missed his two field goal attempts. (He might’ve been fouled on the second one.) Gorgui’s stint coincided with — statistically, anyway — the Wolves best defense of the night. He turned his head away from his man (DeJuan Blair) on one play, allowing Blair to cross his face and score. Other than that, he was in good position and looked the part of an active goaltender.
Wolves at Oklahoma City, tonight at 6:00 CST. The game can be seen on FSN North and heard on 830 WCCO. The Thunder are the most top-end talented team in the Western Conference. They are on a 6 game winning streak. They have an 8-0 record at home. They, unlike the Wolves, did not play last night. They are currently 8.5-point favorites over the Timberwolves.
Obviously, this game will be difficult to win. One possible advantage in the Wolves favor is that Scott Brooks’ offense involves more isolation sets than some of the other teams that have ruined the Wolves halfcourt defensive sets. The challenge tonight will be less about second and third helpers than simply: How in the hell do we stop Westbrook and Durant?
It’ll be interesting to see Adelman’s rotations tonight. Specifically, I’m interested to see if he trusts Brewer on Durant in the second half, or if he goes to Luc. Brew did a fine job on KD in that early blowout win at Target Center, but that also involved: a) A lot of helping off of KD’s teammates for double teams; and b) KD’s teammates (who did not include Russell Westbrook) playing like high schoolers. The Thunder are quite clearly playing (way) better ball now, and it’ll take a special defensive effort to even have a chance tonight.
Something that sounds nice: If the Wolves somehow win tonight they will have a three-game winning streak over the Thunder.
Enjoy the game.