Good Cop: Wolves win! The Timberwolves beat the visiting Philadelphia 76ers 106-99 at Target Center on a bitter-cold, not-yet-actually-Winter’s night. The victory ups their record to 11-11, back to .500 around the season’s quarter mark.
Bad Cop: The win came against Philly, one of the league’s least talented teams and front runners for Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 Draft. Philly traded away Jrue Holiday for a rookie with a torn ACL. They are sitting their other rookie (and best guard) with a cryptically-explained skin condition. (Cough, #tanking, cough.) Oh, and the Wolves barely won. They allowed 39 points in the first quarter. Read that last sentence again. To quote Rick Adelman, “Obviously the first quarter was awful. They’re a young team. We told them exactly what they were going to do… They just got going and got us on our heels.”
Good Cop: Ricky scored 21 points and played one helluva floor game. He buried a clutch three to tie the game in the fourth quarter, and made one of his patented, Ed Reed-like (oxymoron alert) interceptions of an inbounds pass with less than two minutes to go to help seal the win. It’s hard to overstate the importance of Rubio being an offensive threat. If I had to point to one thing that could raise the Timberwolves ceiling from “first-round exit playoff team” to title contender it would be Rubio developing the ability and confidence to knock down open jump shots without hesitation. Tonight was one small step in the right direction. It’s a long process and reports suggest he’s working hard on his shot. We all should hope to see more games like tonight’s from him.
Bad Cop: Kevin Martin was totally out of it. The Wolves best perimeter scorer (by far) scored just 5 points on 1-9 shooting in 28 crappy minutes. I’ve been a much bigger fan of Martin than I expected to be. He’s been a seriously-good all-around scorer and far more versatile on offense than I ever anticipated. His defense is bad once in a while, but he manages to hide himself out there enough to where I don’t perceive him to be a problem. But tonight, he missed some early shots — layups and jumpers — and then stopped shooting altogether. On one possession he passed up an open shot in the corner only to pass over to Brewer (an unbelievably-worse shooter) who couldn’t get an attempt off before the shot-clock expired. Adelman on Martin: “He just seemed to be not active at all. So I went with somebody else [in the fourth quarter].”
Good Cop: ROBBIE HUMMEL!!! Dammit, this guy needs to play! He’s the one and only player on the team that is a pure catch-and-shooter. He spaces the floor. He gives a crap on defense, even if he isn’t super quick or athletic. He had 10 points on 4-6 shooting and 3 rebounds in just 12 minutes. In that small amount of crunchtime play, he was (tied for Pekovic with) a team-best (+16). On the season, he has one of the team’s best plus/minus ratings, and this is now growing into a significant sample size. The Wolves have a lot of poor shooters. Even Kevin Martin, who is obviously a great one, has a funky enough shot release that he doesn’t always space the floor the way someone with a quick trigger like Hummel does. (Don’t interpret that as me saying Hummel is a better player, or even better shooter, than Martin.) I don’t know how Robbie played his way out of Adelman’s rotation so quickly, but they might need him out there instead of Mbah a Moute for games that don’t include LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
Bad Cop: Evan Turner was bad. I don’t know if that fits into this theme, but it warrants some attention. After a nice scoring start, Turner Turned into a Turnover machine. He had 9 of them for the game.
Good Cop: Love and Pek combined for 46 points, 25 rebounds and 8 assists. After a rocky start, both guys made a huge impact in the second half. This needs to be an almost-every-night thing. Just follow the money. These guys make the most of it and need to produce.
Bad Cop: This team’s nonchalant approach to bad teams, even though this team isn’t particularly talented itself from a big-picture NBA standpoint. The front line isn’t scaring any opponents from attacking the rim. Ricky’s not pulling defenses out to contest his jumper. Brewer is wild and crazy, which can work all sorts of ways both good and bad. It’s pretty maddening — and clearly frustrates the hell out of Adelman — that they don’t do their best to make up for some shortcomings with consistent, professional effort. You could argue that Adelman isn’t even the best coach for this team because he’s simply not going to be the guy to get in people’s faces and bark orders. But should a competitive professional basketball team really need that? He said after the game, “It’s pretty obvious. You shouldn’t have to say anything. You shouldn’t have to say much after the way we started the game. We have to learn a lesson. You get a nice win last night, it means nothing tonight.”
Good Cop: We’ll close on a high note. The Wolves now have a winning streak; the first since the season’s 6th and 7th games. Continuing it on Friday Night at San Antonio will be difficult to say the least. Perhaps the Wolves can pick up their first great win of the season and really get something going.
Season Record: 11-11