The Wolves lost tonight. The end result isn’t as upsetting to fans as the manner in which it came to be. Since it’s late and tomorrow is Monday morning, I’m doing this rapid-fire style with a few key bullet points:
* The obvious storyline is that Ricky Rubio sat out the entire fourth quarter, despite three major factors suggesting this was a bad idea:
1) He was playing pretty well. He had 11 assists in just 23 minutes of action;
2) A growing body of stats shows that the Wolves play much worse with Barea than with Ricky during fourth quarters; and
3) J.J. Barea, his replacement, lost his cool in a chippy matchup with Blazers reserve guard, Mo Williams. Barea actually won that matchup in the first half, scoring 15 points in the first two periods. But Williams eventually got him fired up (in a bad way — REALLY bad way) and this led to offensive fouls and dumb shots. Long story short: Rick Adelman has fans and analysts perplexed as to why he prefers Barea over Rubio down the stretch of close games. Wolves brilliant color commentator Jim Petersen openly discussed this confusion after the game, and it’s a story that is not going away.
* Portland was without LaMarcus Aldridge, which would seem to even the odds against an opponent missing two starters (and one of those starter’s back-up) of its own. But Damian Lillard stepped up with 32 points, and Thomas Robinson worked his ass off all night on the boards. (He had 18 of them.) With a raucous home crowd as inspiration, the Blazers ratcheted up their intensity in the second half, right around the time when the Barea wheels came off. Credit where it’s due: the Blazers took control of this game with their own effort and execution.
* K-Love had 31 points and 10 rebounds (ho hum) but seemed a little bit gassed in the second half. Or I’m just holding him to an unfair standard. He was really good, but probably needed to be great on a night when so many things went wrong for his teammates. I guess that summarizes his tenure as a Wolf.
* The rookies played a lot. Again. Shabazz is the most interesting to discuss because he was drafted the highest and because he’s played the least. On one hand, his scoring move — that spin-move that leads into a lefty baby hook — is scouted. Defenders know it’s coming and it no longer works. Not until he develops a credible counter, anyway. But on the other, he crashes the heck out of the boards. Bazz pulled down 7 rebounds in just 22 minutes. He’s far from polished, but I like his nose for the ball. Gorgui Dieng and Robbie Hummel also collected a lot of rebounds without doing much else. For what it’s worth, Hummel was a team-best +10.
* Corey Brewer played a poor game. I don’t have a single stat or play that comes to mind to support this, but he just seemed out of control and ineffective from start to finish.
That’s about all I’ve got on this one. Next game is Tuesday at Phoenix. Until then.
Season Record: 27-29