K-Love’s Good Day, Rookies in Action, Blazers Preview

Kevin Love.

That’s the two-word synopsis of last night’s victory in Salt Lake City. The Wolves power forward continued his even-better-than-usual stretch of dominance against the Jazz. In less than 33 minutes of action, Love put together his first career triple-double stat line. He scored 37 points, rebounded 12 missed shots, and assisted 10 of his teammates baskets. For the third consecutive game, Love attempted at least 10 threes (10). For the third consecutive game, he made at least 5 of them (6). Love connected with Corey Brewer for a few of their patented outlet bombs. He was a game-best +23 and, by far, the biggest reason that the Wolves won easily for the third consecutive game despite the absences of Kevin Martin (thumb) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle).

Rookies

I suppose the other thing to mention is that Rick Adelman played his rookies. Like, all of them. Like, even in the first half. Yeah, weird, I know.

Gorgui Dieng played the most of the three, which makes sense because Ronny Turiaf and Pekovic are both hurt and “G” is the only healthy center. For all intents and purposes, this was an encouraging performance from the rook. Statistically, he produced points and rebounds at a solid clip (8 of each in under 21:41 of playing time). He blocked 3 shots. However, he did allow Enes Kanter — a very physical and skilled post player — to score more than once. Also, Gorgui committed 4 fouls in those limited minutes. Fouling is his problem right now, which makes him a lot like other rookie big men who struggle to adjust to the pro game.

Shabazz Muhammad also played, which was more surprising. Adelman never plays Bazz while games are still in doubt. He scored 6 inefficient points (3-8 shooting, no free throw attempts) and pulled down 6 rebounds in 11:21 of action. He also had a steal, and a huge alley-oop dunk that got Wolves fans off their couch seats for a second there. Shabazz is physical and relies on his post game. It remains to be seen if and how he can round out his repertoire with more experience. It is encouraging how hard he attacks the glass on both ends of the floor.

Robbie Hummel played 8 minutes last night, scoring 3 points and basically looking like the same functional role player that we came to know (and love?) earlier this season when he was getting extended run with the first unit. Here is a random, probably misleading statistic for you to chew on: in first-half minutes, Robbie Hummel has the best net rating (plus/minus, per 100 possessions) on the entire team. He knows where to stand. He knows where NOT to stand. His positioning and instincts improve the team’s ball movement. He commits hard fouls when necessary. He mixes it up for rebounds. He tries hard on defense. It adds up to a helpful rotation player. Hummel’s a restricted free agent this summer and will probably sign a relatively small contract. (Less than $2 Million per year, I would think.) I have a hunch that he’ll prove to be worth every penny and more for some team.

Tonight’s Game

Love doesn’t get much time to celebrate that trip-dub. The Wolves play at Portland tonight against the Blazers; the closest thing this team has to a real rival. Fortunately for Minnesota, Blazers star forward LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the game with a groin injury. The Blazers play poorly when Aldridge is off the floor. He has his team’s “best” off rating of -4.4. (The Blazers are outscored by 4.4 points per 100 possessions when Aldridge sits.) This stands in stark contrast to the 7.1 points they outscore opponents per 100 when he plays. He is the Blazers best, most important player, and his absence could likely tilt tonight’s game in the Wolves favor.

It should be a fun one. Enjoy the game.

Season Record: 27-28

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