Maybe it was simply having the uncertainty removed from the equation.
There's no cavalry coming over that hill. The Timberwolves that stepped onto the court tonight are the Timberwolves that will have to make this work, and they played like it. Eight Wolves played at least 20 minutes tonight. All nine that got burn made a positive contribution. And while Atlanta made a valiant comeback attempt in the fourth, it was too little, too late (and isn't it nice to be on the winning side of that one for once) The Wolves built a 16 point halftime lead by running out the Hawks like they were on a Discovery Channel documentary. Or Jack Sparrow on a beach. (Hey, his name fits the bird theme, ok?)
Sparrow Hawks, run.
It's not like Atlanta is an un-talented team. They're fast and athletic, balanced, and gloriously unburdened by things like ridiculously overpriced contracts. And expectations. Granted they're in the LEast, but they've still piled up 20 wins so far behind the underrated trio of Al Horford, Lou Williams, and Smoove.
Sans-Kevin Love, the Wolves can't be said to be any better than Atlanta. But they got the job done tonight with burly performance by the Peksecutioner and quite a bit of chaos from The Crazies. Ball movement was in full effect, the Battle of Great Free Throw Line was won, Pekovicorleone dominated the glass, and while the defense wasn't anything to write mom and dad about, it showed up when it mattered. Everybody shoots, everybody passes, nobody stays still for more than 2 seconds. Rinse, wash, repeat.
So this is it, Hoopusters. Ricky is back. Love and Budinger are 100% out for a spell. Unless management knocks one out of the park for one of the Super Gasol(io) Bros, the team you saw tonight is the team you have. And the only way for that team to win is to play like the team you saw tonight.
- Ricky Rubio returned to the court and chipped in 4 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals without attempting a single field goal.
- Alexey Shved returned to being awesome. 15 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and a very, very tantalizing run of burn next to Rubio. Those two have the potential to be reeeaaallllyyy really good together.
- And with Rubio healthy, Derrick Williams may have found his niche in Timberlife: Chase Budinger's stand-in. The guy is not entirely terrible at the catch-and-shoot thing, which is not a bad function for a Rubio offense. He still is slow as a Happy Meal wind-up toy when he tries to put the ball on the deck (and it'd didn't slip by that even on a couple catch-and-shoots, he still took a full 2 second to actually let fly), but if he can consistently knock down kickout jumper attempts, he may find a place here yet. Maybe...
- >What a strange paradox between Williams and Beasley. One is a guy with all the tools to get to the rim, but doesn't want to use them. The other guy wants to get to the rim every possession but doesn't have the tools. Is there a way to somehow create a Derrael Beaslliams out of that?
- If there's any good to come of Love's reinjury, it's that it looks like we'll see the return of 20 PER, .2 WS/48 Kirilenko. The guy is just so good when the team makes him a focal point of the offense.
- Pekovic eats glass for breakfast. Eats it. Like Cheerios.
- Kyle Korver would look really good shooting threes in a Wolves uni. Yep.
- Also, if....and I stress IF....we end up dealing Kevin Love, I could probably learn to love Rubioops to Josh Smith pretty quickly.
- Inferno had a pretty pedestrian game, but his steal of Atlanta's last-attempt inbounds was pretty big.
- Atlanta made the right choice not investing in a Mike Bibby or Kirk Hinrich long term. But their experiment to turn things over to Jeff Teague is not looking like something that's going to pay off big in the end. He still has a ton of bad habits from his Wake Forest days, and well.....Lou Williams doesn't start at shooting guard because he's 6'6"....
- Reggie Evans amassed 23 rebounds for Brooklyn tonight. Their other four starters combined for 9.
- The Pacers likewise exploited Miami's Kryptonite, as their starting frontcourt of Hibbert, West and George grabbed as many boards as the entire Heat team combined. Sorry South Beach....even with King James, you're not going to win many games when the other guys grab 22 offensive boards.
- Which brings me to the next bullet: get Chris Andersen before Miami does.
- Or trade for John Henson.
- Or Pau Gasol.
- Or a Tyranitar.
Why yes, the next generation of Pokemon games were announced today. For the first time in 15 years, Pokemon will let you walk diagonally.
I mean, gosh, what will they think of next? Voiced dialogue? Brave new world, my fellow bloggers and bloggerette.