The Wolves took care of the Utah Jazz in relatively business like fashion tonight in Utah to get their road trip off to a good start and post their third win in a row. They seem to have acclimated to playing without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, though no doubt will be happy to see both players return, hopefully sometime during the trip.
It's nice when the team you root for is a) the better team, and b) goes out and shows it with a minimum of fuss. While the Wolves have had their share of blowout wins this year, it's still a bit of surprise when both a and b are true. I don't know if it's the start of something, but the last three games, particularly the two since the All-Star break, have been excellent--wins against the Pacers and Jazz in games that weren't really laughers, but were not really in doubt either. The Wolves were professionally efficient in both games, and eased to wins that they deserved. Fun.
Tonight featured another monster performance by Kevin Love, who posted a triple double, with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Love was particularly lethal in a 22 point third quarter that saw him get hot from behind the arc, but the Wolves were consistent throughout the game, grabbing an early lead and relentlessly adding to it in each quarter.
The game started out a bit sloppy, as the Wolves impatiently committed four turnovers in the first quarter, when it appeared that they could get easy shots every time down against a poor Jazz defense with some simple cuts and screens. They were unable to take complete advantage of this though, as they hurried several plays, especially Ricky Rubio, who committed three first quarter turnovers.
Things eventually settled down, however, and the Wolves slowly established their superiority. The 2nd quarter featured contributions by several deep bench players, as the injuries forced Rick Adelman to go further into his roster then usual. Gorgui Dieng finished the night with 8 points (on 4-5 shooting) and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes, though he still looked awkward at times and was whistled for 4 fouls. It was the best performance of his career thus far, and was welcome given the dearth of available bigs for the Wolves right now.
Shabazz Muhammad made a 2nd quarter appearance as well and added a couple of buckets, while Robbie Hummel also played as part of the 2nd unit.
All five Wolves starters finished in double figures, and it's worth pointing out that Ricky Rubio had one of his most efficient scoring nights of the season, with 15 points on 5-7 from the field.
The Wolves definitively put the game away in the first part of the fourth quarter, as they built their 13 point lead to over 20 and Love finished off his triple double. That was particularly nice to see, as that stretch (the first half of the 4th quarter) has consistently been their worst stretch throughout the season--it's usually the time when small leads get away and small deficits balloon into insurmountable ones. Against Indiana on Wednesday they were able to maintain their lead during this stretch, and tonight they built on it, which lead to relatively easy wins and a bit of rest for their starters.
For the Jazz, Enes Kanter had a big game inside, scoring 25 points on 11-14 shooting, but it wasn't nearly enough, as the Jazz could not compliment that with perimeter shooting, finishing 3-19 from behind the arc while the Wolves shot 11-23 from range.
Overall, a good night for the Wolves. Tomorrow they are in Portland for what should prove a much sterner test. Plus, BE trolls.
See you tomorrow.