In short, this year’s Minnesota Timberwolves are good enough to be taken seriously, but nowhere near good enough to counter the other team’s attack on a consistent basis. I’d consider the first point a positive, relatively speaking, and really indicative of just how futile this past decade has been. While I’ll admit to being an eternal optimist, and yes I thought this team would be one of the eight best teams in the west this year, I truly believe there will be greener pastures for this team next season. The short-term future is luminous.
I commend the Wolves for valiantly trying to keep up with the Rockets tonight, but on the second night of a road back-to-back against a team that has proven to be a matchup nightmare, I don’t think this one was ever in the cards for them, even with Dwight Howard sidelined. Here are some grades for a select number of players who either played well or left a lot to be desired.
Kevin Love (A) 30 MIN, 29 PTS, 10-19 FG, 5-9 3FG, 4-4 FT, 6 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 2 PF, and -6 +/- : What else is new. Offensively, he tried to carry the team on his back, which by the way is an awful lot to carry. Behind the 3-point line, in front of it, it didn’t matter. Everything was falling, and he added a couple floaters for good measure. If my eyes don’t deceive me, I believe one of the floaters was underhand, which is especially difficult to execute. He has a knack for the basket, and I really hope he loves Minnesota as much as he tells the media. Please, I beg of you, don’t leave us, Love.
Corey Brewer (F+) 17 MIN, 0 PTS, 0-3 FG, 0-2 3FG, 1 STL, 1 TO, 1 PF, and -14 +/- : He was there, but he wasn’t really there, if you catch my drift. Brewer air-balled his first 3-point attempt, which is pretty much standard. His next attempt hit back-rim, at which point I literally clapped my hands. He missed, and I clapped my hands because at least he drew iron.
Gorgui Dieng (A+) 38 MIN, 22 PTS, 6-16 FG, 10-11 FT, 21 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 3 PF, and -10 +/- : Player of the game, without question. We’ve seen 20-20’s from Love, but to know that someone else on the team is capable of such a feat reaffirms the bright future this team has, especially coming from a young guy who’s just starting to get his feet wet. My favorite play of his tonight happened in the 1st quarter, when Dieng got blocked twice by Terrence Jones, then promptly cashed in on a jumper two possessions later. Despite being denied on consecutive attempts, he wasn’t discouraged and continued to assert himself on offense. Great demeanor by the young fella.
Ricky Rubio (C-) 25 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-6 FG, 1-2 3FG, 2 REB, 8 AST, 2 TO, 1 PF, and -5 +/- : Coming off arguably the best game of his career, in which he played heavy minutes, I expected him to hit a bit of a lull tonight. Patrick Beverley gave him practically no room to breathe, which is what Beverley is known for, so this performance, while underwhelming, was kind of to be expected. Early in the game, Rubio got hacked and the officials swallowed their whistles, but what made my heart flutter was Adelman adamantly defending Rubio and bickering at one of the refs. It was really cute! I like to see those paternal instincts from Adelman whenever Rubio runs into trouble.
Kevin Martin (D-) 20 MIN, 6 PTS, 2-5 FG, 1-3 3FG, 1-2 FT, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, 2 PF, and -13 +/- : Not even two minutes into the game, Martin got deep into the paint, and hit a short jumper. He took only four more shots the rest of the game, and made one of them. He was virtually non-existent and seemed visibly disinterested in the game. Wasn’t this supposed to be a revenge game for him? The human mind is a fascinating thing.
Dante Cunningham (C) 18 MIN, 4 PTS, 2-4 FG, 2 REB, 3 AST, 2 PF, and -17 +/- : Efficient. Also had the worst +/-, but that stat’s overrated anyway, right?!
Robbie Hummel (C+) 10 MIN, 3 PTS, 1-2 FG, 1-1 3FG, 1 REB, 2 PF, and -13 +/- : Made a three-point jumper in garbage time. The entire Boilermaker faithful rejoiced.
Chase Budinger (B-) 27 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-14 FG, 1-5 3FG, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 3 PF, and -14 +/- : Shot the ball. A lot. But, hey, at least he understands the concept of a REVENGE GAME.
J.J. Barea (IDK) 15 MIN, 4 PTS, 1-5 FG, 0-2 FG, 2-2 FG, 1 REB, 3 AST, 4 TO, and -11 +/- : I have nothing to say about J.J.'s game, but here's a link to his tip-dunk attempt from last night. Watching someone who's 5' 9" hang on a 10' rim really diminishes my own athletic capabilities. So thanks for that, J.J.
Luc Mbah a Moute (A-) 25 MIN, 11 PTS, 5-7 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-2 FT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TO, and -2 +/- : He played! Seriously though, that contested dunk in the 2nd quarter was slick, but I’m afraid I may never get to see it again. I thought it had replay potential, but then again everything Prince does is so exciting to me because he rarely gets the opportunity to do anything.
Alexey Shved (B-) 9 MIN, 8 PTS, 3-4 FG, 2-3 3FG, 1 AST, 3 TO, and -3 +/- : I was watching tournament games, and then switched it back to the Wolves game just in time to see Shved shoot a 3-pointer Klay Thompson style, meaning he caught it in front of his eyes and quickly released it. The shot sailed wide left; it was one of the most severe air-balls I’ve ever seen. I cringed and immediately changed the channel back to the North Dakota State-Oklahoma game (My chance of winning a billion dollars was crushed after Dayton beat Ohio State, in case any of you wanted to feel better about your brackets).
Dwight Howard’s smile (A+), per usual.