With Ricky Rubio sidelined indefinitely, Zach LaVine is going to get substantial minutes at point guard over the next few weeks. On Saturday. Flip Saunders decided LaVine would start over Mo Williams against the Miami Heat.
Flip "Mo even said he thought it'd be better for Zach to be w/ the main group...if we have to bring Mo in early, we can bring him in early."— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) November 9, 2014
Among the starters; Nikola Pekovic is option #1, Kevin Martin is the featured scorer behind Pekovic, Andrew Wiggins doesn't get enough scoring opportunities and Thaddeus Young scores 20ish points regardless of outcome. So, if LaVine could hold is own against Norris Cole, he'd be fine.
LaVine was put into a facilitating role, but was replaced by Mo Williams at the 4:00 minute mark of the opening frame. He wasn't terrible. He wasn't great. It was about what you'd expect from a 19 year old making his first NBA start. LaVine wasn't the only reason the Heat hit 9 of their first 11 shots and jumped out to a 20-8 lead during the 1st quarter.
The Wolves were unable to get anything going on offense and they couldn't stop the Heat, either. This made for a pretty bad stretch of basketball.
The lot of defensive issues were spurred by bad matchups, or mismatches.
- Martin was responsible for guarding Dwyane Wade with Wiggins on Luol Deng. (Kevin Martin was going to have trouble guarding either Wade or Deng. Wiggins isn't an elite defender. Not yet, but he's a better defender than Martin. This was just a pick your poison situation.)
- Pekovic had to follow Chris Bosh out to the three point line on a number of occasions. Which was awkward.
- Thad Young can easily guard Shawne Williams but Shawne Williams doesn't do a lot. So, not much there.
Coached by offensive guru Erik Spoelstra, the Heat picked apart the Wolves defense with relative ease and, after one, the Wolves trailed 13-29. They would fight back with a balanced scoring effort during the 2nd quarter, though. Eight different Wolves scored and the team went into the half trailing by 12 points.
For anyone watching, it may have felt like way more than that. The Heat shot 59 percent from the field through two quarters.
Pekovic scored nine points in the opening five minutes after halftime and headed to the bench. Gorgui Dieng was solid in relief throughout the evening, and his six points during the third frame - this helped keep the Wolves close. By this time, LaVine had slowly grasped some sort of rhythm and had even made a nice pass to Wiggins in transition, resulting in a dunk over Wade at the other end.
Still, the Wolves, on the road playing the second game in as many nights, were down 11 headed into the 4th.
Saunders had went deep into the bench throughout the evening; Corey Brewer and Robbie Hummel saw some run during the second half. Chase Budinger even made a cameo - although he missed all four of his shot attempts in seven minutes of playing time during the half. Anthony Bennett was inactive after suffering a minor-knee injury in Orlando.
In their second game without Rubio the Wolves were unable to stop the Heat down the stretch. This is despite narrowing what was once a 16 point deficit into a one-possession game. The slow and inefficient opening quarter proved to be the difference in the outcome.
The final score: 92-102
Without Ricky Rubio, the Wolves very well could have won the game. They just didn't have it on Saturday. But the potential with this group was and is there for all to see.
Flip Saunders, just as he may have been getting into a rhythm with his rotations, has to retool things on the fly as best he can in Rubio's absence. LaVine will get better in due time, and hey, maybe he'll become a competent role player once Rubio returns to the lineup. Nobody knows yet. We'll have to see.