Here's the cliff notes version of this game
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Rebounding tonight Offensive: Wolves starters - 8 Kenneth Faried - 12 Total: Wolves Starters - 29 Kenneth Faried - 25 Mannimal'd</p>— Key Sang (@Phantele_) <a href="https://twitter.com/Phantele_/status/548697338248982528">December 27, 2014</a></blockquote>
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That's basically it. Kenneth Faried destroyed the Wolves of the glass when it mattered most, powering the Nuggets to a 62-44 edge in rebounding. Faried grabbed 12 offensive rebounds by himself and scored on 8 of them, including 3 times in the final 8 minutes when the Wolves went small with Robbie Hummel.
I personally thought the Wolves went too straight turning to Hummel. Robbie deserved the minutes....certainly more than Anthony Bennett...but he has no chance of checking Faried. None. Whatsoever. Kenneth is just too strong, too athletic and too active. He already had a 20-20 game when he checked back in the fourth quarter opposite Robbie, and used the mismatch to grab and score on 3 offensive rebounds, nearly singlehandedly turning what was basically a tie game (83-82 at the time) into the Wolves playing the free throw game from behind. Flip should have probably broken his rotation there and paired Dieng and Jeff Adrien together to keep a strong rebounder on Faried.
And it wasn't like the Wolves played poorly. They weren't like, Spursian, but they competed tonight. Thad Young got his game really going. Wiggins made a point to be aggressive, and showed signs of understanding he can impact the game in a myriad of ways away from the ball. Dieng had possibly his best game of the year. Bazz was Bazz. But in that critical 5 minute stretch in the fourth, Faried worked over the Wolves on the backboard and the Wolves simply couldn't execute well enough to sustain. They led 91-86 with 5 minutes left, but Nate Robinson forced a really bad turnover on Mo, Bazz and Thad both missed gimmes, the Wolves got foul happy, then Chase stepped out of bounds right before hitting what would have been a game-tying three.
Minnesota has struggled monumentally on the glass this season, ranking 24th overall in rebounds per game, including 27th overall in defensive rebounding percentage. Not having Pekovic and Rubio really hurts in this regard. The Wolves get after it on the offensive glass, thanks mainly to Shabazz and Wiggins. But more often then not, Dieng is left defending the Alamo on the defensive end, and Faried took full advantage of it tonight.
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It's some bitter irony for the Wolves to get beat this way. Not just in a manner that Kevin Love used to carry them to wins by, but in a performance where Maniman nearly equaled Love's 30-30 feat. The rebounding disparity sans-Love has been one of the leading factors (it is, after all, one of the Four Factors) in the Wolves' inability to win games, and no more has that been apparent than tonight.
- Dieng had himself possibly his best game ever tonight. 14 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, but most importantly he started showing signs of being a legit impact player on defense. He's rotating better, learning to tell when he should swat at the ball or just stand the shooter up, and he's ever-so-slowly starting to talk.
- Shabazz is hitting the next big test of his development: what to do when the other team game plans specifically to stop you. No one's getting taken by surprise by him anymore. While he's still gettin' buckets, there are starting to be times where he's being denied the ball and he's not sure what to do about it.
- Play Jeff Adrien more
- Anthony Davis dropped 22 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 5 blocks on Timmeh tonight, leading the Pelicans over the Spurs. Be afraid. He's coming.
- Josh Smith had the best debut ever. In his first game as a Rocket, Smoove came off the bench and promptly put up more shots than any of his new teammates, en route to 21 points on 21 attempts. Brilliant.