MINNEAPOLIS -- Almost midway through the fourth quarter, the Wolves found themselves in an all too familiar place, down 14 points to a superior team with their backs against the wall. Looking back, the young Wolves easily could have folded in the moment. Instead, Ricky Rubio and company gave the Western Conference's best team, heading into the All-Star break, a real genuine scare.
Marreese Speights made a layup with 7:41 left in the game to push the Warriors lead to 85-71, and it felt like the perfect time to start looking up recipes for another meaningless recap. But Flip Saunders decided against waving the white flag and emptying his bench. Instead, he subbed Thad Young and Nikola Pekovic back in the game for Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng, to go alongside Rubio, Martin and Wiggins.
The Wolves responded with a 12-0 run, led by their alpha wolf, and suddenly found themselves down only two points with 4:13 remaining (85-83). Rubio was simply magical in the comeback, scoring seven of those 12 points and handing out 2 assists, adding four rebounds and a steal. The momentum truly shifted as Rubio tipped an errant Andre Iguodala pass near the sidelines and hustled to save the ball from going out of bounds. But Rubio didn't just save the ball to regain possession. He did this...
"He's the engine that runs the show," Thad Young said of Rubio after the game.
But down the stretch the Wolves couldn't push past the Warriors. Rubio missed a 19-foot jumper with 36 seconds left (it was 92-91 in favor of GSW at this point) and Pekovic missed a short right-handed shot near the basket with 8 seconds remaining. Steph Curry hit two free throws to put the Warriors up 94-91 and two seconds remained on the clock. Here's how Curry got the to line...
After Curry's free throws, the Wolves had a side out of bounds play -- Wiggins was the inbounder, because Saunders said he's the best passer on the team outside of Rubio and can use his 6'8" frame to pass over defenders -- but failed to execute (maybe it's just me, but I would have used Rubio as the inbounder and drawn up a play to open up Wiggins for a three-point attempt). Martin bobbled the ball and it appeared to go off his thigh, the referees called it out on him, with 1.4 second remaining. After laboring over the replay they ultimately changed the call on the court, and the Wolves had one last chance to drain a three-pointer at the buzzer. They tried to get the ball to Budinger (?) in the corner across the court, to no avail, and the buzzer sounded. Game over, Warriors win.
Curry finished with 25 points on 9-for-23 shooting for Golden State, who enter the All-Star break with the best record in the NBA (42-9), but struggled from deep (2-for-10 on the night). Rubio posted a nice 18/9/5/3 line in 32 minutes, while Kevin Martin poured in a team-high 21 points in 36 minutes. Thad Young finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Golden State outscored Minnesota 32-14 in bench points and shot 17 for 30 from the field. The Wolves bench, on the other hand, was seriously dreadful.
"We got nothing out of our bench tonight, our bench was bad," coach Flip Saunders said after the game. Yes, shooting a combined 1-17, which is what the Wolves bench finished, is indeed quite bad, tragic even. Shabazz Muhammad was the only reserve to make a basket, leading the second unit with 6 points and 4 boards in 14 minutes. Gorgui Dieng was 0-5 in 14 minutes and -10 on the night. Zach LaVine was 0-4 in 16 minutes, posting a -9 in his return to the (gulp) backup point guard role after the team dealt Mo Williams, along with Troy Daniels, to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.
"We had opportunities," coach Flip Saunders said. "Pek had a great look with a layup, we made some stops defensively, we made some scores and made some shots. We got Pek the ball with eight seconds to go and he had basically a layup, a guy's foot was underneath him, he thought he was going to land on it so he kind of short-armed it. We had an opportunity to get the ball back, I think everyone touched it on that one. Those are tough ones because you play and you put yourself in a position but aren't able to finish it."
- Warriors coach Steve Kerr on going into the all-star break with single-digit losses:
"42-9, amazing, amazing record. I'm really proud of the guys. I've never seen a group that needed the all-star break more than this team. I mean we're so out of whack right now. We're tired, we're not making our cuts, we're not getting good shots for each other, the ball has stopped moving and we need a rest. Fortunately we'll get one."
- Pekovic looked quite good against a prominent defender in Andrew Bogut (5th in DRPM: 5.16), finishing with 17 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a team-high +9 in 34 minutes of action.
- Rubio was 2-5 from deep, improving his three-point shooting to 46.1% (6-of-13) in five games since returning from injury. PENBERTHY!
- Golden State finished the night 7-of-27 (25.9%) from long range. The Wolves limited the Warriors to 12-of-49 (24.5%) shooting from three in their two games at Target Center this season.
- Wolves rookie Andrew Wiggins after the game:
Think this break will be good to get recharged?
"I think this All-Star break will be good for me, it'll be good for a lot of the players. Get some time to rest, get our legs back and get ready for the hard part of the season."
Do you feel good about the comeback or disappointed in not pulling it out?
"It was disappointing that we didn't win obviously but I'm proud that we came back, we fought back. We got to play the last eight minutes the whole game, we just can't wait until the last quarter to pick it up and play hard. We have to play hard from the jump."
Tweets from last night:
Ricky said he's going somewhere sunny over the All-Star break so he can get some vitamin D.— canishoopus (@canishoopus) February 12, 2015
TJ Young (Thad's son) said he's going to watch "Scary Turtles" when he gets home tonight. Thad explained this is what TJ calls Ninja Turtles— canishoopus (@canishoopus) February 12, 2015
Pekovic has been passing out of the post MUCH more frequently and far better than I can ever remember over the last 5 games. Positive sign.— canishoopus (@canishoopus) February 12, 2015
After the game, Pek asked me how many assists he had. I said FOUR!! and he made this face like he had 14 assists. Then I said... [continued]— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) February 12, 2015
... "seems like you've been dishing out of the post more than ever, is that something you've been working on?" & Pek was like "meh, no, nah"— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) February 12, 2015
Here's something that happens in the locker room almost every time I'm there...
It's almost become a postgame ritual for Pek to make fun of Wiggins for grabbing a bunch of Gatorade out of the team fridge on his way out.— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) February 12, 2015
Continued... Tonight Pek was like "Andrew, it's like $20 at the gas station man" when Wigg started filling up a plastic bag. AW just smiled.— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) February 12, 2015
Here's Flip's postgame presser if you care to listen: