Excitement was high for Wolves fans as Ricky Rubio was set to make his first appearance since November 7th.
And then the game started, and the Wolves were down 10-0 within three minutes. Things didn't get much better throughout the first quarter and a half, as the Mavs built their lead to as many as 21 points before the Wolves began to make a move. They were able to get within seven at halftime, and hung around for most of the 2nd half, closing to within 2 points in the final minute. However, with Rubio on the bench having reached his minutes limit, they were unable to execute down the stretch and ultimately fell 100-94.
The story, of course, is Rubio, who wound up playing 21 minutes, finishing with 10 points (4-9), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 turnovers. He struggled at times tonight, as might be expected, and certainly was not at his sharpest through much of the game. That said, his final stint was excellent, as the Wolves went on a 12-3 run while he was on the floor in the 4th quarter, getting within three points after it looked like the Mavs were about to put it away. Rubio asserted himself during this stretch, getting on the glass and out in transition, as well as feeding Thad Young with a pass that resulted in the best non-assist you are likely to see on a made basket.
Despite the rust, there were several moments that reminded us why Rubio is so important to the Wolves, even if they don't show up in the box score. He got both Andrew Wiggins and Thad Young to the free throw line with well executed passes in transition, something the Wolves have been sorely lacking all season. He was able to feed the post with a facility we haven't seen, as well as actually run a pick and roll.
As for the supposedly rebuilt shot everyone was waiting to see the jury is still out. He was looking for it early, and made a couple and missed a couple. There was less hesitation in taking the shot, and to my eye it looked like there was more arc on his shot than we are used to seeing, but it was a handful of jumpers and the results were more or less what we're used to.
None of the above really matters. What matters is that Rubio is back, and the Wolves can start operating like an actual basketball team again. Tonight wasn't the prettiest, but unlike the two earlier meetings with the Mavs, at least this one was a game. As Rubio begins to play more and get in synch with his teammates, hopefully it will continue to look better.
- It was not a good night for Andrew Wiggins, who finished 4-14 and struggled to get shots through most of the night, even when guarded by smaller players. He did get to the line for seven attempts, and finished with 14 points, but also had four turnovers.
- Thad Young has started to put together a string of decent games, as he went for 15 and 9 with 3 assists and 3 steals. He also did a good job defensively on Dirk in the 2nd half. Nice to see him coming alive a bit in the last couple of weeks.
- Mo Williams looks a lot better as a back up.
- Enough of Chandler Parsons, who has gone 17-25 over the last two games against the Wolves, including 8-12 tonight.
- Next up is the Heat at home on Wednesday.