So here's how it went down.
Flip Saunders: "I told our guys down the stretch, we've got to makes stops and score. Ricky said, 'We're not going to lose this game.'"
|4Q - 1:47||Ricky Rubio - made 3||87 - 83 Memphis|
|4Q - 1:23||Courtney Lee - made free throws||89 - 83 Memphis|
|4Q - 1:08||Andrew Wiggins - made free throws||89 - 85 Memphis|
|4Q - 0:34||Ricky Rubio - made 3||89 - 88 Memphis|
|4Q - 0:11||Ricky Rubio steal||89 - 88 Memphis|
|4Q - 0:10||Ricky Rubio - made free throws||90 - 89 Timberwolves|
|4Q - 0:00||Ricky Rubio is unicorn||90 - 89 Wolves Win|
The Wolves needed stops and the Wolves needed to score. Ricky Rubio stole the ball and put in 8 points in 2 minutes. Wolves win.
What a difference this guy makes.
Post game tonight was almost entirely about Rubio, and rightly so. It wouldn't be entirely a reach to say Ricky Rubio singlehandedly won the Wolves this game. He was up. He was down. He scored. He defended. He stopped the Target Centers' collective heart when he limped off the floor in the fourth quarter screaming....well, let's just say he's on board with Stan Van Gundy's Wall....then got a standing ovation a couple minutes later when he came back out, bullied Flip into putting him back into the game, and then proceeded to win it.
Tonight was a showcase of The New Rubio. The Penberthy'd one, who calls his own shots and then shoots them with confidence. In the second half, Rubio didn't tally a single assist as the Grizzlies just dared him to shoot it, and so....he shot it. 0 assists, but 15 points. 3 - 4 from the Great Beyond. 8 of them in the final 2 minutes.
Of all the improbable things to happen in a Wolves game....as if a win over 37-12 Memphis wasn't improbable enough...we got a Ricky Rubio scoring onslaught. Ridiculous. That's not the Ricky we know.
But if tonight was any indication, it's going to be the Ricky we keep. Saunders was more than effusive about Rubio's work during rehab. Rubio was tireless on working out the glitches in his shot with Mike Penberthy (#NBABallot), and Flip thinks that, if anything, the injury was helpful for him in that regard. For the first time, he had....time. No game to be looking ahead to, no practice sets, no Spanish Team summer commitments. Just Ricky and the ball.
I was trying to do it as early as I could. It was hard because I was on crutches. I would say it's been a good six to eight weeks that I've been working with him [Penberthy]. It's been a pretty good feeling. It's not about how good you are, it's about the feeling you have with your shooting coach. He's been great for me."
Before the game against Miami, Jim Peterson caught up with Penberthy. Mike said that Ricky's problems with his shooting were more mental than mechanics; that Ricky doubted his shot, and was shooting it too fast to try and just get it over with. He then would miss, then would basically give up.
You can see the difference now, especially in person, where not only is Ricky's shooting motion better, but his process is better as well. His release is faster and he gets more arc and rotation on his shot, but he takes time to square his shoulders and sight up before firing.
The payoff is in games like tonight, where Rubio drilled two triples in the final 2 minutes....one where he called his own number and dribbled around a high screen before pulling up. Yes. That's right. Ricky Rubio pull-up jumpers off the dribble. They're a thing now. Rainbows and unicorns and Handel's Messiah.
And yes, Ricky's ankle is fine. You can breathe again.
Ricky on his ankle: "Nothing bad. I put all my weight on it for a second and it was a little numb. Nothing serious." THANK GOD— canishoopus (@canishoopus) February 7, 2015
The Wolves are still just 10-40. They're still going to finish in the bottom 5 of the league. But they're healthy now, and they've won two games in a row, mainly on the back of the Spanish Unicorn's semi-limited minutes. The guy is a difference maker in a way that borders on incalculable. I won't deny there's appeal to gunning for Jahlil Okafor or D'Angelo Russell, but ping pong balls bounce and in any case, the Wolves already have The Show on their roster. New and improved and better than ever. The Grizzlies tried to Grit & Grind the Wolves 6 feet under tonight, but like a Spanish Phoenix, Ricky Rubio just wouldn't let them.
- I'm not sure what was going on with Zach Randolph tonight, but he was not himself. Thad Young completely shut him down in the first quarter, then Dave Jeoger benched him, and believe me, ZBo didn't seem at all perturbed by that. The guy was loungin' at the end of the bench.
- Marc Gasol is tremendous. Unbelievably skilled and a hell of a defender. Whether or not he stays in Memphis (which he almost certainly will) he's a max player and he's getting max money and he'll deserve every penny of it.
- FYI Gasol's offense (and ONLY his offense....) is close to what I think Okafor's will be in the NBA. That sweet combination of post skill and elbow passing.
- When Anthony Bennett forgoes that midrange jumper to attack the basket, he can do some tremendous stuff. The dunking, 3pt shooting Anthony Bennett is the Anthony Bennett the Wolves need to be working with.
- Did you watch the Warriors/Hawks game? If not, I feel very very sorry for you. It was a monument to basketball awesomeness. The pinnacle. Great offense, great defense, great coaching, great mascots, great 3d projections on the court....this is the way the game is meant to be played. A true elevation of the sport.
- Let's talk about Anthony Davis. He's 7 feet tall. And tonight, he beat the Thunder with a double-clutch 3pt shot 10 feet off the line. Bow down, mortals.
- Last, but certainly not least, Nikola Pekovic has a new best friend: Thad Young's son, TJ. I walked into the locker room just in time to hear Pek ask the most Pek question ever: "Hey TJ, did you know you could fit this big a man in this small a bucket?"