Leaving the Target Center, I couldn’t help feeling pleasantly surprised at what I saw from the Pups. The Timberwolves raw talent was not enough to stop one of the best teams in the NBA, falling to 3-7 on the season. Although the defense and lack of a shooting guard continue to be glaring holes that will need to be addressed in order to start winning more games, the play of Ricky Rubio was enough to make you proud to be a Timberwolves fan. Rubio finished with 13 points, 12 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, and 5 turnovers. Going up against arguably the best guard/player in the NBA, Rubio played respectable defense and was the spark for the Pups huge run in the second quarter after falling behind by 24 points. Rubio played the most minutes in a game of his young career with 36 minutes, as Rick Adelman has obviously had enough of Wes and Wayne at shooting guard, instead rotating Barea and Ridnour at the 2 guard position.
Ridnour had a great game finishing with 22 points on 8-11 shooting, having the most success catching and shooting instead of off of the dribble. He is beginning to look less like a point guard and more like a shooting guard, as his shooting ability is by far his greatest weapon, and his passing and ability to create plays off the dribble seem to be fading with his age. His defensive ability is lackluster, but man does he have a sweet stroke.
The third player that really stood out was young Anthony Randolph, finishing with 18 points on 6-10 shooting in 29 minutes. His chemistry with Rubio is hard to ignore, and he had another top ten highlight on an alley-oop from Rubio. Being only 22, the sky is the limit for Randolph. If he can add some more muscle to his frame and continue to work hard, he very well could end up being the Timberwolves future center.
Aside from Rubio, Ridnour, and Randolph, the rest of the Timberwolves were marginal at best. Love shot just 5-18 from the field finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds. His statistics are deceiving because they do not show exactly how poorly he played. Love was lazy on offense and settled for too many contested fade away jumpers and got few looks inside. Not to discredit the Bulls excellent interior defense, Love really struggled. Derrick Williams had his worst game of the season and shot just 1-7 from the field. D Will looked like a rookie tonight, telegraphing his every move and hurting the team on defense. I have a lot of faith that D Will will respond positively to the adversity in front of him, as he is a tremendous competitor and player.
Hats off to Derrick Rose, he showed why he is the reigning MVP tonight. Playing with spectacular poise and patience, Rose dissected the Timberwolves defense and finished with 31 points and tallied 11 assists. The Bulls are simply too big for the Pups, and the frontcourt of Noah, Boozer, Gibson, and Asik boasts defensive dominance as well as efficient scoring.
An interesting story developing is that of the starting lineup of the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves started Ridnour, Ellington, Wes, Love, and Darko, but Wes played only 9 minutes, Darko 8 minutes, and Wayne 8 minutes. It seems something happened on the bench that has not got out to the public, and it suggests that the Timberwolves may be heading towards a new starting lineup. Tonight was the first time the Timberwolves have started a different lineup at halftime than they did at the beginning of the game, and the starting line is definitely in need of a shakeup. What confuses me is the limited minutes of Wes. He scored 6 points on 3-5 shooting, most notably scoring on a sensational put back slam. The fact that he only played 9 minutes really perplexes me, but obviously there is something else going on that has yet to get out. His defense, however, was very poor and he could not hang with Luol Deng. This situation is definitely something to keep an eye on.