The Timberwolves marched into Dallas on Wednesday night to defeat the defending champs 105-90 on a night where the Mavericks received last year’s championship rings. JJ Barea received his ring valued at 40K, but was unable to play due to injury along with Michael Beasley, Martell Webster, Brad Miller, Malcolm Lee, and Luke Ridnour. Although missing Dirk Nowitzki due to a sore knee, the Mavericks came into tonight as one of the hottest teams in the NBA winning 8 of their last 10 after a very lackadaisical start to their season. On the day of inking his extravagant contract extension, Kevin Love played like a superstar and dismantled the defending champs in their building.
With Ridnour and Barea out, Ricky Rubio was forced to play nearly every minute of the game, playing a career high 46 minutes. Rubio had a very good game, especially considering his obvious fatigue by the end of the game and he scored 17 points, had 12 dimes, pulled down 7 rebounds and also had 4 steals. Although turning the ball over 7 times, Ricky controlled the tempo of the game and found teammates all over the court, silencing a sellout crowd in Dallas.
Kevin Love showed why he is now making top dollar as he scored 31 points on 9-16 shooting including 9-10 from the free throw line and 4-6 from three. Love had 10 rebounds and recorded his 17th double-double of the short season. Love played extremely smart basketball and had a very nice game defensively, and you have to be thrilled with the breakout campaign he is having this season.
Derrick Williams started at SF for a second night in a row due to Wes Johnson’s limited availability and had a respectable game finishing with 10 points and 6 rebounds. D-Will can still get out of control on some of his drives and telegraph some of his moves, leading to easy blocked shots, but his tenacity and effort are really helping the Timberpups to keep plays alive and to get second chance baskets. D-Will is very confident and continues to shoot even after missing shots, which is a great sign for a rookie. Williams has a great attitude and is a fearless competitor, and his growth as an NBA player is noticeable every week.
With only 9 healthy players in the lineup, the Pups played one of their best, most compete games of the season. They held Dallas to only 36 second half points and played a much better second half than first.
In the first half the Pups allowed opponents to penetrate into the lane and their help defense was very poor. Also, their transition defense led to easy buckets for the Mavericks as the Pups were clearly getting out-hustled down the court. Shawn Marion had a good first quarter but cooled off the rest of the game, and Jason Terry also had a very nice first half but struggled to hit open shots in the second half.
A glaring weakness of the Timberwolves is their inability to find and box out a man on every possession, and it is something they are going to have to figure out if they are going to continue to win games. Although they played great defense in the second half, the Mavericks inability to hit open shots, especially in the fourth quarter, contributed to the 15 point victory.
Darko Milicic ended up having one of his best games of the season, scoring 8 points with 7 rebounds and an absurd 7 blocks. Darko was great all game on defense and hopefully he can build on tonight’s performance.
As good as Darko was tonight, Nikola Pekovic was better. The 290 lb beast scored 13 points and grabbed 7 boards in only 20 minutes of play, and he completely dominated Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi every minute he was out there. Coach Adelman seems to have found a good balance with his centers as both have been enjoying success as of late. The big question is what is going to happen when Brad Miller is ready to play?
Wayne Ellington has been great all season and was huge for the Pups tonight. Ellington now has the mental edge to be a solid contributor in the NBA and his instant success in Rick Adelman’s system is a testament to our great coach. Ellington scored 16 points and played 39 minutes.
Key Stat: Minnesota was 28-33 as a team from the free throw line. If they can make their free throws, more games will end up like tonights did.
Key Player: Kevin Love was nothing short of sensational tonight and hopefully tonight was a representation of how the next four years will be like.