I sense a new rivalry brewing. In a game filled with controversy and hard fouls, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Houston Rockets 100-91 and reached the .500 mark for the first time this season putting them at 12-12. Despite being under the weather, Kevin Love enjoyed a monster performance through illness with 25 points and 18 rebounds. K-Love’s big night was overshadowed by a play in which he appeared to step on the face of Luis Scola after a series of hard hits on both ends of the court. Love knocked down Scola in the middle of the lane, somehow with no foul called, and as Love turned around to get down the court he tripped over Scola who was lying on the ground, knocking his shoe in Scola’s face on the way past. Early speculation is that Love may be facing a large fine and/or suspension, despite Houston being the only team that received any technical fouls during the game. The play was the culmination of the referees allowing overly physical and cheap play during the third quarter, choosing to not blow their whistles and instead to let everything work itself out on its own. However, it is not the job of the referees to regulate, but it is their duty to OFFICIATE. They allowed clear fouls on both ends to happen and the referees are lucky that something more serious did not happen. In a game as physical and hard-fought as basketball, natural competitive aggression is going to come out and if the referees refuse to call fouls when they are needed situations like this are going to happen.
The Rockets had previously won their last 8 games at the Target Center and 15 of their last 17 matchups against the Timberwolves, but they looked very out of sync tonight and dropped to 3-8 on the road this season. Kevin Martin, traditionally dominant against the Pups, had a dreadful shooting night going 1-10 from the field and scoring only 2 points. However, Kyle Lowry picked up the slack for the Rockets, putting up 24 points and dishing out 11 assists. Luis Scola also got hot and dropped 24 points, but the performances of Scola and Lowry were not enough tonight.
Ricky Rubio had another wonderful performance and strayed clear of the cheap play, displaying veteran maturity and poise through adversity. Rubio scored 13 points and tallied 11 assists for yet another double-double this season and shot 4-7 from the field and 5-5 from the line. I am extremely proud of the way that Rubio handled himself in a game where he could have let his emotions dictate his play, but instead Rubio kept his head in the game and did not allow what he could not control to affect him. A man’s true character is brought to light while in the face of adversity, and Rubio continues to stay even-keel in moments of high pressure.
Luke Ridnour shot lights out and hit 4 three pointers in 6 attempts, netting 22 points and playing respectable defense on Chandler Parsons despite Parsons’ huge size advantage. Ridnour’s sweet stroke is the only thing keeping the Timberwolves shooting guard situation from falling into complete chaos, and he deserves a lot of credit for the great season he has had this year.
Backup point guard JJ Barea had a very nice performance tonight and looked like he hasn’t missed any time this year, scoring 10 points and dishing 3 assists. Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, and Martell Webster had quiet performances tonight but did not negatively impact the Pups.
The Timberpups started out hot tonight, shooting 58% as a team in the first half, but struggled in the second half and ended up shooting only 45% for the contest. The Wolves got a lot of help from the Rockets, who shot only 43% as a team and missed several key layups that killed their 4th quarter run.
Darko sat out tonight with a left leg contusion and Nikola Pekovic took his place for his 4th start this season. Pek put together another solid performance, scoring 11 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. At 290 pounds, Pek has a way of backing down anybody on the low block and has displayed a bevy of post moves that have contributed to his great play this season. Timberwolves assistant coach Jack Sikma has been spending a lot of time working one-on-one with Pekovic this season and has been able to bring out the very best from “The Godfather.”
Anthony Randolph was active tonight but Rick Adelman continues to sit him in favor of Brad Miller. Miller’s knowledge of Adelman’s offense is the obvious factor in that that decision and his passing and basketball IQ are assets that Randolph lacks. To this point, Randolph has essentially been an alley-oop specialist for the Timberwolves, but he has been a big factor in some of the Timberwolves game-defining offensive runs this season.
The Pups did a great job of breaking the Rockets 2-3 zone and flowed through the high post, making smart passes and creating easy opportunities for players. The Timberwolves continue to take pride in their defense and are playing as one, and it will be interesting to see how the Kevin Love situation unfolds as a possible suspension could really hamper the team.
Key Player: Despite being the subject of controvery, K-Love had a great game and continues to dominate whomever he matches up against. Love has elevated to superstar status this season.
Key Stat: Luke Ridnour was 4-6 from beyond the arc tonight and the Timberwolves only had 2 other three pointers as a team. Three point shooting is a dire need for the Timberwolves and look for David Kahn to deal for a shooter before the trade deadline.