It took the Timberwolves nearly the entire game to put away the league-worst Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night, but they ran away with it in the fourth quarter, winning at home 102-90. The Timberpups snapped their four game skid and improved to 14-16 on the season. Kevin Love put up a dominating performance, scoring 30 points on 11-21 shooting and bringing down 18 rebounds. K-Love played a very complete game and was a main reason the Pups’ were competitive with the Bobcats during a rough first half as a team.
For the Bobcats, rookie Kemba Walker and veteran Boris Diaw led the way. Walker netted 21 points and pulled down 6 rebounds, while Diaw scored 14 on 7-12 shooting. Diaw is noticeably fat this season, having gained significant weight to his midsection, but he was able to return to some of his past glory tonight, scoring with good efficiency. Walker played a very good game, using his explosive first step to create enough space to get shots off from nearly anywhere on the floor.
The Wolves other big man, Nikola Pekovic, had another stellar performance and put up 21 points and 11 rebounds, adding to his tremendous month of February. Big Pek is tremendous at getting inside position and uses all 290 pounds to muscle down his opponents. Pek featured the up-and-under to perfection and displayed great touch around the hoop after a rocky first half. He finished 10-17 from the field and continues to be a dominating force alongside Love. It appears that the T-Wolves now have two double-double machines in their frontcourt.
JJ Barea played arguably his best game as a Pup, scoring 12 points and tallying a team high 8 assists. Barea looked extremely comfortable on the floor and his great play led to Ricky Rubio getting some well-deserved rest in the second half. Rubio played a very nice game, only playing 25 minutes but recording 6 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals. Barea was able to take a lot of the load off of Rubio’s shoulders tonight, and it will be very beneficial to the team if there is a distributor outside of Tricky Ricky that can run the Wolves offense.
Although they were able to run away with the game in the fourth quarter, the T-Wolves really struggled throughout the first three periods, despite facing a very bad Bobcats squad. Slow starts are becoming habit for the Pups, and whether it is a lack of focus or intensity is unclear. The Wolves need to learn to not dig themselves a hole early on against opponents because it makes every game an uphill battle. There are many problems on defense that need to be fixed, such as rotating faster on defense instead of continually leaving opponents wide-open for uncontested shots. The Pups’ help defense continues to struggle and it derives from the fact that players stand and watch driving opponents instead of stepping up and picking up their teammates man. Finally, although they are getting better at hedging screens, the Wolves are still struggling to switch on screens and there is way too much miscommunication occurring during the switches.
The mediocre Wolves of the game tonight were Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley. Wes appeared as if he was going to enjoy a strong performance, but ended up scoring all 9 of his points in the first half and consequently disappeared in the second half. Wes’ offensive game is so limited that he can do little else besides catching alley-oops and shooting jumpers off the pass. Beasley played only 9 minutes tonight and scored 4 points, and Adelman went primarily with a smaller rotation of players. Derrick Williams also received just 9 minutes, despite playing very well when he was in the game. D-Will had a highlight-reel dunk with his off hand which captivated the Target Center crowd and pumped life back into the Wolves amid their first half woes.
Inactive tonight were Anthony Randolph and Malcolm Lee. Lee was recalled recently from his rehab assignment for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Timberwolves D-League affiliate. Lee still has some minor swelling in his knee and Adelman plans to slowly ease Lee into the rotation at SG and even PG. Anthony Randolph has had an up and down season thus far, but Adelman’s lack of trust in him has led to AR-15 seeing many DNP-CD in the box scores. With so many players log-jammed at PF, Randolph will likely stay at the bottom of the rotation unless future transactions or injuries pave way to playing time.
Luke Ridnour returned from personal leave, having a nice second half as he scored 10 points and dished 5 assists in 34 minutes. The Bobcats, like the Wolves, go with two point guards on the floor at the same time a lot, giving Ridnour more favorable matchups on defense than he is used to seeing.
Despite the victory, the Wolves continue to shoot poorly from beyond the arc and are in desperate need of a three point shooting SG if they want to contend for a playoff spot. All in all, a win is a win, and hopefully the Pups can take this high note into Friday night.
Key Player: Kevin Love nearly recorded yet another 30 point, 20 rebound game tonight, and he should begin to gather serious MVP consideration. Love is currently 4th in the NBA in scoring and 2nd in rebounds.
Key Stat: 26 assists as a team for the Timberwolves. With 13 turnovers, the Wolves had a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio which generally equates with a W.