The times they are a-changin’. With 0.1 seconds on the clock and Philedolphia inbounding from half court, Darko Milicic swatted away the 76ers last ditch effort to tip in the ball, securing a 92-91 come-from-behind win at home on Sunday night. With nearly 4 seconds left in the game, Kevin Love drove to the basket, getting fouled with only 0.1 remaining on the clock, with the Timberwolves down 90-91. K-Love once again played Mr. Clutch and delivered in the primetime, netting two free throws and sending his team to their NBA-high 10th win this season when down at halftime. Despite starting only 2-15 from the field and scoring only 8 points through the first 3 quarters, Love scored 12 points in the 4th quarter and finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes of play.
Alongside Love, Nikola Pekovic enjoyed another fine night, narrowly missing another double-double as he recorded 17 points and 9 rebounds. Pek shot an impressive 9-10 from the free throw line and played great interior defense throughout the entirety of the contest.
No Timberpups victory is complete without a shining performance by rookie sensation Ricky Rubio, who carried the Timberwolves scoring in the first half, netting 18 points and finishing with a career-high 22. Although he failed to tally an assist in the first half, Tricky Ricky tossed 5 assists in the second half and focused on passing instead of scoring in the second. Rubio continues to play like a veteran, scoring in spurts when his team needs him to, but also knowing when to get his teammates involved. The genius that is Rubio was able to overcome a terrific performance by 76ers point guard Jrue Holiday and was the key to the Timberwolves motor. When disregarding K-Love’s 4th quarter heroics, Rubio was the star on Sunday night.
In the first half, the T-Wolves turned the ball over 7 times, but went on to only commit 3 turnovers the rest of the way, including only one in the 4th quarter. The Pups held their opponent to less than 20 points in the 4th quarter for the 16th time this year. A major difference seperating this Wolves team from prior years is their ability to get better as the game progresses, and they appear much more comfortable in the 4th quarter and clutch situations. K-Love has been spectacular this season and was able to turn an obvious off night into a 20-15 performance. The true superstars in this league are able to overcome tough shooting nights and perform when their team needs it most. There is no question about it: Kevin Love is a legitimate NBA superstar.
After missing the last game due to the birth of his first child, JJ Barea played a very nice game off of the bench, penetrating into the lane and finishing among a very good defensive 76ers frontcourt. Barea has really found his groove in his last few games and is playing like the stud we watched defeat the Heat in the finals last summer. In 21 minutes, Barea scored 14 points and only turned the ball over once.
Also in the Pups backcourt, Luke Ridnour added another solid performance and scored 10 points on 5-10 shooting. Ridnour has pulled himself out of his earlier shooting slump and is back to swooshing nearly every open look he gets. The 76ers went a lot without a bigger shooting guard in the game, and the Pups matched up well with them.
After playing a very good game against Houston, Wes Johnson was nowhere to be found tonight, failing to record a point in 22 minutes of play. The Pups bench, outside of Barea, did not provide much support, and the trio of Martell Webster, Michael Beasley, and Derrick Williams scored just 9 points. Head coach Rick Adelman continues to go with a smaller rotation, giving the starters big minutes and fewer minutes for bench players. So far, so good, and the Pups are now 16-16, once again sitting at .500.
The 76ers played an excellent game tonight and should not hang their heads over this tough road loss. The 76ers had the lead for much of tonight’s contest and were great defensively. Jrue Holiday had a wonderful game and is having a very good season thus far. “The Jruth” is a tremendous on-the-ball defender and played Rubio very well. The 76ers backup point guard, Lou Williams, is currently the 76ers leading scorer and provides tremendous offensive punch for the team’s second unit. Tonight, Sweet Lou fell short of his average and only scored 13 points on 5-12 shooting. Rookie Nikola Vuvecic is also enjoying a great season and brings excellent interior defense and good offensive rebounding.
The Wolves struggled some on the defensive glass, allowing 14 offensive rebounds to a team that is ranked 29th in the NBA in offensive rebounding. Their defense, as a whole, was very solid and they held their own against one of the NBA’s best teams. The Timberwolves will need to build on this performance, and gaining more success in the clutch will surely add fire and confidence to their game.
Key Stat: The Timberpups were 23-26 from the free throw line as a team tonight. In a game separated by 1 point, the Wolves brought their best at the line and took advantage of the opportunities that Philadelphia handed them.
Key Player: Kevin Love was not brilliant tonight, but his tremendous 4th quarter and last second heroics turned a poor game into a magical one.