The rapidly sinking Minnesota Timberwolves continued their three-year April drought last night as the surging Phoenix Suns blew them out by a score of 114-90. With Ricky Rubio at the Target Center to cheer his team on in person for the first time since his season-ending injury, the Timberpups put up a horrendous defensive performance, helping the Suns to shoot a ridiculous 57% from the field. The injury-plagued and physically exhausted T-Wolves looked like they had nothing to play for, and the heavy minutes that Kevin Love has been playing all season long appear to be taking a toll on his game. Having to put the team on his shoulders night in and night out has proven to be a strenuous burden for the young superstar, but he has battled through adversity respectfully and has been the only starter not to miss significant time due to injury.
To put this bluntly, no Pup played a great game last night. Kevin Love did not look like his usual self but was still able to record 25 points and 13 rebounds. However, he shot only 7-19 from the field and was noticeably tired throughout much of the game. K-Love committed 4 turnovers and 5 personal fouls, and it is evident that he cannot be the only one providing offense for this team. Playing with bone spurs in his ankle, Nikola Pekovic started the game at center and was able to provide 30 minutes of action, but scored 11 points while grabbing only 2 rebounds, all the while playing mediocre defense. With Pek starting, Derrick Williams came off of the bench and scored 10 points and brought down 3 rebounds. D-Will was a -17 on the court and continues to struggle on the defensive end. This will be a big offseason for the young rookie, who is going to need to learn to play SF if he is to have a significant role on this ball club. He has tremendous difficulty guarding NBA PFs and Cs due to his size, but he has the foot speed and the abilities to be a good swingman at this level.
With Luke Ridnour still out due to injury, JJ Barea got the start at PG and had a tough night running the offense. Although he netted 16 points, Barea shot 7-17 from the field and dished out only 5 assists in 32 minutes. The sparkplug point guard has been very up and down in his first season as a Pup and has struggled as a starter. Relieving Barea was rookie Malcolm Lee, who showed some good things last night. Although he is still very raw, Lee has been the only player besides Love who always gives full out effort on both ends of the court. The UCLA product is very versatile and is a very nice slasher off of the perimeter, but unfortunately the lack of depth at PG has kept Lee from playing his more natural position of SG, where he can move without the ball. Lee has a chance to be a very valuable piece to this team due to his versatility, size, and athleticism, and at just 21 years of age he could have a bright future in this league. In 23 minutes of play, Lee scored 5 points and tallied 5 assists.
This season has made one thing absolutely evident: The Wolves need perimeter scorers. Once again, Wes Johnson and Martell Webster both started and both provided absolutely nothing. Wes had many of his 9 points when the game was already decided while committing 3 turnovers in 25 minutes. Webster scored only 2 points in 27 minutes and is overly hesitant with the ball on offense, causing the offense to slow down and deteriorate. I liked him more when he had a shaved head (so did the stat sheet). Both Wes and Webster contributed to the awful defensive performance put up by the Pups. Backing up the wings was Michael Beasley, who scored 12 points on a measly 5-14 shooting while playing lazy defense. As much as I want to see Super Cool Beas succeed, his time in Minnesota may be coming to an end as he is set to become a restricted free agent. He simply has too many question marks that come with his price tag.
With the Suns in the heat of the Western Conference playoff race, the Timberwolves have found themselves in the same place that they have been for the last several years. They appear to have hit the wall as far as their physical endurance and have shown the motivation to dig deep and will themselves to win. The loss of Ricky was a huge shot to the team, but for their own pride’s sake they must finish this season on a high note.
- Key Player: Rookie Markieff Morris gets the nod as he provided 21 points and 6 rebounds off of the bench. The rookie out of Kansas was for a long time thought to be an inferior player to his twin brother Marcus, but this season he has separated himself from his twin (who is currently in the D League) and is an excellent rotation player for the playoff-hopeful Suns.
- Key Stat: The Suns dished out 27 assists as a team compared to only 17 by the Wolves. Although the Suns committed more turnovers than the Wolves (17-14) they were able to dissect the Pups sieve of a defense and played fundamental, team basketball.
Photo Credits: EOG