It took exactly 3 years and 11 days, but the Timberwolves were finally able to win in April, breaking a curse in which their last April victory occurred on April 8, 2009 against the Golden State Warriors. Once again playing without Kevin Love or Luke Ridnour, the Timberpups faced an inferior opponent in the Detroit Pistons and went on to win in front of a remarkably small Detroit crowd by a score of 91 to 80. The Wolves held a comfortable margin for much of the contest and only in final minutes of the game were the Pistons able to trim the margin under double digits. The Pups were able to hold on, snapping an 11 game skid while breaking a three year old curse, helping Timberwolves fans across the state to let out a collective sigh of relief.
After one half of play, the Pups led the Pistons 49-31. In the first half, Minnesota outshot the Pistons by an astounding margin of 57% to 29%. Led by JJ Barea’s 8 assists, the Wolves recorded 15 assists as a team compared to only 6 by Detroit. Tayshaun Prince scored 16 first half points on 6-12 shooting, but was still an -11 while on the floor. The second half was much of the same story, and the Pups put this one in cruise control up until the final minutes when Detroit awoke from their slumber, cutting the game to a 7 point Minnesota lead after going into the final quarter with a hefty 20 point deficit. The Pups were able to hold on and got a hard-earned victory after a humbling 11 game losing streak that had come to define the team over the last several weeks.
Contributing to his Most Improved Player of the Year campaign, Nikola Pekovic led the boys in blue with 23 points and 9 rebounds in 32 minutes of play. Pek did not turn the ball over once and committed only 1 personal foul, gaining good inside position on the Pistons frontcourt and using his brute strength to finish through contact. Even with bone spurs in his ankle, Peksanity is so strong that he can overpower virtually any interior defender he plays against due to his 290 pound frame and excellent positioning on the low block. His worth to this team has been huge this season, and his player efficiency rating of 21.17 is currently 7th for all NBA centers.
Much of Pek’s success came from the pick-and-roll with JJ Barea, who enjoyed another double-double of 13 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds. The Pistons simply had no answer to stopping the pick-and-roll game between Barea and Pek, and Barea did a very good job of threading the needle with his passes and only committed 3 turnovers in 39 minutes. JJ also played well on the defensive end, as Brandon Knight, his opposition at PG, shot a measly 2-12 from the field while recording only 1 assist in 28 minutes. It has been an up-and-down season for the combo guard out of Kentucky, and the play of Knight seems too redundant to the play of his highly-priced backcourt mate, Rodney Stuckey. Detroit simply does not have a facilitator on their current roster and as a team they were only able to tally 14 assists as a team.
The enigma that is Anthony Randolph got the nod at PF yet again, and provided the Pups with fine production on both ends of the floor. In 27 minutes, AR-15 ended with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Randolph looked very comfortable on the court and had a much easier time scoring the ball against a vastly inferior team than the Wolves have gotten used to playing . Seeing time behind Randolph was Derrick Williams, who also enjoyed a nice night. D-Will scored 11 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in only 16 minutes of play, and had a positive performance in the middle of a month in which he has been greatly struggling.
The wings provided their usual production (or lack thereof) as Wes Johnson and Martell Webster scored a combined 8 points in 49 total minutes. One would think that young, capable scorers like Wes and Martell would be taking advantage of the lost season by taking more shots or trying new things from the perimeter, but that has not been the case. Luckily, Michael Beasley brought his good stuff in this one and recorded 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists in 24 minutes. Beas was efficient with the ball in his hands and played solid defense.
The rest of the Pups getting time were Anthony Tolliver (0 points in 20 min), Wayne Ellington (6 points in 25 minutes), and Malcolm Lee (2 points in 9 minutes). With only 2 games left to play, this crazy, lockout-shortened season is nearly over. The T-Wolves will host Golden State on Sunday.
- Key Player: Niiiiiiiiiiikola! played great and showed the NBA that he is making a serious case for Most Improved Player of the Year. The big man made Pistons stud Greg Monroe look like a fool time after time on the low block.
- Key Stat: The Wolves had 7 blocks as a team compared to only 2 by the Pistons. Who says we need a shot blocker?
Photo Credits: Sports Grid