The Timberwolves visited Cajun Country on Friday night and walked away with their third straight win putting the team at 11-9 on the season. The team has successfully treaded water despite all of the injuries in the first quarter of the season and is expected to announce that Boy Wonder, Ricky Rubio will make his return on Saturday night against the Mavericks.
If it were not for a career high in points from Austin Rivers, this game wouldn’t have been very close (or good). This seems to be a product of my questioning his ability and pointing to his struggles in the game preview. One would think I would have learned my lesson by now. In any case, here’s how the Wolves put away the Hornets in New Orleans Friday night.
Due to Malcolm Lee’s injury, the Pups were forced into a new starting lineup, opening up with Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic. While Shved has been the team’s best performing SG this season, I wholeheartedly agree with Adelman’s decision to keep him in the sixth man role and as a closer at the end of the game. That said, desperate times call for “desperate” measures. The Hornets opened up with Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson, and Robin Lopez. This past year’s number one pick, Anthony Davis, continues to come off the bench for the Hornets as he rehabs his ankle.
The game got off to a slow start with the Hornets holding a 13-12 lead going into the first TO of the game, with more than six minutes gone by in the quarter. Kirilenko opened up the game with a nice pass to Ridnour for an easy layup and then made his own baseline cut for an easy basket. Pekovic had a few easy baskets as well as the Wolves were dominating the paint.
At the end of the first quarter, the Wolves held a 28-23 lead. The homer in me would point out said domination in the paint. The pessimist would mention the Wolves’ struggles from beyond the arc across the entire roster. The highlight of the quarter was actually seeing Greivis Vasquez stand in the way of Pekovic coming down the court and trying to give him an elbow. Pek turns around to see who it is, just shakes his head and dismisses the kid. That was hysterical.
The Pups opened up the 2nd quarter and extended the lead to as many as 9 points, largely led by the second unit, including the efforts of JJ Barea. Barea hit a couple buckets and threw a beautiful lob to Derrick Williams. However, while this was happening, Austin Rivers started heating up for the Hornets. His performance was aided by Adelman’s need to play the dreaded Ridnour/Barea backcourt.
At the half, the Wolves and Hornets were tied at 50. Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- Since the publishing of the Yahoo! Article with Woj, Kevin Love has been abysmal. He missed entirely too many chip shots in the first half. Please make this end stat.
- The Wolves need Rubio to avoid the Ridnour/Barea backcourt. He and Shved can play with these two to have more size on the court.
- Pek and AK47 picked up Love’s slack big time.
The Wolves opened up the 3rd quarter with the same five that started the game. The same could be said for the Hornets. The Hornets opened up the quarter with the first 5 points, but Luke Ridnour ended the run with a 3 pointer. That seemingly woke up the Wolves who started to push the ball a bit and led to a 9-2 run. For the next few minutes, the teams went back and forth, including some impressive play from Greivis Vasquez, who had a double-double halfway through the 3rd quarter; just another Wolves game where the opposing PG lights things up on the offensive end.
With a few minutes to go in the quarter, the Hornets broadcast finally announced that Josh Howard was back in the locker room and was questionable to return. Less than five minutes (in real time) passed and the Hornets sideline reporter came back to announce that Howard hyper-extended his knee and would not return. Seriously?! What did this team do to somebody’s family to deserve this?
In the final minutes of the 3rd quarter, the Pups went on a little bit of a run to build an 82-73 lead going into the 4th quarter. This was largely due to the play of AK47, Shved, and Pekovic. It was looking like the Wolves were going to be able to pull away with this one, as they should, despite the strong efforts of Vasquez and Rivers for the Hornets.
Instead of pulling away in the early minutes of the 4th quarter, the Wolves let the Hornets stick around maintaining a lead that was within striking distance. The Wolves second unit was pretty underwhelming in the second half, including the first six minutes of the 4th. Thankfully, AK47 was around for the Wolves tonight as he continued to cut to the rim for easy baskets and rebound the ball.
With just over a minute to go and the Wolves up by 16 points, Austin Rivers drove to the basket and Kevin Love got his right hand get tangled up with him. This led to an immediate TO with Love walking right off the court. I rewound the game just to make sure this actually happened. It did. So now the Wolves are losing two players per game apparently, with Howard and Love going out this evening. Seriously?!?!
The final score was 113-102 with the Wolves pulling away in the final minutes again. Similar to last Friday’s game against the Cavs, the Wolves took care of business against a team that they should beat. I’m not even going to mention the injuries again … onward to the return of the Unicorn!
Three Stars of the Game:
- Nikola Pekovic
- Andrei Kirilenko
- Greivis Vasquez (15 points & 17 assists)