And so it continues. Forget about injury woes, the latest loss by the Minnesota Timberwolves demonstrated once again how lady fortune is not on their side. Ahead 101-99 with less than 10 seconds remaining, Gerald Henderson got the ball at the top of key, pump-faking twice before drilling a miraculous three-point shot with only seconds remaining. One JJ Barea flop and missed buzzer-beater later, the Charlotte Bobcats finally snapped a 16-game home losing streak and extended the Timberwolves current losing streak to 4 games. The Pups have now lost 9 of their last ten games, and confidence has certainly faded for a team who once had ambitious expectations heading into the season.
Oddly enough, the Timberwolves actually enjoyed one of their best three-point shooting performances as a team this season, as they nailed 10 of their 20 attempts from deep. However, the Bobcats dominated Minnesota in the interior, outscoring them 50-32 in the paint. Bismack Biyombo, the second-year 20-year-old from the Congo, epitomizes “raw talent” as much as any player I have witnessed. With the longest wing span in NBA history at 7-foot-7-inches, the 6-foot-9 Biyombo is at first a sight to see for those who have never seen him play. Still so young and inexperienced, the “Bismack Attack” has made noticeable development since his at-times-hard-to-watch rookie season. The former 7th overall selection recorded a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds last night against the Wolves, making all four of his field goal attempts while adding 2 blocked shots in 32 minutes. Although foul trouble ultimately limited him, it was an impressive performance for the player that some believe could be the next Ben Wallace.
Some of the only good news coming from last night’s game was the play of Ricky Rubio, who hit his first three-pointer of the season while being a game-high +23 on the floor in 29 minutes of action. Rubio was able to take advantage of his size advantage on Kemba Walker, and scored 14 points on 4-9 shooting while also providing tremendous perimeter defense on the other end of the floor. His five steals last night were a season high, and he fell two assists short of a double-double. Ricky is still not the player that he was before the knee injury, but last night’s performance showed that he can still be a huge impact on defense and as a passer until his knee is back to full strength.
Derrick Williams once again got the start at PF, but played only 18 minutes, shooting 2-8 from the field with 5 points. D-Will was clearly not having his best game, but the Timberwolves’ management of Williams continues to perplex me. At this point, what do they value him as? A long-term project? An asset? A valuable contributor? Trade bait? Regardless of what Timberwolves brass currently classify Derrick Williams as, it makes most to give him as many minutes as possible for the time being. This is only going to improve him as a player and heighten his trade value, and playing Dante Cunningham over Williams late in games is only going to keep this team from developing one of their most important players for the future. The Wolves need to allow Derrick to fall on his face a few times while he learns how to get up and overcome failure. The only way he is going to learn is through actual, in-game experiences, for some things can never be learned from a whiteboard or a video session. As much as some may hate it, in many ways the future of this team rests on Williams.
Keys of the Game
- Bench Play – Here’s something you probably didn’t catch from watching the game: 4 of Minnesota’s 5 starters possessed a positive plus-minus, while not one of Charlotte’s starters had a positive plus-minus. However, 5 of 6 Charlotte subs held a positive plus-minus, while all 4 of Minnesota’s bench players were negative. General intuition would tell us that Minnesota lost because of the play of their second unit, and this was very true last night. JJ Barea was in his bad zone, hitting only 7 of his 18 field goals and getting burned on the defensive end. On the other side, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon came off the bench to score 23 and 18 points, respectively.
- Rebounding: CHA 38, MN 30 – It is hard to bash the Wolves for getting out-rebounded given their ridiculous predicament of injuries, but the fact remains that players including Derrick Williams and Andrei Kirilenko were not as physical as they could have been. After a hit on the head by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist which required stitches, I will give AK-47 a pass. The 6-foot-1 Kemba Walker finished with 8 rebounds, more than any single Timberwolves player last night.
Three Stars of the Game
- Kemba Walker – He didn’t hit the game-winner, but he did nearly notch a triple-double of 25 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds. Walker looks much more refined this season after having an up-and-down rookie season, and appears to possess a skill set that should have a lot of success in the NBA for many years to come. Walker also contributed 3 steals and even 2 blocks in his 37 minutes of playing time.
- Gerald Henderson – What. A. Shot. The Wolves can’t catch a break right now (could they ever?) and Henderson’s game-winner only adds to the misery that Minnesota fans have endured thus far into the season. The former Duke standout, who some have rumored to be on the trading block, saved his best for last as he drained a 3-pointer with only seconds left to put Charlotte ahead by one point. He finished with 15 points (6-14 FG) and 4 rebounds in 32 minutes.
- Luke Ridnour – The Timberwolves’ veteran leader put together arguably his best performance of the season last night, sinking 3 of his 5 three-point attempts and in total converted on 9 of 14 attempts from the field, finishing with 22 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 41 minutes. Since sliding over to SG Ridnour has looked much better offensively, but on the defensive end his lack of strength at the 2-guard position has made him somewhat exploitable depending on the opponent. In this case, Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson proved to be too much to handle for the 6-foot-2 Ridnour.