The Miami Heat traveled to frozen Minnesota on Saturday night and demonstrated once again why they just may be on their way to winning a third consecutive NBA Finals. The big three needed little more than 2 quarters to put the game in cruise control en route to a blowout road win. LeBron James needed only 31 minutes to post a line of 21 points (9-12 FG), 14 rebounds and 8 assists while Dwayne Wade played through injury on his way to 19 points (7-14 FG), 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Heat had a few scares in the first quarter after Chris Bosh took an accidental Shane Battier fist to the eye and not soon after when Wade’s aggravated right knee collided with Kevin Martin‘s. However, both players returned to action and were able to play without restriction.
The Wolves were without Kevin Love, who missed the game due to the recent passing of his grandmother. The superstar’s absence made life very difficult on the offense as they clearly missed his ability to stretch the floor. As one of the best coached defensive teams in the league, Miami did a tremendous job of limiting and slowing penetration, effectively nullifying any attempts by Ricky Rubio or other Minnesota guards.
It goes without saying that last night was Ricky’s worst game of the season as he scored just a single point in 27 minutes while recording six turnovers to his six assists. Our Catalan import missed all four of his field goal attempts while getting completely shut down by Miami defenders. Rubio has been in a funk as of late, and it is fair to say that it revolves around his inability to score efficiently. Opposing teams are beginning to figure out how to game plan for him, and it is going to take more than getting Love back into the lineup to straighten out Rubio’s game.
The sellout Target Center crowd witnessed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute‘s first start as a Pup, but the stellar defender was put in his place against the best player in the league. Minnesota tried using different looks from both Mbah a Moute and Corey Brewer in an attempt to stifle James, but neither were able to effectively contain the king. While they did contribute to his seven turnovers, they did not stop him from getting to the rim at will. Shooting 9-12 from the field, LeBron did not need to attempt a single three-pointer in order to lead the Heat to a blowout victory.
Obviously, I can sit here and digest this early season loss for as long as I want, but in order to be proactive I will point out some statistics that I think most clearly point out the biggest current issues for the Timberwolves:
- Blocks: MIN 1, MIA 8 – It is becoming a trend for me to talk about the Timberwolves difficulties protecting the rim. Minnesota ranks DEAD LAST in blocks in the league and the addition of Love back into the lineup is not going to change that. The only player with bona fide shot-blocking potential is Gorgui Dieng, but he has a long ways to go before he becomes a stalwart in Rick Adelman’s rotation.
- Team FG% – MIN 29%, MIA 55% – Where is the defense? When it boils down to it, good defense comes from pure hustle and effective strategizing from the coaching staff. If there is any way for Adelman to get Elston Turner back onto his coaching staff, I hope that he reaches out to him because Minnesota’s defense has been abysmal against top opponents.
- Fast Break Points – MIN 14, MIA 24 – What ever happened to United We Run? The transition play has been virtually non-existent for a team that began the season as one of the fastest-paced teams in the league. Slowing down will only hurt this Wolves team as they currently have major deficiencies on the defensive end and have exploitable weaknesses (i.e., baiting Rubio to take jumpers).
This was a bad loss, there is no way around it. However, the Wolves still sit at 9-11 and on Tuesday night will face a Detroit Pistons squad that has plenty of their own problems. We must recognize that this team has not even come close yet to playing to their potential and I believe the addition of Chase Budinger to the rotation will really help to solidify our bench. It is up to the every player and the coaching staff to work their butts off to fix the defense as it will be the key to reaching the postseason.