Coming off a 1-2 home stand, the Timberwolves traveled to Philadelphia to take on an inexperienced yet talented 76ers team that was in the midst of a 4-game winning streak. The 16-17 Timberwolves looked to get back on track against the worst defensive team in the league and did just that with a 126-point outburst that was supported by a season-high 16 three-pointers.
The Timberwolves improved to 9-1 when shooting over 40% from beyond the arc and got 47 points of bench support. Ronny Turiaf was active for the first time since undergoing surgery on his elbow and was extremely active on the defensive end for a team that has been in desperate need of his services. Despite failing to score a point in 23 minutes (he only attempted 1 shot), he secured 9 rebounds and blocked 2 shots while playing solid defense throughout the entirety of the contest.
Facing a fairly terrible defensive 76ers frontcourt, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic had their way early on with the undersized Thaddeus Young and soft Spencer Hawes. After leading by 3 points after the first quarter, the game turned into a blowout by the end of the second. Here are some thoughts at the half:
- Although the 76ers outshot the Wolves by 6.5% from the field, Minnesota converted on 9 of their 13 three-point attempts en route to a 70-54 halftime lead.
- Following a loss to OKC in which the Wolves bench scored only 5 points, Minnesota’s bench enjoyed a 24-point first-half outburst thanks to 8 points each from Dante Cunningham, Alexey Shved and J.J. Barea.
- Nice start to the game by Corey Brewer, who scored 15 points on 5-5 shooting including 3-3 from beyond the arc. As a team, the Wolves committed only 6 first-half turnovers while tallying 18 assists as a team.
- Pekovic has really hit his groove. At the half, the big fella led the way for the Wolves with 10 points and 8 rebounds matched up against the poor defending Hawes.
The big story of this game was the prolific shooting from deep by Minnesota. Everyone remembers the woes the team endured shooting from the perimeter last season, and it was exciting to see what this team is capable of when clicking on all cylinders. Although the opponent was clearly inferior, Philly has proven that they can at least play with some of the leagues best on an inconsistent basis (they were coming off a road win against Portland). It will be interesting to see how much the return of Chase Budinger will improve the team’s overall shooting from deep.
It wouldn’t be much of a recap if I failed to mention Ricky Rubio, right? Well, it was a pretty quiet night from our favorite Catalan as his shooting struggles continued (4 points, 2-8 FG) while he notched his season average of 8 assists in 25 minutes. Barea continues to be the best option for scoring at the point guard position, but Rubio continues to add value in a multitude of ways that extend beyond scoring the basketball.
Three Stars of the Game
- Kevin Love – What a tremendous season for K-Love. Our superstar power forward is playing as well as he ever has in his young career and needed only 29 minutes to record 26 points (7-12 FG, 4-7 3pt, 8-10 FT), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover. What has impressed me the most about Love this season has been his drastic improvement as a facilitator for the offense, as seen by his 4.2 assists per game. Not only does he help out in transition with his amazing outlet passes, but he has even began to find more open Wolves in the halfcourt offense. Love is now third in the NBA with a 28.42 PER, trailing only LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Not bad company to be in.
- Nikola Pekovic – Just like Love, Pek is enjoying his best season during this 2013-14 campaign and it can be largely attributed to his good health. He overcame a slow start and now sports a 19.60 PER, which puts him ninth in the NBA among centers. In only 23 minutes of action, Pek posted another double-double with 16 points (7-15 FG) and 14 rebounds. Even though I have generally really enjoyed what I have seen from the big fella this season, I believe that Pek should still be able to improve his shooting from the floor as the majority of his attempts come from eight feet or closer and his 52.6% shooting is .5% lower than his career average.
- Kevin Martin – After a shaky last month of play, Martin enjoyed an efficient night scoring the ball and was one of four Timberwolves with 3 three-pointers. In 23 minutes, he scored 18 points (5-10 FG, 3-4 3pt, 5-5 FT) while tallying 4 assists.