Rubio shines as Wolves topple Nets

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

All three of the Wolves prior contests this season had come down to the final few minutes. In Brooklyn on Wednesday night, it was no different. Instead of folding in the clutch like a season ago, this years Wolves have excelled. Especially the newly re-signed Spanish Unicorn known as Ricky Rubio.

At the 2:38 mark, with the Wolves down four to the Nets, Rubio swished a contested 20 footer.

27 seconds later, Rubio rifled an overhead pass from the right wing. Rubio hits Kevin Martin perfectly in the chest in the opposite corner, who buried the triple to give the Wolves the lead.

After committing a reach in foul on the Wolves subsequent defensive possession, Rubio sends Joe Johnson to the line. As Johnson releases the second attempt, Rubio sneaks into the lane, grabbing the ball after it hits front iron. He hurries the ball up and passes it to Martin, who misses a contested three on the right wing.

After an iso Joe bucket against Wiggins on the resulting possession, 1:28 remains, with the Wolves down two. Rubio takes the ball up. Alone with Deron Williams on the strong side, Ricky switches his dribble to his left hand, torches Williams, and banks home a lay-up to tie the game.

On the Nets next possession, with 1:08 to play, Thad Young takes the ball away from Joe Johnson. Young hands it to Rubio. Young sets a screen on Williams, forcing Johnson to cover Rubio and Williams to cover Young. Rubio is able to easily throw it into Pekovic in the post, who due to the switch, only has Brook Lopez to worry about. Pek forces his way into a three point play with 48.6 remaining.

Brooklyn takes timeout, and on the ensuing inbounds, Rubio makes sure to run right into Lopez’ extended elbow. With a little bit of spanish flair, Rubio draws the illegal screen and the Wolves get the ball.

The very next possession, Thad and Ricky play catch for a while, before Thad, with 30.9 to play, receives a Rubio pass at the top of the key. Thad fakes his defender, drives into the lane and banks home the floater. With 27.2 seconds on the clock, the Wolves lead is now five.

To summarize, over a span of 2:01, Rubio tallied four points, three assists, a rebound and drew an offensive foul, while the Wolves went from trailing by four to leading by five.

So yes, Ricky Rubio is worth 4 years and $55 million. And no, these are not last years Wolves.

Other Notes:

  • Andrew Wiggins had his best game as a pro, scoring 17 points and only committing one turnover. His flashes of greatness are brilliant, but he suffers from many of the typical rookie mistakes. He was caught biting on the pump fake a few times again tonight, and took a few shots he probably should have holstered.
  • Early Coach of the Year candidate: Wolves shooting coach Mike Penberthy. His one-on-one work with Rubio seems to have helped tremendously.
  • Young, Pek and Rubio were made to play together. All are excellent passers for their positions, and the spacing is beautiful to witness.
  • Big Daddy Canada (AKA Anthony Bennett) two handed power-slams are my favorite kind of dunks (besides LaVine free-throw line windmills).
  • Increasingly after every game, I wonder what exactly Corey’s place on this team is. He just doesn’t seem to fit in with the pieces that are in place.

I leave you with these Andrew Wiggins highlights. Enjoy the win.

 

 

Recap – Timberwolves 111, Nets 81

Friday night's "Battle of the Kevin's" at Target Center (Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

Friday night’s “Battle of the Kevin’s” at Target Center
(Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

The Timberwolves were back on the Target Center floor Friday night and welcomed in a few familiar faces, as Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko returned to Minnesota with their Brooklyn Nets teammates.  Kirilenko was ruled out because of another problem with his back, while the Nets were also missing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Jason Terry.  It hasn’t been a fun start to the season for Nets fans, that’s for sure.

There were no surprises or changes in the Pups’ starting five – Mr. Selena Gomez (I kid), Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Nets threw out Shaun Livingston (who has been quite the story), Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, KG, and Reggie Evans.

Game Summary

Despite falling way behind (2-0), the Timberwolves pulled out Friday night’s game against a beaten down Brooklyn Nets team.  With an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game, the Wolves woke up and played lights out basketball for the rest of the night.  This was a laugher by midway through the third quarter, with the Wolves winning by a cool 30 points.

First Half 

You really couldn’t ask for a better storybook opening, as KG won the tap and posted up Kevin Love in the paint.  He quickly turned around and hit the short jumper to give the Nets the 2-0 lead.  That concludes all Nets highlights from the first half, as the Timberwolves poured it on.  Despite two quick fouls and a trip to the bench for Ricky Rubio, the Pups were able to jump on the Nets early and often.  The game got off to a slow start offensively, as the Wolves held an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game … after six-plus minutes of action.

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 30-14 lead, as Love hit a short jumper at the buzzer after JJ Barea drove to the basked as the clock wound down, lost control of the ball and flipped it behind his back, only to find Love’s hands.  Love finished the quarter with 9 points and 11 rebounds.  Again, we’re talking about the 1st quarter only.

The good times continued to roll for the Pups throughout much of the 2nd quarter.  Barea and Rubio both played well and ran Adelman’s offense.  Love and Nikola Pekovic were dominant in the paint.  Had the Wolves’ wings shot the ball a little bit better, the game would have looked even worse than the halftime score would suggest.  At the break, the Wolves held a 57-37 advantage at halftime.

Here are a few additional notes at half-time:

  • Kevin Martin’s shooting is a little off this past week.  At halftime, Martin was 2-11 from the field for 6 points
  • Corey Brewer also put up 11 shots in the first half, including 5 three pointers.  Honestly, that might be a bit too much
  • KG finished the half with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block – old-school KG in the house!

Second Half

We’re going to make this really easy – the Nets never made the game interesting and the Wolves blew away Brooklyn.  With the starters playing throughout the 4th quarter – more on this later – the Pups simply ran away.  They outscored the Nets 33-21 in the quarter and took a 90-58 lead into the 4th quarter.

After some Twitter pleading, Adelman finally went to his bench (read: doghouse) and put in Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, and company.  Gorgui Dieng looked the most promising in the 4th quarter, blocking three shots and active on the offensive end of the floor as well (5 points & 3 rebounds).  The final score in this monstrosity of a game was 111-81.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – Dominant on the boards, Love finished with 17 and 16 in only 28 minutes of action.
  2. Nikola Pekovic – 15 & 7 for the big man, who really dominated the paint early and often.
  3. Kevin Garnett – This should go to Brewer, but just in case this is KG’s last game at Target Center, his 8 & 8 put him in our “Three Stars”.

Need another reason, here you go:

Key Takeaways

  • The Nets had a lot of injuries, but that was an effortless showing.  Jason Kidd probably won’t be fired this season, but he probably deserves to be.  This team has “Washington Redskins” written all over it – big contracts, no continuity … changes every single season.
  • Hopefully Kevin Martin’s shooting comes back real soon … as in, tomorrow in Houston soon.
  • The rest the starters received tonight should bode well for tomorrow’s game – thankfully they didn’t have to play big minutes going into a relatively big game tomorrow night (on NBA TV).

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Brooklyn Nets, 1/23/13

shvedprokhorovakSetting the stage:

The Timberwolves host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, returning to Target Center after a very disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks on MLK Day.  After building an 18 point lead, the Pups slowly but surely fell apart at the seams again in the second half.  The loss moved the team to 17-21 on the season.  If you want to look for a positive, look towards a decent performance from Derrick Williams and decent minutes from our 10 day contractors.

The Nets come into Wednesday’s tilt off of a nice win at MSG against the Knicks on Monday, moving the team to 25-16 on the season and just one game behind the division leading Knicks.  Hopefully, the Wolves will turn the tide and be able to match the performance they put forth earlier this year in Brooklyn, when they beat the Nets 107-96.

For this preview, I have reached out to a lifetime sufferer of being a Nets fan and close friend of mine, David Corsaro.  David has been following the Nets closely for over two decades now and has seen the ups and downs and it is safe to say there were many more downs.  Similar to our Friday night previews, I wanted to get David’s perspective on a few key storylines revolving around the Nets.

Nets Question #1 for David:

I downgraded Deron Williams after the Olympics and he hasn’t necessarily proven me wrong.  I’m not sure he takes the NBA life as seriously as many other superstars.  Does he have enough “fire” in him to will a team to a championship or is he better suited as a second banana?

David:

When Jason Kidd came to the Nets several years ago, he was a superstar.  He brought out a level of play in Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittle and Richard Jefferson that even THEY didn’t know they had.  Deron does not have that same level of “fire” as you put it, but he knows how to play the position very well.  He is truly the quarterback of this team…and the other players recognize that and respect him for it.  Deron is someone who could take the last shot (and I would have total confidence in him) or someone who could dish the last shot (and if that other player missed, I would not fault Williams for not taking it….I trust him that it was the right play.)  Sure I would love to see more of that “We are NOT losing this game” face from Deron Williams, but in a league where there are only a small handful of great point guards, I think Deron is a key piece to a championship team.

 

Nets Question #2 for David:

I was vehemently against David Kahn signing Andray Blatche this past offseason.  Was I wrong again on this one or are there still character/knucklehead concerns?  How would you grade his performance thus far this season?

David:

This team lives each day with a million questions around it.  Can Lopez stay healthy?  Is Johnson past his prime?  Has Blatche entered the “Tyson Zone? (That one is for you John.)  And I don’t think that question will ever really go away.  But I do think he has been a solid contributor on the court and considering what we need him for (energy off the bench, a solid shooter who can be a first or fourth option on the court, etc).

I have been very happy with him.  His scoring has been exactly what I would expect / want.  He is grabbing the boards that we need him to (even at a slightly higher rate than his career average, especially on the offensive side.)  It sounds cliché, but if Blatche could keep himself out of trouble and maintain what he has been doing for us, it will be an excellent signing.

 

Nets Question #3 for David:

Can the Nets hold on to one of the top seeds in the East or are they too fragile (Lopez, Wallace)?  What are your expectations come playoff time and how far can this team go?

David:

My biggest question about this team is “Are they good enough to compete deep into the playoffs or will the rest of the league begin to make adjustments and expose certain flaws?”  Brook Lopez is playing the best basketball of his career and being the player we all hoped he would be.  But will he stay healthy or will teams begin to realize the threat he is and play him tighter?  Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace are playing better than expected but can they keep up the energy for 82 games?  Can Johnson return to the 21 PPG player that he once was without taking points away from anyone else? (which I believe he can)

The “Fan” in me says I want them as a 2-3 seed in the playoffs and there is no reason why we can’t play Miami in the ECF.  However, the realist in me says that they are a 4-5 seed and if we make it to the second round, I should consider this year a good step towards building a real championship team next year.

I want to thank David for answering a few questions on Nets and providing some perspective on the Pups opponent.  You can follow David on Twitter or check out this web site.  (Yes, he is also a magician … and a good one at that.)

Player to watch:

Joe Johnson – Johnson is having a fantastic month of January, averaging just under 20ppg and clearly shooting much better than he did earlier in the season.  Wolves’ fans shouldn’t be surprised if this continues Wednesday night, given the lack of size to match-up against Johnson whatsoever.  Alexey Shved practiced with the team on Tuesday, but this could be a nightmare match-up for the rookie.

Match-up to watch:

Ricky Rubio vs. Deron Williams.  Deron put up 18 points and 13 assists earlier this season against the Pups, while Rubio was still rehabbing his knee.  Ricky is coming off a poor performance on Monday night, so it will be interesting to see if he can “bounce back”.  Given all of the injuries, this is clearly the match-up to keep an eye on and the marquee match-up.

Predictions:

I can’t see the Wolves pulling this one out.  (Again, you can just call me “The Cooler” at this point, because I have zero ability to predict what Wolves team shows up night to night.)

Final score prediction: Minnesota Timberwolves 92, Brooklyn Nets 104

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Joe Johnson
  2. Brook Lopez
  3. Derrick Williams

Let’s go Wolves!

Spotlight on 2012 NBA Draft Prospects: Terrence Ross

Terrence Ross

School: Washington  |  Year: Sophomore  |  Age: 21  |  Born: February 5, 1991  |  Position: SG
Height: 6’7”  |  Weight: 197  |  From: Portland, OR  |  Best Case Scenario: Joe Johnson

OFFENSIVE STATS (PER GAME)
  YEAR GM FG FGA FG% 3PT 3PTA 3PT% FT FTA FT% PTS  
2011-12 35 6.1 13.4 45.7% 2.1 5.5 37.1% 2.1 2.7 76.6% 16.4
2010-11 34 3.0 6.8 44.3% 1.3 3.7 35.2% 0.7 1.0 75.8% 8.0

HUSTLE STATS (PER GAME)
  YEAR MIN/GM OREB DREB TREB AST STL BLK TO AST/TO  
2011-12 31.1 1.4 5.1 6.4 1.4 1.3 0.9 2.0 1:1.4
2010-11 17.4 0.9 2.0 2.8 1.0 0.6 0.4 0.7 1:0.7

 
Since declaring for the draft, Terrence Ross has experienced an explosion in his draft stock due to his impressive pre-draft measurements and solid college career. Playing two seasons at SG for the Washington Huskies, Ross was seldom put in the national spotlight due to his team’s insignificance and inability to make it to the NCAA Tournament. However, Ross left his mark during the NIT averaging 25.0 PPG while earning all-tournament team honors. The best SG prospect to come out of Washington since Brandon Roy, Ross possesses prototypical size, strength, and athleticism for his position. Standing at an outrageous 6-foot-7 and nearly 200 pounds, he possesses broad shoulders and a good frame that should allow him to add increased muscle mass upon. Most recently at the 2012 NBA Combine, he impressed scouts and NBA executives with a 37.5-inch max vertical leap. At only 21 years of age, Ross has everything a team could look for athletically while staying poised on and off the basketball court.
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