Winning three consecutively on the road was just too good to be true. And although the Wolves dominated for most of the game, it only took a Pacer to go off in the first and another to catch fire in the fourth to send the Wolves home without a victory.
In the first quarter it was the Wolves vs. Mike Dunleavy. Exchanging buckets with one of the better pure shooters in the league is never a good idea and it didn’t bode well for the Wolves tonight. Dunleavy found himself open on multiple occasions and took advantage of the space by hitting his first five shots, racking up a very quick 14 points in the process. The same old storyline was developing: A very random wing player of the opposition dominated all game long, not letting the Wolves gasp for air just once. Then, little did we know, Dunleavy found himself in foul trouble and took a seat for a majority part of the game.
But don’t let that fool you. Instead of Dunleavy tossing the final dagger into the Wolves’ back, it was Dahntay Jones. A huge quarter from Jones allowed the Pacers to steal the lead away from the Wolves and then coast to victory after being man-handled in the third.
Who would’ve thought that Jones would’ve been the difference maker tonight? My guess was as good as Dunleavy, but Jones? Jones averages just 4.5 ppg this season and has seen his minutes diminish with the emergence of Paul George. But reserve players in basketball, more so than any other sport, know the importance of being ready to go when called upon. You might miss strings of games at a time, but you need to be ready when coach needs you the most. That’s how can picture Jones’ night. He was ready to play and caught fire.
Give the Wolves some credit, though. They did indeed dominate for most of this game, commanding a decent lead throught the third. We are clearly the better team, especially when you get the kind of production we received throughout this road trip from our reserves. Guys like Wayne Ellington, Sebastian Telfair and even Lazar Hayward all pitched in to give Wolves two out of three on the road and that’s big. Playing without three starters, your rotations are bound to look pitiful and scary nonetheless. I mean, at one point the Wolves had Telfair, Ellington, Hayward, Tolliver and Koufos out there — YIKES! But consistent play from Ellington and Hayward led the charge, not leaving our reserves to hang out to dry.
Tonight it was especially fun to see Hayward play so well. People forget that Hayward was taken with the last pick in the first round. We even traded up to assure we grabbed him in time. He’s got the skills to defend shooting guards and both forward spots. What I particularly like about Hayward’s game, though, is his versatility on offense. He honestly reminds me of a young Ryan Gomes, who prefers playing on the perimeter but has the ability to bang down low with the big boys. Tonight he showed off all facets of his game hitting threes, scoring off the dribble and even getting to the charity stripe. He scored a definite career-high in points with 14, but more importantly emitted energy and hustle and both ends of floor when in the lineup. He’s a treat to watch, so all of these injuries may actually be a blessing in disguise.
Not much else to report tonight. Kevin Love extended his double-double streak to 39, only five away from tying Moses Malone’s modern day record. Jonny Flynn had a disappointing night after such a promising road trip. Sebastian Telfair clearly outplayed him tonight and was awarded the clutch minutes down the stretch. And once again, the bench was the story for the Wolves tonight with all of these injuries.
Quick question: Do the Wolves play better team basketball without Mike Beasley in the lineup? Or could you say are they a better team period without him out there? The way we’ve played we’ve played without him might suggest we are, but I’ll leave that open to a debate.
The Wolves come home tomorrow night to take on the Philadelphia 76ers. Should prove to be yet another winnable game for the Wolves if the bench continues their solid play alongside Love’s fantastic output. Should also be fun to see how Wes Johnson fairs against Evan Turner (Neither has played well as of late and are well on their way to be considered busts of this year’s draft.)