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After allowing my thoughts to culminate through the waining hours of the night, I came to the determination that this was the Wolves’ best win this season.
When I imagine solid wins — And believe me, I have to do oh so often — they usually consist of three things: Energy, hustle and downright amazing plays. Last night’s game had a little bit of each, which ultimately catapulted the Wolves to their second straight win of 20+ points.
The flow of any game can easily be influenced upon two sources of energy: 1) From the crowd; and 2) From the players. The Wolves have already done a nice job of playing competitive basketball on their home court, and the crowd has a lot to do with that. Even though we can’t sell a game out, the noise and vivacity with which the fans balloon the Target Center with is special. It directly affects the players’ confidence.
The best example of this was when Kevin Love was in search of his tenth rebound to make it 53 straight double-doubles late in the third quarter. After a big first half lead, the Jazz, behind a surge from Al Jefferson, charged their way back into the game. Love, still about four rebounds short of ten, took it within himself to put the team on his back. It started with a few big defensive boards — I love how excitable the fans get when he simply grabs rebounds now — and then ended with a huge three-pointer to stretch that lead back into double-digits. Within that five minute stretch, the fans gradually got more involved with every rebound Love ripped down and eventually the cheers were so loud enough at the moment of that three pointer to rip the roof off. Love responded with some hand waves and Tyrone Corbin, Utah Jazz head coach, responded with a quick-witted timeout. It’s safe to say it was too late; the damage had been done.
That type of energy forces the players to play hard. Seems linear, right? The crowd noise began to echo through the arena and Love responded with some big rebounds. Even Nikola Pekovic answered the crowd’s cheers by hustling for a rebound not within his reach, but got enough of a finger on it to bat it out to Michael Beasley for a big three. These moments are what NBA fans live for. There’s nothing more satisfying when players respond to the crowd’s murmuring energy with big plays and sheer hustle. That entire third quarter signed, sealed and delivered another win to the Wolves’ front door. Give credit to all those in attendance, and especially give credit to the Wolves who forked out enough plays to overcome Utah’s push.
So, although the Wolves had the pleasure of facing the Utah Jazz at their worst — injury riddled and still befuddled after a sudden coaching change which sent a legend to his retirement — this was easily the best game to watch all season for the very reasons I stated above. The crowd injected energy into the players; the players responded with pure hustle and heart and it gave the Wolves golden opportunities to make plays on which they capitalized.
Next up comes the Golden State Warriors in Cali. Always a difficult matchup for the Wolves, but this time could be much different. The Wolves are on the rise, and, like I’ve said all year, this team has the potential to play with any team in this league on the right night. The talent is there and so is the drive; all we need is the execution and night’s like this aren’t far beyond our reach.