The Timberwolves played the Milwaukee Bucks in preseason action at the Target Center tonight and didn’t disappoint. In an outstanding performance from beyond the arc, the Wolves managed to drain 15 threes and went on to beat the Bucks heftily by 21 points, 117-96.
But let’s be honest: it’s preseason. No one cares about the score or even who won. The fact of the matter is that the Wolves’ Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio took the court in his NBA debut, and, just like the Wolves, didn’t disappoint.
The excitement and eagerness to see Rubio take the court filled the arena. The Wolves even announced the reserve players just to give Rubio his moment in the spotlight, hopefully the first of many more to come. But it was his game that took the real spotlight. He finished with six points, seven assists and tallied on six more rebounds in just 24 minutes of play off the bench. When he first came in, he commanded the court with a sense of leadership and even called huddles after fouls; he acted like a true veteran. Some of his passes were so slick and spot-on that teammates couldn’t even see them coming (Randolph, but he’s a different story); it’s obvious that he’s just two steps ahead of everyone on the court in terms of foreseeing the play and movement of the offense and defense.
But that’s just on offense; defense was a whole other ballgame. Rubio got beat on simple cuts and screens by Shaun Livingston — Yes, Shaun Livingston. He loves to anticipate passes and fill passing lanes before the ball ever leaves the player’s hands but, in the NBA, the opposition is smarter than that, more cunning. He’s going to get burned by that play a lot.
As for the rest of the team defense, let’s just leave it at “It wasn’t good.” Darko Milicic played his quietly content game that consisted of clutch blocked shots and key missed assignments. Kevin Love, who’s defense has improved — And, damn, does he look skinny — still isn’t competent at filling the void. JJ Barea saw the bulk of his minutes playing guard alongside Rubio and his lack of size is a serious issue on the defensive end. There are serious improvements that need to be made both in the frontcourts and backcourts when it comes to defense. But, hey, that’s why Adelman’s here, right?
All in all, I was rather impressed with tonight’s game. The players, the coaches, and, perhaps, most of all, the fans all played a part in the win. Fans were screaming for Rubio and applauding Michael Beasley’s hard-nosed yet dumbfounded effort all night; they really stuck in this one, showing that the faith is there with the new revamped roster.
Things are going to be exciting this year but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Like I said, there are major holes to be filled — the overall team and individual defense, Anthony Randolph, and, God forbid, we may have the worst depth at shooting guard in the league thanks to Wes Johnson’s incompetence to do anything right tonight — but the future looks bright enough to instill some faith into Adelman and this team.
Preseason game number two is next Wednesday in Milwaukee this time. The season and home opener is then Monday the 26th. Hopefully Santa brings consistency for Christmas.