This team has based this short season on moral victories so far. With those small but indulging wins comes a sense of pride; that’s what the I saw from the Wolves playing at home last night against the Bulls.
The Bulls came out of the gun hot and the Wolves just couldn’t keep up; they were shooting upwards of 70-percent for the majority of the first half to a paltry sub 30-percent for the Wolves. But then, Ricky Rubio happened.
Rubio sparked a 20-2 run that pulled the Wolves within six at halftime. It was an amazing run filled with Kevin Love threes, Rubio-to-Randolph lobs and, most of all, defense stops, something completely absent in the first quarter and a half.
The Wolves came out and pushed the Bulls even a little further in the second half, and at one point tied the game late in the third. But then Derrick Rose and Luol Deng buckled down and started hitting contested looks from all over the court and eventually put the Wolves to shame in the end.
First off, I’ll just say that tt’s fun going into games against the NBA’s elite at point guard to see just how well our new Spanish Wonder-Boy would hold up. First was against Russell Westbrook and the response was amazing; even though Westbrook ended with a great game, you could see that bothered look on his face all night long as Rubio would constantly nag the All-Star on both ends of the floor. No one wants to get schooled by a rookie. Well, Derrick Rose came out with a very similar performance tonight. When the Bulls needed him most, we pulled his laces tight and went straight at Rubio. He eventually made enough plays to win the game down the stretch for the Bulls but he certainly was giving it his all because Rubio was that close to showing the reigning MVP up. It was a treat to watch.
Although Rubio wasn’t able to better Rose in the end, at least he did better than just hold his ground; he frustrated Rose to the brink, forcing him to compete at his highest level. Although it doesn’t always bode well, it sure will once this team understands how to finish games and win key individual battles to help the team.
Here’s a few other points from last night’s game:
- Anthony Randolph has a terrific game last night. He wasn’t a complete ball hog and he went 6-10 from the field. When Randolph is attacking the hoop and has his mid-range jumper working, his potential truly shines bright. We’ve also seen a special connection between he and Rubio so far this season. Those two are constantly connecting on lobs on a nightly basis now.
- JJ Barea went down with a sprained ankle last night. He twisted it on a miraculous hook shot over Omer Asik and then went down hard. He didn’t need much help to get up the court and sit on the bench. Then, like nothing happened, he jogged back out onto the court. His shift lasted about another three minutes, like everything was in order, and then limped into the tunnel without notifying anyone. It was kind of bizarre but he was clearly still in pain. Losing him again would be a giant blow because he provides that huge spark off the bench.
- If Barea sits out another few games, hopefully Luke Ridnour can keep his hot streak up. Ridnour went 8-11 last night and 3-3 from three-point land. That makes him 20-30 from the field over the last three games. Sure, he makes some questionable calls as the sole point guard out there but he benefits — as does anyone — playing alongside Rubio. He gets open on the perimeter and Rubio finds him. He does get exposed, though, on defense, much more than Barea would, but as long as he’s hitting his shots, you have to live with it.
- Wes Johnson started the game 3-5 and seemed in a bit of a groove. He took a seat in the first quarter and never saw the court again. Ay ya ya…
- It’s the second consecutive game where Kevin Love pieced together a respectable game but it wasn’t pretty. He earned his tenth consecutive double-double to start the season — the most in the NBA. But Love is clearly having issues in getting the ball to go down. He struggled from three to start the game but hit a few big ones in the second half. He’s having the most trouble getting his tip-ins and lay-ups to fall, which is odd. It’s hurting his shooting percentage bad and it’s hurting the offensive efficiency. Listen, I love that Love can stretch his game and shoot threes but if he doesn’t figure out a way to score more consistently down low from the post, he’ll be missing out on some serious stats. His one-dimensional offense is frustrating because, especially with Beasley out, is one of our limited offensive opportunities to score points. I think the Wolves deeply miss Beaz right now because he offers another scoring opportunity outside of Rubio’s drive-and-dish and Love’s three ball. Beaz’s isolation game, even though it’s been cold to start the season, can be a potent weapon when the offense, or Love and Rubio, is struggling.
That’s all I got for now. The Wolves get — and need — a nice break and play the Paul-less New Orleans Hornets on Friday night. Just judging by the match-ups, they should have a good chance at grabbing a win there.