The first victory? Sure, it may have been as flukey as they get. I mean, a team as bad as the Wolves were last year upsetting the World Champs never comes with favorable odds.
But tonight was a statement.
Undermanned even worse than last game, the Wolves came into Dallas and found their rhythm at the end of the second quarter and into the second half to defeat the Mavericks, 105-90.
By no means do I truly believe that the Mavs are chumps but they were beaten badly by a badly beaten up Wolves lineup. Thanks to the our array of ‘bigs’ (Nikola Pekovic contributed 13 points, Derrick Williams added 10 and Darko Milicic had a block party, posting seven) the Wolves were able play physical underneath despite injuries all over the place. Remember back on Monday when the Wolves played the Rockets with only nine players? Well the same happened tonight, only worse. Although Wes Johnson made his return from illness — rumor has it that he was still struggling even — but the Wolves were without Luke Ridnour, meaning the bulk of backcourt duty had to come from Ricky Rubio and Wayne Ellington alone.
But, boy, did they respond well. I made the excuse on Monday that too many minutes for these young players is going against all pros of having a youthful squad — fresh legs, hyperactivity, hustle — but they proved me wrong tonight. Rubio responded his woeful night against the Rockets with a great outing last night against the comparable counterpart Jason Kidd. The poor shooting performances are starting to catch up with him and it shows in the box score but his playmaking isn’t tarnished. Rubio dished out 12 assists in 46 minutes of play last night. Furthermore, half of those assists set up the Wolves for big three-pointers, where they shot 9-21 (Kevin Love hit four of those six dimes from deep).
It was Ellington, though, who really came through in the clutch to push this game out of reach. Having to handle a bulk of the minutes at two, Ellington wasn’t phased by moving to the point while Rubio got his short-lived rest in the third quarter. Ellington was attacking the paint and, although they weren’t all falling, he continued to shoot knowing it was his only option. Eventually he hit a dead-away three that helped pushed the threshold even further.
As terrific as the backcourt adapted to the injuries, though, it was Love’s night. Such a fairy tale pressed for a beautiful ending, right? After signing his new, shiny contract, Love trotted out onto the court and led the Wolves with his sixth 30+ point – 10+ rebound performance of the year (In case you were wondering, the next closest player has only one game with those kinds of numbers). Love continues to work in such an efficient manner, going 9-16 from the field — 4-6 from three-point land — and 9-10 from the free throw line. To much dismay over Twitter yesterday, Love’s new deal wasn’t exactly what everyone was hoping for. After all, he’s playing like a max player but wasn’t given the deal to match. I’ll try my best to explain why it was a good deal for everyone involved later on today.
Overall, last night’s victory meant a lot to this team. It was another big road win — the last coming against the Clippers in L.A. — despite Dirk Nowitzki not being in the lineup. Dallas got rings, but the Wolves got the win, and an impressive one at that.
Next up is is the San Antonio Spurs at home on Friday at 7 pm. A little birdie says Martell Webster may suit up and even play. Just have to wait and see. Until then, get some rest, Ricky, you reeeaaaallly need it.