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Some wins look bad on paper.
Beating New Jersey by just three points is one of those wins. I wasn’t able to watch the game live, so following it on my phone, I was really discouraged seeing the Nets continue to fight back whenever it felt like Minnesota was about to put them away. The Timberwolves went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter and a 12-0 run in the third, and both times they failed to administer anything resembling a killing blow.
But watching the replay on League Pass, I was more encouraged. Maybe it was just the sweet pass from Rubio to Wes Johnson, maybe it was Pekovic suddenly turning into mid-90s Hakeem Olajuwon, I’m not sure. But here’s a short list of the things that Minnesota weathered to come away with their 11th win of the season:
- Anthony Morrow: Destroyer of Worlds. Morrow scored a career high 42 points.
- Wes Johnson fouling Morrow: Destroyer of Worlds on a three point attempt that gave the Nets a four point play and brought the game within one.
- A mediocre night from Kevin Love. (He had a 20-10 double double, but needed 16 shots to do it and was bullied by Kris Humphries all night.)
- 15-46 shooting from the starters.
- A road game on the East Coast (despite a startling number of Rubio fans…is he creating road fanboys?)
- 16 turnovers as a team.
- An obnoxious fan who looked a little like The Situation jumping around on the sideline. I’m just impressed nobody punched him.
- Deron Williams vs Ricky Rubio.
Somehow, despite all that, Minnesota pulled out a gutsy victory. New Jersey is not a good basketball team this year. But if a team has Deron Williams and a player who drops 42 points, they are a good team for the night. So how did they pull this one out?
One very big man putting together a very big statline: Nikola Pekovic.
Sometimes when a player scores a ton of points, it’s really difficult to imagine him ever scoring that many again.
For example: Michael Beasley against Houston on Monday. Will he score that many points again at some point? Probably. But 34 points on 10-14 shooting? 2-3 from behind the arc? Probably not going to continue. He demonstrated some really positive signs, posting up more often and working to get to the basket, but Beasley’s long twos historically don’t continue to fall the way they did against Houston.
Friday night’s performance by Nikola Pekovic is a little more intriguing. Pek scored a career high 27 points against the Nets in 34 minutes off the bench. He shot 11-14 from the floor and even contributed a huge assist, finding Ridnour open in the corner for a late three.
Take a look at Pekovic’s shot chart for a second. The thought that has been bouncing around in my head (and tripping me out) since last night is this: none of those shots are unsustainable. They were all easy layups or shots close to the rim, created either by a series of nice post moves that utilize his strength, or beautiful passes from Rubio. That’s the big difference between Pekovic and Darko: Pek catches Rubio’s passes and finishes them with ease. Darko lets them bounce of his fingers out of bounds.
And yeah, I know that Pek will struggle when matched up against taller, longer defenders. But there are going to be very few players who can match his strength. While expecting 27 points per game is completely unreasonable, I honestly believe that he can develop into a productive center for Minnesota.
That roughly covers last night’s game. It didn’t always look pretty but Minnesota needed a win and they got it.
Tonight, they go for .500 again. Much more coming soon.