The chants get to be awfully annoying. Naive Timberwolves fans think it’s cute to chant “MVP” regardless of the situation, regardless of which player is even in that position. The chants are just straight silly, and they’re engaged by the crowd because of a sheer lack of anything better to say.
The Timberwolves are gratefully lucky to have one league MVP in the past, so the chant ought to be respected, especially in Minnesota. The continued chants night after night are just overboard and plain obnoxious when they have no relation to the situation on the court. But when a player as prominent to a losing franchise as Kevin Love is to the Wolves, those chants become increasingly more deserving and you can’t help but join in the beautiful chorus. That was Target Center. That was tonight.
Love was stuck in a shooting rut all night long. It was one of his worst games offensively all year long, starting the game a mere 2-15 from the field. But when the Wolves needed help the most, Love came through in the clutch, scoring 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including two calmly stroked free throws to tie and win the game with just 0.1 seconds left in the contest.
Because of Love’s inadequate shooting performance, the Wolves demanded that someone step up, anyone really. That person was actually a collective effort from the point guard trio, led especially by Ricky Rubio. With Love starting the first quarter 0-5, Rubio took the bulk of scoring into his own hands. He managed to put up 14 points in the first, utilizing shots from all over the court. He nailed two threes to help close the 11-point gap the Sixers had created in the early going. Then it was his free throws that kept things close all the way through. When Rubio saw bench time, JJ Barea was able to fill the void of any scoring deficit. Although Barea takes risks, his gamble usually proves successful and tonight was one of those nights. And alongside both Rubio and Barea, Ridnour was able to knock some important shots down, while playing stiff defense on Lou Williams, at least in the first half. The trio combined for 46 points, and, perhaps the most important number of them all, committed just two turnovers.
Nikola Pekovic was another deciding factor, as inserting him into the starting lineup alongside Love has helped create a deadly duo under the hoop. Pek recorded 17 and nine along with five big offensive rebounds; it marks the fifth time this year that Pek has ripped down five or more offensive boards. More than half of Pek’s points were generated from the charity stripe. The sweetness of having a 6’11″ center that can nail his free throws is nearly unmatched. His brute force under the hoop can’t even be punished with the old “Hack a Shaq” technique because from there he’ll just hurt you even more. 9-10 from the line? C’mon now.
It was clearly a group effort from Adelman’s shortened rotation of just eight players, accentuated by those mentioned above. In a game with two equally matched, highly talented teams, there was a sense that this one would come down to the wire, and without big moments and plays from those guys, this wouldn’t have ended the same. In such a close game, there was never a game-clinching run that all but sealed it, spelling out that these two teams were ready to battle to the last 0.1 second, and that they did. Both teams hit big shots when they needed it most. Both teams stiffened their defenses when they needed a stop. But it came down to the end when both teams were waiting for the game to bend and finally break. The Wolves were graced by the presence of a possible MVP. The Sixers were not. That was the ultimate difference.
No matter how excruciatingly painstaking his shooting performance could’ve been, Love single-handedly accomplished the team’s goal of obtaining a victory. Before this game, it was fair to consider him a longshot MVP candidate. After this game, his name demands to be in the running as a serious contender. The chants are now necessary and warmly welcomed. Seriously, that drive was breathtaking; it literally sucked the air right out of the Target Center. The two free throws? The floors were practically rumbling due to everyone’s shaky knees. But the way Love stepped up and knocked them both down with tranquility was blissful, and just so MVP-like.
This win puts the Wolves at .500 again for the season at 16-16. Now the Wolves are just one win away from tying their win total of all of last season. If that’s not a complete 180, then I don’t know what is. Some of it has to do with Adelman, some of it has to do with Rubio. But most of it has to do with the maturity and clutch ways of Kevin Love.
Next up the Wolves travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets squad, who was upset in a thriller against the OKC Thunder tonight. Maybe, just maybe, it was enough to knock ‘em off their high horse just enough for the Wolves to take advantage of their momentum and push their record above .500 yet again.