Jonah: First off, what an amazing win. It not only capitalizes the first time the Wolves have been three games over .500 since ’06 but it also exemplifies the growth this team has endured over such a small period of time. Rebuilding ain’t easy, but the Wolves are making it look like it is so far. A big piece of that growth and my positive out of tonight has been the play of the young guys, Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved. David Kahn balanced this team with guys both young and old. The old guys have shown up to play but it’s the young guys’ growth that’s so impressive. Williams has seemed much more under control the last two contests and seems to have a feel on his jumper, while throwing in some aggressive drives as well. And Shved, well, he’s really proved himself at the world’s highest level. It started in Brooklyn but tonight he certainly shined, and in the fourth quarter of all times. His fourth quarter performances bring me back to last season and Ricky Rubio’s ability to turn games around in the clutch. His shooting isn’t up-to-par quite yet but when he’s making plays on defense and with his passing, you really can’t complain.
Tom: Obviously, a big win at the buzzer is an enormous positive in itself. But I was most excited that even in a classically hero-ball situation, the Wolves played the style of basketball that has been working for them: sharing the ball and getting the best possible shot. In this case, the best possible shot was an easy layup by Budinger off a heads up pass by Kirilenko.
Derek: You wanna know how to win a close game? Make your free throws. And the Wolves did just that, shooting 85% from the line. It’s great to see Budinger go 9-10 from the line in addition to Pek going 5-6, and nobody on the team missing more than one attempt. Whatever free throw drill Adelman put them through worked, and made the difference in this game, especially since Indiana shot 88% from the line themselves.
Jonah: The post/help defense was pathetic. I’m not so sure what Pek’s deal was tonight but he never seemed all that comfortable on offense or defense. And no one else was big or strong enough to handle Roy Hibbert or David West. Greg Stiemsma’s usually the man to go-to in that time but even he couldn’t pester the paint without getting in to foul trouble. The defense has been very good up until this point. It’s just that tonight was the first time a team could work the Wolves inside to outside with very little resistance.
Tom: It should be pointed out how close this game came to disaster, as the Wolves tried REALLY hard to give it away in the final seconds. First, with Minnesota up six off a should-have-been dagger jumpshot from Cunningham, Budinger fouled George Hill on a floater, and Hill converted the three-point play. Then Pek whiffed on an easy layup, tossing it high off the backboard. Then Ridnour got screened off Hill forcing Cunningham to guard the ducking and dodging point guard, who stepped back for an open 3-pointer. If this game had gone into overtime, the Wolves would have been reeling and the Pacers would have been feeling pretty confident.
But, of course, it didn’t and all’s well that ends well.
Derek: This one is easy for me: Brandon Roy leaving early with knee soreness. Sure, he’s traveling with the team and he was taken out as a precautionary measure, but this still sucks to see! This is the first time we, and the Timberwolves, have had to deal with a flare up of Brandon’s knee issues, too. That means figuring out if fewer minutes or a night off will be the remedy so Brandon can make it through the entire season.
Jonah: Dante Cunningham continues to work hard in all facets of the game. And even though Williams had himself a very efficient game on the offensive end, it still wasn’t enough to shake Adelman’s hand in giving him the nod in the final minutes of the game. Cunningham does what he’s told and goes beyond. He’s developed a mid-range shot and remains the most active big men on the defensive end. His production and intensity alone will continue to tip Adelman’s hand in giving him clutch minutes over the improving Williams.
Tom: More of a question than an observation, but are the Wolves kind of like last year’s Nuggets at the moment? A bunch of decently talented role players buying into a team concept and winning a bunch games? If so, it’s going to be VERY interesting to see what happens when Love and Rubio come back, since the most basic critique of last year’s Denver team was that they didn’t have a superstar when they got to the playoffs. Minnesota has a bona fide superstar once Love comes back.
Derek: I talked about this in my preview, but Roy Hibbert didn’t have a performance like his previous ones against Pek. Instead of shooting sixty or seventy percent, Hibbert had a more human 5-11 performance against him. Unfortunately, Pek didn’t go off either, but in the end it didn’t matter and the Wolves came away with the victory.
Notes: Brandon Roy started the first half then warmed up to play the second before heading back to the locker room for the rest of the night with a sore knee. Early word has it that his soreness is a result of bumping it last week and aggravating it tonight. He will make the trip to Chicago to try and give it a go. JJ Barea’s availability for tomorrow night is unknown at this point but he did not play tonight due to a sprained left foot.
Next up: The Wolves head to Chicago to take the Bulls on tomorrow night at 7 pm.