Jonah: The game after his odd benching in Phoenix, Derrick Williams picked up where he left off by tying his career-high in points (28). And he was fairly efficient too; 11-18 from the field including three deep bombs. Williams’ improved play is going to leave the Wolves with a big decision to make on his future moving forward. My take? Ya keep him and milk his production as long as it takes.
Tom: After Williams’ excellent performance (and I concur with Jonah’s assessment of the situation), the next logical player to highlight is Ricky Rubio, who had a very solid game with 15 points on 4-8 shooting. Two very notable things about Ricky’s performance that are inextricably tied together: Rubio was 7-10 from the free throw line, and he dished out eight assists. Both statistics were a direct result of his offensive aggression, which has been much, much better as of late. Many of his assists were pick-and-roll dishes, including one gorgeous between-two-defenders bounce pass to Nikola Pekovic for the slam. Pekovic’s efficiency can often be predicted simply by looking at Rubio’s stat-line, and sure enough: Pek finished 6-9 from the field for 15 points.
Jonah: This game is hard to analyze. Just looking at the numbers, the Wolves shot 50% from the field and make just two less field goals than the Bulls. They hit 50% from three-point land as well while dropping in one more free throw and one less turnover than the Bulls as well. The difference? Rebounds. The Wolves got their ass’ handed to them in the paint and completely wiped on the glass. For being known as workhorse rebounding team, getting beat by 20 is unacceptable, even if you’re missing your top rebounder. Rebounding is a team stat that requires everyone’s attention and aggressiveness.
Tom: I quote: ”‘They could complain about how many guys they’ve got hurt and they don’t do that,’ Rubio said. ‘They just play aggressive. We have to learn from that. If they can do it, we can do it, too.’”
I admire Rubio’s sentiment, and I appreciate the amount of heart and hustle we see from him on a nightly basis, even in ugly losing efforts. I just don’t think that Chicago’s injury problems, though certainly severe, can be compared to Minnesota’s. You can play aggressive, but when Lou Amundson got significant minutes for much of the year, aggressive just isn’t going to cut it.
Jonah: Moving forward, I’m starting more and more to question Alexey Shved’s role on this team. He can’t seem to coincide with Rubio all that well — although he hasn’t gotten much of a chance quite yet. But he seems to only be effective when the ball’s in his own hands. He’ll never be a spot up shooter, nor do I believe that’s what Adelman wants from him. It’s cliche but this rookie wall is bearing down hard. It’s time to shoulder through it and build confidence moving into the offseason.
Tom: Three jumpers for Budinger tonight, who seems to be picking his spots and getting comfortable as he returns. He looks understandably hesitant still, but the good news is that he is a good enough shooter to contribute while he works his way back to full health.
The downside: Seeing Budinger knocking down jumpers and driving to the basket is a gigantic tease knowing how much he would have helped this season back when it wasn’t a lost cause.
Next up: The Wolves meet in Detroit to take on the Pistons on Tuesday night, 7 pm.