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Our Minnesota Timberwolves are on top of the division! No, wait! They’re on top of the conference! Even the league!!!
But we can’t get ahead of ourselves, right? After all, it is just one game. And it was one game that actually went from rout to sloppy, proving that early season jitters is a real thing.
The Wolves jumped out to a big lead early, thanks to a 38-point first quarter. It was the starters that led that early bird charge over the Magic. They looked like a hungry squad ready to prove the critics long and make the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.
The second and third quarters began to muddle things up for a potential rout. The offense stayed aggressive but the Pups started missing more and more shots as the seconds ticked off. And then defensively, they were giving the Magic easy mid-range pull-up jumpers, typically a favorable shot but not when they’re falling consistently, which they were tonight out of the hands of multiple guys. The expected opening night sloppiness carried over to the third, where the Wolves offense continued to look flat. Turnovers began to mount, despite keeping them low for the majority of the game, and the most efficient offensive player in the NBA last season, Kevin Martin, was hit by a major drought.
Luckily, the Magic couldn’t muster up enough of a run even after taking the lead on an easy breakaway with just 14 seconds to go. Any momentum from that bucket was quickly severed with a big three-pointer from the one, the only Kevin Love right off the inbounds pass. A few seconds later and a defensive stop from Corey Brewer on Aaron Afflalo later, we hit overtime, where the Wolves never looked back. They took the lead early and consistently kept the spark all the way through the end.
Looking at the box score, you’d think Love was the star. Well, you’re absolutely right. But since he’s the star and the reason this team has so much buzz around it, I have to nitpick. Yep, even one game into the season. Love ended with a great line: 31 points, 17 rebounds and four assists. Also worth noting is the single turnover he had even with extra basketball. But Love didn’t score a point in the paint until the third quarter. Eventually he piled it on with relentless putbacks but that clearly means he didn’t find his true groove until that second half. Against stiffer competition the Wolves will need him to produce more consistently through the whole game, not just one half.
Having said that, though, Love is obviously tonight’s MVP. He played with passion and, for the first time in a year, looked healthy and able-bodied. I don’t think anything’s more pleasing than to see a superstar play like it once again. That injury-ravaged season is now forgotten and now it’s time to focus on the now. Love’s ready for that and it looks as though his unbelievable stats will start to turn into more wins this season. Or at least we hope.
By The Numbers:
I have a key stat to throw your way tonight. Zero minutes played for the once-again “Caged Lion,” Derrick Williams. It’s just one game and Rick Adelman still has plenty of work to do with massaging out the kinks in the rotation but no minutes for the third year pro is a tad alarming.
Also worth mentioning, the Wolves made 28 free throws to Orlando’s 11. That’s how you win basketball games, especially close ones just like tonight.
Next up for the Wolves is a battle with Oklahoma City Thunder at home on Friday night, 7 pm.