It’s been real, L.A.
Seriously. That was two of the more entertaining Wolves games I’ve took in over the last nine years. It all started with the record-breaking offensive onslaught against the Lakers last night and ended with one of the most grinding performances down the stretch of this one. Last night went in our favor but this one, even despite the loss, was just a little more special.
Britt Robson continuously tweeted about the Wolves’ sheer effort tonight, and I couldn’t agree more. Rick Adelman made a mistake by leaving the second unit in way too long in the fourth quarter — and I’ll get to more about that later — but it seemingly gave the Clippers the reigns and a great chance to seal the victory early in the fourth. But the Wolves surged back behind their starting five, which have played so well together through these first eight games. That kind of determination late in games is going to be so important down the stretch of the season. Once the league starts to settle and teams begin to separate themselves come playoff season, games will only get tougher to win. I’d rather have a team play their hearts out down the stretch and potentially lose than to rip off a big quarter to start a game and potentially set yourself up for a major let down.
Anyways, major credit is due to Nikola Pekovic in this one. He had 17 points in the first half and finished with a season-high 25. Going to him in the paint over DeAndre Jordan was proving successful, which leads me to question why it didn’t continue in the second half more often. Instead, Rubio led the charge on high pick-and-rolls, which paved the way for some beautiful drop-offs to Pek for easy buckets. But I would’ve liked to see them make more of an effort to get him the ball on the block down the stretch. After all, he more than deserved it. Putting that big first half off offensively aside, Pek was a monster on defense. He was responsible for even giving the Wolves a chance at the end by forcing Blake Griffin into an uncomfortable shot at the rim, giving the Wolves the ball back with just over six ticks to go and a two-point deficit.
Aside from Pek, the Wolves relied heavily on the Kevins for scoring again. 23 came from that Love guy but more impressively was the 30 that sprouted from Martin’s hands. He dropped 20 of his total in the second half, actually, and, although he probably shot too often (22 FGA), he still finds a way to stay efficient when needed the most and he’s done that all year long so far.
But outside of those three and the pure hustle and outstanding defensive efforts from both Corey Brewer and Rubio (Both had rough nights offensively), the Wolves just lacked able bodies to compete with any Clippers, starters or reserves. All the second unit managed to do out there was allow the Clips to go on big runs in the second and fourth quarters and force the starters’ hands into tough situations to come back each time.
J.J. Barea, Dante Cunningham and Alexey Shved, supposedly Adelman’s top-flight men off the bench combined for a putrid 3-18 shooting. Throw Derrick Williams and Gorgui Dieng into the mix and they were minus-42 on the court tonight, while the starters were plus-32. So really, aside from Dieng’s okay five minutes, the bench was purely awful and had a lot to do with the outcome of this game. When the season grows longer and rest time becomes more and more valuable, the bench guys are going to have to step up. At the beginning of the season we thought this was the deepest team in years but their not proving it right now. And if they don’t soon, I know another two or three guys farther down the bench who wouldn’t mind getting a shot of their own.
I won’t be negative nancy anymore, though because that was truly a thriller. I mean, we were a simple tip-in away from free basketball at the end and you can almost consider Jamal Crawford’s 55-footer at the end of the third to be the game-winning shot. If anything, this is another step forward during this new-look Wolves season. They gave the Clippers, who are a top-3 team in the West, a serious run for their money even with inconsistent and questionable calls from the refs as well as a half-court buzzer beater. The Wolves aren’t going to back down from anyone until someone can find a way to exploit them. So far, no one has really figured out how to do that.
Next up the Wolves come back home to face the Cavaliers for the second time already this season. Uncle Drew be ballin’.