Few players in the NBA have the ability to pull off impressive stat lines quite like Kevin Love. The problem here is no matter who huge of a night he’s going to have, the Minnesota Timberwolves depend a lot more on Ricky Rubio having a good game than the player who just might be the best power forward in the NBA.
Love had the usual in the 120-98 win over the Washington Wizards. He finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds, hitting twice from beyond the arc. The more important thing to look at is Rubio’s efficiency. He scored only 9 points on 2-of-5 from the field, but also added 8 rebounds and 9 assists, not turning the ball over once and adding 3 steals. When he doesn’t make mistakes, the Timberwolves are very hard to beat, especially at home. The problem are his ups and downs, with games that seem like he has no intention or ability to get going offensively.
Another difference from previous games was the bench. The Timberwolves started the game badly, but enjoyed a 39 point second quarter. Alexey Shved has been criticized for a disappointing sophomore NBA season, but his 13 points and energy off the bench along with J.J. Barea (17 points) was what busted the game open, leaving the Wizards far behind, unable to catch up.
It’s no secret we need more production from our bench. That really helps out some of the starters, especially when every night isn’t going to be great for all of our guys, one through five. It makes things a lot easier. I like the way they played at both ends of the court. We’ve got to get something going when those guys come in.
John Wall had a good game with 26 points and 7 assists, but the self-proclaimed best point guard in the NBA wasn’t getting too much help. Marcin Gortat drowned in the sea of Pekovic and Love, always making it difficult for other frontcourt players, scoring only 8 points and not getting involved enough. Nene played 22 minutes off the bench, scoring 13 points, but without a shred of defense or anyone other than Wall stepping up to put on a more than average performance, it seemed like a lost cause.
They were tougher than we were. They pushed us around. We had no resistance. So we’ve got to put this game behind us but learn from it.
Kevin Martin had a quiet night with 12 points, but Nikola Pekovic was very active in the paint, scoring 18, adding 10 rebounds. The Timberwolves have offensive talent to do better than 14-15 so far, but part of the problem has been their awful ability on the road (5-11), where Rubio becomes one of the worst point guards in the NBA, averaging 7.9 points per game and shooting 33.6% from the field. As his production and efficiency drop, the rest of the Timberwolves follow.
This is Kevin Love’s team. The leader, it’s best player, and someone who can do everything on the floor except defend consistently. However, getting Rubio into the game, which doesn’t necessarily mean scoring but having him dominant, focused and mistake-free, is going to be the deciding factor if this will be a new experience for these Timberwolves of actually making the playoffs, or the same old lottery-bound ending.