If the Minnesota Timberwolves are to break their postseason drought and make the playoffs, they’re going to need a lot more games such as the one Ricky Rubio brought in the 112-97 win over the Utah Jazz. There are better scorers than him on the team like Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, but he’s the one who makes it all work when he’s having a good day.
And right from the start in the win over the Jazz it was a great day. The Timberwolves started off in lightning speed and never slowed down, while the Jazz showed up way too late. The Timberwolves were up by 18 points by the time the first quarter ended, and the rest of the game went on with an easy, fun feeling to it, something like an exhibition. It even gave Rubio time to play around with a young fan while the game was delayed during the third quarter.
I was pleased with the way we came out and controlled the game from beginning to end. I thought the JazzWe knew we had the advantage against them inside. After last game, we wanted to keep doing that. We had a nice balance of looking at those two guys, plus getting other open looks would come out with so much energy at the start of the game.
The Jazz were missing their defensive anchor, Derrick Favors, and looked lost from the start. Ricky Rubio finished the game with only 11 points but added 13 assists and 5 steals. He had no problem getting in the way of bad passes from Burke and Hayward, as the Timberwolves scored 19 points off of fast breaks and easily found themselves in the paint, scoring 50 near the basket.
Kevin Love was quite close to a triple double with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists, while Nikola Pekovic seemed to enjoy all the free space under the basket, finishing with 18 points. The Timberwolves did shoot well from the outside (8-21), but they kept pushing inside, getting to the line 24 times, twice as much as the Jazz did.
The only players who showed up for the Jazz were Gordon Hayward (who else) scoring 27 points and Alec Burks with 18 off the bench. But their best bits came during garbage time, which seemed to last for three quarters long, while the Timberwolves were simply coasting and enjoying the evening.
The Timberwolves are only 4.5 games behind the Suns. It’s more than possible they make up for that in the second half of the season, but the keys are in Rubio’s hands. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are almost guaranteed to bring some sort of minimal production to the table. Kevin Martin is also good for 15 points or more (averaging 19.1 this season) at varying efficiency each night. Rubio is the X factor, and the biggest mystery.
The Timberwolves aren’t going to be able to turn each game into a scoring contest from side to side with half court sets. When Rubio (if is more like it) figures out how to excel in slower games and make himself into something of a scoring threat from mid range or deeper, the Timberwolves will be a lot more consistent. However, there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen anytime soon, and Kevin Love is running out of patience.