Maybe the news of the Indiana Pacers looking for a trade trickled down to the players as they paid the Minnesota Timberwolves a visit. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio didn’t feel too intimidated by the best defense in the NBA and simply made the Eastern conference leaders look mediocre early on, falling too far behind to catch up.
It was certainly the Kevin Love show with 42 points and 16 rebounds. He was 14-of-22 from the field (while the rest of the team shot 43% from the field) and hit five 3-pointers. Minnesota kept working to get him open and while it did hurt the offense of other players, Love found himself with shots from close and far that he loves to take, no matter who was trying to guard him.
It certainly helps to have Ricky Rubio. He was awful in his shooting once again (2-of-10 from the field), but Rubio did finish with 17 assists and 6 points, a lot of them coming after a steal which sent Love or someone else racing to a one on one with the basket.
It was the 14th time this season Love had a 30-10 night, more than anyone else in the league. Rubio had a career high 17 assists, but the 104-91 win for the Timberwolves began in the second quarter, as Minnesota opened a 20 point lead with mostly substitutes on the court. The Indiana Pacers are deeper than they were last season, but for too many times their bench unit seems completely lost. It does have Danny Granger and Luis Scola, but it also has a point guard like C.J. Watson who hasn’t really upgraded things for them, which means more pressure on the starting five, usually more than up for it, to do all the work.
Paul George did score 35 points, but letting him do all the work while the rest of the team is shut down has worked well for others. George needs others to join him, and if he beats players one on one it needs to create openings for others, which it didn’t on this occasion.
We just didn’t have a whole lot of pop tonight. This is a game that I thought we would come out and play a little better than we did. We just didn’t have it, just a step or two slow. I thought a lot of the shots he made was good defense. You have to give him credit. He is an extraordinary player and he played an extraordinary game tonight.
The playoffs might be a bit out of reach for the Timberwolves (5.5 games behind Dallas), but there’s no sense in giving up. One of the best offenses in the NBA doesn’t need too much to become a better, more consistent team. It mostly comes to the defense, and having Ronny Turiaf instead of Nikola Pekovic showed what it can look like with a more defensive minded center. It doesn’t mean to stop using Pekovic, currently injured, but it might mean to try more minutes of Love and Turiaf together on the floor.