Playoff team or not, the Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the more fun to watch in the NBA, beginning with Kevin Love who can do it all on offense with another great night, Ricky Rubio who hit a close to impossible layup and even Shabazz Muhammad, coming to life all of a sudden with his best game of his rookie season.
Love finished with 33 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists in another game in which he displayed the full arsenal of his shot making ability. He doesn’t need time, too much separation to make his long range magic work. He was also excellent in finding open players, especially Corey Brewer who kept cutting to he basket, knowing Rubio (11 assists) and Love were going to find him.
One big play that changed the game came with just under four minutes in the fourth quarter. The Suns were still up by 1 at that point (95-94), but trying to get to an offensive rebound, Goran Dragic picked up his sixth foul of the game. From that moment the Suns stopped playing, as one might expect without their best player. Minnesota went on a 16-6 run, capping off the 110-101 win, bringing them to 28-29 and once again dreaming about the postseason.
How realistic is it? They’re still 5.5 games behind the 8th place Suns, and we haven’t seen enough consistency when it comes to defending from the Timberwolves to make us think they can suddenly turn things around and win at a necessary pace and overtake the Suns or Mavs.
With Nikola Pekovic out and Ronny Turiaf injured, the Timberwolves are playing mostly small ball with Love as their big man. He doesn’t mind playing center, but against some teams (not the Suns), the lack of any kind of interior presence does bite you back. The Kevin Martin injury might not be as bad, especially if Muhammad makes the most of the extended minutes he’s getting, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-13 from the field.
This was a game without defense, with 116 points in the paint for both teams combined. But if the Suns, not the greatest rebounding team in the league, managed to grab 18 offensive rebounds against the Timberwolves, the hope of suddenly putting things together and becoming a playoff caliber team doesn’t look great for Minnesota, who are running out of time and seasons to convince Kevin Love to re-sign with them. He has a player option for the 2015-2016 season, but if the Timberwolves don’t make the playoffs this year or the next, he’ll most likely give up on that option and head to greener pastures.
Love is going through a unique streak, pulling off his sixth consecutive 30-10 game. Over the last 30 years, only two players have had longer streaks: Karl Malone with 8 games in the 1987-1988 season and Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000-2001 season with 11 consecutive games of 30 points and 10 rebounds at least. Love is averaging 34.1 points and 14.3 rebounds in February. With only one more game left for him to play this month, he could become the first player to average at least 34 points and 14 rebounds in a single month since Moses Malone in March, 1982.