The Minnesota Timberwolves have gotten used to playing without their best players. Ricky Rubio is out once again with back spasm; Kevin Love couldn’t finish the game, spraining his finger. It didn’t stop them from claiming a big away win.
Yes, Kevin Love is their best player and top scorer, averaging 18.8 point per game. But he missed the first six weeks, and the Timberwolves were pretty much in the same place they’ve been with him – slightly above .500, with a different player stepping up every time.
Five other players on the Timberwolves, not including the injured Chase Budinger, are averaging double-figures in scoring. In Denver, against a Nuggets team coming into the game with an 8-game win streak at home, it was again that parity in the team, with six players in double figures, that helped come up with the win.
George Karl realized something, but that was only after his team lost the game. I think Minnesota at times plays better without Love. They’re kind of a machine-like offense. They give guys different opportunities. But they’re pretty good.
It’s all about finding the right guy at the right time. On Thursday, it was J.J. Barea, finishing with 17 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, to put the Timberwolves above .500 once again. Alexey Shved, another player in the very similar mold of Barae, had a big game, finishing with 17 points as well. Kevin Love had 12 and 17 rebounds when he left the game, but the Timberwolves were -12 during his 24 minutes on the floor and +17 the rest of the time. Maybe Karl does have a point.
The Timberwolves’ defense was once again a huge key in their win. They’re sixth in the NBA this season, allowing only 95 points per game. They kept Denver under 100 points for the 17 time this season. The Nuggets are 4-13 when they don’t score in triple digits. After giving up 106 points in the previous 22 point loss to Utah, a defensive performance, although not a perfect one, was in the making.
You’re going to have a couple of games a year like we did in Utah. You just don’t want to have too many of them. Fortunately, everybody bounced back today. We got a big win in a really tough place to play.
Danilo Gallinari continued his very disappointing season, shooting 4-11 from the field, finishing with 12 points. Andre Iguodala was only 6-16, finishing with 14. Andre Miller, who started at point guard again, finished with 11 points and was the only one that had something to smile about. He surpassed the 15,000 career points mark, becoming just the eighth player to reach that scoring milestone while also dishing out at least 7500 assists. The rest of the players in the club – Oscar Robertson, Gary Payton, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash.
George Karl talked a lot about energy and his team simply not putting up the necessary effort to win the game, but that’s the usual excuse. Plenty of times it was a team struggling how to penetrate a very good perimeter defense by the Timberwolves, not to mention the Nuggets’ own defensive problems, finishing with only 6-22 from beyond the arc.