It’s safe to say that Ricky Rubio is back. The Minnesota Timberwolves, still hampered by too many injuries, aren’t winning that much; their playoffs project will have to get pushed back a season. And still, it’s great to see one of the more special players in the NBA finding his place in the league again.
It took a while, but Rubio is finally confident in getting physical and just keeping away from the action. His 13 points and 10 assists in the 100-92 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the ‘Wolves’ first road win since January 3, wasn’t the first this season. He has notched three in the last five games, averaging 14.4 points and 10 assists in those. He doesn’t have the team he thought he’d be running, but at least he is where he should be in terms of condition and form.
When you go through the things we’ve had to go through the last two or three weeks, it wears on you mentally. They’re human. You get out there and bust your tails and lose a close game in the last minute it starts to wear on you big time. In this league you’ve got to be mentally tough enough to get through it. You’ve got to find a way to win. I hope it’s a big boost for us.
It’s been a rough month for the Timberwolves, who have won only three games out of their last 18, as injuries to Kevin Love among other players simply took them for a painful nosedive after remaining above .500 for the early stretch of the season, even during Love’s and Rubio’s initial absence.
Luke Ridnour, who came up as the hero in the win over the Cavs, finishing with 21 points and some big fourth quarter shots, including a three pointer that made it six points again (95-89) as the Cavs were getting closer. The Timberwolves in general were shooting much better than usual, making 57.1% of their three point attempts, as even Rubio hit one on his only attempts, making it 2-3 in the last three games. For some players in the league, they do that (take that many shots, not make two) in less than one quarter.
How far can the Timberwolves go this season? Not too much. Without Love and now without Kirilenko, the best this team can hope for is a decent finish in the final couple of months to the season. There won’t be a postseason game once against for the Timberwolves, who seemed destined to make their first playoffs since 2004 this year, but ran out of luck even before the season began, and once again during it.
For the Cavs, it seems that sometimes distractions make them play a lot less harder than they should. Kyrie Irving has taken over games much harder than this, but it’s hard without the big man (Anderson Varejao) that should have been one of the centerpieces for this team. For now, all he can do is think about maybe LeBron James returning to the Cavaliers in 2014; like that’s ever going to happen.