As the playoffs get further and further away from the Minnesota Timberwolves (been that way for a long time), all that’s left is to enjoy Ricky Rubio returning to himself as the most enjoyable to watch point guard in the NBA, while Derrick Williams proves he’s much more than just a high draft pick that warms up the bench.
The last time the Timberwolves were over .500 was on January 8. Since then they have won only 6 games, losing 24. It’s hard to put up a winning streak when the injury list changes each and every day, and Ricky Rubio took quite a while for him to get back on the track he was last season – putting up impressive numbers across the board, while trying to get over his fear from shooting from the outside and his shot selection in general. By beating the San Antonio Spurs 107-83, Rubio got his first career triple doube – 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
Derrick Williams is another player flourishing despite loss after loss hitting the Timberwolves over the last couple of months. Rick Adelman might not be his biggest fan, but Williams, when he gets the minutes, usually proves he’s worth including in the future of the franchise, finishing with 13 points, which is his weakest output in quite sometime. Williams is averaging 17.6 points and 8.3 rebounds a night over the last 10 games, suddenly getting 35 minutes each game.
Having Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko all out for the count due to different injuries might be the only reason Williams is finally getting some time on the floor, but he’s certainly showing that with an increase in minutes, there’s a vast increase in production. It won’t help the Timberwolves win too much, probably not even get to 30 wins by the end of the season, but it’s about making it stick in people’s minds for next season, when the Wolves again think about the playoffs, as long as everyone remain healthy.
The San Antonio Spurs were bad, and not just for their missing personnel, which included Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs have beaten teams, or at least looked a lot more competitive with their second string lineups more than once this season. But Manu Ginobili, going through quite a bad stretch, finished with 2-10 from the field, scoring 7 points and having a -30 during his 22 minutes on the floor. Tiago Splitter, the most important offensive player for the team due to the missing players, was even worse with 1-10 from the field, finishing with four points.
The Spurs shot only 35.4% from the field, missing quite a lot of open shots, as the Timberwolves aren’t exactly defensive stalwarts when Kirilenko isn’t playing. After the first quarter, in which they led 28-24 by the end of the 12 minutes, the Spurs managed to add only 55 more points while shooting 29%. David Stern must have been pleased to hear that, but when it’s not a nationally televised game, he doesn’t really give a crap.
Some games don’t mean too much in the big picture – the Spurs still lead in the West, the Timberwolves won’t make the postseason. But adding confidence, looking a bit further to the future, and getting a nice little individual trinket, isn’t such a bad thing to be proud of, especially for Rubio, who needs every kind of boost he can pickup.