Somehow, the Minnesota Timberwolves keep winning. At first they were missing both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, but now Love is back. Andrei Kirilenko is injured, Brandon Roy is facing retirement again. Not stability whatsoever, but the Timberwolves are in a good place, rebounding from a long losing streak, waiting for the return of their prodigal point guard.
For now, what they have is Kevin Love, not completely healthy. Not just because of his return from a broken arm, but because he played sick for 30 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks, still contributing 15 points and 14 rebounds to push Minnesota to their second win in three games, bouncing back from a five game losing streak.
Love is usually the most impressive player when it comes to statistics in any game, but this time it was Larry Sanders, coming off the bench to finish with a triple double of 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks, the first kind of TD for a bench player since Shawn Bradley had 22 points, 22 rebounds and 13 blocks for the Mavs in 1998.
And while the Timberwolves are having all kinds of problems keeping their ship in the right direction, a game against the front-light Bucks is always nice solution. Love wasn’t at his best, which he hasn’t been since his impressive debut this season 10 days ago (34 points, 14 rebounds vs Denver), but he was good enough to lead the Timbewolves, along with Nikola Pekovic (14 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks), J.J. Barea (15 points), Luke Ridnour (16 points) and most importantly, Alexey Shved coming off the bench to score 16 more points.
Shved has been quite a revelation this season, who has become somewhat of a go to guy in the clutch for Minnesota, averaging 10.4 points on his first NBA season. While Roy, Kirilenko, Chase Budinger and Rubio are out, the Wolves keep showing they’re a bit different from what we saw last season: A bit tougher, a bit deeper, a bit more resilient.
Not all is bright, as the recent form and 7-8 record show: Derrick Williams isn’t becoming the kind of scorer, in the lineup or off the bench, he was expected to when he came out of Arizona, so far averaging 9.5 points per game while shooting a terrible 38.1% from the field. The Timberwolves are struggling with putting points on the board because they don’t have a real point guard running the show (or to be more exact, their real point guard), leading to only 92.5 points per game, very unlike Rick Adelman teams.
They’re shooting at only 42% from the field, 28.6% from beyond the arc. Their offensive struggled continued against the Bucks, hitting only 39.1% from the field. Luckily, their three point shooting (8-19), mostly thanks to Shved (4-6), saved the day. Kevin Love was especially lazy when it concerned making things happen, going 1-7 from beyond the arc.
And until Rubio returns, along with the rest of the injured parties, the Timberwolves have no offensive identity. Going with the hot hand and trying to force things too often. Their defense holds them together quite often, conceding over 100 points only once through the last through the last four games, but they need their full lineup to make it work well, especially the back spasm suffering Kirilenko.
At full health, even without Roy, the Timberwolves are good enough for a playoff spot. They’re deep with enough scoring options coming off the bench, and a point guard everyone’s waiting to see again. For now, it’s up to Kevin Love to hold the ship, even when he’s sick. They need him better than he was, at least when it comes to shot selection, to stay on the winning path.