Wednesday the Minnesota Timberwolves (15-16) hosted the New Orleans Pelicans (14-15). These teams entered the game struggling to rise above the .500 mark with a combined record of 29-31, but one of them would have the same amount of victories as defeats at the sound of the final buzzer.
The somewhat infamous Pierre the Pelican, New Orleans mascot, did not travel with the team, preventing a certain heated exchange between the Pelican and Crunch. Maybe the Wolves can send Crunch into the Bayou later this season. I only say that because this is a mascot battle I need to see at some point in my life. The spectacle of mascots doing mascot things will always entertain me.
— Mark Remme (@MarkRemme) January 2, 2014
Oh yea — Happy New Year.
The Wolves were two days removed from a -bummer- loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks and the Pelicans, well, I’m not entirely sure what they’ve been up to.
Tall and unibrowed, Anthony Davis has been relatively unhealthy so far this season and Eric Gordon had missed the previous three games with pain in his hip. Both were able to play, but, they were capable of playing a lot better than they did in this one.
Not even three minutes into the game the Wolves executed the offensive gameplan of getting to the free-throw line. It wasn’t long before Gordon and Davis were both in early foul trouble. If the Wolves were going to win this game, they needed to get to the free-throw line and that’s exactly what they did.
Pekovic has been playing as if he’s trying to hold-true to his own reputation of a man beast.. That’s not to say Pek has ever felt a burden on his back, he’s just personified as a beast — and he’s playing like one. A Monster.
Pek had shot 50 percent from the field and averaged 19 points while also collecting 10 rebounds in the previous three games. He’s certainly a man, and Nikola is definitely playing like it. He was determined to get to the FT line, and he wasn’t the only one.
Love did most of his scoring at the line in the first half and was struggling from the field. He made only 3 of his 10 attempts and missed all three looks from ‘downtown’. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin were in attack-mode, too. They almost had an identical first half shooting the basketball. (That felt weird to type)
- Rubio — 10 points | 3 of 5 FG | 1 of 1 3pt FG | 3 of 4 FT
- Martin — 10 points | 3 of 5 FG | 0 of 1 3pt FG | 4 of 4 FT
After starting the game shooting 6-for-17 tonight, the Wolves hit 38 of their next 62 — finishing 55 percent from the field. This was their best shooting performance of the season.
When it was over Pekovic had made 8 of his 11 attempts at the stripe of charity. He was the only player on either team to take at least 10 FT’s during the game. But that wasn’t because Kevin Love wasn’t trying to get there because at the end of the first half the two had combined to sink 8-of-13 from the line.
This quite possibly could have been the most efficient game of the season for Rubio. He scored 14, missed only two shots and one free-throw, dished-out eight assists, grabbed six rebounds and stole eight cookies by the time this game was over. If you didn’t grow up playing basketball with or against a player consistently yelling, ‘TOOK HIS COOKIES”, you probably didn’t understand that a cookie is the reward for completing a steal.
If I lost you — Rubio had three steals.
Star #1 is the entire bench
- J.J. Barea didn’t like Love pointing out, in not so bold terms, that the bench was nonexistent Monday night.
“I don’t like it,” Barea said. “I don’t want to comment a lot on that. I definitely don’t like it.”
- Barea, like Rubio, had a ridiculously efficient evening and helped the aforementioned lesser-talented group of players regain battlefield honor by scoring 17. He was three-of-five from long distance.
- Dante Cunningham and Alexey Shved each scored 10. But that’s all I’ll say about the bench for now because of the inconsistency. Tonight they were a group that made up a single star.
Star #2 is Kevin Martin
- He looked healthy, played as if he were healthy, and it’s nice to have him back. He also had a very efficient night.
Star #3 is Kevin Love
- Picking one of his worst scoring nights to say it felt like the best win so far this season — that’s a leader. He gets the star because he is a star.
Rick Adelman is being stubborn. I don’t understand the -not- playing the rookies, thing, with him. I understand he has his ways of doing things. It happened with Derrick Williams, even though most of the blame for that dysfunctional relationship falls on Adelman’s system. It’s games like this one that will fuel the coach’s philosophy. His structure of doing things that has earned him so many wins is also a curse.
Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng can make a difference on this level, and on when nights where the bench, Barea in particular, can’t -or isn’t- hacking it — I’d like to see the rookies play more. If that happens, and they fail, it’s still experience for ‘Bazz and Dieng. I admit this idea is selfish because at this point I’m pulling my own hair thinking about what these players could do.
The Starters got help from the bench tonight. The usual consistency from the five of Rubio, Martin, Love, Pekovic and Corey Brewer stalled a bit, but not much. An unexpected efficient effort from Barea, Cunningham and Shved kept the call for the depth-chart’s bottom-dwellers at bay this time, hopefully for the Timberwolves it’s an effort they keep pace with going forward.
Overall the Pelicans just didn’t have it. A lot of Pek’s dominance was due to the fact he matched up against Ryan Anderson. Anderson stood no chance. Gordon and Davis, still young players, were in foul trouble early and the team never got into a rhythm beyond a minute stretch during the first half. The Wolves played better basketball and the better team won tonight.