Despite starting strong and leading the Lakers at halftime, the Wolves floundered without the services of Kevin Love and fell to the Lakers late.
All of the Wolves starters entered double digits in scoring with Nikola Pekovic leading the way with 25. Derrick Williams continued to take advantage of his increase in minutes going for 22 points and 10 rebounds, electrifying the Wolves in the first half and filling Love’s shoes very well.
The amazing first half was much needed, as minutes before tipoff, Kevin Love was scratched due to back spasms. He’s not expected to miss Saturday’s game against the Hornets but he was sorely missed in the paint on Friday.
The Timberwolves finished the night minus 11 rebounding with 34 boards. Between Pekovic and Williams they totaled 23 of the Wolves rebounds with the rest of the 11 boards being divvied up amongst Ricky Rubio, Anthony Tolliver, Martell Webster and Michael Beasley.
But while the first half was an amazing half of basketball for the Wolves, the second half couldn’t have been more the opposite. Not only did the Wolves allow the Lakers back into the game, they lost Ricky Rubio in the process.
Late in the game Rubio appeared to have collided knees with Kobe Bryant, but further review seemed to show no contact. Nevertheless, Rubio left and didn’t return. An MRI is scheduled for Saturday. After the game, Wolves brass weren’t commenting on the status of Rubio and didn’t seem optimistic.
That wasn’t the end of the Wolves woes. With 16 seconds left in the game, and a chance to win, Derrick Williams had a drive blocked by Pau Gasol but there appeared to be contact. There was no foul called — much to the displeasure of Williams and the sold out crowd inside the Target Center — and the Lakers were able to hold on.
“The ref said he jumped straight up in the air, but I thought he came down on my arms,” Williams said. “I just tried to make a good play and try to get to the basket and not settle.”
There was also a controversial goaltending call on Nikola Pekovic that gave Andrew Bynum a bucket with 34 seconds to go which ended up giving the lakers the edge.
The Wolves continue to be a hot and cold, start and stop team in the second half. They played the Lakers closer then people thought, but close counts in hand grenades, not making the NBA postseason. After the loss the Wolves have a quick turnaround, hosting the New Orleans Hornets Saturday night.
Despite the loss the Wolves remain a game above .500 and are a half game behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed in the West. The revolving door that is the eighth seed won’t be set in stone for some time and with Minnesota owning the tie breaker over the Rockets, things are really finally starting to fall into place for Minnesota.
Extreme emphasis on finally.