It was as though someone had died. That was the somber feeling inside the Target Center Saturday night, the first game the Wolves have played since, only hours before tipoff, losing Ricky Rubio for the season (and possibly a large chunk of next year) to an ACL tear.
“It’s contagious, not only with the passing and the flair and everything but just being around him,” Kevin Love said. “He’s great for the team. We’re going to miss that. That’s not something you can replace as far as personality goes. But as far as play goes, we can have other guys play big.”
Love went for 31 points and 16 rebounds, but the absence of Rubio was felt across the area, there was a void that the swanky young guard provided a fill for. No alley-oop no look passes dazzled fans Saturday, the energy was trying to ge thigh but the somber tone brought down not only the crowd but the team.
The Wolves didn’t just lay down and die as is assumed across the league from the final score and the tone coming out of Minneapolis. The score was tied at 74 with around 9:00 left in the game. It was then that the Hornets went on an 11-0 run and closed out the game.
However, the most troubling aspect of all this is that the Wolves looked like the Wolves of old. They didn’t sizzle, they didn’t snap or spark and that was because of Rubio. When the Wolves would get down prior to the ACL tear, there was still some hope that the Wolves could come back.
“If they had Ricky Rubio, who knows what it would’ve been like,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
That feeling wasn’t there Saturday. There was no real sense of direction and the tone was never set.
“It’s devastating,” Martell Webster said. “But we’ve got to bounce back from it.”
The one positive to come out of Saturday was the back-to-back 20,000-plus crowds that packed the Target Center, the first time since 2003 that such an occurrence has happened. There has already been eight sellouts for the Wolves this season with many more scheduled to take place in the final month of the season.
However, like everything in Minnesota right now, that could be violently shifted with the sudden loss of Ricky Rubio.
But the playoff push goes on, as it doesn’t die with Rubio’s rookie campaign. But the loss of Rubio couldn’t have occurred at a more inconvenient time int heir push. The Wolves start a rigorous seven game road trip that sees them travel from Phoenix to Utah, to Los Angeles and Oklahoma City with no real geographic path other then the cities happen to be midwest and west coast cities.
The Wolves are back to .500 but they have dropped there, not gotten there. The test is now to see of this Wolves team is really a playoff team or if Rubio was a bigger piece then he was given credit for.
Next Three Games
3/12 - @Suns
3/15 - @Jazz
3/16 - @Lakers