What a game, these Wolves finally showed the poise and ability to execute in crunch time that has seemed to be non-existent at times in the last few years. They patiently waited for the right opportunity and executed when the opportunity was there and have gotten this team off to their best start since the 2001-02 season. While this team was supposed to just try and survive until Kevin Love comes back, they have won 3 in a row.
The entire first half was a tight battle for the Timberwolves with Derrick Williams leading the way with 11 points on 5-7 shooting after coming into the game shooting just 34%. Derrick actually did most of his damage in the first quarter hitting 4-6 from the floor. What was more impressive is he did this damage while being saddled with the task of guarding David West most of the half.
Pek was pretty quiet offensively in the first half while containing the 7’2” Roy Hibbert on the defensive end. For as quiet as Pek was, Andrei Kirilenko continues to quietly put together a complete game in every statistical category while providing his calling card lock down defense and terrific desicion making all game long.
The Wolves started the second half down by 1 (42-43), and without Brandon Roy (who never returned due to right knee soreness). With another Wolf on the shelf, the “next man up” philosophy rang true as Chase Budinger stepped up and ignited the team in the third quarter while finishing the game with 18.
The Wolves looked to be gaining momentum and opened up their largest lead of the game (9) only to have the Pacers come back and narrow the margin to 5 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
This game only got closer in the fourth as the Pacers continued to match every knockout punch the Wolves tried to throw. The Wolves really embodied what team basketball is all about in the fourth quarter by making sharp passes and hitting the open man. The Wolves also saw the emergence of Alexy Shved in the 4th quarter. Shved showed outstanding composure in the final period as he made the right pass when his defender back off and drove to the hole when his defender pressed up allowing him to show a good first step and score on multiple drives to the rack in the 4th. The wolves had a chance to put it away with 8.8 seconds left when Roy Hibbert made a great recovery and impacted a Pek layup still leaving the Pacers with some hope. With the game closing out and the Wolves great 4th quarter defense needing to step up, George Hill hit a step back 3 to tie the game at 94 with 3.8 seconds left prompting the Wolves to call a time out & get one final possession. The inbound pass went to Kirilenko who looked like he would have to create a shot until Budinger made a great cut from the top of the key and freed himself enough to receive a perfectly placed pass from Andrei that allowed Chase to convert the lay up as time expired giving the Wolves a thrilling 96-94 victory.
The bench came through in a major way tonight. This season’s team is so deep that even while filling 2 starting spots and missing JJ (out with his sprained foot) it completely out played the Pacers bench. Malcolm Lee got his first real meaningful playing time of the season with JJ out for the game tonight. It was really Malcolm’s defense that stood out tonight.
The team finished the game shooting 50%. The Wolves scored 22 of their 27 4th quarter points in the paint. The Wolves only shot 9 3’s all game while making it to the free throw line 28 times converting on 24 for 85.7% for the game.
Having a coach the caliber of Rick Adelman is probably most noticeable in the ability of this team to execute plays out of the time out. It is also evident that Adelman’s uncanny ability to get his teams to pass first and make good decisions has quickly gotten through to this group as the team committed 12 turnovers for the game. It is an unselfish team guided by a coach who always seems to manage the game with great substitutions, terrific time management and proper rotations which has helped the Wolves navigate a plethora of injuries so far this season.
The wolves will play their second back to back of the year as they travel to Chicago to take on the Bulls Saturday at 7:00 p.m.