This was a battle of 2 teams both missing superstar players and both trying to find their own identities without those players. Both of these teams also saw rosters that had drastic turnover in the off season. Now both of these teams enter their first meeting against each other this season with 4 wins a piece. The similarities on the style of play couldn’t be more different though; Dallas is the top scoring basketball team in the NBA while Minnesota is allowing the 5th fewest points per game in the NBA. This game was a battle of styles and the Wolves won that battle controlling the tempo they wanted en route to a 90-82 victory
The Wolves couldn’t have gotten a better start to this game. Malcolm Lee got his first NBA start tonight and was tasked with the duty of guarding O.J. Mayo. Lee held mayo to 4 points on 2-8 shooting in the first quarter. The Wolves also got great activity and energy from Derrick Williams who was grabbing rebounds, attacking the rim and playing very efficient defense on Brandan Wright. It was probably the solid workman like play of Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko that allowed the Wolves to open up a 25-17 first quarter lead.
It was with about 8 minutes left in the 2nd quarter that saw the Wolves play a small ball line-up of Conroy, Lee, Shved, Cunningham and Stiemsma. It was very evident that this lineup looked out of sorts and downright overwhelmed. With 5 minutes to play in the first half it was the great game management by Rick Adelman that saw the insertion of Luke Ridnour, Kirilenko and Pekovic back onto the floor and allowed the Wolves to tighten up on Defense and go on a quick 7-2 run. As the first half was closing out Dallas showed a lot of fight and had the Wolves lead trimmed to 4 until Vince Carter fouled Luke with .1 seconds left on the game clock sending Luke to the line and allowing the Wolves to go into the half up by 6 (45-39).
The first half showed more evidence of this Wolves team really getting “it”. The “it” is Rick Adelman’s philosophy of solid defense, moving without the ball and trusting in your teammates to do the right thing. The Wolves held the league’s highest scoring offense to 39 points on 35% shooting in the first half. The first half showed also showed Rick Adelman’s up most confidence in Alexey Shved. He continues to prove he is a complete NBA player. His first half line was 8 point, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 turnover. It was his defense in this game that really showed he is quickly adapting to the NBA style of play and getting better every game.
The 3rd quarter saw Dante Cunningham in the starting line-up for the 2nd half as he finished with 14 points on the game. This may be a personal biased on Dante, but he deserved to be in the starting the 2nd half. It’s safe to say the trade which saw Wayne Ellington dealt to Memphis and Dante to Minnesota has worked out well for both teams at this point in the season. This Wolves team was rolling along in the 3rd quarter imposing their will on Dallas, who seemingly couldn’t get anything going when Nikola Pekovic twisted his ankle on Vince Carter’s foot while running down the floor with 2:46 left in the 3rd. Pek would not return to the game with a sprained left ankle after having scored 20 points, grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 3 assists up to that point in the game. If you are a believer in the “Sport’s God’s” you are saying to yourself why does this keep happening to the Wolves? Minnesota started out a season talking about who was going to get minutes, or how everyone was going to get playing time is now quickly seeing everyone get playing time with all of the injuries the Wolves have had. Every single Wolves player saw playing time at one point in this game as the Wolves were down to 9 available players by the end of this contest. Even with Pek going down though, the Wolves managed to outscore the Mavs by 2 to head into the final period of play holding onto a 66-58 lead.
The Wolves were going to have a battle on their hands entering the 4th quarter. The real question was going to be who would step up with so many pieces missing. Team Russia quickly answered that question by leaving their finger prints all over this contest. The Wolves were managing to maintain the lead to start the 4th and had it to double figures until 6 minutes to play when Dallas closed the gap to 6 points on a Malcolm foul on Darren Collison. Rick Adelman again made the perfectly timed substitution to get Dante Cunningham and Luke Ridnour back in the game. On the first possession after the substitution Alexey Shved took it to the right side of the lane getting Vince Carter to commit the foul sending Alexi to the line. Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle didn’t agree with the call, he disagreed so much so that he quickly got charged with 2 technical’s and an ejection with 5 minutes remaining in the game. In what was seemingly the Wolves game to lose, Dallas refused to go quietly into the night. With 93 seconds to go Dallas had it down to 7 points. After a missed lay-up by Collison and a blown offensive possession by the Wolves it was a terrific hustle defensive play from Malcolm Lee that knocked the ball out of OJ Mayo’s hands. As time wound down the Wolves were sent to the line where they have been solid all season and continued it tonight shooting 81% for the game.
The undermanned Timberwolves team continued to show resiliency as they battled their way to a very impressive 90-82 win while also handing Dallas their first home loss of the season.
Quick Notes :
The Wolves dominated the boards out rebounding the Mavs by 14 (49-35). If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Wolves held Dallas to 36% shooting from the floor and 25% from beyond the arc.
The Timberwolves have been very solid at getting to the free throw line at a fairly good rate and tonight was no different. The Wolves got to the line 32 times hitting 81% while Dallas made it to the line 25 times.
Alexey Shved was 3-12 from the field and 1-6 on 3’s yet he finished with 16 points. Shved showed a veteran savvy by getting to the free throw line to get his points going 9-11 from the charity stripe. He also finished the night with 4 rebounds, 5 assists and only 2 turnovers. Alexey continues to show he is quickly adapting to the NBA game. He shows he has confidence in his outside shot and when that starts to fall on a regular basis he will truly be a very tough player to defend.
Luke Ridnour has his best game of the season by far netting 15 points on 3-9 shooting, 2-5 from 3 point range and 7-8 from the stripe. He also tallied 8 boards, 7 assists and 4 steals on the night.
The now 5-2 Timberwolves will host the 2-3 Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday with 7:00 PM tip.