Mar 15, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard J.J. Barea (11) congratulates Ricky Rubio (9) after a play during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves Obliterate Pistons, Finally Connect from Long Range

Huh. The Timberwolves’ third quarter barrage of (made!) three-point baskets really kept me from writing about what I had planned on highlighting. This game was some strange combination of the definition of an outlier and, in a very minimal way, the law of averages evening out somewhat. I mean, the Wolves are a historically bad three-point shooting team, but they shot 14 of 26 (53.8%!!) on the night. Crazy stuff.

Back to what I had wanted to highlight, based mostly on a competitive first half: Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour. That’s all you need to know about the early parts of Tuesday night’s Wolves-Pistons tilt in the Motor City. Despite the Pekovic-Greg Monroe matchup being what can only be accurately described as an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, Pek still managed to put up numbers better than his season averages, and in just 30 minutes of court time. And Ridnour….he absolutely should be lauded for his durability and consistency this season, but his performance against the Pistons was one of his best all-around performances of the season.

Pekovic bowled through the first quarter-plus of the game, putting 12 points and 6 rebounds on the board in rather easy fashion. He had a little trouble stopping Monroe on the other end of the floor, but who doesn’t? Other than a questionable offensive foul call and a missed free throw, Pekovic played nearly flawlessly in the opening quarter and in his limited second quarter minutes. By halftime, he had already accumulated 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting to go along with 8 rebounds and a blocked shot.

Per usual, Ridnour’s performance flew a bit under the radar, but it was as solid as ever. At the break, he had already thrown a 9 point, 3 assist, 2 steal stat line up on the board. He was very efficient from the field, eventually shooting 6 of 7 for the game, including 2 of 3 from long distance. He was also very physical with Brandon Knight, holding him to an 0 for 4 shooting performance in the first quarter (Knight finished the game just 3 of 10 for 7 points with just 3 assists and 4 turnovers). Luke’s assists included a beautiful, patient alley-oop pass to a streaking Dante Cunningham and a perfect pass to a rolling Pekovic in the closing seconds of the first half, putting the Wolves up 44-38.

The third quarter broke the mold for this Timberwolves’ team, as they poured in a ridiculously easy 38 points, led by a run on three-pointers like they were going out of style. Here’s hoping for a couple more of these games as the season winds down. The law of averages should continue to take effect, right? Even if it is too little, too late…I’ll take some competent perimeter shooting, thank you very much.

Things got out of hand -about midway through the third quarter, as the Wolves were en route to outscoring the Pistons 38-16 in the frame. The fourth quarter was a continuation of the barrage of long-range shots from both teams, and the end-of-the-bench players for both squads played out the string to the tune of a 105-82 Wolves’ victory.

Some quick thoughts….

– Three-pointers were the theme, in case you hadn’t picked up on that. The Wolves set a season-high with 14 made long range shots. They were 14 of 26 (53.8%) while the Pistons shot 7 of 20 (35%).

– Interesting note from Wolves’ reporter Mark Remme: This was the first time in team history that the Timberwolves have won back-to-back road games by 20+ points.

– Alexey Shved played decent overall tonight, showcasing his passing skills. His shot is still flat, and is likely due to the long schedule and a case of dead legs. He had a couple of very nice feeds into the paint off of pump-fakes on the perimeter that led to easy buckets.

–  Rubio played very well, scoring 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting, including 2 of 2 from three-point range and surprisingly, zero free throw attempts. He also had 9 rebounds, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers in 27 minutes. His shot is looking very good off the dribble, but remains awkward off the catch.

– If you get an extra few minutes, please check out my piece on Rubio’s defensive prowess over at Fansided’s main page.

– The Wolves will host the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow night at the Target Center at 7 p.m.

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Tags: Detroit Pistons Greg Monroe Luke Ridnour Minnesota Timberwolves NBA News Nikola Pekovic Ricky Rubio

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