This seems to be the defining play of the Timberwolves-Thunder matchup for most folks. I’m not sure if J.J. actually was trying to go under Thabeet or if he just lost the ball when he went around Stiemer’s screen, but there it is. He looks like he’s trying “to go London Bridges on the bit,” rightfully says Jim Peterson.
Some nice postgame quotes from A Wolf Among Wolves, that lay out the Wolves’ intentions going in…
This was not just an enjoyable game for Wolves fans because they beat a division opponent at the top of the standings, not even enjoyable because they played well. This was legitimately good basketball to watch. And it was largely because the Wolves did what they set out to do.
When he spoke to the media before the game, Adelman pegged the keys to winning this game as limiting the Thunder’s opportunities in transition and keeping them off the foul line. Running down the stat sheet while waiting for Adelman’s post-game press conference, you could see that was exactly what they did. The Thunder had 20 FTAs to the Wolves’ 27, allowed the Wolves 13 possession-stretching and fastbreak-stopping offensive rebounds, and only managed 10 fastbreak points. OKC averages 16.8 fastbreak points per game, good for fourth in the league; Orlando averages 10, which puts them 25th.
“We wanted them to be a jump-shooting team,” said Adelman, “even though they’re a very good shooting team. We did not want Westbrook to get to the basket. We wanted to control the tempo and have it in our favor.
“I was proud of the way we played for the whole game,” he added. “We never had one of those dry periods that we have in the past.”
I like that Adelman acknowledges the dry spells that seem to take place every third quarter — I assume that’s what he’s talking about, but still. Game planning, and execution at its finest.
As for the OKC…
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said as much in his postgame remarks praising Rubio. “I think the ball was getting where it wanted to go tonight and Ricky is a terrific point guard and he’s getting confident as the season has gone along. Unfortunately for them, they’ve had all these injuries. Otherwise, they would be right in the thick of things. But he’s an exciting player. You want to play hard if you’re with him because he moves the ball, he always looks for a better shot than the shot that he has.”
Good basketball at this point in the season isn’t going to get the Timberwolves to the playoffs. But a win like this can make you remember that good basketball can be an end in itself.
We’ll see if Russell Westbrook throws his coaches praise for Rubio up on a bulletin board somewhere soon.