Monday night’s tilt at Target Center in Minneapolis was very entertaining, especially if you enjoy watching the home squad sink an inordinate number of free throws. The Wolves lived at the line and defended well enough to win the game. Oh, and the Celtics did not have a prayer to stop Nikola Pekovic, and the Wolves’ ball movement down the stretch was enough for them to surge ahead and maintain the lead in the final minutes.
The first quarter was evenly matched, except for the part where not a single soul on the Boston Celtics could guard Pekovic. Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox both tried their hand, but could not avoid getting into early foul trouble. Shavlik Randolph came off the bench and did his best, but it was not enough, and comically so. In picking up three personal fouls in just five minutes of court time, Randolph was embarrassed by the much larger Pekovic en route to 15 first quarter points and a 27-25 Minnesota lead.
Ricky Rubio was especially active early, attempting five shots in the opening three minutes of the game, but still managing three consecutive assists on a series of shockingly gorgeous passes around the mid-point of the first frame. He remained in the game through the opening minutes of the second quarter, and the Wolves briefly built on their lead before Boston went on a mini-run to pull back within one possession.
The Wolves held a 57-52 halftime lead, owing it almost entirely to Pekovic’s 21 first half points and Rubio’s impressive activity on both ends of the court. The Wolves built a lead as large as 12 points midway through the third quarter, but Boston pulled back within the score of 84-78 before the start of the fourth period.
The Wolves’ very good ball movement picked back up again in the fourth quarter, even while Rubio sat on the bench with four personal fouls. Alexey Shved played one his better games in recent weeks, swinging the ball much of the time and driving into the lane when the opportunity presented itself. He even knocked down an open three-pointer, so that was different/cool.
The Wolves managed to build a 96-82 lead with 8:30 remaining before Rubio re-entered the game, but the Celtics promptly cut the deficit to nine points. From there, the home team’s defense and rebounding picked up again, and the Wolves knocked down some open shots to propel themselves back to a comfortable advantage before eventually pulling away and winning by a 110-100 score.
Some quick thoughts….
– Rubio shot the ball horribly (2 of 11 from the field), but played one of his better first quarters of the season. His line of 9 points, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals against just 2 turnovers in 35 minutes was acceptable, but his efficiency certainly left much to be desired.
– Kirilenko’s line was one of his best since the first month of the season: 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Fantastic.
– And Pek? Wow. Those poor Celtics and their lack of a frontcourt. 29 points on 9 of 15 shooting (and 11 of 11 from the line!), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal and zero (0!) turnovers in 41 minutes of court time. His one assist was a thing of beauty, passing crisply out of the double-team (just as we were promised that he would do this season) to J.J. Barea on the opposite wing, who promptly drained a long-range jumper. Observe:
– The Wolves are playing quite well of late, the difficult back-to-back breakdown against Memphis on Saturday night not-withstanding. Here’s hoping the momentum crescendos with the return of Kevin Love at some point in the next week or so…he sees his doctor again this week, so it’s anyone’s guess at this point….
– The Wolves will be in Milwaukee on Wednesday evening to face the Bucks at 7:00 CST.