Alright, first off:
Now that we have that out of the way, let us establish that the second night of back-to-backs have special place in N.B.A. lore. Squads spend their reserves on a hard-fought victory the first night and they still must travel, prepare and play the next day. Yeah, great teams find a way to overcome, mental fatigue is easier to succumb to than physical fatigue, blah blah blah TRAP GAME — point is: even great teams are susceptible to the pitfall that is the second night of a back-to-back.
Enter the Wolves. NOT a great team, but definitely a team with some kick to start the season which spent their starters Sunday night in New York clinging to a large lead that dwindled until the final minutes and then they had to travel to Cleveland. I mean, I know I live in Minnesota, but seriously — who (this side of Liz Lemon) gets up to go play in Cleveland?
Kevin Martin’s 13 first quarter points came on seven shots as his efficient effort Sunday looked to travel with him to Cleveland. His 3-4 three point shooting kept the Wolves within laughing distance. By the end of the first, Minnesota trailed 23-31.
While Minnesota’s defensive effort was better in the second quarter, their offense was worse. Rookie backup center Gorgui Dieng managed three fouls in three scoreless minutes, while his second-string teammates fared almost as bad, shooting 3-13. The defensive intensity of the returning starters almost showed results, as they forced steals on three consecutive possessions (one from Ricky Rubio and two from Corey Brewer), but they had no offense to show for it as they either turned it right back over or missed point-blank shots.
(Chase Budinger, get well soon.)
The second half saw the Wolves slowly claw their way back. Well, they didn’t exactly claw their way back until later, but in the third they tread enough water to show they weren’t roadkill. In the fourth, Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea almost won this game.
It says something that Barea hit a couple shots and Rick Adelman saw enough to keep Ricky Rubio on the bench for crunch time. Ricky finished the night oh-fer seven with five steals, five assists and two turnovers. At the beginning of the fourth, Williams and Barea flashed just enough spark to combine with Martin and Love to bring the Wolves to the brink of pulling this stinker out.
Brew’s hustle is always there. He had six steals tonight — most in the first half — but he was his scrambling self in the fourth. Run-out layups, help defense, saves and steals, Brewer ran his way into the hearts of some of his haters tonight.
In the end, Barea and Kyrie Irving (9 turnovers) went tit-for-tat, with J.J. drawing his trademark offensive fouls, diving through the lane and Irving spinning and finishing in traffic, before J.J. set up for the final shot. Dribbling across the lane and almost losing his dribble, Barea flipped a pass to Love, standing on the left wing where he hit his game-saving three against Orlando in the opener, Love threw up a three that drew iron.
Wolves lose for the first time this season and look to regroup Wednesday at the Target Center against Golden State.
Five threes from Martin.
Rest of the team went oh-fer 20 from three.
Five assists for Love.
3-12 night from Pek.