The Wolves started off cold Friday night, down 9-0 less than three minutes in, it was not inexcusable to be a little impatient with the sluggish start. The Washington Wizards had been on a three-game winning streak heading in to Target Center, the Wolves have made a habit of shrugging off challenges from squads they seemed to regard as inferior while simultaneously showing an ability to get their collective asses handed to them in the process.
So when Minnesota rattled off a 39-point second quarter, you would be right to settle in for the second half expecting the Wolves to give control of the game right back and wilt in the end.
As Coach Rick Adelman said in his post-game press conference, “You know, I wish I had an answer for it. We’ve looked at the tape. We’ve looked at everything. This group — every group you have is different, but this group just seemed to be there rolling along. So that’s why I was concerned at halftime. We were 14 points up.”
Except that second unit that is right down by Washington’s in terms of least productive in the league brought some energy and kept something they haven’t all year — the lead.
Proving he doesn’t warm up until the Minnesota winter feels like Russian home cooking (or something — where
the eff has he been all season?), Alexey Shved gave the Wolves 13 points, 5 rebounds, an assist, a block and two threes (on two attempts, he was a Shved-ish 3-7 from the floor, but got to the line 6 times, making 5) to earn a +/- rating (second only to Nikola Pekovic) of +16.
J.J. Barea also was a nice surprise, going 8-10 from the floor (making his only 3-point attempt) and dishing 4 assists, good for a +/- of 10. Undoubtedly, good J.J. showed up against Washington, getting where he wanted on the floor, and more often than not, it was at the rim J.J. wanted to get to.
Kevin Love and Pek did what they do, going for 25 points and 11 rebounds and 18 points and 10 rebounds, respectively. Ricky Rubio was aggressive, grabbing 8 rebounds to go with his 9 assists, three steals and eight trips to the line. Ricky shot 2-5, made seven of those free throws, good for 11 points.
No Wolf played more than Pek’s 34 minutes. Coach Rick Adelman used Pek with the 2nd unit in the second quarter, while Love played the entire first quarter. The schedule could allow Adelman’s strategy to run for awhile as Rony Turiaf won’t be back until sometime in late January.