If you’re keeping score, then tonight counted as a “win big” game for the Timbewolves after losing on Sunday in San Antonio. It had all the makings, with Sacramento getting beat handily last night by the Pacers in Indianapolis, and the Wolves sitting at home for a couple of days waiting to play.
That…didn’t happen. It wasn’t close, either, until late in the fourth quarter. Your Wolves didn’t deserve to win, and of course, they didn’t.
The first quarter got off to an energetic, albeit sloppy start. Ricky Rubio nearly had steals on each of the Kings’ first two possessions, and was hyperactive in the passing lanes and in trying to contain waterbug point guard Isaiah Thomas. Kevin Martin was ice colld from the field, shooting just 1 of 5 from the field with the lone make coming on a fast break dunk.
Kevin Love, however, allowed the Wolves to keep pace with the visitors, putting up 8 points (2 of 2 on three-pointers), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and zero turnovers while playing all 12 minutes. The Wolves’ continually shaky defense allowed the Kings to score fairly easily, and Sacramento carried a 24-23 lead into the second frame.
The DeMarcus Cousins vs. Nikola Pekovic match-up was as expected, with Pekovic pounding the ball in the paint and drawing two relatively quick personal fouls on his adversary, while Cousins mostly hoisted long two-point jump shots. Pekovic didn’t actually get a ton of shots up, ultimately shooting just 1 of 2 from the floor in the first half and only posting 3 points and 1 rebound.
The second quarter started decently enough, with the Wolves’ all-bench lineup holding serve before a nice stretch of play by Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved (along with continually solid play from Ronny Turiaf) gave the Wolves a brief 40-38 lead. After a tie at 43, the Kings went on a 15-4 run to take a 58-47 lead into the break.
For the Kings, Rudy Gay had 20 first-half points and Derrick Williams put up 12 points. Williams didn’t do much differently than he did in Minnesota, except maybe just try a bit harder. He simply ran the floor, took a couple iffy shots, had a couple dunks, and got a lucky, teardrop, double-clutch floater to drop for an and-one. He missed the free throw though, cuz Derrick Williams.
The third quarter was a slog, with the Wolves only gaining a point, still trailing by ten heading to the fourth quarter. Minnesota somehow struggled to gain ground throughout the fourth quarter, trailing by as many as 14 points at one juncture. With just over three minutes on the clock, the Wolves trailed by 11. The air was sucked out of the building, and the game was seemingly over.
But it’s the NBA, and the home team did indeed make a run, making one wonder why the Wolves couldn’t have played so hard and with as much fervor as they did in the final three minutes. At any rate, a J.J. Barea layup, followed by a Pekovic bucket and a number of very impressive defensive stands got the Wolves to within 7 points with 1:29 remaining.
Pekovic blocked a Cousins attempt, and Barea knocked down a couple of free throws after a fast break. The next time down the floor, Thomas took an ill-advised, off-balance jumper that sent the Wolves on another fast break, ending with a Shved layup to make it a three-point game with exactly 1:00 left.
After a Kings timeout, Cousins got a left box post-up against Pekovic, showed a nice drop step, and laid it in to give the Kings a five-point lead. Love hit a deep three, followed by a Rudy Gay three-pointer in isolation on Corey Brewer, and the Kings had another five-point lead with just 19 seconds left.
Of course, Love hit another three-pointer, this one more ridiculous than the last, being a one-footed fadeaway from at least 26 feet on the left wing. At this point, however, the Wolves were out of timeouts. After a pair of Cousins free throws, Barea drove to the rim and converted a three-point play the old-fashioned way after a silly foul by Thomas. TO atone, Thomas knocked down two free throws, and the timeout-less Wolves had just over 4 seconds to drive the length of the court.
An off-balance three from the right wing by Barea wasn’t close, and the Wolves lost by a final score of 111-108. Yep, another loss by less than four points, in a game that frankly, the Wolves didn’t even deserve to be that close. They’re now 0-11 in games decided by four points or less.
– Well, here we are again. The Wolves are now 18-20, and continue to need some serious help, some regression to the mean from some of the competition (namely Houston and Dallas, and especially Phoenix), and they need to go on a hot streak of their own at some point.
– Rudy Gay killed it, and the regression monster did not show up to help the Wolves. He put up 33 points on 12 of 19 shooting and a ridiculously, hideously anti-Gay 3-for-3 mark from deep. It was hard to watch, because we all know that, well, that is not what Rudy Gay does on a regular basis.
– Kevin Love appeared to come down with some kind of a thigh contusion or cramping situation just above his right knee. He was icing it on the bench in the first half, and at times appeared to be basically dragging it behind him up and down the floor. Even still, he logged a team-high 37 minutes and putting up typical Love-ian numbers: 27 points (9-16 FG, 4-6 3PT, 5-6 FT), 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and just 1 turnover. He was great, and was basically alone tonight. His sidekicks did not show up, and the Wolves fell.
– Kevin Martin was terrible, shooting 6 of 14 from the field and putting up 14 points, but it wasn’t pretty. He hit a couple tough shots in the third quarter, but he missed a number of open shots and short jumpers he usually would convert. In fact, Martin and Rubio both lost all of their stretch-time minutes to J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved, who played his most complete, wire-to-wire game of the season.
– Shved finished with 13 points, and despite shooting just 4 for 10 and still taking a couple of the terrible Shved Shots (off-balance, 25+ foot jumpers with tons of time on the shot clock), he flustered Isaiah Thomas a great deal down the stretch. He also attempted to attack the basket, shooting 4 of 5 at the charity stripe. He could have gotten there more often, as the officials typically allowed the svelte Shved to get knocked around in the paint while swallowing their whistles.
– Pekovic was underwhelming (14 points, 8 rebounds), but Cousins was only good for a stretch in the second half. Despite his 20 points and 11 rebounds, it was a fairly even match-up. The Wolves didn’t lose this game because of Pekovic.
– Next up, the Wolves will travel to Toronto to take on a decent Raptors squad on Friday night. The tilt tips at 6:00 CT. That game is followed by a pair of games against the Utah Jazz, so this would be a fun (and sorely needed) little three-game win streak to get to a 21-20 record. Here’s hoping.