Chalk this up as another contest that the Wolves absolutely needed to have. On the front end of the first back-to-back and four games in five nights, there was no other option.
Despite getting Steve Nash and Steve Blake back from injury on Tuesday night, the Lakers came into Minneapolis with a severely hobbled roster. Just minutes into the game, they lost Jodie Meeks to a sprained ankle when he came down on Corey Brewer’s foot while landing from a jump shot attempt. Late in the opening stanza, Jordan Hill caught a finger to the eye and was knocked out of the game as well.
At one point in the second quarter, the home team was able to build a 26 point lead. It was largely built on the backs of the bench, as a Barea/Budinger/Mbah a Moute/Cunningham/Dieng lineup utterly dominated a depleted hodgepodge of Lakers players. Before halftime, however, Los Angeles used a 14-4 run to help pull within a score of 68-52 at the break.
Early in the game, the Wolves had impressive movement on the offensive end of the floor and effective hustle and activity on the glass, which led to a ton of easy baskets. As the game advanced, the Wolves fell back into their depressingly lackadaisical ways, and the offensive movement and overall intensity dropped off in dramatic fashion.
The Wolves refused to guard the Lakers’ three-point shooters for the latter portion of the second quarter and the early stages of the third frame, as the likes of Manny Harris and old friend Wes Johnson were allowed to roam free and jack up largely uncontested shots at will. After Dieng took a Johnson elbow to the temple in the second quarter and Turiaf picked up a few fouls, the Wolves were forced to go small and play Cunningham and Love together.
This, of course, was not conducive to continuing to dominate the glass, or to protecting the rim, which is an element that Turiaf has brought to the lineup since Nikola Pekovic went down with ankle bursitis just over a week ago. A defensive front line of Brewer-Cunningham-Love is not a) good at defense, or b) a terribly good rebounding lineup, either. Cunningham has played very well of late, but doesn’t pair very well with Love, and it showed in the third quarter against the Lakers.
The Lakers pulled to within seven points early in the fourth quarter, but the Wolves couldn’t build their lead to anymore than eleven points for the duration of the game. It stayed close enough to keep Wolves fans nervous, but the game was never really, truly in doubt.
The scariest moment of the night was when Love was hip-checked by Robert Sacre on his way to the hoop with 4:09 left in the game. Love went down hard on his tailbone before smacking the back of his head on the floor. After a timeout, he hit both free throws and hobbled through the final four minutes of the game.
After appearing to be hit in the head just minutes before, having the game stopped earlier to stop bleeding on the back of his arm, and getting knocked the floor a few additional times, it was a tough sight for the Wolves. Here’s hoping that there is no lingering effects of either the shot that he took to the head or the tailbone, but it’s a real possibility given the appearance of the injury.
This was a game that the Wolves should have won by 20+ points. Instead, Martin and Love each played 41 minutes, and tomorrow night’s game in Oklahoma City will be even tougher than originally anticipated. One of the themes of this underachieving squad in 2013-14 is their inability to put away some of these lower tier teams earlier and allow Love and the other starters to get much-needed rest.
But the Wolves have made their bed, and they must lie in it. Let’s hope for a miracle tomorrow night in OKC.
- Kevin Love was, well, Kevin Love yet again on Tuesday evening, putting up 31 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal. His ability to battle through the contact and injuries cannot be understated.
– Kevin Martin started the game red hot, but continued to jack up shots throughout the game despite cooling off considerably. He still managed to fit with 32 points on 13 of 26 (!) shooting. He was 4 of 6 from long range and chipped in 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
– Ricky Rubio had 8 first quarter assists, and was impressive all evening. His activity on defense against Steve Nash forced a number of miscues and turnovers by the Lakers, and his vision on offense was impeccable. He finished the night with 4 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal with only 2 turnovers.
– The Lakers apparently informed Manny Harris before the game that he would not be retained for the remainder of the season. He promptly went out and dropped 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting, adding 8 rebounds. Can’t make this stuff up.
– The Wolves will travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder on Wednesday night. It’ll be a tough one. The tilt tips off at 7:00 CT.