I’m gonna be real with you guys. I cheated. I had a pretty mopey, depressing post all typed out and ready to go when the Wolves-Suns game was still late in the third quarter.
But really, can you blame me? Tuesday night had all the makings of so many of the 2013-14 Timberwolves’ disappointing losses. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Wolves trailed the Suns by a 81-75 score. If you’ve followed the Wolves all season long, you know the story. Simply put: they weren’t coming back from that.
Not without Pekovic and Martin. Not with the recent Barea-over-Rubio down the stretch idiocy. Not with Dante Cunningham picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter and Robbie Hummel playing real, live, NBA minutes.
But hey. It’s why they play the games, all 48 minutes of them, right? This season has really been a never ending, rhythmic beat of disappointment. But we stick around for these fleeting moments of happiness. The Love (near) triple-doubles, the beautiful dimes orchestrated by Rubio off the pick-and-roll, and the terrifying yet strangely stimulating and mesmerizing sight of a wispy Brewer streaking down the floor.
And tonight, it was Shabazzketball. I’ll do my best to give the #14 pick in the 2013 draft enjoy his moment in the sun. Still, I would like to speak a word of caution. At the same time, I can admit that yes, there seems to be a spot for Shabazz Muhammad in a depleted, already-shallow rotation for the Wolves.
Muhammad is clearly good at two things: rebounding and energy. And at this point, I’d be tempted to throw finishing at the rim in there, too. I’m not calling him a “scorer”. In fact, I’m not touching that dreaded label. Sure, he scored 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting tonight. But, as it stands currently, he isn’t a scorer.
His left box post-up will be scouted. While he showed great patience in passing out of the post in the fourth quarter of tonight’s game and tallying a hockey assist on the play, it’s still his only tangible way of scoring, other than put-backs. But there is absolutely value in a big-bodied, rebounding machine on the wing. If his defense holds up and he can knock down open jumpers, he’s a rotation player. And I’ll take that.
Kevin Love’s flirtation with what was nearly his second career triple-double was the other main storyline for the Wolves. The Suns played well for much of the night, but the Wolves’ somehow surged ahead down the stretch and not only held on, but expanded their lead as high as ten points with just about thirty seconds left on the clock.
So let’s enjoy this one. With the Dallas Mavericks recent hot streak, the Suns are the team most likely to drop out of the top-eight in the West if the Wolves are to reach postseason play. Memphis remains sandwiched between the two teams, but defeating one of the teams near the bottom of the race is vital.
The next eight games or so stack up nicely for the Wolves, and if they can work Pekovic, Martin, and hopefully Turiaf back into the rotation in the coming days, they have a shot at making the next 1 1/2 months interesting in the Western Conference. Next up, the Wolves will be in Sacramento on Saturday evening. And yes, it’s yet another must-win.