Observation: it’s fun to watch winning basketball.
Other than Ricky Rubio needing an astonishing 15 stitches on the inside of his mouth after taking a shot to the face from Mike Scott (and being called for a foul on the play) in the first quarter, tonight was all gravy for your Minnesota Timberwolves.
Granted, the Atlanta Hawks are a lost cause. Yes, a playoff team, but a lost cause all the same, and yet this game still felt really, really good. Kevin Love only logged 29 minutes, which was a low for all Wolves’ starters in the game, and only needed to put up a 14-12 on the way to the win.
The gambling back court of Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Corey Brewer swung back in a positive way tonight. There were only a handful of times that Brewer was obviously beaten when gambling for a steal, so it was a step in the right direction. But Rubio was an absolute pest, playing the passing lanes and poking the ball away seemingly every trip down the court for the Hawks.
Rubio’s offense took another small step back tonight, shooting just 1 of 6 from the floor and 2 of 4 from the free throw line, but he logged 6 steals and 10 assists to go along with his six points and just two turnovers over 31 minutes of play. For the record, the Wolves made their push to put the game away with the Rubio-J.J. Barea back court that Rick Adelman has just recently started to deploy. Better late than never, I guess. (I would have loved to see A.J. Price as the back-up point guard earlier this season and Barea only seeing the court with Price or Rubio, but I digress.)
Gorgui Dieng was a monster again, scoring 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting and pulling down 15 rebounds in what was easily a team-high 41 minutes. Adelman left him on the court to play with the second unit in the second quarter, as well as for the entire second half until the game was well in hand late in the fourth. In fact, the bench lineup that successfully held the lead in the second quarter was supplemented by Martin and Dieng. Again, a novel idea that would have served Minnesota well when they were still in the playoff race.
The Hawks are simply a lost cause with an injured Al Horford. Throw in no Kyle Korver, no Gustavo Ayon, and others, well, there isn’t much on that roster. But the Wolves will take an easy win, of course. And this was indeed an easy victory from start to finish.
– File this in the let’s-hope-this-never-happens-again category: Brewer was second on the team in field goal attempts with 16, with Martin attempting 17 shots. Love was just 5 of 9, and three players attempted 8 shots.
– Chase Budinger played his best game in multiple weeks on Wednesday night, putting up 12 points (5 of 8 from the floor, 2 of 5 from long range) and 7 rebounds. He was active cutting to the basket and shot the ball well in the paint and on the fast break, which was an encouraging change of pace.
– Next up, the Wolves host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Tip-off is at 7:00 C.T.