The Timberwolves had this game in the bag. With 18 seconds to play, Kevin Love was fouled by Blake Griffin (his sixth of the game). The Wolves were up by three points and two makes would've sealed the deal. Love went 1-for-2 at the line, making the second to make it 106-102. Out of a Clippers timeout, they went to Jamal Crawford who came off the screen, which the Wolves had to switch and Crawford was able to maneuver around Nikola Peković for the lay-in. With 13 seconds to go, the Wolves came out of the timeout and we all knew the gameplan: GET THE BALL TO KEVIN MARTIN. That's exactly what they did, Martin then proceeded to hold the ball in the backcourt and get it stolen away which resulted in another Jamal Crawford basket to tie it at 106 with three seconds to play, with no timeouts, the Wolves inbounded the ball to Barea who didn't get up a shot and sent the game into overtime.
Heading into the third quarter Chris Paul had just 4 points, after three quarters he had 6, so I was almost certain that he'd go off for at least 10 in the final quarter for a Clippers win. However, after four quarters he had just 10 points total. Paul delivered his clutch performance in the overtime period where he scored 9 of his final 19 points. Five of those nine came from the free throw line.
A lot of people want to blame Nikola Peković for the loss. He missed some crucial bunnies in that overtime period (three to be exact). I've got a pretty good theory on why that is...
In the fourth quarter, Kevin Love was on the bench and Nikola Peković was in the game paired with Dante in the post. At the eight minute mark I knew the Wolves had to get Love back into the game and get Pek on the bench for 3-4 minutes so they could bring him back for the final 2-3 minutes. Love checked back in with roughly 7:30 to play, but Pek remained in and he didn't come out until 46 seconds to play in the overtime period and then was back in with 19 seconds to play. Pek also played all expect for the final 1:23 of the third quarter, which means he didn't play for roughly 1 minute & 40 seconds of the entire second half and overtime period. He played a season-high 46 minutes on the night. Yes, he missed some shots late, but the big fella was gassed!!
You've also got to question (despite the good positioning and matchup Pek had on that final possession--with 5 seconds to play in OT and a chance to tie the game, that the Wolves didn't go to their superstar--Kevin Love. The Wolves were out of timeouts on the possession and had to work quickly, because the Wolves had the ball off of a missed Chris Paul free throw with limited time on the clock.
Some fans on Twitter were looking to blame Ricky Rubio because he went scoreless. Ricky did go 0-for-4, but he also contributed in a number of other areas with his 12 assists and good defense on Chris Paul through four quarters. Of course the Wolves could use a bit more production from their point guard in the points column, but his ability to create for others makes him very valuable. Add to that, the fact that the alternative is extended minutes for the erratic J.J. Barea and I'll take a scoreless, 12-assist night for Rubio every night of the week.
Kevin Martin was incredible to start the season, but he's REALLY struggled lately and tonight was another prime example. He finished with 14 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting, while also adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists--however he committed 6 turnovers and fouled out in overtime. His one turnover discussed above was the key point in this game and he had another one with roughly 3 minutes to go in overtime where he snagged a rebound underneath the basket and then proceeded to throw the ball chuck the ball towards mid-court, right to the other team that quickly ran down court for the transition basket to tie the game at 110. Nikola & Love have been terrific lately, but if they can really get Martin going it will REALLY round out the offense and make the Wolves near unstoppable.
Bad offense? Corey Brewer jumpers, Ricky Rubio at the rim, Ricky Rubio jumpers, Alexey Shved driving the lane, J.J. Barea in 'hero ball' mode, Mbah a Moute from deep, Mbah a Moute attempting to dribble the basketball, Kevin Martin when he doesn't get a foul call and lastly and most importantly--any possession in which Kevin Love doesn't touch the basketball! Guess what? We saw all of those things tonight!
Bad defense? Everything the Wolves do. ESPECIALLY on transition defense! You can usually see Brewer attempting to get back down court and I understand if Love & Pek are a bit behind, but where in the hell are Ricky Rubio & Kevin Martin on transition D? And why is it always just one person trying to stop a 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 break?!
The Wolves don't play again until Dec. 27th vs. the Wizards. That gives them five days off over the Holidays to get some things together. Even when the Wolves shoot a low percentage as a team from the field, they're still able to muster 100-point outings. While the Wolves offense could use some work, it's the defense that's the killer. Unless Minnesota figures out something different to do defensively, the losses will continue to pile up. It doesn't matter how lethal your offense is, if you can't stop ANYONE, you're never going to be a consistent winner.
Tonight's box score...
Have a Happy Holidays.