Resiliency was key in this one. The Timberwolves never stopped fighting against a Sixers team that's superior, on paper.
Ricky Rubio was 'en fuego' early, Kevin Love was key late and the Wolves overcame THE BEST defensive team in the NBA.
The Sixers came into this one as the #1 defense in the league in points allowed. Allowing opponents just 87.2 a game. The Timberwolves scored just five more points, but watching the Sixers, I no longer have ANY doubt that Philly is one of, if not the best defensive team in the NBA.
Let's recap those final three minutes of this one, with a play-by-play...
2:42 to play, Minnesota leading 88-87.
A driving Holiday banks in a bunny, makes it 88-89 PHI, 2 minutes to play.
A 20ft. jumper from Love, made it 90-89 MIN, just 50 seconds to play.
A 17ft. jumper from Thad Young, made it 90-91 PHI, now just 40 seconds to go.
An empty possession for Minnesota, gave Philly a chance to seal it. With just a few seconds differential on the shot clock, Lou Williams threw up an 18ft. jumper at the top of the key. Love secured the rebound and Minnesota instantly called a timeout, down one, 3.6 seconds to play. The Wolves inbounded to Love you faked, drove the lane and was hammered by Elton Brand. With just 0.1 seconds remaining, Love has the chance to win the game. He makes both free throws, putting Minnesota up 92-91. With just 0.1 seconds to play. The Sixers can only go for the lob. Darko subs in and coming out of the timeout knocks away the lob to seal the win (that one-tenth of a second is the only time Darko played all night). Minnesota wins, everyone goes home happy!
Rubio got things going early though. He scored 14 of his career-high 22 points in the first quarter. Rubio didn't have any assists in the first half, but he had 18pts (old career-high). In the first four minutes of the third quarter he tallied four quick assists (finished with just 5 on the night).
The second quarter was J.J.'s. Barea tallied 8 of his 14 points in the second quarter and helped keep the Sixers' lead to just 5 points at the half.
The third quarter was Pekovic & Ridnour. Pek had 11 of his 17 points in that third quarter and destroyed whatever the Sixers threw at him (6-9, 225lb. Lavoy Allen & 7-0, 240lb. Nikola Vucevic). Thanks to some nice passes from Rubio, Ridnour finished with 8 of his 10 points in that third quarter.
Then, of course, the final quarter. Love's fourth quarter vs. Houston was a 14-point explosion that sealed the W. Tonight, Love had 12 of his 20 points in the final quarter, hit a lot of late clutch shots that kept Minnesota in it and of course nailed the free throws that sealed the win. I know it's already been answered, but for those who continue to doubt Love's worthiness of a max deal and him being a closer, let me ask you this: WHY?!
Another impressive comeback for the Wolves, who've cemented a reputation as a second-half squad. Tonight's victory is the Wolves' 10th win of the season, when they're trailing at the half.
For Minnesota, they finished with just 10 team turnovers, however, those led to 17 points off turnovers for Philly. The 76ers are one of the best teams at scoring in transition. The Wolves forced the Sixers into 8 turnovers and scored 11 points off those. The Sixers had just one turnover through the first half. But Minnesota forced 4 in the third & 3 in the fourth--definitely a big key in the win. Another key? Minnesota had just one turnover in the final quarter! The result a nice win over one of the better teams in the NBA!
For the Wolves, Rubio finished with 22pts, 6rebs, 5ast, 1stl, 1to, 7-17 FG, 2-4 3PT, 6-6 FT, in 37 minutes. Love added 20pts, 15rebs, 2ast, 1to, 7-23 FG, 6-8 FT in 41 minutes. His new pal in the frontcourt: Nikola Pekovic had another impressive game. He finished with 17pts, 9rebs, 1ast, 2blks, 4-7 FG, 9-10 FT in 37 minutes. Barea added 14pts on 6-12 FG as well as 2ast in 21 minutes off the bench.
For the Sixers, Holiday led the charge with 20pts, 5rebs, 2ast, 3stls, 10-20 FG, in 40 minutes. Lou Williams & Iguodala both added 13pts. Iggy also had 7rebs, 3ast, 2stls and Lou added 3rebs, 2ast, 1stl & 1blk.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for some pictures and videos of this one. We'll also have a Denver Nuggets preview up, either late tonight or tomorrow afternoon. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!