It's been two long week since the Wolves got a win and there's no doubting it's felt even longer than that. Tonight the Wolves were able to snap a six-game losing streak and avoid their longest losing streak of the season with an 87-82 win over the Washington Wizards.
Thanks in large part to the play of Ricky Rubio, the Wolves now have their 21st win of the season and Rick Adelman inches closer to his 1000th W.
After three quarters, the Timberwolves found themselves up by two points. I know we were all thinking the same thing: please let them close this one out! It's no secret that the Wolves have been simply terrible closing teams out this season.
Ricky Rubio wasn't going to let the Wolves lose this one. His play--especially on the defensive end propelled Minnesota to their first win since February 20th.
With 1:49 to play in this one, Nene found his buddy Emeka Okafor for a two-point shot that cut the Wolves lead to just two points (83-82). Dante couldn't respond as he missed a 20-footer on the ensuing possession. It was Wizards basketball and they had a chance to take the lead with just under 1:30 to play. Nene missed a mid-range jumper, but Washington secured the rebound and reset, John Wall threw up a three-pointer that couldn't find bottom and Derrick Williams came up with a very big rebound. Both teams had empty possessions, before a steal by Ricky Rubio and a tip pass to J.J. Barea started a break that ended with an easy J.J. layup and a three-point lead (85-82) with just 28 seconds to play. Out of the timeout, Trevor Ariza missed a three-pointer. It was then the Wolves ball with just over 12 seconds to play. The Wizards fouled Ridnour on the inbound and he hit both free throws to seal the 87-82 W. Former Wolf Martell Webster missed a three with 8 seconds to play and the Wolves got a much needed win--not just for the fans, but especially for those players who have continued to battle despite being extremely shorthanded.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
Ricky Rubio finished just three rebounds shy of that elusive triple-double that he continues to circle his past few games. He struggled shooting from the field at just 4-of-15, but his contributions on the defensive end and his defense on Wall in the second half was key to this victory. That steal with just under 30 seconds to play was a deciding factor in this game.
Williams struggled (as expected) a bit against Nene & Okafor, but he still managed to finish with 16-8. It's a tough situation for Williams right now, he's a second-year player that has continued to make great strides these past couple months. The tough part is that with so many injuries to key players he's honestly Minnesota's #1 offensive option and you've got to give the kid credit, he's done a pretty decent job considering!
Dante was a gametime decision prior to this one. He didn't participate in the morning shootaround because he was dealing with flu-like symptoms. He was questionable up to the last 20 minutes of the beginning of this game, but came out for warmups and decided to give it a go in this one. He ended up playing a great game and finished with another solid all-around game centered around his mid-range jumper and his versatile D.
John Wall had an incredible first half as he hit jumper after jumper from the right elbow mid-range. By the end of the first half, he had 12 of his 19 points.
Trevor Ariza also had a great first half. By halftime he already had all 16 of his points.
The Wolves made adjustments at the half on D and Ricky Rubio led the charge for an improved defensive effort.
Without Minnesota's top 3 rebounders (Love, Pek & AK) Emeka Okafor finished the night with 14 rebounds. It's no surprise considering the Wolves had just four healthy post players, none of which are known for their rebounding capabilities. Adelman employed a Williams-Cunningham frontcourt a good portion of this one and between the two of them, they average just over 10 rebounds a game this season!
The Wolves finished the night shooting just over 40% from the field and left 10 points at the line...and they were still able to secure the W in this one! Add to that, the Wizards' +10 advantage on the boards and you wonder how we won this one. I'll tell you how we won this one: the Wolves forced the Wiz into 24 turnovers, the Wizards committed 29 personal fouls, the Wolves outscored Washington by a +20 in the paint, a +12 on the break and a +19 from bench production. Despite Minnesota's 'deficiencies' shooting the basketball in this one, they made up for it in plenty of other areas for the five-point W.
The Wolves don't play again until Saturday in Denver when they take on the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!