Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kevin, Ricky, Wolves all going backward

Perhaps the high point of the Minnesota Timberwolves' season came on December 17 when Ricky Rubio returned from an ACL tear and 9 months of inactivity to lead the Wolves over Dallas 114-106 in OT. Kevin Love missed that game due to, well, he had injured his thumb the previous game and was listed a day to day. In the end, he sat out not due to his thumb but because of the flu. It was the start of a wacky period of ball for the Wolves.

The Wolves were 11-9 when Rickey came back, and you'll remember that Love missed the 1st couple of weeks of the season. The win over the Mavericks in Rubio's 2012 debut, without Love, raised hopes that Minnesota was ready to become a good NBA team. The playoffs were pretty much assured. They'd hung in there without their 2 big guns. Now, who could stop them?

Well, Orlando. Miami. The Knicks. Houston. Just to name 4.

Of course, the fact is they've yet to have Love and Rubio both available for 2 consecutive games. But when they've had the both of 'em, they've lost 2 of 3. Overall, they're 2-4 since Ricky returned, good for 13-13 overall. They've dropped from 6th place in the West into a tie for 8th, 9th and 10th and, most likely, dropped out of the playoffs, as of today.

Rickey has played in 5 of 6 games since he returned. He is averaging 18 minutes, 4 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, a steal and 2 turnovers. He has made 5-of-21 FG attempts, or 24 percent.

In the same period, Love had played in 4 games, and is averaging 17 points, 14 boards, 2 assists, 1.5 steals, a block and 4 turnovers. He has made 24-of-64 FGA, or 37 percent.

That compare unfavorably with 21 ppg before Rickey's return though his other stats are about the same before and after. Surprisingly his 37 percent shooting over the past 4 games is better than his season percentage of 36. This compares with his career average of 45 percent. Well, hand and eye problems will do that to you, I guess.

In 3 of their 4 recent losses, they've led in the 4th quarter. They've looked like the Wolves of old in getting outscored 57-28 down the stretch of those 3 games. In 2 of the 3, the opponent had a "go to" guy and we didn't. Carmelo Anthony scored 19 4th quarter points for the Knicks the other night, while James Harden scored 13 tonight. Orlando had 4 of 'em--Glen Davis and J.J. Redick scored 3 buckets each, Arron Afflalo and Gustavo Ayon 2 each.

For Minnesota, only J.J. Barea has scored as many points in 3 games as Anthony or Harden did in 1. Barea scored 19 points in the 4th quarter of the 3 losses. Other T-Wolves include:

• Shved 8 points
• Cunningham 6
• Derrick Williams, A. J. Kirilenko and Rubio 5
• Ridnour 3
• Love 2

This is for 3 quarters of basketball, with the game on the line.

I guess they need some reps with Kevin and Ricky out there, or something. But right now, they're not as good of a team as they were before Ricky came back. With the exception of Barea, everybody is pulling a disappearing act in the 4th quarter, which is not how you win in the NBA.

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