Kevin Martin's 30 Pushes Wolves Past Heat, 102-101
Wolves coach Flip Saunders said before the game that Ricky Rubio was on a strict minute count, a seemingly unwavering minute count after he pulled Rubio from a contest just a few days ago.
"It'll be pretty much in the 20- to 22-minute range,” he said. “We'll try to see how we can manage it against them.”
That restriction seemingly went out the window with 57.4 seconds left in the 102-101 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Target Center. With Rubio already having played 22 minutes, Saunders opted to keep his star signal caller on the floor, and it paid dividends.
While he didn’t score the game-winning bucket — that was Kevin Martin — he provided a crucial calming force in the waning seconds. His final minute count: 23:28.
“We’re just a different team with him,” Saunders said after the game. “I was just excited to come and watch Ricky play with our guys to see what he can do with some of these guys. We haven’t had a chance to see that a lot this year.”
Rubio said he felt good after the game.
“I’m just happy to be back out there,” he said. “I’m getting back in the rhythm and it’s just going to take some time.”
Though Rubio was the main story of this game, Kevin Martin provided the most crucial shot of the contest. Martin received a pass from Thaddeus Young and nailed a shot to give Minnesota a 102-101 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“He’s amazing,” Rubio said. “He’s been doing that for 10-12 years. We all know he’s going to step up when we need it.”
Miami had a chance to win it late and Norris Cole missed a potential game-winning shot from long range.
Martin, who’s been arguably the most consistent player on the team when he’s been on the court, finished with 30 points on 11-for-23 shooting. Rubio finished with a modest 8 points and 9 assists to go along with a handful of plays that went beyond the stat sheet. Young also had a very strong game finishing with 16 points.
“He’s a player that makes everybody better on both ends of the court,” Martin said of Rubio. “It’s indescribable to have a guy like that back in our lineup.”
Hassan Whiteside, on the other side, was a force to be reckoned with all night for Miami. Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng were no match for Whiteside down low as the from-out-of-nowhere big man finished with a crazy 24 points and 20 boards.
“It was good timing for both sides,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said pregame. “We needed a big guy and he needed a place that valued the things he does on the court. He's embraced the work and he's seeing residual from that work."
Those residuals were on display as Whiteside was dominant in pretty much every way imaginable as he imposed his will throughout the contest.
It didn’t equate to a win, though.
While the Wolves squeaked out a win, Andrew Wiggins was somewhat of a disappointment in the game. Wiggins finished with one of his his worst statistical performances in recent memory, and while he hit a key bucket late, he only finished with 6 points.
“He’s got to know even more so now playing with Ricky that he’s got to move off the ball because Ricky will find him,” Saunders said. “It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment for him.”
It’s clear it’s going to take time to adjust to life with Ricky Rubio. It’s also clear it’s going to be a lot of fun watching it come together.
Minnesota will look to build off of this win moving forward with a game with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, followed by big games with the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, and Golden State Warriors.
“It’s probably a good time to blend those guys in,” Saunders said, “because the guys know if we don’t play the right way we’re going to get our butts blown out.”
LEADER OF THE PACK
Kevin Martin was a force for the Wolves all night. He finished with a game-high 30 points on 11-for-23 shooting while playing 40 minutes. Martin also hit the clutch game-winning jumper with less than a minute to play to give the Wolves a 102-101 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. He’s proven to be an extremely vital player for Minnesota this year — a guy that can create his own shot and score at will. He’ll likely see more looks in the coming games with Ricky Rubio back on the court.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
-- Minnesota was vastly outrebounded throughout the matchup and finished with a 47-32 deficit in the final box score. Hassan Whiteside tried his best to outrebound the Wolves by himself as he cleaned the glass for 20 boards.
-- Though it got to the charity stripe seemingly at will throughout the game, Miami couldn’t knock down those shots. It went 16-for-24 from the free-throw line.
-- Ricky Rubio played a roll assisted or scored on the first 6 buckets of the contest for the Wolves before being taken out. Flip Saunders said pregame that Rubio is on a strict minute restriction for the foreseeable future.
-- Mario Chalmers went down with 1:46 left in the first quarter with what looked to be a pretty bad ankle injury. He later returned and finished with 12 points.
-- Hassan Whiteside, who has been the talk of the NBA for much of the last month, finished x-for-x from the field in the game. Whiteside ended the game with 24 points and 20 rebounds.
Minnesota will follow up this contest with a game against one of the best teams in the NBA when the Memphis Grizzlies come to town on Friday night. The Wolves opened the season against the Grizzlies a few months ago and went down in a tight contest. They will be looking for a little bit of revenge in that matchup.