Practice Report | March 8, 2014
The Timberwolves spent the 48 hours heading into Friday’s 114-101 win over the Pistons stressing the necessity to stay calm. Don’t panic. Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks was one game, and although there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in this playoff chase, Minnesota needed to stay calm and focused so that one loss remained isolated and not the beginning of a streak.
“We just wanted to come out with more energy than we did on Wednesday,” forward Kevin Love said. “We felt like we did that, jumped on them early. And you know, we played a good 3 ½ quarter, so we were happy.”
Now, the challenge is to continue this new stretch of momentum against a Toronto Raptors team on Sunday that is playing sound basketball. Don’t be fooled by the franchise’s name recognition (they haven’t had a winning record since 2006-07) or by the fact that they’re not part of the Eastern Conference’s two-horse race between Miami and Indiana. The Raptors are 34-26, they currently have their third best winning percentage in franchise history and they’re currently battling to hold onto that third spot in the conference.
Part of it comes from a mid-season move. The Raptors traded Rudy Gay to Sacramento in December for John Salmons, Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Since then, they’ve gone 27-12.
“They made that trade and ever since they’ve played really well,” coach Rick Adelman said. “They’re deeper, their whole bench is basically because of the trade. They’re all good players. So yeah, they’re a solid team. Their two guards are very, very good. And they’ve got size inside. But I think when they made that trade, it basically gave them three guys that come right off the bench for them.”
Toronto is 12-12 against the West, and they’re 16-14 on the road.
Coming into this four-game home stand, it looked like if the Wolves did drop a game it would likely be against the Raptors. Now, after the Knicks loss, this game becomes a must-win to keep their hopes of a potential 3-1 home stand alive and to stay above .500.
The key is making sure that win or lose the Wolves have the same mentality the next day and the next game. “We have to do that going forward,” Kevin Martin said. “We can’t have any lapses like we did in the first quarter versus the Knicks, because in this league all it takes is a team to get hot and they’re hard to stop—especially when you have talented players like the Knicks do. But we put the game behind us, and we came out last night with a great effort and we’ll come out tomorrow with the same effort.”
Rubio Stands Tall
Statistically, Kevin Love and Andre Drummond are second and third in the NBA in rebounding—Love is No. 2 with 13.2 boards per game, and Drummond is third at 12.9. Greg Monroe and Nikola Pekovic, at 9.0 and 9.1, respectively, are in the top 20 in that same category.
Yet with all four of them on the floor at the same time on Friday night, it was Ricky Rubio who stood tallest in the first quarter. For much of that first frame, Rubio led all players with rebounds. He finished with five in the first and eight overall (to go along with 11 points and nine assists), and by the quarter’s end only Kevin Love’s five equaled Rubio on the floor.
When Rubio is clicking, he’s lauded for not only being able to impact the game with his passes but also with the way he crashes the glass. He ended up with more rebounds on Friday night than Drummond (seven), one fewer than Pekovic (nine) and just behind Love (14) and Monroe (15). Not bad for a 6-foot-4 point guard.
“I didn’t realize it, but I was kind of lucky because a couple of times the ball went to my hands,” Rubio said. “I was feeling like Kevin Love.”
Love said Rubio helped out as the bigs inside were going pound-for-pound early.
“There were a lot of shots going off the back rim like there was the other night—there weren’t a lot of rebounds for the big guys to be had,” Love said. “And you know at the end of the night Pek and Drummond kind of canceled each other out I guess.”
When the Wolves had to put their starters back in during the fourth quarter as Detroit made a comeback, Martin said he wasn’t surprised by having to make a whole-rotation substitution.
“When teams start to get rolling, sometimes you need to make a hockey substitution and put them all back in,” Martin said. “But we’re just happy we got a win.”