Timberwolves Top Individual Performances of 2013-14
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The Timberwolves had memorable individual games throughout the season stretching from their overtime win against Orlando in the season-opener (Kevin Love’s 3-pointer to force OT) all the way to an upset win over Houston in April (Corey Brewer’s 51). So I tried to navigate these big-time games by Wolves players (not surprisingly, K-Love had A LOT to choose from), and hopefully this list suffices your appetite for reviewing the 2013-14 season. I looked at a few different pieces of criteria: One, the players’ numbers across the board. Two, how memorable/impactful the game was. And three, the historical significance of the feat. Without further ado, enjoy looking back at some of these Don’t Blink moments.
This first performance stands out for two reasons: One, it was an early indication of what we’d see time-and-time again this year from Kevin Love. And two, it was the subject of an entire Sports Illustrated article by Alan Shipnuck. On Nov. 8, the Wolves’ sixth game of the year, Love went off for 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. He shot 12-of-21 from the field, hit three 3-pointers and was a huge factor in a 116-108 home win. The victory put the Wolves at 4-2 on the season. The way Love played such an all-around game (we’ll get to this again later in the countdown) really set the tone for the type of season he’d end up having, it shows in all areas. He became the only player in league history to put up 26.0 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game, 4.0 assists per game and hit at least 100 3-pointers in a single NBA season. Shipnuck wanted to exemplify Love’s ever-blooming game by breaking down game film of every possession he impacted, and this was the perfect example. “The assumption about Kevin is he just does so many different things, does them well, and he’s probably the most unique player in the NBA,” Shipnuck said. “So it would be really cool to get inside his game in a really detailed way.”
4. March 19: Ricky Rubio’s third career triple-double at Dallas
Ricky Rubio notched his first career triple-double on March 12, 2013, at home against the San Antonio Spurs. His second came on Nov. 10, 2013 in a blowout win over the Lakers at Staples Center. But it was his third, on March 19, 2014, which really stands out. Again, it was a victory (Minnesota is 3-0 lifetime in Rubio triple-doubles), and it came on the road in a 123-122 victory over the Mavericks. Rubio’s game was at its best on this night in another game that very much mattered for the Wolves’ playoff hopes. He shot 8-of-12 from the field and became the ninth player in the NBA since 1985-86 to record 22 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and four steals in a single game (Chris Paul did it twice). The overtime victory put the Wolves at 34-32 on the year. Unfortunately, this victory was the last meaningful win of the season as Minnesota dropped its next three games and essentially put itself out of playoff contention. But on this one night, Rubio shined. Noted Honorable Mention: Love had 35 points plus the game-winning floater in overtime during this game.
3. Feb. 22: Kevin Love’s first career triple-double at Utah
Kevin Love notched a double-double along with at least seven assists six times during the 2013-14 season prior to Feb. 22, but each time he came up short of his first career triple-double. As we watched, we knew it was coming. Love’s per-game assist total nearly doubled this year, and as he continued to facilitate you could tell that, eventually, he’d churn out a triple-double effort. That moment finally came on a Saturday night in Utah as the Wolves opened up a five-game West Coast trip. Love shot 11-of-20 from the field and notched 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He hit six 3-pointers in the game, went 9-of-10 from the line and added assists in the half court and through his increasingly-used transition passing. His final assist, in fact, came as he tossed a near full-court pass to Corey Brewer on the fast break.
Love added two more triple-doubles later in the year—a 22/10/10 effort against the Lakers on March 28 and a 24/16/10 effort on April 2 against the Grizzlies. All three resulted in Wolves victories. He also notched six additional games in the final 2 months during which he had a double-double and at least seven assists. But it was that first one that was the sweetest—especially since it came in a road win during a period of time when the Wolves were still in playoff contention and needed to rally off some victories on their longest trip of the year. “I thought at some point it would happen,” Love said on Feb. 22. “I’ve been very close, and we’re getting a lot of good shots tonight. Rhythm shots, cuts to the basket. So I was happy it was tonight, and more happy that we got the win on the first game of this long road trip.”
Gorgui Dieng didn’t get much playing time up through the middle of March in his rookie season, but he kept himself prepared in hopes that once he did get his chance, he’d take advantage of it. That happened when Dieng was thrust into the starting lineup while Nikola Pekovic battled and injured ankle. He thrived from the beginning, including five double-doubles in his first six starts. His biggest night, however, came on March 20 in Houston. Dieng became the first rookie in Wolves history to notch a 20-20 game—something the likes of Kevin Love and Kevin Garnett never did. He put up 22 points and added 21 boards against the Rockets while hitting 10-of-11 free-throws and adding four assists. It was the centerpiece of Dieng’s overall body of work in March, which earned him KIA Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors. The Wolves fell to the Rockets 129-106, but Dieng proved he could be a strong contributor with his historic numbers. “I choose to be a professional basketball player, and I belong with them—and that’s not the first time I say that,” Dieng said. “It took a lot of effort, it took a lot of sacrifices…It takes a lot. It’s just the beginning. I’m nothing compared to the basketball team, so I need to keep working more and more to be where I want to be.”
This one is far and away the top individual performance of the 2013-14 season. Brewer had never scored more than 29 points in his seven-year NBA career, and his previous season-high was 27. In this particular game, the Wolves were playing without top scorers Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, and the scenario pitted the Wolves—who were eliminated from the playoffs—against a Rockets team hoping to slide into the No. 3 spot in the West. So with all those facts in mind, here we have Corey Brewer absolutely taking over out of nowhere. You knew it was a special night when he had 26 at halftime and hit a 50-foot shot just before the break. He finished the game with 51 points—tying Kevin Love’s franchise record, and cracking 51 in regulation for the first time in team history—while shooting 19-of-30 from the field. He also became just the fourth player in NBA history to score 50 points and register six steals in a game. The other three are Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Rick Barry.
His final two points, a pair of free-throws late in the fourth, got the Target Center crowd on its feet. It was one of the most electric moments inside the arena during 2013-14. The effort surprised everyone—including Brewer. “I thought I was in high school again, you know? Everything was going in,” Brewer said. “But I was just playing. I wasn’t thinking about it until someone said you have 44, you could get 50 tonight. I was like, ‘OK, whatever, then I actually got 50.” Most importantly, the Wolves won 112-110. Noted Honorable Mention: Gorgui Dieng’s floater in the lane was the game-winning shot late in the fourth quarter. He finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds.