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If you left Wednesday night’s Timberwolves game before it was over, nobody would blame you. Then Luke Ridnour saved the day.
The Timberwolves overcame turnovers, terrible shooting and twice fought back from double-digit deficits to steal one from the Utah Jazz Wednesday night at Target Center. They now head to the All-Star Break with a .500 record. 17 wins in 34 games. Last year the Wolves won 17 games out of 82. A dramatic improvement doesn’t begin to tell the story of this year’s team. But there’s still a long ways to go.
Kevin Love on Getting to .500 at the Break
Luke Ridnour says Tonight is Like a Playoff Game
Going into the Utah game Wednesday, both teams were talking about how important it would be to enter the break with a .500 record (Utah and Minnesota had the same record going into the game). There was talk of a “playoff atmosphere”. Only problem with that was the Wolves forgetting this for about 40 minutes of game-time before rallying late.
The Jazz came out and clobbered the Wolves early, leading 27-15 after the 1st quarter with Minnesota missing 20 of their first 24 shots (that’s 16.7% for those scoring at home). They trailed by as much as 16 in the first half. A 3rd quarter run made it close before Utah again pulled away, leading by 16 again with under 10 to play. That set the stage for a 30-13 run to close the game, led by J.J. Barea, rookie Derrick Williams and, the hero, Luke Ridnour. Ridnour hit a runner in the lane as time expired for a 100-98 win.
Luke Ridnour Postgame Interview
Now, as we look back at the first half of the season and get set for the All-Star festivities, the Wolves can take a deep breath. Goal number one for this team entering the season? Finish the first half at .500.
They are at .500 at the All-Star break for the first time since 2005. Seven long years for Wolves fans. They have an All-Star (and superstar) in Kevin Love. They have two players in the Rising Stars Challenge in Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams. Maybe most importantly, they have a head coach who has coaxed 17 wins out of a team that hasn’t sniffed this kind of success in a long time.
Rick Adelman is no stranger to winning basketball games as he closes in on 1,000 for his career. An NBA coach with his pedigree immediately earned the respect of his young players. Certainly, there have been growing pains (see: Turnovers).
Luke Ridnour Says Adelman Has Made a Huge Difference
But the potential is starting to become tangible and being just 1 game out of the 8th playoff spot at the break, success is seemingly around the corner.
Now, as we look towards the second half of the season, things will not get easier. The first week out of the break, it’s on the road for the Wolves (where they’ve actually played just as well as they have at home so far). At the Clippers, Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trailblazers will test anyone. Then three of those teams (the L.A. clubs and Portland) come right back to Target Center. That’s 7 games in 11 days against potential playoff teams.
Another consideration for the Wolves is the amount of playing time Kevin Love has been getting. He’s played more minutes than any player in the NBA and takes a pounding inside game after game. He freely admitted after Wednesday’s game that the break is coming at a good time and that he’s “exhausted”. If the Wolves are going to make a push to get into the playoffs, they’ll have to manage Love’s playing time and keep him rested (and healthy).
Kevin Love on Taking Care of Himself During Break
In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the All-Star break which is well represented by the Timberwolves. Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Williams in the Sprite Dunk Contest, Kevin Love in the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest and also the NBA All-Star game for the second straight year.
Nikola Pekovic has seemed worthy of the Rising Stars Challenge with his play. And with San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter missing the game because of injury, there were thoughts the NBA would select the Wolves Center. Instead, they went with Utah’s Derrick Favors.
For the record: Pekovic, a Wolves starter for the last several weeks is averaging 12.5 points and 7.2 rebounds a game (ranked #4 in the league in offensive rebounds per game). He’s also a +15.24 in efficiency rating. Favors, a Utah reserve (at 19 minutes a game) averages 8.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game with a +9.06 efficiency rating. Ask Rick Adelman who should be going to the Rising Star Challenge and you’ll get a no doubt answer that it’s Pekovic. The stats tell the same story. Pekovic, when asked, is happy to take the weekend off and rest his legs (and his recently sprained ankle).
Nikola Pekovic On Not Being Chosen For Rising Stars Challenge Roster
TNT will have full TV coverage of the All-Star events from Orlando. The Rising Stars Challenge is Friday night at 8:00 central. Both the Dunk and 3-point Contests are part of All-Star Saturday Night with coverage beginning at 7:00. The All-Star Game coverage begins Sunday night at 5:00.
Cheer on our Wolves All-Stars and get set for what should be a very fun second half to the NBA season!
Coach Rick Adelman Postgame Interview Wednesday
J.J. Barea Postgame Interview Wednesday