Minutes before Wednesday’s game, the news:
Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin was sick because of flu-like symptoms and wouldn’t play. So for a night, Corey Brewer got a new position, Robbie Hummel got his first NBA start, and the Wolves went out and got busy.
With instant energy, exquisite ball movement and deadly shooting, the Wolves blew the Cleveland Cavaliers out of Target Center 124-95 in a game that, frankly, didn’t seem as close as the score. The Wolves set or matched season highs in shooting, three-point shooting, assists and points, among many others.
“Terrific game for our guys,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We moved the ball so well, we were so good on both ends of the court.”
The energy came from Brewer, who moved to guard for the night, then went out and scored the Wolves’ first nine points. He hit all five of his three-pointers, continued to run the court like a gazelle and finished with 27 points, two off his career high. After the game Ricky Rubio joked that he had to look twice to make sure Brewer wasn’t wearing Martin’s jersey.
“Because he was making all the shots,” Rubio said. “And he was being Corey, too.”
And that’s just the start. Kevin Love had 33 points. Rubio finished with his fourth double-double with a season-high 16 points and a career-high 16 assists, one short of the franchise record. Hummel started the game with butterflies and ended it with 10 points.
Put it all together and you have an absurdly breezy victory over Cleveland, the team that beat them by a point earlier this month.
So, clearly, Martin was just holding this team back, right?
Love laughed. “Yeah, he’s the weakest link,” he joked.
But what Brewer did was no joke. He missed his first shot, but then scored on a driving layup, hit two free throws, a three-pointer from the corner and another driving layup to give the Wolves an early 9-5 lead, and Minnesota never looked back. The Wolves led by 14 after a quarter. With a season-high 70 first half points they led by 23 at the half, by 32 after three quarters and by 39 early in the fourth.
“[Adelman] runs a great system,” said Rubio, who scored or assisted on 11 of Minnesota’s first 13 field goals. “It’s fun to play. And when we make shots, it’s unbelievable.”
The Wolves had a season-high 34 assists — their most since 2008 — and only nine turnovers. They had a 20-2 edge on points off turnovers, a 29-6 edge on the fast break. Their 50 percent shooting on three-pointers and 11 treys matched season highs.
“They beat us in transition, the beat us in the half-court,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “They cut harder, they played harder, they were more physical.”
It was the eighth time in franchise history the Wolves scored 70 points in the first half. Brewer’s three-pointer with 3:18 left in the third quarter gave Minnesota a 98-66 lead, and the team’s 108 points through three quarters was a franchise record.
And all with Martin out sick. But don’t worry. This is no Wally Pipp tale.
“We hope we have K-Mart back at practice [Friday] and then on to Denver,” Love said.
Said Brewer: “I had to step up. When you lose a guy someone has to step up. I don’t mind being that guy.”