Postgame: Rubio says, 'They played hard and we didn't'

  • Blog Post by: Jerry Zgoda
  • February 2, 2012 - 2:09 AM

So where do you rank this one, Timberwolves fans, on the list of stinkers this season?

Worse than the Milwaukee game, but better than Cleveland?

Better than than home loss to Houston, but worse than the loss at Toronto?

Yes, Wednesday's opponent -- the Indiana Pacers -- probably are better than all the aforementioned teams, but Wednesday's game game still was enough to leave Rick Adelman "very disappointed" and Ricky Rubio mystified how a team that scored 42 points in Monday's third quarter at Houston made just 15 of 47 shots (31.9 percent) by halftime.

"I don't know," Rubio said afterward. "They played hard and we didn't. We just didn't play at all today. We were without energy but that can't happen. You can lose a game by 10 and they can beat you because they pay better than you, not because you play worse than them."

For the third time this season, the Wolves had the chance to reach .500 with a victory and once again it slide right on by them, snatched away by a Pacers team that once again played them physical enough that Kevin Love voiced his dislike for them afterward.

Here's the game story from Wednesday that includes some of that from Love at the end and details of Danny Granger's 36-point night as well the flailing foul by Love on him late in the third quarter that seemed to fuel a Pacers' 9-1 run that began the fourth quarter.

Some other stuff from the game:

* OK, so I'll ask what I got hit with on Twitter all night: When, oh when, is Adelman going to show mercy on Timberwolves Nation by removing Wes Johnson and Darko Milicic from the starting lineup.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about both tonight, although I still say that Darko!, even after missing three games because of dizziness and feeling poorly, gives them their best chance to match up against Pacers' 7-3 center Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert's presence is why Anthony Randolph was the season's first healthy scratch (on the inactive list along with Malcolm Lee, who's about to head to the D League for a week's rehab assignment on that knee).

* Adelman made Randolph inactive because he preferred to have Anthony Tolliver available against David West, Tyler Hansbrough and maybe even Granger and because he preferred having Brad Miller available in case he needed him against Hibbert rather than Randolph.

Neither Miller nor Tolliver got in the game, though.

* Nikola Pekovic delivered his second double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) in four games with a 29-plus minute night after Darko! played little more than 18 minutes.

This was a physical game that was just the kind of game Pekovic prefers, but he still doesn't have the kind of length that gives him much of a prayer defending Hibbert (15 points, 9 rebounds), who shoots right over him.

* Is it only a matter of time -- perhaps as early as Friday in New Jersey -- before Adelman turns to Pekovic as his starter even if Darko! is healthy?

Just because you wish it so, doesn't mean it's going to come true.

As for Johnson, he had another of those ineffective 2-for-6 shooting night for 4 points in just 17 1/2 minutes.

And he played much of the third quarter matched up against Granger, who went went off for 17 of his 36 points in that quarter.

He didn't play a second in the fourth, when Adelman turned mostly to Martell Webster, who tried but couldn't slow Granger much either.

Webster played 20-plus minutes and Michael Beasley 21 off the bench while rookie Derrick Williams again showed fewer than 11, including just 1:48 in the second half.

* So what do you do?

Keep Wes in the starting lineup and Beasley in a sixth man's role?

Put Beasley back in the starting lineup and move Wes to a reserve's role, the proper place given the kind of season he's had so far?

Or do you invest the time in Derrick Williams there and see if he can learn and adapt to a small-forward spot where it seems like Adelman is convinced he can't play, at least not yet anyway?

I still want to see that Beasley-Love-Williams frontcourt together for an extended period to see if they can survive defensively long enough to drive opposing power forwards and centers batting with their inside-outside threat that each provides.

Looks like I'll be waiting a while, though.

* Wednesday was the first time Rubio in quite some time that he clearly got outplayed by the other point guard. And this time. Darren Collison simply was quicker and better while offering a superb 20-point, 9-assist, 6-rebound game while Rubio went for 10, 6 and 4 and again didn't have a steal for the third time in four games.

Just a bad matchup? A bad night? Or might all those minutes be catching up to him just a bit?

Adelman did limit him to 37 minutes and Love to 37 1/2 minutes tonight.

* I'll part with some words from Webster about that third-quarter skirmish between Love and Granger, from which the Wolves never seemed to respond.

"You can't get running away from the punches," Webster said. "You have to go in with your guard up, ready to fight. Something like that is probably something you need to jumpstart something, but we let them hit first and we couldn't recover from that.

"Hopefully, this hurts everybody. We can't keep coming into this locker room like we're almost there. That gets repetitive. I've seen that, I've been through that already. I know that right now more than ever you have to strike first. Once we understand that and once we see how we're able to do that, we'll go out beginning games and hit first.

"Once we do that, we'll be able to play together as one instead of having to fight back. That comes with time. That will come."

That's all I got from Target Center tonight.

Kent's got practice tomorrow while I fly to New Jersey for Friday's game against the Nets and finish my Sunday NBA notes package.

I'll be back Friday.

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