This is the most-interesting team the Timberwolves have offered since the group that went to the Western Conference finals in 2004. When it is one of those nights, the Woofies can offer the best entertainment to be found among the major sports entities (pros and Gophers) in the Twin Cities.
Wednesday was one of those nights. The Wolves were without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, yet came out with fantastic aggressiveness against an Indiana crew that arrived at Target Center with a 41-12 record.
Indiana opened the post-All-Star stretch run with a home victory over Atlanta on Tuesday. The Timberwolves had reassembled at Target Center on Tuesday and spent three hours in practice and in a meeting, to ready for the Pacers.
The lads must have been listening when coach Rick Adelman and his assistants were instructing on this occasion. They ran off to a 40-20 lead early in the second quarter and finished with a 104-91 victory.
Kevin Love was stupendous with 42 points (and on 22 shots, as Adelman pointed out) and 16 rebounds. Love’s shootout in the third period with Indiana’s Paul George in a duel of stars was a thing of magnificence.
Love had 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting and 4-for-4 on free throws. George had 18 points on 5 of 9 shooting and 8-for-8 free throws. The last of those combined 36 points was a Love jumper in the quarter’s final second … a 19-footer that fell in as Love backed toward the sideline.
“I thought a lot of the shots [Love] made were against good defense,’’ Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “He is an extraordinary player and he played an extraordinary game tonight.’’
As great as was Love, the player who pushed the pace at the Pacers from the get-go was Ricky Rubio. He had eight assists – eight – in the first quarter, and wound up equaling the franchise record with 17 assists for the game.
Five other Wolves had 17: Sidney Lowe, Pooh Richardson, Micheal Williams, Steph Marbury and Chauncey Billups.
We can assume Lowe and Richardson, the Wolves’ original point guards, had most of their 17 with coach Bill Musselman shouting “72’’ or “two-down’’ to be run with Tony Campbell.
And we all remember Williams for the odd spelling of Micheal, his free throw proficiency and as Minnesota’s pioneer when it came to plantar fasciitis.
Rubio went 2 for 10 from the floor and scored six points on Wednesday, but this was one of those nights when you didn’t care about Ricky’s bricklaying because his playmaking was superb.
There have been a dozen of these games, maybe more, telecast from the road or before the home crowd, when the Wolves played at such a wonderful pace that it was unmistakable you were watching the best show in town.
And then there have been those other games, the losses in the last half-minute and the mysterious missteps, that have left the Wolves at 26-28 and sure to be locked out of the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season.
Too bad, because this is a fun bunch to watch … when it happens to be one of those nights.