For more than 40 minutes after the Wolves’ game with San Antonio ended Tuesday night, Ricky Rubio decompressed. He sat in an ice-filled tub, lingered in the shower, allowed the Timberwolves training staff to knead and stretch his sore body. When you play the game with the pedal to the metal, there is a price to pay.
“Well,’’ he said, after settling slowly into the chair in front of his locker. “I hit the knee on the floor. And all game I was getting hits all around my body. It’s an NBA game.”
And it felt very, very good.
Rubio, playing with his own special brand of intensity, finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. It was his first NBA triple double, the first by a Wolves player this season. And, predicted many in the wake of Minnesota’s absurdly unpredictable 107-83 victory over San Antonio, the first of many to come.
And, for a night, the rest of his teammates joined in.
How else to explain a Wolves team, dead last in the league in three-point shooting, hitting 12 of 20? Or a team that has struggled to score posting 107? Or a team that has been a sieve defensively holding San Antonio to 35.4 percent shooting while holding them to 83 points, matching their season low?
“I don’t know where it came from,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said honestly. “I hope they didn’t use it all in one night.”
Alexey Shved, mired in a shooting slump, scored 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting, hitting three of four three-pointers. J.J. Barea hit on five of seven threes on the way to 17 points. The Wolves also got 14 from Luke Ridnour and 13 from Derrick Williams.
And then there was Rubio. After having played to the cusp of a triple-double on a number of occasions, he broke through. And it was a wire-to-wire, totally wired performance. He assisted on his team’s first two baskets and on five of the first 10. He kept it up until his drive to the basket late in the game — one that came with a behind-the-back dribble — provided him with his final points.
His last act of the night was to dive out of bounds for a loose ball, a move that frankly terrified his coach.
It’s an NBA game.
“It was fun to play today,” Rubio said, deflecting credit, ignoring his stats, embracing the win. Rebounds? There are a lot to be had with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic out injured, he said. Stats? “I just wanted to be aggressive all the time,” he said. “Stats are the last thing I try to watch; victories are the most important thing.”
The margin of victory matched the biggest-ever against San Antonio. And while it’s true that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard were out injured, the injury-ravaged Wolves took advantage. Especially after a slow start.
Down 21-9 with 5:04 left in the first, the Wolves outscored the Spurs 44-17 the rest of the first half to take a 15-point lead. And credit the bench. Wolves reserves scored 24 of Minnesota’s 29 second-quarter points, with Shved (12) and Barea (8) leading the way, with Chris Johnson adding five blocks for good measure.
San Antonio never really recovered, primarily because Rubio wouldn’t let them. Rubio had 13 points, seven assists and five boards in the first half, eight, five and eight in the second.
“He is playing with such a resolve to get us over the hump,” said Adelman, whose team broke a two-game losing streak. “He has had that effort, but we had so many people step up tonight.”
They had no choice. “He plays so hard,” Barea said. “Everybody has to follow that. I’m glad he finally got that first triple double. That’s the first of many to come in his career.”
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