New-look Wolves start out right

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 18, 2011 - 8:28 AM

Ricky Rubio wowed the crowd, the Love-Williams-Beasley frontcourt looked like a cohesive unit, and a sizeable crowd went home happy after the exhibition victory.

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Sure, it's easy to look good when you make almost every three-point shot, but take away the Timberwolves' sizzling percentages Saturday night, and there still was plenty for a sizable preseason audience to go home buzzing about after a 117-96 victory over Milwaukee.

How could you tell?

Well, for one thing: The Target Center public-address announcer informed the many fans still left in their seats late in the game that extra ticket representatives were on hand and ready for them as they exited the arena into the good night.

For another, those who watched Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams and new coach Rick Adelman make successful debuts went home already feeling better about that 2012 first-round pick surrendered for Marko Jaric so long ago and lamenting the lockout-shortened 66-game regular season that prohibits their home team from chasing the Chicago Bulls' all-time, single-season victory record of 72.

"That was a lot of fun," newly signed guard J.J. Barea said.

The largest announced preseason home crowd -- 15,013 tickets distributed -- since 1999 concurred with him after the Wolves made 10 of 11 three-point shots by halftime (90.9 percent) and turned a 10-point, second-quarter deficit into a 24-point second-half lead, thanks to a 31-12 run that ended the first half.

After a long two-year wait, Wolves fans arrived ready to holler for Rubio, no matter what he did. A few shouted for his appearance -- he watched from the bench while Luke Ridnour started -- right from the game's opening seconds.

The rest cheered whether he made plays sensational or simple.

"Yeah, they loved him," forward Michael Beasley said. "He made bounce passes, and they were in awe."

They serenaded Rubio with sing-song chants of "Olé, olé, olé" -- like soccer fans back in his native Spain do -- after he lobbed a fourth-quarter pass to fellow rookie Williams for a thunderous slam dunk.

He finished with six points, seven assists, six rebounds, two steals, one turnover and a foul in 24 minutes on a night when he easily could have reached double-digit assists if his teammates had converted more of his passes.

"Great. It's amazing," Rubio said of his first NBA game, even if it's preseason. "All I want to say thank you everybody. Thank you for being here. Thank you for supporting the team. And I hope we come back with winnings and try to get in the playoff.

"Who knows? We will try hard."

Playoffs?

It's just one night. It's just the preseason. It's just the Bucks, playing without injured Stephen Jackson.

Still, those fans left Target Center encouraged by Rubio's debut and probably intrigued by the possibilities of a smallish frontcourt featuring three of the team's better players.

Kevin Love, Williams and Beasley all might be best suited to play power forward, but their presence together ignited that second-quarter comeback. The Wolves made all threes they attempted in that quarter, and the frontcourt accounted for six of them (Love 3, Williams 2, Beasley 1).

"We can do it," Adelman said when asked how much he can play those three together. "We just have to guard somebody. That's the whole key. They are three guys who can all score, all shoot the ball. If we can match up and guard, that's what we have to find out as we move through this process."

The Wolves committed 14 turnovers -- three fewer than last season's average -- and showed some signs of understanding Adelman's defensive instructions, too.

"The way we started the game, I thought we'd set a record," Adelman said about five first-quarter turnovers. "But we got better and better as the game went on. Overall, it was a good effort."

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