As it seems like they have done many times lately, the Wild and Wolves played on the same night Wednesday. For a viewer, this can be a tricky proposition. For a comparative lesson, however, it couldn't have been more perfect.
A Wolves season that began with tons of promise and potential faded quickly because of injuries and roster holes. They have also had an alarming ability to lose close games. We saw a stat the other day that, at the time, the Wolves were 22-11 when entering the fourth quarter with a lead. That might seem decent, but really 11 blown leads is not good at all. Against the Lakers last night, Minnesota trailed late, mounted a furious comeback and had a chance to tie ... except that Ricky Rubio's desperation shot fell short after he was hacked -- no foul called -- by Kobe Bryant. Even so, Kobe has enough swagger, particularly against the Wolves, to say this afterward about what would have happened if a foul was called and Rubio made all three free throws: "We would have gone into overtime and won the game. It’s as simple as that.” Is there anyone that doubts that? Poor Ricky.
The Wild, on the other hand, jumped out to a comfortable 2-0 lead early, gave up three stunning goals to fall behind against the last-place Coyotes ... and then rallied to tie with the goalie pulled in the final minute -- similar to a desperation shot in hoops -- and decisively won in overtime just as many inside the building would assume they would. These are two franchises on opposite trajectories, and it was never more obvious than it was Thursday night.