As a media member, I’m often spoiled with a good view when attending/covering a game. Press seating at Timberwolves games isn’t as amazing as it used to be — those courtside spots are too valuable to just give away — but it’s still plenty close to the action. And seeing an NBA game up close is a breathtaking experience.
Like I’ve written before, though, being at a game in a working capacity is far different than going as a fan. Wednesday night offered the best of both worlds: being able to attend the game simply for fun AND getting to sit in great seats thanks to the generosity of some friends.
When you’re watching just to watch, you notice different things. As such, here are some takeaways from the Wolves’ impressive 119-105 victory over Houston:
1) With 20-point scorer Zach LaVine sidelined with an injury, the Wolves put together one of their best all-around performances of the season. The temptation might be to create some cause-effect from the game — as several fans around me did last night — but we need to be cautious on that one.
While LaVine certainly has deficiencies on both sides of the ball (his defense is a work-in-progress at best, while on offense LaVine’s ability to bail out a bad possession with an off-balance shot can become a crutch that causes ball movement to slow down), he is a valuable and improving player.
His absence wasn’t terribly missed Wednesday, though, thanks to a wonderful all-around game from the previously lightly used Brandon Rush. After playing in just 13 of the Wolves’ first 38 games (and never playing more than 20 minutes in any of them), Rush played 36 minutes and chipped in 12 points (all on three-pointers) while playing solid defense.
2) Shabazz Muhammad also lessened the impact of LaVine’s absence. In 30 minutes, Muhammad had 20 points (on just 11 field goal attempts) to go with seven rebounds. His massive dunk (pictured) was one thing. His big three-pointer in the fourth quarter as the Rockets were starting to make a mini-run was even bigger.
3) It was fun to watch the interplay between Andrew Wiggins and James Harden. Wiggins often drew the defensive assignment on the Rockets star and made life reasonably difficult for him. Harden finished with 33 points but he earned his 10 field goals (on 23 attempts). On sideline out of bounds plays, the two often sparred in physical battles — with Harden winning once when Wiggins was called for a foul and Wiggins getting one to go his way when refs let them play on after determining Harden was initiating as much contact as he was taking. Wiggins piled up 28 points of his own in a very efficient night and had a gasp-worthy spin move for a layup.
4) This is not breaking news, but Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau rarely looks happy on the court. I’m tempted to go to a game sometime just to count the number of times he throws his hands in the air and/or mutters under his breath.
What IS breaking news is that I actually saw Thibs look happy TWICE on the court Wednesday — once with a fist pump when Muhammad made that aforementioned three-pointer to put the game on ice, and once after the final horn when he high-fived Ricky Rubio.
5) The Wolves’ level of energy, execution and defensive commitment were about as good as I’ve seen all year, particularly in the second half. They never let a streaky, three-point happy, dangerous offensive team really get back into the game in the fourth quarter, which was as surprising as it was encouraging given the Wolves’ recent history. In short: that game was an example of the way it’s supposed to work for the Wolves. Maybe we’ll see more of it going forward?