Two game winning streak! Two game winning streak! Halt the presses and hide your daughters!
Timberwolves 98, Blazers 101
--This was the night of the young guys. We have five: Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster, Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Sergio Rodriguez. Every...single...one of them stepped up tonight, including Lamarcus and Brandon with clutch, key late free throws. This was the first game ever when that group can honestly and proudly say, "We just won a real, live NBA game." There will be more about each in the individual notes but for now let me just say, "Congratulations!" This was the night they showed they are growing up.
--Want to know why we beat the Wolves? We had 45 bench points and they had 16. We had 52 rebounds and they had 40. We had 18 offensive rebounds and they had 8. Those were enough to counteract a decidedly mediocre game by many of our starters and their +5% edge in free-throw shooting percentage.
--Despite the semi-pretty overtime this was a butt-ugly game. The offense was ragged, featuring FAR too much dribbling and desperation shots. (A few of which we luckily hit.) The defense allowed the Wolves inside the lane way too often. We beat them in the energy department most of the night and we attacked the lane ourselves more in the second half, drawing a few more easy point and a lot more free throws than we did early on.
--We seriously up-tempoed this game. We had 95 total shots which is, like, a game and a half's worth for us normally. A lot of those were from offensive rebounds but we also went with our shots earlier and more often.
--If you guys know me at all you know I never call out Nate. But dang, I have to a little. Kevin Garnett was the main guy keeping the Wolves in the game late. If it wasn't him it was Ricky "The Roach" Davis. So here's the deal...during the critical moments at the end of regulation Nate put Jamaal Magloire in for defensive purposes. (I thought at first it was for rebounding purposes but he did it even when rebounding was not going to be a factor, so we can only assume it was for defense.) And I'll tell you, Joel did a reasonably good job on KG for the few minutes he was in. Lamarcus did a decent job on him also. But Garnett was making like "Bubba" from Forrest Gump all over Mr. Magloire. "Do you want broiled Jamaal, baked Jamaal, fricasseed Jamaal, slow-roasted Jamaal, grilled Jamaal, stewed Jamaal, deep-fried Jamaal..." You get the idea. PLUS...when Garnett wasn't busy making mincemeat out of our much-reviled pivot, they were running screens for The Roach with his man. And TWICE...TWICE Magloire got completely toasted on that play. The first one was late in regulation...Minnesota's last successful shot. The Roach came off that high screen, the guard got picked off, Magloire's job was to step up, and he DIDN'T EVEN MOVE. In fact he looked off-balance. The Roach calmly nails the shot and were it not for Aldridge's clutch free-throws after we would have lost. The second time was in the same situation at the end of overtime. Again Roachie got the high screen, again Magloire makes like an iceberg encased in molasses. This time we got very, VERY lucky because the shot was even closer in but La Cucaracha missed it. Had he made it instead of being up by one and having Zach be intentionally fouled to put us up by the final margin (three) we would have been down by one, needing a last-second shot to win. Finally, on the very, very last play of the game with the Timberwolves needing three to tie Nate took Jamaal out and put in Aldridge, but it should have happened sooner. If you don't like the rookie in that situation put in Joel. At least he can move a little bit. Again, I feel a little presumptuous even saying it, but Mike Rice was essentially thinking the same thing so I guess it's OK.
--Let's start the honor roll with Sergio Rodriguez. He only had one assist tonight but he scored 18 points on 8-13 shooting including several layups and a couple of bail-out shots against the clock. He carved the Minnesota defense singlehandedly.
--Just barely behind him was Martell Webster. Martell's stat line looks modest: 13 points, 8 rebounds. But OH what timely plays he made. And most of the significant ones weren't shots! He grabbed rebounds that nobody else was going to get. He was legitimately fighting Kevin Garnett himself for a rebound late in the game...and he almost won! (The ball ended up going out of bounds.) He had a magnificent hustle play on a loose rebound that changed the course of the game. The ball had been tipped out and it looked like the Minnesota guys were going to get it back, but he ran up, tipped it forward to himself, then streaked down the floor for a contested layup. It was a thing of beauty. And by the way he also attacked the rim tonight, completely surprising the defense. He only hit one 3-pointer. The rest of his points were off the dribble. If it weren't for Martell, we don't win this game.
--Jarrett Jack deserves a good ovation. He was the guy Nate turned to in crunch time. He had some really nice play, played heady basketball, shot well (6-11), and ended up with 12 points and 5 assists. I don't see why he can't get some back-up minutes at shooting guard sometime.
--Brandon Roy played an amazing first quarter, scoring 11 points and leading the team. Trenton Hassell stifled him after that and he ended up with 13 points on 4-12 shooting. However he got 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and hit two clutch free throws late.
--Lamarcus Aldridge didn't have his best outing. His shot was consistently off and he only got 4 rebounds. However he did have two very nice blocks in the help rotation. And all sins were forgiven very late in regulation when he took a Roy miss off the offensive glass and got fouled. He calmly stepped to the line and sank the game-tying free throws. Terry Porter couldn't have done it better. He also, by the way, played one or two very credible series against Garnett. Forced the big guy into some tough shots.
--This was not Zach's best outing either but to his credit he rebounded from a dismal, awful, pathetic first half to score a bunch in the second half and carry us through overtime, rebounding all the way. If you want some ideas of his ups and downs as they happened in real time you can skim through the Gameday Open Thread. A win washes the badness away though.
--Ime played some nice defense in fairly limited (for him) minutes. Joel also played some nice defense in his (usual) limited minutes. We already talked about Jamaal. Juan was so-so.
--The Garden seemed a bit quiet most of the night. Was that just the TV pick-up or what?