The Minnesota Timberwolves have fought valiantly on their current home stand. In three losses they pushed tough Western Conference opponents to the brink, nearly squeaking out key victories. In their only win they squashed the New Orleans Hornets by nearly 30 points.
The good news is the continued emergence of point guard Ricky Rubio. In the starting lineup and playing regular minutes, he is posting solid numbers. More importantly, he looks more and more like the Ricky Rubio that injected excitement into this sleeping franchise last season. In a nationally televised 111-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Rubio posted 9 points and 7 assists. He posted identical numbers in the team's 115-86 victory over the Hornets and followed that with a career high 14 assists in a tough 100-98 loss to the Blazers Monday night. With a useful sample size under his belt, Rubio has crept his player efficiency rating (PER) up to a 10.6, a number that should continue to rise.
As far as the 2012-2013 campaign is concerned, this surge probably comes too late. Even still, Rubio's strong play serves as a reminder that the 'Wolves can build around one of the more exciting and unique talents in the league moving forward.
One who follows the 'Wolves might pose the following question in all seriousness: can an NBA team call itself a legitimate contender with Dante Cunningham as their go-to scorer? Unfortunately, fans of true contenders would likely burst out laughing if they heard that same question. Cunningham dropped an effective 18 points against the Hornets Saturday. The 'Wolves then set him up for a game-tying shot as the clock ran out against the Blazers Monday night; the shot came up short. While Cunningham's efforts are admirable, his enhanced role is a painful reminder that the team sorely lacks a go-to scorer at the moment.
It seems that the 'Wolves have maxed out their current active roster. They pushed the Clippers to the very end of the game. They showed grit as they came back from down nearly 30 points to make the game close against the Lakers. They nearly defeated the Blazers. In each of those instances, their best shot simply was not enough. That is why the team might find itself 10 games below .500 if it cannot defeat the Spurs in another nationally televised affair Wednesday night.