In a perfect world, the Minnesota Timberwolves could have trotted out the following starting lineup against the Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic. Even with that hypothetical group it would have been tough to win in Oklahoma City on the second night of a back-to-back. With their assistant coach Terry Porter once again in charge, Dante Cunningham forced into the starting lineup and without the pesky JJ Barea (back spasms), an already difficult task seemed impossible. To the surprise of nobody, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook led the Thunder to a blowout victory by the final score of 106-84.
If there was an advantage the Timberwolves could have plucked from this otherwise difficult situation, it was psychological. They could enter the game with a completely pressure-free outlook. "Nobody expects us to win. Heck, we don't even expect us to win. What do we have to lose?" Unfortunately that type of mental edge only extends so far in the NBA if a team is significantly out-manned in terms of talent; such was the case, and this game was never in doubt.
Ricky Rubio played 22 minutes in the first instance all season when he played on back-to-back nights. Despite a light night in terms of production (stats), his ability to stay on the floor and his continued good health are significant developments for the Timberwolves.
Rubio's minutes were the only good news on the injury front; the team learned that Kevin Love would require surgery on his right hand and will be out 8-10 weeks. Depending on the team's spot in the standings when he is due back and depending on the status of Love's relationship with management at that same moment, the injury might end his season. The 'Wolves will be without him and Chase Budinger until at least March.
While there should be no hand wringing about the 'Wolves losing a game they should have lost in Oklahoma City, last night also served as a potential preview for the rest of the season. The rash of injuries will not stop, and the short-handed 'Wolves will have to find a way to steal games they are "not supposed to win" if they hope to stay in the crowded Western Conference playoff picture.
The next game on the schedule is Friday night in New Orleans against the Hornets. The game tips at 7:00 P.M. CST.