When the Minnesota Timberwolves embarked on their road trip to play the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, it was reasonable to believe that they would win one game and lose the other. After all, the team is still beat up by injuries and getting by with a short-handed roster. For any team to win in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back is a lot to ask. For an injury-depleted team to survive a game at altitude and come away with a victory is a herculean task.
Predictably, the Timberwolves split the two road games. Less predictably, they lost the first night in Utah and won the second night in Denver.
Kevin Love played the entirety of one game and left the other game early with an injury to his right hand. The 'Wolves lost the game Love finished and won the game that he exited.
The Utah Jazz did not just defeat the Timberwolves; they blew them out of the building by 22 points (final score: 106-84). Six players scored in double figures for the Jazz, each with a striking efficiency. The fatigue that was supposed to show on the second night instead appeared to drag the 'Wolves down in a lifeless effort on the first night.
J.J. Barea led the Timberwolves to a 101-97 victory in Denver. The relentless confidence with which Barea approaches the game is effective in small spurts. It is frightening when it spills into long stretches of the game, with Barea chucking up shot after bad shot, trying to play hero ball on a team that thrives on ball movement. When he tries to take over the game, it will always be a big part of what happens to the Timberwolves and the final outcome. Against the Nuggets, Barea and Luke Ridnour were effective as part of a small and quick lineup dispatched by head coach Rick Adelman.
In his post game comments, Nuggets head coach George Karl said that he thinks sometimes the Timberwolves play better basketball without Love. That probably is not true, but this team continues to play well and notch tough victories without their stars in the lineup.