When the Minnesota Timberwolves brought former lottery pick Corey Brewer back into the fold this summer, there were two thoughts that just about everybody had. One was that Brewer figured to have a lot of defensive responsibility for a Wolves team that didn't bring back top wing defender Andrei Kirilenko and aimed to improve over last year's middle-of-the-pack finish in points allowed per possession (14th in defensive efficiency, per NBA.com) to make the playoff push that's eluded them in recent years.
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We caught glimpses of it in preseason, and the Wolves' duo seemed to be finding a real rhythm against the Dallas Mavericks' transition defense in a Friday night win. What they pulled off in the first quarter of Sunday's visit to Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, though, was on a whole 'nother level:
Go back and take another look at that — Love's right foot is one foot off his own baseline when he lets the pass fly, and Brewer's right foot is at the top of the dotted line in the Lakers' paint when the pass hits him perfectly in stride over his right shoulder.
It also sailed over the outstretched arm of L.A. defender Jodie Meeks, who was trailing Brewer on the play and fouled him in the process of trying to make a play on the ball; the officials ruled it a clear-path foul, granting Brewer two free throws (which he made) and returning possession to Minnesota, who responded by running a play that isolated Love on Lakers forward (and former Wolves teammate) Wesley Johnson on along the left baseline, which resulted in a foul and two more free throws (which Love made).
That's a four-point trip, created by a power forward who's always looking to get the ball ahead (and, more importantly, who can get it there) and a swingman who's thinking fast-break as soon as an opponent's shot goes up. To heck with four, though — when it comes to hooking up with Brewer, Love says he's usually thinking about going for six:
Kevin Love, on this pass to Brewer: "That's my Megatron out there. I'm just trying to be Stafford." http://t.co/hm6EF1nwLg
— J.A. Adande (@jadande) November 11, 2013
(Probably a better deep passing metaphor than anything the hometown Vikings have cooked up of late.)
The long-range bomb accounted for one of Love's three assists, to go with 25 points and 13 rebounds, and two of Brewer's 17 points, to go with four steals, three assists and two blocks. It was also part of a first-quarter blitz that saw Minnesota shoot 76.2 percent from the floor against a barely-there L.A. defense en route to a franchise-record 47-point frame that gave Rick Adelman's team a 24-point lead after 12 minutes and had the Wolves well on their way to a 113-90 blowout and their first win over the Lakers since March 6, 2007, a stretch of 22 games.
Offseason sign-and-trade acquisition Kevin Martin continued his hot start, leading all scorers with 27 points on 11 for 23 shooting and a 3-for-5 mark from deep; he's now shooing 57.1 percent from 3-point range this season, and he (23.9 points per game) and Love (26.9 points per game) comprise the only pair of teammates to rank among the league's top-six per-game scorers. Oh, and Ricky Rubio posted the second triple-double of his career:
Not quite so fancy on his way to 12 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and five steals, but I suspect he, his coach, his teammates and the Minnesota faithful still like it just fine.
After the game, Adelman called his 5-2 Wolves "a work in progress" and a team that doesn't "know who we are" yet, and that doesn't seem unreasonable. While they've had some strong wins, they've also suffered a convincing defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. They appear to be further ahead on defense (sixth in the league in points allowed per possession, according to NBA.com's stat tool) than offense (18th of 30 NBA teams), which is somewhat surprising.
They haven't really gotten Nikola Pekovic going yet; the re-signed center is shooting just 40.3 percent from the floor, and the Wolves have outscored opponents by nearly nine more points per 100 possessions when he's off the floor than on it in the early going. They're still working out their bench rotation, especially on the wing, where they're not getting much out of the likes of Derrick Williams and Alexey Shved, and where they need injured Chase Budinger back ASAP. There are many open questions about a team many expect to be part of the West's playoff picture, but few seem to believe are a legitimate contender.
There is one sure thing about the Wolves, though — if you're playing them, and Love and Brewer are on the floor together, you better not spend much time admiring your shot. If you do, you're just begging to subject yourself to death from above.
Video via @cjzero.
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