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Rubio’s second game back much more of a struggle than his first

Dec 18, 2012, 8:43 PM EDT

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio shoots a free throw during their NBA game against Los Angeles Clippers Reuters

Ricky Rubio returned to the basketball court for the first time since March on Saturday, and he largely played as if he never left. The energy he brought to his team while coming off the bench turned the game in Minnesota’s favor, even if it took them until overtime to ultimately come away with the victory.

In his second game back against the Magic in Orlando, however, it was a completely different story.

Rubio played 16 minutes — his target is in the 16-18 minute per night range while he eases his way back, and he’s sitting out the second game of back-to-backs, including Tuesday night’s contest in Miami against the Heat.

He finished 0-for-3 from the field, with four assits and three turnovers, and didn’t have nearly the invigorating effect on the game that he had in his season debut. Afterward, Rubio admitted that his second game back was much more difficult for him than his first.

From Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press:

… a dejected Rubio admitted he didn’t “feel as good” as he did in his euphoric debut Saturday night against Dallas at Target Center. Rubio also confided that he felt “slow” in his second game back from major knee surgery.

“Today was harder,” he said. “I didn’t feel like the first game. I didn’t feel good at all today. I have to break through these issues. It’s been nine months for me without playing.”

As magical as Rubio looked with some of his dazzling passing in his season debut, it’s going to be a while before he’s able to repeat performances like that for extended stretches, or on anything close to a nightly basis.

Kevin Love is still not yet in complete game shape yet either, and has been fading lately in the second half. Fans in Minnesota will need to be patient with this group as it gets back to 100 percent, but there’s still good news to be found in the fact that Rubio and Love are at least on the court at this point in the season, if only for short stretches, and even while not close to reaching their full potential.

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