Dec 21, 2012, 3:01 AM EDT
So the Mayans had it wrong, and The Beatles had it right. To end the Thunder’s winning streak, all the Wolves needed was Love (of the Kevin variety) and maybe some bruising play from Nikola Pekovic, some serious playmaking from Alexey Shved, and a pinch of J.J. Barea. Having Russell Westbrook join Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club with 28 shot attempts and 8 turnovers didn’t hurt either. The Nuggets, meanwhile, had a hard day’s night, setting a record for NBA futility. As for The Heatles (ugh) against the Mavericks? They had a ticket to ride. How about you say goodbye to all the Beatles stuff, and I’ll say hello to Three Stars:
Third Star: J.J. Barea – (18 points, 14 in the 4th quarter)
With Ricky Rubio‘s minutes still being limited, the Wolves turned to J.J. Barea in the fourth period against Oklahoma City. Barea regularly shifts from truly awful to absolutely fantastic on a nightly basis, but luckily for the Wolves, they got good Barea against the league’s best team. Barea’s irrational confidence was off the charts against the Thunder, and the impossible 3-pointers he fired up just seemed to keep falling. I don’t know if “irritating” can be considered a positive trait in a player, but Barea has it in spades. After he baited Kevin Durant into an offensive fall with his signature flop move, Durant lost his cool and picked up a technical foul. How often does that happen? Probably about as often as a J.J. Barea offensive explosion does, but it’s certainly not a coincidence that it came in the same game.
Second Star: Dwyane Wade – (19 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds)
After a slow start to the year, Wade is getting back in the groove of things and making the same plays only he makes. There are only a few players who control their bodies on drives as well as Wade does (Manu Ginobili is one, Brandon Roy was the other), so it was nice to see Wade get six field goals right at the rim and help keep O.J. Mayo from getting there on the other end. As a nice little bonus, Wade recorded the best single game plus/minus number of his career at +40. With Wade firing on all cylinders, Miami is climbing back into the upper echelon on both ends of the ball.
First Star: Kevin Love – (28 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists)
Kevin Love is a shotblocker’s worst nightmare. Not because of his vertical leap (obviously), but because he makes rim protectors betray their instincts every time down the floor. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are conditioned to protect the rim. In transition, they run to the rim. When someone else gets beat, they run to the rim. It’s who they are as basketball players. But when you’re guarding Kevin Love, you just can’t do those things. Oklahoma City’s bigs got caught cheating off Love far too often (4-for-9 from 3-point land), and they allowed him too much of a window to throw some nice dimes (7 assists). With Pekovic doing his bull in a china shop routine and Love demanding attention on the perimeter and on the offensive glass, Minnesota is a handful for any frontcourt.
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