Even with Martin out, Wolves' offense continues to put up big numbers
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Offense isn't an issue for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
They have made that abundantly clear two weeks into the season, but Wednesday night the Wolves took it to another level.
Kevin Martin, a last-minute scratch, was stuck at home battling the flu. In theory, lacking their second-leading scorer and top threat from 3-point range, the Wolves' offense appeared it might require a little time to adjust.
As the Cleveland Cavaliers found out, no such adjustment period was needed.
Regardless of the Cavaliers' early season struggles, the Wolves' relentless output Wednesday left a strong impression. A 38-point first quarter was only the start as the Wolves' lead reached as high as 39 in a 124-95 thrashing.
Minnesota hasn't always been able to sustain momentum early in the year when its offense unleashes, but the potential is obviously there, and that was on display at Cleveland's full expense.
"A lot of its effort," said Kevin Love, who kept his All-Star numbers coming with 33 points, eight rebounds and six assists. "I feel like at any given time we can make runs like that. It's just something that we haven't necessarily had in the past. We're playing both sides of the ball. That definitely helps as well."
Offensively, Minnesota carries a well-stocked arsenal (106.3 points per game), despite a bench that has been a sore spot. There's no denying Martin's critical role in the Wolves' makeup, but it didn't take Minnesota long to prove it can compensate, at least for one night, with a key cog missing.
At the core of the lopsided numbers put up by the Wolves was a starting lineup, which included the last-minute addition of rookie Robbie Hummel, that outscored the entire Cavs lineup, 96-95, and shot 64.1 percent from the floor.
By the time coach Rick Adelman reached the podium for his postgame press conference, he was about as pleased as he has been at any point in his squad's 6-3 season.
"Just a terrific game for our guys," Adelman said. "We came out strong at the start, but we carried it through, the first three quarters especially. We just moved the ball so well. We were good at both ends of the court, had a lot of energy. We get 34 assists, nine turnovers, that's huge."
Only one day after returning home from a grueling Los Angeles road trip, the Wolves' consistency and explosiveness was awing, another hint at their possible ceiling if they discover the ability to maintain at an equally high clip.
High-energy first quarters have become the norm for the Wolves. In nine games, they are averaging 33 points in the opening frame, outscoring opponents by nine points. Unlike other moments this season, they did not break from the tone they set. At halftime, the lead had swollen to 24 in part due to a 70-point first half.
Corey Brewer, who moved into the two-guard role for the night, did his best Kevin Martin imitation, plus more. Always looked upon to be the defensive anchor and constant energy source, Brewer also showed off the danger he can be when given scoring opportunities. Twenty-seven points and a five-of-five line from long-range proved that.
"He was wearing (Martin's) jersey or something, because he was making shots and he was being Corey too, running on the fast-break. He has been great for us," Ricky Rubio said.
To the Wolves' delight, Rubio has been rounding into top form. With his shot starting to come on - 16 points, 5-of-7 from the floor against Cleveland -- Rubio is facilitating on offense at an outrageous clip recently. Rubio either scored or assisted on 11 of Minnesota's first 13 baskets en route to a career-high 16 assists. That gave him 40 assists in a three-game stretch.
Hummel's resilience in his spot-start, the first of his career, was also an underlying factor in bolstering the lineup when the Wolves needed it. Informed he was getting the start less than hour before tip-off, Hummel fought off an initial surge of nerves to go for 10 points (4-of-6) and four rebounds.
"That's how you know we can be a good team," Brewer said. "Everybody stepped up. "You have a guy like Robbie Hummel step in, he played great. He did what he had to do. He didn't make any mistakes. He just played solid. That's what we needed from him tonight."
It's still premature to make lofty statements about the Wolves' long-term outlook, but the ability to routinely throw up eye-catching offensive numbers, even with a top scorer absent, is enough to further stoke the buzz building around Adelman's squad in the season's first month.