Unsung hero Luke Ridnour wills Timberwolves to win over Sacramento
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On Monday night, it was their most unsung hero, Luke Ridnour, who willed the Wolves to a 99-86 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Ridnour scored a season-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 from behind the 3-point line.
"Luke was terrific," coach Rick Adelman said. "Big shot after big shot. He was so good. He is a tough, tough kid."
Always quiet, Ridnour spent more time praising his teammates during his session with the media afterwards while resting his feet in a cold ice bucket.
"Like I say always," Ridnour said, "I just want to try to win games."
And he doesn't mind staying out of the spotlight.
Ridnour even tried to coax the media into talking to Kevin Love -- who had a game-high 33 points and 11 rebounds -- before him.
"I don't read a thing," Ridnour said about being underappreciated, smiling. "I just come in here and play."
Making Ridnour's scoring outburst all the more impressive is he is doing it from a position that isn't natural to him.
Since Ricky Rubio was moved into the starting lineup three games ago, Ridnour has played the off-guard spot and has flourished despite having to guard players much bigger than him.
"He likes" playing the two guard, Adelman said. "If he can guard bigger people than him, they will have a tough time guarding him."
Said Ridnour, "I try to play the same way. You just don't have the ball in your hands. Just play the game the right way and try to get guys the ball."
Ridnour drew the defensive assignment of Tyreke Evans, who is 2 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than him. Ridnour made Evans essentially a nonfactor, holding him to nine points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Instead of becoming expendable after the Wolves (5-8) signed J.J. Barea to a four-year contract, Ridnour has been as big a reason for their wins as anybody.
"When we made the move for J.J. (Barea), Luke didn't get flustered," Adelman said. "I knew all along that I was going to play two point guards together. In my mind, it made a lot of sense and I don't think Luke bought into" the notion he would be traded.
"He has found his niche," Love said. "He has found his spot. He is picking his spots on the floor. Defending really well against bigger players."
Love added, "He is a seasoned veteran. I always talk about consummate professionals and he is that guy. He comes in early every single day, takes care of his body, makes sure he gets all the treatment he needs so he is ready day-in and day-out whether it is a practice or a game."
Ridnour did a lot more than score points in the victory. He also dished nine assists, grabbed three boards and even managed to block a shot.
"Yeah, we will have to go back and look at the tape on that," Adelman said, half-joking that he didn't believe the 6-foot-2 guard had a block.
"First one of the year," Ridnour said.
The game appeared to be about par for the course for this young Wolves team that plays up and down to the level of their opponent. They were routinely blowing leads against a Kings team that was coming off of a 39-point beat-down by the Dallas Mavericks.
But the Wolves stepped their game up in the final frame, scoring 32 points, the most of any quarter in the game. The Wolves shot 57% in the final frame and Love scored 11 of his game-high 33 points.
1,000: Fans who bought tickets to the game against the Kings to take advantage of a promotion Love started on Twitter, offering to buy those fans a ticket to Wednesday's game against the Detroit Pistons.
1: Three-pointer made by Johnson in his previous 22 attempts. He was 0-for-4 Monday.
8: Blocked shots by the Wolves, a new season high.
9: Minutes for rookie Derrick Williams who, despite Adelman saying he needed to find ways to get him in games, has seen his minutes shrink. Adelman said afterwards it was because the Wolves needed to get their centers so many minutes for match-up reasons.
13: Consecutive double-doubles for Love to start the season, becoming the first player to do that since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1992-93.
There has been plenty of news about injuries for the young Wolves 13 games into the season. But Monday was the first time seemingly all season they got some positive news on the injury front.
Swingman Martell Webster was cleared to practice after visiting a specialist in Oregon. The six-year NBA veteran had missed the entire season thus far with a back injury -- the same one that also plagued him last season.
"He is going to practice, so we will have a few more people at it and see how we do," Adelman said. "He has been a solid player when healthy, so we are hopeful he gets some practices in and see how quickly he progresses."
It sounds silly, but the fact that the Wolves will have an extra live body at practice will actually be a big help after the depleted squad had a nine-man practice last week, preventing them from even scrimmaging five-on-five.
Adelman said he thinks Webster can play the two or three in his system and the biggest question will be what Webster can do defensively. The fact that Adelman has confidence in Webster at shooting guard will be a big boost to the team's worst position.
Along with Webster, veteran center Brad Miller has also begun to practice and is allowed to start making contact while recovering from micro fracture knee surgery.
"They told me Brad is going to practice too," Adelman said. "A lot of that with him is the strength in his leg, strength that surrounds that knee. He practiced the other day for short periods but his conditioning has a long ways to go. Just having both (him and Webster) out there, they can keep working at it and we can start getting some people back and have choices in the games."
Beasley no longer is wearing the protective boot he had on days after the injury and has begun running and doing light practicing. There is still no clear timetable for when he may return.
"If it was up to me, I'd play tonight," Beasley said before the game.
"Just give him a chance," Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart, pleading with reporters to be kinder to the always-controversial DeMarcus Cousins, whom the Wolves passed on in the 2010 draft.
The Wolves will practice on Tuesday morning before welcoming the Pistons to Target Center on Wednesday night. From there, they get another day off on Thursday -- a rarity in this 66-game schedule -- before heading out West for weekend games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.