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Wolves Sing Praises for Darko
December 7, 2010
Monday's game reinforced one of the simple realities about the Wolves this season: Milicic is the team's most valuable player. Love and Beasley are productive and dynamic, but the Wolves found out again how difficult it is to win without the NBA's leading shot-blocker.
"Not having Darko in the second half was huge," Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said. "You could tell it took us awhile to get organized in the third quarter. He's such an integral part of our offense and he solidifies us on defense."
On Saturday, Milicic became the first Timberwolves player since 2001 to record a plus-40 plus- minus rating in a game. On Monday, he was a plus-eight and the Wolves led by 10 points when he went to the bench after collecting two fouls and soon discovered his leg locked up.
"In that Lakers game, it got hit and I kept playing, but this time, really bad," Milicic said. "I was [angry] at the ref and I don't remember getting hit. But I sit on the bench and it got tighter and tighter and I was like, 'What is this?' "
Without him, the Wolves lost the NBA's leading shot blocker and a 7-footer whose defense gives the Wolves at chance to play Stoudemire one-on-one inside and not leave the Knicks' three-point shooters wide open.
To hear coach Kurt Rambis tell it, Milicic's absence was most telling in a game-changing third quarter because the Wolves lost their offensive -- not defensive -- anchor. The same team that shot 76 percent in the first quarter and scored 68 points by halftime was outscored 31-18 in a third quarter that changed everything.
"He has such a high basketball IQ, he really solidifies us," said Rambis.
Amare Stoudemire scored 12 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, which he calls "just time to win the game." He did so against a Wolves team that reconfigured its lineup by playing Love at center and Michael Beasley at power forward with Milicic missing."Darko's a shot blocker, the best shot blocker in the NBA right now," Beasley said. "It just makes us a smaller team. Stoudemire, he definitely took notice and he charged the basket. We're missing three shot blocks a game and that hurts."
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