Everyone knows Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio can’t shoot. It’s his primary weakness, the one thing holding him back from being one of the league’s top point guards.
Usually Rubio’s playmaking and defensive prowess more than makes up for his bricks, and the young guard usually limits his shot when it’s not falling, but coach Rick Adelman had to take things into his own hands in Monday night’s game against the Boston Celtics. Rubio played just 22 minutes, sitting on the bench from the final minutes of the third quarter until the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Benching Rubio in the final minutes of a close game, whether motivational or out of frustration, leaves the team without its best facilitator and makes them rely on J.J. Barea or Alexey Shved, both of whom are terrible defenders.
If Rubio can’t be trusted in the fourth quarter, it spells very bad news for the Wolves. Adelman did bring Rubio back for the final possessions and he did end up making a clutch three-pointer (one of just two made field goals on the night), but he missed another three and the Wolves lost the game. The Timberwolves’ offense is built around Rubio’s elite facilitating, and without him, things kind of stagnate.
The Wolves don’t lose many games in the fourth quarter — they’re 11-2 in games where they lead going into the fourth. But they don’t win games in the fourth quarter either, as the Timberwolves have had just one significant comeback this year, and have been awful in close games thus far. Rubio is needed at all times on the court, and he must realize that when his shot isn’t falling, he shouldn’t shoot.
Adelman benching Rubio may have just been a motivational tactic. Making the young guard sit on the bench during an important stretch could teach the valuable lesson that Rubio must either improve his shot or make opponents pay in other ways. But if this move becomes a habit, and Rubio continues to sit during important minutes, the Timberwolves won’t win many games.