Ricky Rubio, with 28 points and 14 assists, powered Minnesota Timberwolves to a thrilling 112-111 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Wednesday night. As expected, the Timberwolves dedicated the emotional win to inspirational coach Flip Saunders, who passed away earlier this week. Both teams wore shooting shirts (see below) to honor the legacy of Saunders in the season opener.
Rubio, not renowned for his shooting ability, shocked everyone with a career-best showing. The Spaniard shot 10/17 from the field while draining two of his four three point-attempts. Rubio’s sublime passing ability was on display while Kevin Martin scored 23 points off the bench.
The match-up featured a showdown between Karl-Anthony Towns, the No 1 overall pick, and D’Angelo Russell, the No 2 overall pick, as the two lowest seeded Western Conference teams kicked off their respective seasons. The match also marked the start of Kobe Bryant’s 20th season as a Laker.
The Lakers front court pairing of Roy Hibbert (12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Julius Randle (15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists) were very impressive in their first pairing together. Lou Williams, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, made an instant impact, scoring 21 points off the bench. Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young scored 14 points apiece as the Lakers offense had a good flow to it. However, rookie Russell had a terrible first outing, managing only 4 points and 3 assists from 26 minutes.
Towns, on the other hand, impressed on his debut, amassing 14 points and grabbing 12 boards.
Bryant scored 24 points while shooting 8/24 from the field. The 5-time champion was featured for only 29 minutes, as coach Byron Scott works to restrict his minutes with a long season ahead.