Rubio breaks down Sixers defense

US Presswire

Ricky Rubio was able to find a variety of ways to score against the NBA's top-ranked defense Sunday.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the best defensive team in the NBA this season, but fell short of that distinction against Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

Rubio scored a career-high 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field, including 2-of-4 on 3-point attempts. He added five assists with only one turnover.

Rubio scored in a variety of ways on Sunday -- long jumpers (eight points), mid-range jumpers (four points), off the ball (eight points), pick-and-roll plays (eight points), and drives to the basket (eight points).

The 76ers are allowing the fewest points per play in the league this season. One of their biggest strengths on the defensive end is defending pick-and-rolls including passes, where they also rank better than all other teams in points per play allowed.

But on Sunday, Rubio shot 4-of-6 for eight points with one assist and no turnovers on seven pick-and-roll plays.

Both of Rubio's spot-up 3-pointers also came in pick-and-roll situations. Both plays came when Luke Ridnour came off a pick-and-roll on the right wing and threw a skip pass to an open Rubio on the left wing.

Jrue Holiday had trouble stopping Rubio, who scored 18 of his 22 points and dished out four assists with one turnover against the 76ers point guard.

Holiday particularly had trouble defending Rubio on pick-and-roll plays, where Rubio shot 4-of-5 for eight points and dished out four assists with only one turnover on six plays when being defended by Holiday. Such a defensive performance is atypical for Holiday -- only Raymond Felton ranks better this season at defending pick-and-roll ball-handlers among those with at least 150 plays.

Rubio displayed his offensive versatility while matched up with Holiday with 3:51 left in the fourth quarter, when Rubio came off a pick-and-roll and knocked down a 16-foot jumper to give Minnesota an 88-87 lead. That jump shot helped lead the Timberwolves to their third straight victory.

Rubio's performance against the 76ers Sunday was one of his most complete performances of the season. It's the fifth time he has had at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists, and the Timberwolves have won all five of those games.

Among players with at least 150 plays this season, Rubio ranks 222nd out of 251 players in points per play. There is certainly plenty of room for improvement in that regard.

If his offensive scoring output continues to improve, he will be even more of an all-around threat. Over the last two games, Rubio has 40 points, 13 field goals and four 3-pointers -- the most he's had in any two-game stretch.