Wolves fall to Pacers; title hopes dashed
If the Wolves do not become the world champions of the NBA pre-season, they will have the Indiana Pacers–who just dropped our Pups for the second time this exhibition year–to blame. And by “the Indiana Pacers” I, of course, mean some maundering, semi-NBA-ish group that does not include Danny Granger or Dahntay Jones, and that allowed Josh McRoberts and Solomon Jones onto the floor for a combined 42:41. Its a damn shame too; I was really looking forward to that parade.
Last week we wondered aloud whether and how Michael Beasley’s goofy temperament would affect his play–specifically, whether the young fella’s sweet, almost child-like nature would lead to, let’s say, unwise shot selection. Now, things are clearly too fresh and new to know anything definitive, but I’d say the early signs are a little troubling.
Beasley started the game cold, missing a couple of jumpers and getting hit with an offensive foul. And this is obviously fine, except that Beasley’s way of understanding this problem was not to focus on defense, move the ball, play with maximum effort, let the offense come to him, maybe try to get to the line a little. What he did instead was to take ever more contested, ever more wrong-footed, ever more ball-stopping jumpers. He finished with 14 scuffling points on 16 shots, which–I don’t have my calculator handy or anything but–is bad.
To his credit, once Beasley came out of the game for a long second-half rest, he manfully played the supportive teammate, shouting advice and encouragement from his perch on an end-of-the-bench exercise ball. From what I could hear, the content of his patter wasn’t exactly earth-shattering but, y’know, positive jams are positive jams.
Except that when he finally returned to the court in the fourth quarter he looked as lost as a baby deer. First airballing a contested jumper, then losing Mike Dunleavy on a back-cut and finally, allowing Roy Hibbert of all people to walk past him to the hoop like he (Beaz) was suddenly in ponderous thought about the sad fate of the cap-and-trade bill–this was not what you might call an inspiring performance. Did I mention that he hit five of his 16 shots?
Kurt Rambis has said that the Wolves’ offense is not yet where he’d like it to be; this was evident in the second-half on Tuesday, when things became terribly stagnant. It would be wrong to blame Beasley for all of this, although his off-balance performance certainly disrupted the continuity something awful. In fact, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Sebastian Telfair, Anthony Tolliver and even Kevin Love all took turns forcing shots in the second half. And Bassie was certainly reminiscent of his very own self of two seasons ago with his macho overdribbling and pristinely confident gunning (can he possibly not know that he shoots only 37% from the floor for his career?)
But the offensive problems seemed to stem, not from any one player, but from simple unfamiliarity and indecision. Especially without Luke Ridnour and Martell Webster on the floor, the Wolves looked tentative in executing the complex matrix of reads, reactions, cuts and passes required by Rambis’ offense. It’s plain that these young players still don’t really know each other, don’t yet really understand themselves and their places within the team.
St. Vitus’ Dance
I’m loving me some Nikola Pekovic. I realize he fouled out of this game with seven points and two rebounds after just 12 minutes and 37 seconds. But this guy is battling for boards with a righteous fervor (this is where he picked up most of those fouls); he’s showing like a maniac on pick-and-roll; he’s straight crushing people at both ends of the court. Poor, skinny Solomon Jones; all he ever wanted to do was jump really high and play basketball. Now he has to deal with a mouthful of this swarthy hunk of man:
And on top of that, after receiving his sixth foul, Pekovic returned to the bench, walked up to Darko Milicic, extended his ample rear end, flexed his arms, thrust his hips and smilingly performed an instantly recognizable “they did me in the butt” pantomime. I wonder when he’ll figure out that there are TV cameras at NBA games.
Finally, Big Pek has some truly astounding tattoos. On his shoulder is a caped, spear-and-shield wielding medieval warrior standing on…a pile of skulls! Spanning his back is the scene of, like, an ancient burning church with the superimposed face of a bearded wise man. Is Pek a member of a black metal band that I’m not aware of? Is this some epic Vidovdan homage? I’ve got to figure this out.