Well, we pushed and they pushed back.
The Wolves ended the first half on a 14-5 run against the Hawks only to relinquish the ground they gained in a 11-21 run to open the 3rd quarter. Then in a fervent scramble to prevent another blowout, our pups scored nine unanswered, cutting Atlanta’s lead to just 7 points with enough time to pull out a win, only to be buried for good after a Jamal Crawford four point play.Final score: Hawks 113-Wolves 103.
But hey, it’s progress.
It’s doubtful anyone besides our friends from the ATL came into Target Center anticipating a W, however the home faithful must have been pleased they didn’t bear witness to another shellacking. Kurt Rambis was content with his team’s effort and is looking to build on last night’s showing. “Our team is getting frustrated by losing, obviously. But I really liked the way we practiced on Thursday and we did a good job of carrying it over to the game. We had an awful lot of bright moments tonight both offensively and on defense.”
Indeed they did. On a night where both Kevin Love and Michael Beasley struggled, shooting a combined 12-36 from the field, one of the Wolves true strengths began to show itself: depth.
Corey Brewer has shown several concerning signs of regression early into this season; a lack of confidence in his shot, uncertainty in attacking the basket and uncharacteristic defensive miscues. But on Friday night he was possibly the team’s star performer with an impressive corralling of Iso Joe Johnson alongside 18 much needed points and five timely steals. He was aggressive, decisive, and most importantly, judicious in his shot selection. Brewer still provides his own special brand of unintentional comedy, specifically on his loose limbed forays into the paint, but it was refreshing nonetheless to see him find a comfort zone. Even if only for an evening.
Minnesota’s newfound swingmen coupled with Corey’s recent lapses resulted in a refusal to offer an extension on this year’s contract, so it will be interesting to see if he can find a way to redeem himself without pressing the issue. More performances like Friday’s would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Of course the other star of the evening for the home team was Corey’s new competition, Wesley Johnson, who coincidentally is strong in practically every area his colleague is not. Wes exhibits range, comfort and consistency in his jump shot, nimbleness in attacking the basket and awareness in distributing the ball all while providing the same quick feet and long armed defensive presence. Wes was 4-6 from three point range on the evening, matching Brewer’s 18 points and took a few efficient turns spelling his partner’s defense of Iso Joe.
If there’s any glaring weakness in Johnson’s game, it’s his ball handling. His footwork and athleticism make him quite the threat to YouTube practically anyone, but an apparent inability to put the ball on the floor is a real hindrance to what could be an awesome offensive arsenal. If defenders had to respect his first step, it would not only open his game, it could make him the dependable scorer Wolves are clearly lacking. (Dependent on how you feel about one Michael Beasley.)
Regardless, the two make an impressive tandem. Given the absence of both Jonny Flynn and Martell Webster, they will have time to establish themselves and even upon their compatriots return, could make significant contributions to the second team.
As Rambis noted postgame, “We still don’t know what our team is or who we are until we’re healthy. Even then there will be more experimenting.”