Game Analysis

I'm Fresh Out of Turkey Jokes…

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Blaming the refs usually is the last vestige of the clueless and a certain indicator of denial, but I have to say it. The Wolves was robbed. When Gary Neal kicks his leg out during follow through and clips Wesley Johnson, it shouldn’t be chalked up as a “rookie mistake” by Wes, but a bad call. It can’t be taken back, but it should at least be acknowledged.Right?

We all know that the NBA rule book is little more than a series of suggestions and those rules vary wildly dependent on the circumstance. Amongst others, there’s star calls, rookie calls and most notably last second calls (or non-calls). A rookie rewarded with three free throws after a desperate heave (on the road, no less) is unquestionably a deviation from the norm. Neal missed and the game should’ve essentially been over, along with San Antonio’s 11 game winning streak.

Instead, we got overtime and ten seconds into that, the Wolves was robbed again.

I can’t believe I’m even saying this given his play over the past few weeks-not to say anything of his play over the past several years-but if Darko Milicic doesn’t foul out of that game, Minnesota wins. Crazy, right? But don’t believe me, or your own lyin’ eyes, take it from a pro. I asked Greg Poppovich about Darko’s latest shocker postgame.

“Not just tonight, he’s been playing…One of our guys said after the game ‘Jesus, was that Kareem out there or what?’ It’s the truth. One of the coaches said that walking in here. He played with with confidence, he shot good shots, he had patience, he waited for cutters, looked at the spacing, he just looks like he’s playing much smarter. Obviously it helped for his team big time.”

And with that, we are officially treading on what may be the most unstable ground there is: more responsibility for Darko Milicic. Of course we’re working with a relatively small sample size, but considering his most recent opponents (Lakers, Thunder & Spurs) we have more than enough to get all giddy. For it seems our young man has found a comfort zone. Earlier in the season he struggled with everything; two steps slow on defense, woefully unaware on offense and virtual impotence when stationed further than a foot from the basket. Now? We’re seeing it all; blocked shots, intuitive help defense, running hooks, behind the back passes, a sound knowledge of the offense and even the occasional killer crossover.

What was a liability two weeks ago is now a necessity: get the ball to Darko. He’s established himself as a scoring threat who deserves the defense’s attention and his passing is proving to be the manna that our GM was roundly mocked for suggesting. And it’s not just the flash and flare of these assists, but the timing and awareness that makes the entire team more dangerous. Admittedly none of this is to say that he’s completely eradicated all of his deficiencies; he held the ball too low and was stripped by weakside defenders a number of times and he clearly wasn’t aware of the play call which sent Luke Ridnour crashing to the floor after a mismatch with Antonio McDyess, but he’s growing. The only question left is whether he can maintain confidence amidst these heightened expectations.

Which brings us to our old friend Beas, who was all but cool last night. Plainly put, he was a mess.  What some of us may have feared appears to be coming to pass: Beasley’s breakout games gave him the impression that things would be easier than they are. He seemed confounded by increased defensive attention, responding with questionable shots, more clueless defense and a series of painfully inaccurate passes. Now currently these should be regarded as nothing more than the growing pains of a budding star, but it’s vital that we see him through this rough patch with his confidence intact.

Kurt Rambis benched Beasley for a significant portion of the second half and upon his return we saw the all too familiar (for Heat fans, at least) alter ego, Super Tenative Beas. This version is reluctant to shoot and a bit too eager to distribute, sometimes without even looking. Which is understandable considering that much like Darko, Michael’s confidence means means more to his game than the average player. It must give him great trepidation to feel that bad reputation he’d presumably escaped creeping up behind him. Hopefully Saturday’s matchup with the Leeless Warriors will get things back on track.

As for Kevin Love? Just another 32 & 22. Yawn.

This was Love’s fourth 20/20 game of the season and barring an absolute tragedy, he will shatter the old Wolves season record of six. We all know who it belongs to. The same guy who owns the team record for consecutive 25 point games which Beasley recently threatened.  And yes, the only other guy to go for 20/15/5&5 besides Darko.

Kevin Garnett.

We’ve seen some dark days since he left and there have been more than a few games that should’ve been played in the dark, but despite the latest character building loss, our moribund franchise appears to be turning a corner. We’re not looking back longingly anymore, just ready to move forward. For that, I am quite thankful, as I hope the rest of you are.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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0 thoughts on “I'm Fresh Out of Turkey Jokes…

  1. Fantastic article. Now that the starting front court is beginning to gel extremely well with each other (Love finding Darko, Darko finding Love) and Beasley is becoming a prime-time scoring threat (excusing the last 2 games), do you forsee anywhere the team needs to get better? In my opinion, the bench is actually decent when compared to other teams, but the problem lies with playing all five backups together at the same time. At no point should a lineup on the floor be missing Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, or Darko Milicic.

    It doesn’t help that the calming influence Ridnour was supposed to bring to the team with his veteran leadership is not visible. Last night, he really played way too much for himself. PASS THE DAMN BALL! Oh, and please stop shooting long-range 2s on fast breaks with running wings on your sides.

  2. We got robbed. Point blank. The Wolves blew a 21 point lead and definitely had some shaky moments, but we played poised enough and hit enough big shots at the end of regulation to earn that win. We deserved it. I’m still pissed about it and I absolutely hate NBA officiating. I don’t understand why the league doesn’t think the average fan can handle an evenly, fairly-called game. Or how about this? At least appease the home fans if you’re going to lean one way. In this case: by not calling a foul that didn’t occur.

    Did it bother you as much as it did me that Beasley wasn’t in at the end of regulation? Or that Darko didn’t touch the ball once considering Beasley wasn’t out there? Having an ice-cold Ridnour and a gimpy Love try to hit game winners isn’t how those plays should’ve been drawn up by an NBA coach trying to win.

  3. I watched the game Wed night and was outright upset when the 3 point foul call was made at the end of regulation….it was clearly not a foul but it doesn’t surprise me that the Spurs got a should-have-been non-call at that time. It just surprised me that they gave that call to a rookie. Considering the call was on the Wolves home court it was even more baffling. I watched the outcome of regulation and then started playing Call of Duty as I knew if the Spurs were getting that call, we didn’t have a chance in OT. Upon reading this it sounds like another bad call was made right away in OT which I luckily avoided (and not getting upset) only by having plenty of practice of changing the input/channel on my tv once Wolves games got out of hand. It def is reassuring to know there’s hope though. Thank you for reminding me of that at the end of your text.

  4. @mifi: If I had to pinpoint one particular area where the team needs to improve it would be on the defensive end. We have some good, but not great defenders in Brewer, Johnson and Tolliver, however Love and Beasley’s inattentiveness costs us fairly often. I’m not sure if Beas doesn’t understand the rotations or if there’s just a wanderlust in his help defense, but he doesnt keep his head on a swivel and gets caught out of position at least five times a game. I’d like to see him use his athleticism to help shut down opposing players which I know he’s capable of. It would really help on nights that his shot isn’t falling. Kevin on the other hand just seems outmatched. He’s had to guard some talented players at the PF and C positions and he doesnt have the tools that our other defenders do to keep up. He doesnt have much lateral quickness to slide defensively and doesnt have much lift either to be a shot blocker. This is in addition to the fact that he’s undersized at his position already. The only area which he can make immediate improvements, like Beas, is awareness. If he can see the play developing and anticipate, perhaps it can compensate for his other shortcomings.

    @Tddubb I was discussing that with Ben and a few others during the game. As I mentioned, Beas may act all confident, but he’s still in a pretty fragile state and it showed. I thought Rambis should have put him back in if only to use him as a decoy late in the game, but the results spoke otherwise. Those passes he threw away-the last one without even looking at the receiver-looked to me like he was either scared or overeager to correct his earlier mistakes. This wouldve been a big win and I cant argue with Rambis decision to put the good of the team in front of Beas’ ego/confidence in this instance. Beas is talented, but he doesnt have the mental fortitude of a Jordan, Bryant, Bron, etc. to shake off a poor performance midgame and come up big in the end. Sitting him to let him learn from his mistakes and giving him a fresh start in the next game is probably the best way to deal with him. Though it is a delicate balance because we dont want him to believe that weve lost any faith in him. Well see if he can bounce back tomorrow night.

    As far as Darko and his lack of touches late, Ben told me that on the last play of regulation he saw Darko look cluelessly at Rambis indicating he didnt know what the play was. Which is why we ended up with Ridnour attacking McDyess and getting rejected. Im not sure if it was supposed to be a pick n roll/pop, but considering the spacing and the mismatch it created with Parker on him, it seems that the play was for Darko. He just didnt know what to do. Damn shame, but overall Im still pleased with his growth within the offense.

    Thanks for the great comments everyone.

  5. I’ve said here before that I comment as an outsider… my team of choice is the Lakers and has been for a great many years. But I think there’s a growing recognition of something good happening with the Timberwolves and it’ll come in small pieces and odd moments, as does the team itself – Beasley and Darko with their great nights and inexplicable mistakes, Love and Rambis with their falling out and falling in, Love with jaw-dropping double/doubles, the evolution of what may be the league’s most challenging hybrid offense. It’s a building project but an extremely interesting one. Right now, 4 minutes left against GS, another huge numbers night for Love, hope you guys can pull off another late comeback.

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