No disrespect intended for the Charlotte Bobcats but the Wolves absolutely gave this one away.
And it feels really good to say that.
I’m not happy the Wolves lost by any means, but I’m extremely happy they were in a position on the road to have a game to put away. I don’t know that this team is necessarily better in the sense that the Wolves can keep this unit together for a few years and have it develop into a title contending team. This unit isn’t that. But they’ve been competitive since the Miami-Orlando-Houston debacle and Michael Beasley decided to take over as the on-court leader of this team. They still have future bench players starting in key spots but bringing in guys to push them down the depth chart will definitely make this team dangerous in the future.
The way they gave this game shows the growth they still need but it also shows that this team might not be such a pushover most of this season.
Up eight points with 2:08 left in the fourth quarter should make you feel like the game is in hand. Throughout the entirety of the game, the Wolves had only committed nine turnovers through the first 46 minutes, showed great poise and patience in running the offense and seemed to hit timely shot after timely shot to quell the majority of Charlotte’s runs.
But you can’t let up in the NBA when the game is not completely decided and the Wolves learned that the hard way. It started with a deep 3-pointer by DJ Augustin to cut the lead to five with 1:51 left in the fourth. Beasley then drew the foul on Gerald Wallace (on a night the two took turns torching each other) and could only convert one of the free throws. Then the Wolves couldn’t close out on Stephen Jackson this time behind the arc and he cut the lead to three with a triple.
At this point, the Wolves just sort of lost their composure. They didn’t lose their composure in the sense that they were throwing the ball all over the place and blowing up at their teammates. They just seemed to rush/force things and couldn’t make sound decisions in executing the final minute and a half of this game.
– Kevin Love (WHY DOES HE KEEP SHOOTING SO MANY THREES!?!?) missed a 3-pointer off a Beasley-Telfair pick-and-pop.
– Love then gave up the baseline to Gerald Wallace on a drive to the basket after a switch on the screen and Beasley never stepped up to cut him off (electing to stay with Diaw who probably would have been too distracted by his box of Krispy Kreme donuts to actually catch a pass inside). Wallace made two free throws to cut the lead to one with just 58 seconds left.
– Then Beasley dribbles into a couple of defenders out of the timeout and gets stripped of the ball. Augustin took the ball the other way for a transition layup and a one-point lead for Charlotte.
– Then Beasley blows by Gerald Wallace by driving down the right side of the lane and getting his own putback when Tyrus Thomas couldn’t spring up high enough off his second jump to contest the basket. Wolves were up one with 34.7 seconds left.
– Then Beasley and Love played the handoff from Diaw to Wallace horribly as Beasley fought through the pick pathetically and Love never got into good position to cut off Wallace even though you’d die for him to pull up for a jumper in that situation. Wallace got to the free throw line where he knocked down two more.
– On the ensuing possession, Beasley turned the ball over again when the ball was poked away by Tyrus Thomas and eventually recovered by Stephen Jackson. The weird thing was Kevin Love AND Corey Brewer clearly fouled Jackson in the backcourt with about 18 seconds left on the clock but there was never any whistle. The ball advanced to Wallace in the frontcourt and he was finally fouled with 12.7 seconds left. Wallace knocked down one more to push the lead to two for the Bobs.
– After some jumpball madness (Sebastian Pruiti has some good stuff on it here), the Wolves were given a gift by receiving possession. The rest of the game goes Wes Johnson was fouled in the backcourt, missed two free throws, Tyrus Thomas was fouled on the rebound, made one of two to push the lead to three and then Anthony Tolliver was as treated like a Detroit Pistons fan by Stephen Jackson when attempting his game-tying desperation heave at the buzzer. There was no foul on the play because the officials may have been settling up with Michael Jordan on the sidelines.
Giving up a 14-3 run in the final two minutes on the road is a tough way to lose a game. Even with some questionable calls, you’d like to see the Wolves figure out a way to close this one out. Untimely turnovers cost Minnesota a very well played game for a team that seems to be rounding into a competitive unit.
I think what you can take from this game (and Hollinger has a bit on it today) is the Love-Beasley combo is working really well right now. Yes, the defense by both players isn’t stellar but they seem to have a good way of working with each other and figuring out how to share the floor despite both being natural 4s. And when Darko is playing like he did (great start to the game and a strong stretch in the fourth with four boards, two assists and two blocks), it’s a frontcourt you’d want to introduce to mom.
The problem is still on the wings and in the backcourt because they don’t have a true low post presence to balance things out. Beasley does his bullying by attacking the rim off the dribble and Love does his best work the mid-post and on the offensive glass. With Darko, I don’t trust the game he had because he’s not always going to have a Charlotte Bobcats center tandem to go after. I loved his work around the basket but he’s so limited with only being able to go over his right shoulder that better defensive interiors are going to render him not as effective. So the Wolves need more balance and that’s part of waiting for Webster, Flynn and Ridnour to come back to health.
Most of all, this team has put together five straight good efforts as a team, which has led to them going 2-3 in this stretch. That doesn’t give you every bit of hope that they’re turning it around but competitive from a young (and often overmatched team) is strictly a positive happening. They’re learning on the job extremely well and games like this only add to the good stretch they’re putting together.
Two More Items of Note
– Sebastian Telfair is struggling to set guys up consistently. He seems to have stretches in which he has a string of assists and then goes completely cold in the facilitating department. However, his ability to create better scoring opportunities during these cold-distributing times has seemed to improve. I like the balance he’s starting to get in rhythm out there.
– Kevin Love had a weird looking hip injury at the end of the game. Looked like he jammed it coming down awkwardly from a rebound attempt. He ended up coming back with a second left to throw the great inbound pass to Tolliver before he was mugged for his wallet by Captain Jack but that looked like a potentially bad injury to a guy who is on a tear. Get well soon, Kevin.