Another game slips through the hands – or paws – of our mighty Wolves.
But it allows me to get into the topic of plus/minus, which is sort of fascinating to me. Whenever someone asks me what I think of the plus/minus stat, I always answer that it’s just as useful as points per game in evaluating players. The guinea pig for that comparison is last year’s Monta Ellis. 2009-10 Monta Ellis scored a career-high 25.5 points per game, and yet was a complete albatross on the court for the Warriors.
Why was this? Because his scoring numbers often came to the detriment of the team. They were horrible with him on the court. His True Shooting percentage was 51.7 and his PER was just 16.7, which is above average but in no way shows he was a fantastic player last season. The most telling stat of all to me to show how bad he was for his team is his offensive rating was 99 while the Warriors for the season 108.1. Last season, Monta Ellis made the Warriors nine points worse on offense when he was in the game than when he was on the bench.
What does any of this have to do with plus/minus? Last season Monta Ellis was a -397, the worst on the team for the Warriors and 11th worst in the entire NBA. You wouldn’t know it based on the fans of Monta Ellis telling you about the special plays he made and the points he scored and the cool tattoo he just got.
So when I see Darko Milicic have a career performance last night and get stuck with the -15 tab next to his name, it makes me question just how good he was. That’s not to say he wasn’t good last night. There were two hook shots that looked more timid than my girlfriend’s dog after he poops in the apartment, but other than that Darko was confident and destructive in the post. It’s fun to watch Darko when he has it going like that. I can see why Rasheed Wallace dubbed him the “Serbian Gangster” all those years ago.
However, it’s also hard to ignore that other than the first nine minutes of the game, Darko didn’t have a single stint the rest of the game in which the Wolves outscored the Warriors when he was on the floor. That’s not entirely his fault, either. While I’m still not sold on his defensive prowess (yes, I know he leads in blocked shots but that doesn’t mean he’s playing great defense for even most of the game), it is pretty hard for him to protect the basket with Love and Beasley by his side. It puts a ton of pressure on him and that really only works now if you’re Dwight Howard.
It just makes me wonder when he’s scoring like he did, is that really something that benefits the Wolves? He’s scored in the 20s four times this season and the Wolves have lost each time. He’s had a positive plus/minus in one of those games. It doesn’t mean he’s terrible or he’s a detriment to the team. There’s just something missing for this team when he has it going. Hell, there’s something missing for this team most nights no matter who has it going; that’s why the Wolves are 6-19.
It’s fun to have Darko have scoring games like this, but it seems to be coming at a cost to the Wolves’ win total (kind of like everything else with this team).
The real story of this game was the inability to stop the backcourt of the Warriors. Monta Ellis and Reggie Williams went off for 60 combined points on 37 combined shots. Monta did the majority of his scoring on his own by just obliterating Luke Ridnour and whoever else was unfortunate enough to have to guard him. Reggie took everything in the flow of the offense and knocked down the majority of the shots set up for him. The biggest difference between the two teams was the Reggie-Monta combo got hot from 3-point range (with a couple of bombs from Dorrell Wright too. Remember him?), and the Wolves just couldn’t get their 3-point shots to fall (5/18).
Aside from Darko’s dominance in the post and the Reggie-Monta show, it was fun to see a couple of familiar faces back with the team. Martell Webster and Jonny Flynn both made their season debuts after debilitating injuries caused them to miss the start of the season and the results were pretty good.
Martell was connecting on his the majority of his attempts with shots coming from all areas of the floor. He was 3/4 on long jumpers (2/2 of those were 3-pointers) and he scored inside fairly well too. He finished with 17 points on eight shots. However, he still had quite a bit of rust with five turnovers and a couple of miscues guarding the perimeter.
Jonny had a very nice debut for the season, especially after so many people assume he’s a bad point guard. They base this off of last year in which he played for arguably the worst team in the NBA and in a system that is tough to grasp fresh out of college. Flynn looked much more relaxed and controlled in his 17 minutes on the court. His defense was okay and he didn’t force a lot offensively. He set up teammates well and picked his spots almost too cautiously in how he attacked offensively.
Overall, it was another frustrating loss for the Wolves. They looked good and dominant early and just couldn’t withstand the constant barrage of the Warriors backcourt. Hopefully, the Wolves can get another strong performance from Darko tonight in Phoenix and give him enough help to turn it into a victory.