Timberwolves add insult to Cavs’ injury

Benjamin Polk —  December 5, 2010 — 8 Comments

Far be it from me to add to the city of Cleveland’s misery. It should be enough that their former hometown hero tortured and betrayed them on national television, and then returned home to throw chalk in their faces and mercilessly demolish their team. I’d like to think that we Wolves fans can sympathize a little. But our great divorce was amicable; and our emotional investment, by definition apparently, can’t possibly rival Cleveland’s passion and majestic suffering. None of this, however, can change the fact that the Cavs just lost by 34 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Just another cruel humiliation to add to the list. Sorry guys.

For their part, the Wolves entered the game in ragged shape. Michael Beasley, the team’s most productive scorer, and Anthony Tolliver, their most consistent defender, were both gimpy and suited behind the bench. They’d just suffered a rather wrenching loss of their own in San Antonio the night before. Ordinarily, these things would probably be considered bad omens.

But we should have just taken one look at Beasley, enveloped in his own special glow, and known that things were gonna be fine, just fine. There he was, sitting next to fans in the stands, happily elevating his sprained ankle, doling out hi-fives and hugs to whomever passed by. There he was grinning goofily, watching his headphoned self on the scoreboard enthusiastically warbling “Unbreak My Heart”–and singing along! Singing along to his own terrible singing! Ok, I’m charmed.

Much like B-Easy, the Wolves were touched with some rare magic on Saturday. They moved the ball effortlessly inside and out and from side to side, overcoming the lack of their only true shot-creator with the kind of flowing, communal mind that Phil Jackson and Kurt Rambis must envision in their sweetest dreams of the Triangle. And once they found that inevitable open look, the Wolves were just…just not ever missing.  Kevin Love hit all five of his threes (oh, and also scored 28 points and grabbed 19 boards in only 31 minutes–dude is playing with some serious, focused intensity at the moment and it’s frightening me). Wes Johnson hit three of his four, and looked amazing–so smooth and angular and emphatic–doing it. Luke Ridnour hit both of his. Wayne Ellington hit four of his six. The game seemed so easy.

The great caveat to all of this was that the Cavs were obviously already a beaten team. Those looks were open not just because the Wolves shared the ball, but because Cleveland’s defenders could not muster the effort to deny passing lanes, or impede cutters, or close out on shooters even after the Wolves had hit 11 of their 12 first half threes. They seemed listless and drained. They lacked, in coach Byron Scott’s words, “effort, execution, determination, pride, heart, everything.” That’ll do it.

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One of the strangest things about Darko’s very strange season is the way that his game is so massively transformed by his fluctuations in energy and confidence. It’s almost like his emotional state alters his physical dimensions. When he’s in those crushing, gray troughs, Darko’s shoulders slump and his movements seem almost viscous; he looks as shrunken and slow as an athletic 7’2″ guy with extremely long arms can possibly look. After one of those listless, demoralized early season performances, I would have never guessed that Darko could ever match up favorably with, for instance, the Cavs’ powerful, energetic and epically passionate Anderson Varejao.

But when Darko does feel the fire in his blood, length and quickness seem to blossom from out of him and become the assets that they ought to always be. On Saturday, Darko swallowed up the stockier Varejao, and, for that matter, everyone else who ventured into the paint. He was a spidery, energetic defender.  He was an active, savvy and efficient participant in the offense. He was an effing +41 for the game. I’m not quite sure how that’s even possible.

Benjamin Polk

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8 responses to Timberwolves add insult to Cavs’ injury

  1. “It’s almost like his emotional state alters his physical dimensions”

    This is the best description I’ve read of Darko all season, and I will be using this line when discussing him henceforth. =)

    It was funny to see the Wolves hit so many 3s when that was, I think, our biggest weakness last season. Suddenly we have several guys who can actually shoot the three (Johnson, Beasley, Love, Ridnour, Ellington). It not only makes the Wolves’ offense more potent, it makes them (and this is a running theme this season) more exciting to watch.

  2. Thanks Matt. I know, it’s like when they were hitting threes they were suddenly transported into the modern era. It really changes everything. On the other hand, I was amused by how many players (and Rambis too) said something to the effect of “well if we can just continue hitting 70% of our threes all year, we’ll be pretty tough to beat.” Well that’s true I guess.

  3. Oh ho, 34pt win, that’s epic, no matter the Cavs. Like Matt, kudos on describing Darko and in fact, the writing throughout. Richly descriptive and fluid. Good stuff.

  4. Thanks much Dave, I appreciate it.

  5. It’s crazy to say but Dako might be the most impactful player that determines how well the Wolves play…when he plays well the Wolves generally look pretty solid to boot, but when he is sucking the Wolves kinda play that same way.

    I think having a 7’1 center with game will naturally do that, considering only about 10 teams in the NBA have one

  6. Speaking of “impact players” take a look at oceanarys analysis of Tolivers +/- over at canishoopus (http://www.canishoopus.com/2010/12/6/1858103/trending-tolliver#storyjump). I never know quite if I buy what +/- is selling and some new voices would be nice. Personally I’m of the opinion that the wolves can win when either Beasley or Darko step up their offensive game (barring one disaster against the lakers Love is a consistent 20/15 guy and I now expect defense out of Darko… weird).

  7. +41 and leading the league in blocked shots. that’s game.

  8. This was another excellent post, especially the section on Darko. As a general comment, I would like to sincerely thank all of the writers of this blog, because it is truly a pleasure to read. Rarely have I been able to find such thoughtful sports analysis presented with such skilled writing. Thanks again, and I look forward to the next game wrap up.

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