Blazers 113, Wolves 102: Now we know

Zach Harper —  January 19, 2011 — 6 Comments

Remember the incredible Warriors-Mavericks playoff series from 2007? The Warriors used psychological and stylistic warfare against Dallas and ended up getting one of the biggest playoff upsets in NBA history.

The Warriors made the Mavs go small ball and play an up-tempo, frantic style they knew Dallas was completely comfortable playing. The Mavs had left their gunning ways when Avery Johnson replaced Don Nelson and were willing to defensively grind out victories and let Dirk carry them to wins. The Warriors on the other hand were able to make Dallas play small from the get-go and not utilize what brought them so much success.

Getting a team to conform to your style play can be winning half the battle. But we all remember the tagline of GI Joe that stated knowing was the other half of said skirmish. And knowing your opponent and how well they play in certain matchups is really the key in prepping for victories every night. Clearly, the Wolves didn’t know that trying to get the slowest paced team in the league to up their tempo was a bad idea.

Look at the win-loss profile of the Blazers on 82games.com. When Portland is playing a fast-paced team, they’re at their most successful. Portland is 10-6 when facing teams in the Top 10 in Pace. Now, looking at the list of those 10 teams isn’t exactly look at murderers row of the NBA (only the Knicks and Nuggets have a winning record), but Portland still tends to be most successful playing a faster paced team.

The Wolves seemed a little unprepared in this game in a few ways and ended up shooting themselves in the collective feet. They did four fundamental things wrong in this game.

- The transition defense was not good. Portland is not a fastbreaking team. In fact, they are near the bottom of the league in transition points. But they managed 18 transition points in this game because the Wolves were either too sloppy or too inconsistent in their ability to hustle back and find their defensive assignments. This isn’t supposed to happen when you have a fast team full of athletic perimeter players. If the shot goes up, there needs to be a man back. If the ball gets turned over, you’re supposed to have the gazelles on the court to retreat.

- The Wolves gave up too many points off their 16 turnovers. Their miscues fueled 22 points for Portland who just seemed ready to pounce on the Wolves whenever they got a chance. It was almost as if the Wolves thought they could push the tempo against the Blazers and not have it pushed back at them. It was a race between the tortoise and the hair, only the tortoise had rollerblades with little rockets attached to the sides.

- Minnesota also couldn’t stop LaMarcus Aldridge in this game. I mean AT ALL. It’s not really their fault either. Over the last month, LaMarcus Aldridge has been banging his own All-Star drum by simply destroying every frontcourt in his path. He doesn’t really settle for bad shots anymore. He’s putting himself on the block or in the mid-post and using his unfathomable length to get his shot over defenders. It looks like Nick Cannon became a Monstar and then decided to play like Dirk Nowitzki. Love had to no chance against him. Darko couldn’t stop him. There wasn’t a single scheme or double team that seemed to slow him down or fluster him in any way.

- Free throw shooting wasn’t good. It’s hard to look at the margin of victory being 11 and then seeing the Wolves missed 11 free throws and then try to restrain yourself from setting your head on fire. It’s unrealistic to think the Wolves would make all 34 attempts in a game. But even cutting those misses in half completely changes the dynamic of the end of this game. At least get the ball to the final couple possessions so we can see which clever way the Wolves blow this game.

With all of that said, I sort of enjoyed the effort in some weird way. 64 points in the paint is an impressive outcome. Again, my theory that Darko having a good scoring game is the last thing the Wolves need on offense proved to be correct. He had a lot of confidence in his hook and was pretty much money inside of 10 feet in this game. But when he seems to be dominating the offensive sets, the Wolves are almost out of sync. 22-point game for Darko and it resulted in him having a negative plus/minus (yes, take it with a big heaping of salt but still take it).

Kevin Love’s numbers looked sexier than they felt but still 22 and 17 (even if the last few rebounds were unintentional stat-padding in some way) is still a heck of a game. But like Darko, Love can’t be the number one guy on offense. I really enjoyed the fact he didn’t take a single 3-pointer in this game. The percentage is great so far but the Wolves don’t need Rashard Lewis efforts from him. I like the 3-point shot as a safety valve from him and the majority of the arsenal.

Seeing the Wolves match this Portland team rebound for rebound (and then some) and actually win both sides of the glass is a nice little win for morale and all that crap. No, it doesn’t actually mean anything but being able to dominate on the boards against even the best rebounding teams is a nice thing to hold onto while you convince yourself Rubio is on his way.

It’s hard to really be happy or mad at this game. Aside from the third quarter in which the Blazers had all of the answers and the Wolves had none of the adjustments, it was pretty darn competitive. The Wolves played pretty ugly with a limited performance from Michael Beasley and still hung tough with a middle of the road Western Conference opponent. The game wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It sort of just was.

Minnesota tried to turn the matchup into the Mavs-Warriors by dictating their style. Little did they know Portland has great success against that style and the players probably welcome it in order to break out of their Rascal-paced attack. Next time, hopefully Rambis and friends will know better.

And knowing is half the battle…

Zach Harper

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6 responses to Blazers 113, Wolves 102: Now we know

  1. These past two games are giant glaring marks on Love’s resume. Not that he is a bad player but what have we learned that we already knew but didn’t want to believe, or thought it wouldn’t be that big of a deal?

    1.) The guy can’t guard a single player. We played the Bobcats a few weeks back and Boris Diaw dropped 20 on him. Aldrige literally ups his career high every time we play. It is a problem, franchise players rarely are this bad defensively
    2.) He has an eclectic offensive game but is not a go-to scorer. He gets his points off of plays made for him, the occasional post-up. But in the crunch he can’t do anything to help us win.

    What do we do with this guy? For being at best a no. 3 player on a championship team if we could trade him now we would get a Kings Ransom in return (Gerald Wallace, Ty Thomas and 2 first round picks?), or we can sign him to an extension which would probably cost us 5/90 for a guy that doesn’t guard anyone and can’t create his own shot.

    I love the guy but I think I’d rather let another team pay him 17 Mil a year.

    Thoughts?

  2. Everyone agrees that Love is not a franchise player. There are few players who qualify (Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, etc.). Like most players, Love has holes in his game. He’s only 22. It will be difficult for him not to become a better defender and to develop a larger offensive arsenal. This year he does two things at an elite level for a big man (rebound and hit three pointers). Most players don’t do anything at an elite NBA level.

    So I don’t see why you’d trade him for an older injury prone guy who defends at an elite level but has holes in his game (wallace), a young guy with even more hole in his game, and draft picks?

    The Wolves need to stop trading their good players. Kevin Love is not the problem.

  3. Well are you willing to pay Love 17 mil a season? The issue I have isn’t Love, it’s the fact that you are going to have to pay Love franchise money when he’s not a franchise player.

    I really think the Wolves need to play “Twins-ball” on this kid. Not that he’s not great. That’s not at all what I am saying, but I think paying a guy 17 mill that can’t create his own shot and can’t guard anyone is a “franchise burial” signing

  4. Also I would say both Wallace and Thomas are just as good of players as Love is with what they bring to the table.

    They don’t rebound at an elite level, but both are studs all across the board and would bring tons of legitimacy defensively to the lineup. Allow us to build around Michael Beasley (a guy who has the talent to be a franchise player) and not cost us tons of money (they each have bargain price contracts for what they offer) and even with Love the Bobcats aren’t going anywhere so you get two loto picks out of the deal (one next year when we won’t have one). We would instantly go from worst to borderline top 10 defensively with this trade, we’d win more games (excite the fan base) still be able to build through the draft and not sacrifice cap flexibility (since you’re going to have to sign Love to a fat deal anyways).

    Pretty no-lose trade from where I’m standing. Wallace is 28 should have at least 4 years left playing at the level he has been

  5. The wolves need to keep Love. He’s only 22 years old. They should only pay him what he can get on the open market, which could be a huge deal like you say. Wallace at 28 is too old for a rebuilding team to acquire by trading their 22 year old best player. Beasley has potential, but Love has outproduced him thus far in their careers and Love has also shown more improvement between his rookie and third year.

    If Beasley can learn to get to the FT 6 times a game, he becomes a much better scorer. But the Wolves should keep Love and Beasley. Those guys are not the problem. They need better talent around them.

  6. Love is a smart player who wasn’t projected to be anywhere near this good in his carrer, ever. I contend that he will work this summer on defense and post scoring. The step he took from last year to this year was big but he seems to know that he needs to do more. He wants to work and improve to show everyone how good he can be. Where as I worry that Beasely is content on being a good player without putting to much effort into it. I hope I am wrong. He reminds me a lot of Carmello when he was younger. A year or two away from maturing enough to do the things that would make him elite.

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