Celtics 96, Wolves 93: Good grief, Wolves can't rebound from leading
It’s hard to know how seriously to take this effort by the Wolves. Losing to Boston in Beantown by just three points is nothing to do the Charlie Brown walk about. However, seeing that Kevin Garnett missed the game due to a lower extremity injury means they didn’t have arguably their best player at their disposal and makes you wonder just how legit hanging with the East champs is on a night like Monday.
Regardless of who was out there, we keep seeing the same story with this Wolves team. They’re fighting like crazy. Doesn’t matter who the opponent is; you’re going to see a scrappy effort full of Kevin Love rebounds, Michael Beasley fourth quarter scoring and various role players trying their hand at having a night. Not only did the Wolves fight in Boston, they controlled the game for the first 41 minutes of this game.
Boston’s front line is supposed to be one of the biggest and deepest in the NBA, so missing Kevin Garnett means less defensive leadership but not a lack of big capable bodies to throw out there. And yet, the puny Wolves frontcourt that is supposed to be more punch line than punchy continued to give it to them all night. Darko was great on offense and had a positive impact on the game when he wasn’t in foul trouble. Michael Beasley provided some much needed scoring down the stretch. Pekovic had a better night than his numbers would indicate. He threw down with Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal and did a good job of getting in the way of whatever they were trying to do in the paint.
But once again, the big man of the hour was Kevin Love. It’s astonishing to me that his rebounding continues to be such a shock to everybody. I guess white guys aren’t supposed to be good rebounders. David Lee was the exception because he was in New York, had great exposure and was everyone’s “sleeper” fantasy basketball pick even after everybody had been awakened to his stat line prowess.
I don’t have to explain to you why he’s such a great rebounder. We watch him every night and are more shocked when he doesn’t grab a rebound than when he does. We know it’s not about athleticism. If athleticism was the end-all be-all of NBA success, we’d be trying to wrap our heads around the legacy of Darius Miles (without laughing even!) and figuring out if Stromile Swift or Keon Clark was the greatest pogo stick big man of all time.
Positioning, boxing out, timing. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Love grabbed 24 rebounds in this game, after having 11 in the first quarter. To be honest, I got wrapped up in the rebounding chase and forgot the Wolves lead for most of this game while I eagerly waited to see where each carom was going. However, Love’s offense was just troubling. I know he’s shooting the 3 at a very awesome clip for the season. A lot of that has to do with a hot December as we forgot the frustration of his November long-range shooting. It just feels like he’s creeping out to the arc a lot more than we should be comfortable with. He’s becoming Antawn Jamison without all that efficient scoring ability. Maybe he can’t get on the block and get the job done every time, but there has to be a compromise of cuts and midtown jumpers to balance out his affinity for becoming the new Rashard Lewis.
Predictably, the Wolves lost this game in the fourth quarter. This 41 to 46-minute mark seems to be the bane of our howling existence. Celtics went on a 15-4 run to take back control of the game as the Wolves continued to let Luke Ridnour play basketball Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun. Luke is not a bad player. In fact, he’s had quite a few really nice games for the Wolves and seems to have picked up the offense quickly. I know he’s the placeholder until Ricky Rubio gets a one-way ticket to Minneapolis or Jonny Flynn starts playing like we need the sixth pick to play.
But Ridnour can flat-out KILL this team sometimes with his decision-making. It’s weird the only shot I’m comfortable with him taking is the vaunted PUJIT (pull up jumper in transition). He’s so damn good at it. And yet every other shot he takes in different moments of the game drive me crazy. It’s not like he’s a bad shooter either. His percentages are beyond solid. But in games in which he doesn’t have it going, why is he taking shots over guys like Love, Beasley, Webster or even Wes?
The fourth quarter of this game was just a bad showing of Luke that makes you (or me here) overreact to his bad moments. It would just be nice to have a point guard in this situation that isn’t trying to win the game for the Wolves. Minnesota needed Luke to move the ball to the scorers, not prove he could stand up to one of the best point guards in the league. The travel at the end of the game (on a beautifully executed play by the Wolves) was the cherry icing on the cake top to cap off a frustrating end.
Having Wes streaking like he got out of control at Mitch-a-Palooza and in need of a Kevin Love outlet pass to take the lead was wiped away by Kurt Rambis calling a timeout. It’s hard to blame Rambis too. You get a stop, grab the rebound and call the timeout. It’s just what you do. It’s just hard for the Wolves to give away those opportunities to score, instead of letting Boston set up for you. Then Luke blows the next play by traveling. Then Beasley is forced to take a horrible 3-pointer for the desperation of tying the game instead of the Wolves actually running an inbound play.
That’s how the Wolves blow another fourth quarter lead and opportunity to steal a game. It can wear on you until you realize this season is about progression, repetition, and growing as a team.
It’s not ideal but you can’t take it too seriously this season.