Celtics 96, Wolves 93: Good grief, Wolves can’t rebound from leading

Zach Harper —  January 4, 2011 — 5 Comments

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.

Zach Harper

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5 responses to Celtics 96, Wolves 93: Good grief, Wolves can’t rebound from leading

  1. Near the end of the game, watching Luke stroll down the lane without dribbling only to push up a weak lay-up made me wince in pain. I see know reason not to trade Ridnour to the Knicks for a future pick. Flynn and Telfair (scratching my eyes out) can run the show just as well as Ridnour and Flynn.

    Why wasn’t the quicker J Flynn on Nate R at the very end instead of Wes J? I thought Wes was going to do a cartwheel while chasing down Nate becuase his arms were flailing so much. Webster needs to be out on the court in those close, game ending situations.

  2. Good writeup, good Arrested Development tie-ins…yes. Loses like these are so, so frustrating, but I keep consoling myself with the fact that this team is so much more fun to watch this year than they have been the last couple years.

  3. I don’t think its hard to figure out the deal with this team. The front court is a legitimate NBA front court. if you get a solid backup center (like Jason Thompson) and move Wes to back up 3, you have basically an ideal stable of front court players. This back court needs help

    If we had a legitimate starting point guard we would be above 15 wins right now, count on it. Since the prayer is that Rubio is the real deal I move to examining the 2 guard spot.

    Wes Johnson is not a 2 guard, and Webster is really solid as points off the bench, but I think I would like a more sturdy ball-handler in that role. The obvious solution would be to draft Harrison Barnes, but since the wolves don’t have the best loto luck I suggest being more proactive and trading for O.J. Mayo.

    The grizzlies desperatley want depth and to build around Rudy Gay and Conely. The Wolves can give them depth with a trade that looks like Flynn, Brewer, Ellington, Kufos, and their protected pick we got in the Al Jefferson trade.

    Mayo would give us a confident ball handler, dead eye shooter, and solid defender to help build around. and maybe just maybe we can get lucky in the draft, but being pro-active is always a good solution

  4. I feel like Love needs to figure out some offensive moves to compliment his game – it’s funny watching Big Baby, someone who seems to be vertically challenged like Love as a big man, somehow get his points in the paint, but Love continues to struggle and gets his shot blocked quite often.

  5. Matt, you know what I notice about Big Baby in the paint is he gets the ball to the backboard so quickly. He doesn’t try to hang in the air longer or outbody his defender. He gets the ball quickly to the backboard and has a good enough angle on the shot to score it. Love doesn’t do that so much. He tries to stay in the air longer.

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