Game Analysis

76ers 107, Wolves 87: Out of focus

With Hockey Day in full effect on Saturday, it left the local channels blistering with high school, college and professional hockey games while anyone hoping to catch a Timberwolves game against the 76ers with a poorly cropped, low definition broadcast from the Philly side of the telecast world.

It shocks me when there are professional basketball games in 2011 not being broadcasted in high definition. While I realize this is a first world problem, it was sort of symbolic of the effort I saw from the Wolves as my eyes bled the unknown pain of basketball viewing from a decade ago.

Much like the broadcast, the Wolves were out of focus, seemingly disorganized and devoid of any joyful viewing. None of this was more evident than in the fourth quarter when the game went from frustrating to worse as Philly broke it wide open and left the Wolves muttering to themselves and wondering if they could catch the end of the Wild game.

If I throw out the number 61.3 as the key stat of a Wolves basketball game, it’s going to leave you with three natural guesses.

The first guess would probably be the number of rebounds Kevin Love ended up with. I know it sounds impossible to rack up 60 or more rebounds, let alone one-third of a rebound. But if anybody could figure out how to do that, it would be Kevin.

The second guess would probably be a hopeful guess at the Wolves 3-point percentage in the game. Sadly, after pumping in three long balls in eight attempts in the first quarter, the Wolves ended up shooting just 1/15 for the rest of the game and wasting possession after possession.

The third guess would probably be a sheepish stab at the Wolves free throw percentage for the game. They actually did a very admirable job by getting to the line 22 times in the game and actually knocking down 19 of them. Unfortunately only one of those free throw attempts came in the fourth quarter.

Speaking of the fourth quarter, guess what the Wolves offensive rating for that final period was. If you guessed the putrid number of 61.3 then you saw the fourth quarter and realized just how bad it truly was. I don’t want to take anything away from the Philadelphia 76ers for their performance in this game. They’ve been hot over the last couple of months (they’re 21-15 since December started) and are 9th in the league in defensive rating this season.

But the Wolves ineptitude on offense had just as much to do with their own lack of execution as it did with the 76ers taking away the things the Wolves can do so well.

The Wolves did an excellent job of scoring on post-up plays in this game. They scored 15 points on 14 post-up plays that ended in a field goal attempt, a turnover or a trip to the free throw line. They were 7/11 on shots in the post. But for some reason in the fourth quarter, they ran just four plays that involved a post-up situation. Instead, the Wolves tried to will themselves into making shots after pick-and-pop play after pick-and-pop play.

According to Synergy Sports, Kevin Love scored 1.29 points per possession during this game, which is an excellent number. So why did he attempt just one shot (an offensive putback attempt) in the fourth quarter when his team was desperate for any continuity on offense? Why did Wayne Ellington, Lazar Hayward, Anthony Tolliver, Luke Ridnour and Wes Johnson all take more fourth quarter shots than Love?

This probably wasn’t a game the Wolves could realistically win. Philadelphia has essentially righted their own ship and the Wolves are still playing fairly short-handed and apparently hoping to get by on smoke and mirrors offensively. But it almost seems like they tried to make it nearly impossible on themselves in the final quarter when they really needed to make a run. That run never came because the Wolves refused to set themselves up. They were passive and settled for what the Philly defense wanted them to take.

The only thing to hope for in this game is that Kevin Love extends his double-double streak, which he thankfully (?) did. But when the team appears to lack any fire during a home game against one of the teams in the East that isn’t elite by any means, it leaves a very unsatisfied and disorienting feeling in your brain.

It’s like watching an out of focused broadcast. Hopefully, your Hockey Day was more enjoyable than the Wolves execution.

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