Pardon me for looking a gift horse in the mouth, but my despondence has only been slightly alleviated. Target Center’s occasionally faithful finally had something to celebrate besides a box score and as they gleefully filed towards the exits, Michael Beasley was interviewed for all to hear. The key to this afternoon’s win? “Just scoring more points than they did.”
I have to admit, I laughed, as did several others. Because he was serious.
Granted, the game’s objective is to do just that-outscore the opponent-but it becomes significantly easier to do so when equal effort is exerted on both ends of the floor. Even after a players only meeting on this very subject, the only one able to execute was Wes Johnson. Kurt Rambis discussed the rook’s improved play post game.
“We’re encouraging Wes to be a more impactful player all over the floor. That’s the mindset we want him to have, because of his quickness, his length, he’s a quick jumper. He gets off his feet really quick whether it’s for blocks or rebounds. We want him to open up his mind to the tremendous amount of versatility that he has, whether it’s shooting the basketball, driving it, posting up, playing defense on ball, off ball, all of those are areas we think he can make a contribution to help us win. I just don’t know if he’s thought of himself that way, but we want him to continue to think that way.”
Now far be it from me to dismiss another Malonian performance from Kevin Love. There are plenty front courts in this league who don’t combine for 37 points and 23 rebounds. But it would be yet another loss and opportunity for his detractors to regurgitate the “good stats, bad team” meme, were it not for Wes’ defensive effort on Monta Ellis. Wayne Ellington, bless his heart, practically wore the soles off his sneakers trying to corral Monta in the first half, only to become a prop in his highlight reel. Ellis was three steps ahead of not just Wayne, but the entire team, approaching each foray into the paint as a sovereign right. Of course there’s no shame in this, Monta has made many a defender look silly.
Wes, however, has the size and athleticism to neutralize those magnificent bursts of speed. Every pivot, hesitation and explosion that left Wayne reeling was either rushed or snuffed by Wes. After 16 points and 5 assists in the first half, Ellis struggled to make only two of his next ten attempts against Johnson, including a game saving block in the final seconds. Corey Brewer may be gone, but perhaps we’re not as ill prepared for the league’s elite swingmen as we thought.
As far as everyone else, I hate to be so glum, but we played the Warriors. Their frenetic pace and defensive ambivalence suits us perfectly. Yes, we still turned the ball over 19 times on the afternoon, but it was due more to an increased amount of possessions than anything. Free from any pressure, the Wolves moved the ball crisply and effectively, particularly Jonny Flynn, who had a career high 9 assists.
Twas delightful to watch, but it won’t always be so easy.