Timberwolves 101, Pacers 75: a ghost story
My box score tells me that Anthony Randolph hit four of ten fourth-quarter shots on Wednesday (plus all four of his free-throws). But although I remember many ambling, off-balance drives to the hoop I don’t actually specifically remember him making any. I certainly did appreciate watching Randolph’s awkward fourth-quarter dominance. I loved watching him use every ounce of his ample skill and athleticism to spin directly into the help defense, leaping hopelessly before planting a wicked behind-the-back bounce pass to Luke Ridnour in the corner. I loved seeing him demand the ball in the post, anxious to drop his syrupy science on Solomon Jones as the Wolves nursed their 20-odd point lead throughout the waning stages of the game. I was amazed by his languid, half-awake movements and his two-thirds intentional decisions. The Pacers (Tyler Hansbrough not included) had clearly given up the ghost; almost nobody was still paying any attention; it was Anthony Randolph’s time.
As for those poor Pacers, only Paul George’s last-second, flying putback dunk prevented them from achieving the worst single game field-goal percentage of any team in the Association this year. As it was, they shot 29.6% from the floor, managed only seven assists on 24 made baskets and lost by 26 to a 15-win team who only hit 38.5% of their own shots. Excluding Hansbrough (who had only the gimpy Kevin Love and his own innate doofiness to contend with), their starters hit five of 36. Certainly nothing to sneeze at. (By the way, this victory, the Wolves’ 16th of the season, officially eclipses last year’s sad total. And its just early March!)
Some of this was the Wolves’ doing. As Kurt Rambis pointed out postgame, the Pups made uncommonly decisive defensive rotations and helped intelligently and aggressively. And while he was not slouching his way into his customary foul trouble, Darko Milicic managed to block four Pacer shots and generally swallow up Roy Hibbert, his Pacer counterpart.
But there was something rotten and still with the Pacers on Wednesday. Hibbert took no free throws and missed every one of his six gentle field goal attempts. Danny Granger–who, had he not been fouled by Darko in the process of badly bricking a three, would have had even worse numbers than his already nightmarish 10 points on 2-19 shooting–looked like a sad, waxy mannequin of Danny Granger. These Pacers missed open jumpers; they missed layups and dunks. They were lifeless.
But while I was certainly captivated both by the Pacers’ malignantly cold shooting and Anthony Randolph’s garbage time performance art, the crowd only had eyes for Kevin Love. Surely the strangest elements of this game and the long, strange season in general, have been the lusty standing o’s given to Love in his pursuit of this pseudo-non-record.
I certainly have no desire to discredit Love for his really stunning rebounding and consistency. And Myles has already dwelt both on the impressiveness and irrelevance of this long streak. But I just want to remark on the weirdly off-key fact of a crowd rising to cheer in its fullest voice for a man on a 15-win team rolling in a free-throw for his tenth point of a truly unsightly game. I will say this about Minnesota: these winters are long and we do talk really strangely, but we will dole out some serious love if you give us even half an excuse.