While I was watching this game, I was having trouble trying to figure out just what was going on.
Since it’s the end of a long a loss-filled season, there is the very distinct possibility this young team has mentally checked out. Last night’s game looked like a good NBA team going against a middling summer rec league team that was just waiting to meet up for appetizer samplers and gigantic draft beers at the local Applebees after the game. There was no flow to the game unless you were Memphis because the turnovers were just stifling any semblance of actual basketball the Wolves could play.
And it never stopped. It’s not like the Wolves were sloppy early then settled down once they got the jitters out of their system and made a valiant comeback to make the game somewhat competitive. THAT would be understandable because that’s what young and bad teams tend to do. Instead, there was just this constant stream of giveaways spraying all over the floor. It reminded me of when you’re washing a car and you slide your thumb over the opening of the hose to make the water spray harder. You never quite know what direction the stream is going to focus on, but you know it’s going to get everywhere.
Why did this happen? Does the team just not care about the end product of the system at this point in the year? After all, it’s better to acquire ping pong balls right now than try to grow as a team for a brief five or six-game stretch. Or are the presences of Kevin Love and Darko Milicic understated on this team?
Brace yourself because I am about to compliment the play of Darko Milicic in some way.
When you have Love and Darko on the floor together, your offense has a set conduit of where the ball is going and where it’s going to come from. Milicic is not the Vlade/Webber hybrid that David Kahn claimed as the biblical trail mix of the basketball court. However, he is a set place within the offense that you can dump the ball into and know it has a very high likelihood of being swung to the next option on the floor.
It’s the same with Love. Throwing him the ball in the high post immediately gives you the option of the hand-off and screen portion of the offense or the option in which loves gives it back to the wing player and immediately sets a pick, which gives them either the roll or pop reaction to what the defense gives them. Both players are average-to-above average passers once they have the ball and that helps you take care of the rock.
Without them on the court, you see what happened Saturday night. As much as I love Pekovic, he is a long journey through NBA Mordor away from becoming an option you can trust to make a decision like that in the post. Now when he gets the ball, his best option is to make a quick post move to try to get a score. He’s not really capable of surveying the land and deciding the best place for the Wolves to go. And with Beasley playing so much power forward in this game, you saw a much different look from the Kevin Love role in the system than what you’d want.
Instead of having more trusted hands and some flow to the offense the Wolves run, you had Beasley, Pek, Jonny Flynn and Anthony Randolph trying to play outside of their capabilities and be playmakers. This is not their game. Yes, I know Jonny is a point guard and it’s his job to make plays for the team but I think we all know by now he’s more William Avery than Mark Jackson. Especially against this Memphis team that has opportunistic wing players, you can’t have guys who are sloppy with the ball, trying to create off the dribble.
The Wolves may not be a very good team but like any team they need their role players and stars in place, in order for the system to ideally play out. Take away their best player and their starting center, and you get a 26-turnover effort against a playoff team. The rest of the game wasn’t awful. The Wolves shot well, they were active on defense and they made a few runs to keep this from being an all-out blowout.
But not having Love was simply too much to overcome. For the people doubting his impact on the game, you could see it tonight. Yes, he’s struggled against the Grizzlies this season, but not having him ending possessions on the defensive boards gave the Grizzlies a lot of second change opportunities.
Most of all, you just can’t have over a quarter of the game be your team giving away possessions. 26 turnovers in a 95-possession game limits your options. And when you’re missing key components already, your options for executing and winning the game are low enough.