2011-12 Season, Game Analysis, Player Analysis

Heat 103, Timberwolves 101: Crawl 'fore you ball

As promised, we were entertained. But with nothing to show for our efforts besides faint praise and yet another moral victory, we have to wonder if anything has actually changed.

Our Wolves are still a team with enough recognizable strengths to compete with anyone. Voracious rebounding, accurate shooting and a blistering pace have been the theme in several quarters of basketball brimming with potential. However this is also a team marred with glaring weaknesses, visible to even the most inept opponents. The lack of a dependable scorer, a propensity for carelessness and porous defense have left us scratching what hair we haven’t pulled out on many a night. One step forward, two turnovers and a failure to get back.

And so it began in Target Center this evening; another contender presumably content to delay the inevitable for forty minutes before sapping us of our will.

Michael Beasley continued to struggle. Gone was the ball stopping irreverence of games past, but the inattentiveness and inefficiency remained. Shots were rushed, entry passes were practically rolled into the post and an inability to do much of anything else rendered him useless. Since Beas is still the only player capable of creating a shot, sheer necessity will afford him several more opportunities, but a lack of productivity won’t be tolerated as tonight’s box score reflects: 2-6 FG, 3 REB, 1 AST, 2 TO, 4 PF (the last two courtesy of an unnecessary over the back and a shameless tugging on Bron’s jersey), 22 MIN (none in the fourth quarter).

It’s also becoming increasingly clear that to call Wes Johnson’s performances a struggle is to leave the false impression we should expect more of him. 2-6 FG, 2-6 3FG, 2 REB, 1 AST, 3 TO. This wasn’t a deviation, it’s become the norm. No matter how wide the lane, nor how cold his stroke, Wes continues to treat the three point line as though they’re the only points that count, or worse yet, the only points he’s capable of scoring. Johnson opened the game with a flurry of uncontested misses which only seemed to hasten his anxiety and he never found a rhythm. His lone attempt to drive after a much needed pump fake was interrupted by a travel. Like most others, this just wasn’t his night.

Though he’s relatively more expendable, again, due to necessity, Wes will also receive several chances to fool us with his potential. You see, he’s only afforded these long range dalliances since there was a time when he made them and on those increasingly rarer trips to the paint, we do recognize his explosiveness and expect him to finish. There’s even a faint resemblance of that old defensive friend we’d love to see again. But Wes knows as well as we do: We’re not going to fool ourselves for too long and he’s never more than a phone call away from finding himself  in a new uniform. So stop treading lightly and get to the fucking rim, please.

Of course there were also several signs of encouragement in this contest; Kevin Love casually deposited another 25 & 12, Anthony Randolph awoke from his slumber long enough to contribute 14 crucial points and Anthony Tolliver was a defensive delight. But the credit for tonight’s almost-win belongs to our backup backcourt.

Wayne Ellington is undersized for his position and not exactly fleet afoot. Now this is generally a death knell for most shooting guard’s careers, since the league is already teeming with athletic wingmen and several more lay in wait. Smaller guards must be that much craftier in creating their shots and religiously attentive on defense in order to demand any attention, much less consistent minutes. But Wayne did just that for much of four quarters tonight, sinking timely buckets and putting forth an admirable effort to contain a man his senior in practically every way, Dwyane Wade. The final minutes weren’t as kind to Wayne; would be makes rimmed out and hubris led him to miss a few more, however the intent was still promising (+9 on the night). Given Wes’ recent ‘struggles’ an J.J. Barea’s recent injury, Wayne will likely see more chances to prove himself. Stay sharp, young man.

Then there was the main attraction, Ricky Effing Rubio.

As our buddy Zach explained in detail, the Heat defense is a cloud of black smoke, seeping through both passing and driving lanes alike to suffocate any who dare enter. Swift rotations, aggressive switches and a unified purpose all served to fluster our wunderkind early, resulting in a few ghastly turnovers. Furthermore, he appeared to want no parts of the paint, preferring blind tosses over penetration. We were all ready for a long night, excuses in hand. Yet it wouldn’t be long before the flash belying Rubio’s substantive game returned, thrilling fans and teammates alike.

As was noted during this contest on the ‘ol twitter, Rubio’s ability to find the weak side shooter is so impressive, the Wolves should receive a point regardless of whether a basket is converted. Whether the defense traps or staggers itself, Ricky escapes or eschews the expected rotation and skips to the open man, which invariably leaves the defense vulnerable. Yes, even one as good as the Heat. Suddenly driving lanes are cleared and shooters have a panoramic view. Five of his dozen assists on the evening resulted in three point baskets and given that our pups remain one of the league’s best from three, this is a trend opponents should get used to.

Unfortunately, we were a bit too eager to exhibit such prowess in the game’s waning moments rather than exercise control. Nursing a 4 point lead with less than two minutes remaining, Rubio gathered a rebound and blitzed up court, rifling a pass to Wayne Ellington, who missed from three. The ensuing possession didn’t even produce a shot, as Ricky hastily whipped another pass Wayne’s way after escaping a double team. The ball flew out of bounds, along with any chances to waste some clock and protect a lead. I didn’t want to second guess our savant, but I did ask him about his thought process regarding that sequence post game.

“I felt comfortable, but in the last minutes, we were up and didn’t take control. We made two or three stupid turnovers and then we missed some free throws that if you want to win the game you can’t miss. [Wayne] was playing great today. I tried to hit him in the corner because I know he had the opportunity to shoot. It doesn’t go in, but next time it’s gonna be there. That’s what a team needs that everybody has to feel inside during the game.”

These are earnest mistakes we should be willing to live with. Dwyane Wade agrees.

“This is a different team and obviously a better team than last year. They’re more confident. I’m glad we played them early in the year, because I think later in the season they’re going to be a very good team. If they stick with their game plans. It can be frustrating losing games, but they can’t get away from what they do. They’ve got a very bright future ahead of them and that Rubio kid is everything as advertised.”

“He’s a risk taker. A lot of the passes he makes are home run kinda passes and he hits a lot of home runs. Every now and then he’s gonna make some mistakes. A lot of risk takers are that way. He’s not a calculated kind of point guard and won’t try to make the perfect pass every time. He’s going to make the risky pass and sometimes a teammate will be ready for it and sometimes they won’t. I think as they continue to play with him, they’ll get more comfortable with him and know he’s going to make those kind of passes. So I just look at him as a risk taker, but that’s what makes him special.”

Well, that settles that. For now.






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0 thoughts on “Heat 103, Timberwolves 101: Crawl 'fore you ball

  1. Really enjoyed your entry and will make your blog a regular Timberwolf read going forward. Who needs Sid and Souhan, anyway >

    “stop treading lightly and get to the fucking rim, please.” – fckng great advice for Wes Johnson – another waste of a lottery pick. Perhaps we can try to fool the Clippers and trade him there (after the way they fleeced us in the Marko Jaric trade, we’re owed).


  2. 5 thoughts from last night:

    1. Love, Rubio and 25 combined minutes of competent play from everyone else competed with the Heat, who appeared to at least partially care. This is encouraging.

    2. We don’t have many assets to trade for a competent wing player. Not encouraging.

    3. Interesting praise from Wade. Well above the typical boilerplate, but a little short of glowing – which about sums up Ricky’s performance (though compared to Flydnour, he looks like John Stockton).

    4. I have no idea who takes the last shot for this team. Ricky alley-oop to Randolph? Love in the post? Wayne from 3? Barea driving the lane? None of these is a great option – yet all are better than a Beasley iso. Kudos to Adelman for understanding this.

    5. Would Barea have made a difference? Even if he played 5 minutes, the difference between him and Wayne/Luke/Wes would have given us the 3 points we needed for a victory … right?

  3. Ricky Effin Rubio…

    Ah yes, the man, the myth, the legend… What most surprised me about Friday nights thriller was his outside shooting. It’s nothing to claim elite but it was pretty damn helpful, 4-7 from the field, two of which we’re 3’s, playing crunch time minutes – what’s not to love. His defense, as a rookie should show, isn’t up-to-par. Cole and Chalmers we’re getting theirs while Rubio was on them. Overall, Rubio is something to smile about in Minnesota, something we haven’t said in a while, even with Love, he’s good but Rubio is becoming transcendent, alas Jason Kidd.

    Now for the bad and the ugly. What kind of starters did we assemble? Other than Kevin Love, we’re awful! The starters on Friday, not including Love, combined for 19 points, NINETEEN EFFIN POINTS! Are second teams seems lightyears better than the starters. As for Beasley, the only guy on the team who can create a shot for himself, needs to be trade for something at least, he literally can’t do a thing with the ball in crucial moments and I’m saying we’re not going to have bench moment like Friday (57 points) while seeing more of Beasley’s having a 4-point performance.

    For the final play of the game, we need to start looking at a Chris Paul-esque play with Rubio pushing the ball, seeing how the defense responds, and kicking it out to whosever open or take a shot himself if no one is rather than drawing up a Kobe play with Beasley going iso trying to score a game winner.

  4. Is Malcolm Lee’s injury the ONLY reason we aren’t trying to package WJ and Ridenour for some semblance of a 2 guard? Ellington is not the answer there, Barea will get mauled defensively if he plays too many minutes, Martell Webster is a lost hope. I hope Lee is as good as advertized, because this team is screaming for a 2 guard, and passed up numerous good SGs in the draft before taking the combo guard Lee.

  5. lovin your blog. i understand that cousins would be a big distraction to the young team we have but i also think he would look nice in our starting 5. would trying to give up beas and his attitude problems for him be so bad? shit for shat in my eyes and i think cousins would be more help on the court.

  6. Cousins on the Wolves? There was reason they passed him up once already in the draft, I don’t think in his eyes he sees he’s at his last chance, kind of because he isn’t, teams will take chances at him but if there isn’t an establish presences on the team, he’ll just do the same things over and over again. Plus, Darko isn’t as bad as people think he is, he’s at least a competent center, which is all you really need in this league. The Celtics and Spurs must be salivating at the mouth to get him, they need pieces moving towards the future.

    @RusDialog, any scorer would do right about now, we can survive with the bad SGs we have now, my problem is Beasley is a false advertisement with people thinking he can hold his own in scoring, if there is any chances to trade him for someone at least some value, the Wolves should do it.

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