2011-12 Season, Game Analysis

Thunder 104, Timberwolves 100: Who's the Manna?


You’ll have to forgive me for not knowing where to start. It’s just been so long. But I suppose as good a place as any is with three minutes and sixteen seconds remaining in the first quarter. Yes, 3:16.

I suppose you’ll also have to forgive the blasphemy, but I’m certainly not going to chalk this up to coincidence. The years of ineptitude and failure, the endless mocking of our faith; it all became prologue when our franchise’s savior took the floor at that fateful 3:16 mark.

Now we’re all quite familiar with the energy whisking through First avenue on these opening nights; a guarded optimism masking our eternal hope that small steps towards relevance will ultimately result in victory. The hope that there’s a plan for us. Like all other sports fans, we don’t just want to be entertained, we need to believe that it’s all worth it.

Well, the victories are still a matter for discussion, but there is absolutely no doubt that we will be entertained this year. Our imaginations are no longer relegated to the grainy confines of a YouTube box. With that first effortless flick of the wrist, confounding the defense and leading an open teammate to the basket, 19,000 fans leapt to their feet and exhaled in unison: Ricky Rubio is real.

The allure of our fair sport has always been in the preternatural athleticism of unfathomably large men, but at the risk of wearing this metaphor thin, it shall be a child who leads them. He doesn’t dunk much, in fact he hardly ever shoots, yet Rubio’s uncanny gift of anticipation and court vision renders the old adage of ‘seeing the game a step ahead’ obsolete. This is more like telekinesis.

Ricky’s ability to create new angles in both transition and the half court makes every one of his teammates a threat. Wes Johnson, for all his explosiveness, still hasn’t exhibited the capability to drive, while Darko Milicic and Anthony Randolph remain equally timid and confounded in the post. But they can see and catch, so they will score. Every assist is a reminder that this a symphony, a concert of working parts, not a solo.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Rubio’s sleight of hand is its contagion. When he sat, the defense relaxed, but the ball didn’t stop moving. Luke Ridnour immediately fired a no look post entry to Kevin Love, leading to two free throws. On an ensuing possession, Ridnour whipped a cross court bounce pass to Love in transition. Kevin bobbled the ball- and a sure two points-but the realization that Luke hadn’t thrown two such passes all of last season wasn’t lost on anyone. Now this could merely be the result of a newfound freedom from the Triangle’s restrictions, but he wasn’t the only one. Actually, it was damn near everyone and more importantly, they took care of the ball.

Of course you know who the ‘damn near’ in ‘damn near everyone’ was and it’s slightly saddening, if not wholly frustrating. For it was all good just a year ago. Michael Beasley was the exciting new addition, beating buzzers and an apparent master of the midrange. However his act has grown predictable, both on and off the court. We can save the judgment of his extracurriculars for, well, the judge, but his insistence on hoisting the rock is already a problem. Last night he took as many shots as the rest of our starters combined.

Now it’s difficult to peg Beas as a selfish guy. It’s more likely that he’s simply stubborn or quite possibly, just incapable of change. Let’s not forget Super Cool has always been a scorer and volume shooter. Of course last year, there was a begrudging acceptance of these facts because we had few other options. However now we find ourselves in a tight spot. He’s still our best scorer, but if he can’t acquiesce and share the load, what are we to do? He hasn’t exactly gained much trade value and a move to the bench could result in an irreversible shift of attitude. Perhaps it’s best to let this situation play itself out, but make no mistakes, this will be the stretch that makes or breaks his career. Let’s hope our young man finds his way.



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0 thoughts on “Thunder 104, Timberwolves 100: Who's the Manna?

  1. I’ve seen a lot of people jump on Beasley for his performance last night. I think he’s getting a bad rap. For the first time in his career he put effort into defense. He went to the hoop in traffic more last night than I’ve ever seen him do in the NBA. He hoisted a few ill-advised 20 footers, but he was the only one creating in the half-court set. Does he need more coaching? Absolutely. Is he uncoachable? I see last night as evidence to the counter. If Adelman can turn last year’s predictable gunner into a slasher and a finisher… It may be his master work. Unfortunately either way nobody will see it. They’ll just see a “cancer” with tattoos and an inconvenient weed habit.

    The elephant in the room is the 3-22 3pt shooting. If we’re going to be a fast paced team with our child-prodigy-no-jumpshot PG, we need to stretch the floor. That’ll create room for Beas to be either a complete player or a tradable asset. Wes Johnson may have the worst handle of any starting SG in the game. He just doesn’t have as many tattoos, huh?

  2. Just wanted to say that you do great work, and that it’s refreshing to see an american who doesn’t feel the need to portray every European player as a soft wimp;)

  3. I agree James, about Beasley. OKC has good shot blockers and against a weaker interior defense I think Beasley would have had a very big night. I thought OKC looked very good in the second half and was pleased the guys were able to go toe to toe in the fourth. I think OKC is the best team in the west.

  4. Beasley was playing well most of the night. He did share the ball and all. It was the last 2 mins that I think people remember from his game. He had a couple bad attempts there that sorely reminded us of last year’s ball-hogging ways of the beas. I agree with James that the 3pt shooting was horrible and if we could have hit them at a more normal pace the end of the game could have been much different. It was a great game to watch at the target center. Well done wolves. I have hopes for the future.

  5. Im not going to completely admonish Beas for the same thing he was encouraged to do all last year, but at some point he mustve had the realization, “Its not my night. I need to get others involved.” If he did and continued to shoot, that’s a problem. If he didn’t have it at all, thats just frightening.

    By my count, he went to the basket four times out of 27 shots. There were several more stand still jumpers, forced fadeaways and some shots were just indescribably bad. Beas was so predictable last year, many teams literally had the same scouting report: two dribble pull up, never drives, never passes, no defense. At some point a bad rap collides with reality. Any project involving a shift in his style of play would require more time than he may have left.

    And yea, the shooting was bad last night, but that should also be a point of encouragement. The Wolves shot 3-22, one player took more than twice as many shots as anyone and they were still in the game with a minute left.

  6. Can’t say I’ve watched a lot of Wolves bball in the past but I’m wondering what everyone’s opinion of the lineup employed by Adelman down the stretch. There really wasn’t a lot of perimeter shooting on the court: Barea, Rubio, Beasley, DWill, Love. Love is a legit shooter with great form but I’m not sure if you want your best offensive rebounder being the one responsible for floor spacing.

    Not that I was particularly impressed by say Wes Johnson to warrant end of game minutes but why not Ridnour instead of Barea in the backcourt at the end of game?

  7. Not to be contrary but CBS sports has Mike Beas at:

    Points: 24
    Field Goal Selection
    Layups: 6-9
    Jumpers: 3-16
    Dunks: 2-2
    FGs: 11-27
    3FG: 0-3
    FT: 2-3

    That’s 11 shots at the basket, of which he made 8. He probably shot 10 too many jumpers, but only about 5 of them were straight out of last year’s scouting report (dribble twice before a contested pull up). I’m not saying there’s no room for improvement in his game by any means, but I think he’s trying to play Adelman’s way. If I’m right I think that’s really exciting. If Beasley continues to go to the basket he’ll shoot more than 3 FTs a game. Give him 10 FT attempts and my prediction is that he’ll double his FG%. Then he’ll become a big star, then he’ll bring a gun onto an airplane or something.

    I agree that the fact we were 3-22 from 3pt range and remained competitive is encouraging, but I don’t think that’s gonna change when 13/22 of our 3pt attempts are by PFs [who want to be SFs]. I think Milwaukee didn’t defend the big men in the perimeter, and a few big guys were feeling themselves, and that explains our shooting woes. Adelman will sort that out. I expect to see some guards (and a SF playing SG named Wes) shooting the bulk of our 3FGs tonight, and a much higher percentage being made.

    I think a lot of people were excited just to see the Wolves hanging in there with OKC, a team that we all know will be a contender this year. They’ve had the same core, the same coach, and the same offense for a few years now. They also have Kevin Durant. The TWolves had a rushed camp, a few weeks of practice, and a few scrimmages. They’re hardly a team yet. I think we’ll be more competitive than even the most optimistic wolves fans (me?) are predicting.

  8. I stand corrected. I certainly want Beas to do well, but given the prolonged exposure to such poor decision making, you’ll have to excuse me for being skeptical.

    Still, high hopes and whatnot…

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