You tell me that the Wolves are playing without Kevin Love for the second time in as many games. You tell me that they are playing in Memphis against the Grizzlies, a circumstance under which our TW’s have, in recent years, struggled to appear even basically competitive. You tell me that they are playing for the seventh time in eleven nights and just one night after an exhausting home win. I will tell you, as I told the pretty lady sitting next to me on my couch just before tip off, that they will lose this game. And lose they did, after putting up their worst offensive showing of the year. We expected that this team would miss Love’s scoring and rebounding and, a day after painting over that deficit, they finally did.
|Wesley Johnson, SG 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -8This kind of game has become pretty typical for Wes Johnson. He defends Rudy Gay well one-on-one but lacks intuition in off-the-ball team D. He shows impressive force at the rim–that quick dunk he threw down on the break in the first quarter was something to see–and an improving ability to drive the ball. But his jumper looks utterly broken and he can’t figure a way to make himself a more integral part of the offense.|
|Derrick Williams, F 30 MIN | 6-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 13 PTS | -13The first quarter of this gave off a glimmer of what Williams could one day be. He capitalized on his quickness with righteous crossovers on Marreese Speights and Dante Cunningham and finished well at the rim. He rebounded and defended with tenacity. But the green, tentative Williams soon returned. Some telltale signs: when Williams hesitates on open jumpers and then takes contested ones (all the while forgetting to take the ball to the basket), you know he’s not feeling all that comfortable.|
|Nikola Pekovic, C 28 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -11As he has since he entered the rotation, Pekovic scrapped for boards, moved well without the ball and finished well inside. And, on defense, he worked admirably to keep Marc Gasol away from the basket. Still, one could easily see that the energy he expended against the Kings had taken its toll.|
|Luke Ridnour, PG 22 MIN | 1-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 2 PTS | -9The fatigue of rubbing chests with bigger, stronger players seems to finally have worn Ridnour down. Although he did his best to ignite the Wolves’ offense, he was short on nearly all of his shots and couldn’t summon sustained energy on the break. And after great defensive efforts against much better players, he struggled to contest Quincy Pondexter’s outside shots.|
|Ricky Rubio, PG 28 MIN | 1-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -11Until (unless) Rubio begins to shoot consistently, he’s going to have some nights like this. Memphis resolutely stayed home on the Wolves’ shooters and denied passing lanes when Rubio drove the lane. (The fact that nobody could make a shot when he actually got them the ball didn’t help his cause either.) Ricky didn’t do anything–like say, hitting any shots–to dissuade the Grizz from this strategy. And although he showed good effort on the boards and on defense, his customary verve just wasn’t there. Easily Rubio’s worst game as a T-Wolf.|
|Brad Miller, C 8 MIN | 0-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -1I understand why Brad Miller is playing: to see what he has left; to get him back into game shape; to lend a savvy, veteran presence (and an expert in his coach’s systems) to our litter of pups. But even if Miller’s lack of mobility and the lack of lift on his jumper went over ok while Hamed Haddadi was on the floor, it definitely didn’t when the young and frighteningly athletic Speights returned in the second quarter.|
|Anthony Tolliver, PF 18 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +8In addition to playing his normal fiery, conscientious (which is not to say consistently effective) defense, Tolliver finally did something I’ve been waiting for all season: he took, and made, an open mid-range jumper. In his dalliance with very poor three-point shooting, he seems to have forgotten that the mid-range game has, in his career, been a staple. Here’s hoping he jogged his memory.|
|Jose Juan Barea, PG 23 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-8 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 17 PTS | +5Barea is finally beginning to look like the player that devastated the Lakers and the Thunder and the Heat last spring. Against the Grizzlies, he was the Wolves only reliable shot-maker and three-point shooter. And his fresh legs showed in the second half; he was able to push the Wolves pace and hector both Jeremy Pargo and Mike Conley in the backcourt.|
|Wayne Ellington, G 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | +7Ellington might be the Wolves’ hungriest player. He defends like his life depends on it; he throws himself at loose balls. Which is why it kills me that he just can’t seem to keep himself on the floor by hit open shots with any consistency.|
|Michael Beasley, SF 27 MIN | 6-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +2It seems like every time Michael Beasley does something great, he does something appalling to make up for it. He makes a great read to rotate into a passing lane and steal a ball intended for the baseline cutting Pondexter…and then loses the ball attempting to go one-on-five at the other end. He skies for a contested rebound…and then waves off J.J. Barea (who just wanted to, like, initiate the offense) before getting ripped while attempting to cross Conley. He hits a nice right-handed runner…and then jacks a contested, early-shot-clock three.|
|Anthony Randolph, PF 12 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +7A typically strange game from Anthony Randolph. Moments of vibrant athletic energy followed by weird lapses in concentration and ill-chosen 16 footers. I guess this might also be why Brad Miller was getting minutes.|
Three Things We Saw
- Following the macho pro-athlete code against excuse-making, players and coaches will almost never mention publicly that fatigue makes any contribution to a poor performance. But the Wolves were plainly exhausted against the Grizzlies and the numbers show it: 5-20 shooting from their starting perimeter players; surrendering 21 offensive rebounds while only grabbing 10 of their own; a 20-12 deficit in fast-break points, despite nearly identical shooting and turnover numbers; all this speaks to a shorthanded team running on fumes.
- Here’s something I like about Barea. He pushes the tempo and probes the lane on nearly every possession, even when he will ultimately pull the ball out and initiate the half-court offense. This has two nice effects. First, and most obviously, it gives the Wolves a chance for easy points early in the shot clock. But second, it threatens and hurries the defense, often forcing it to commit to mismatches out of necessity. Sebastian Telfair used to do this also–but he lacked both the shotmaking and the poise to make it really work.
- For the entirety of the fourth quarter, Adelman played a lineup featuring zero starters and two players–Ellington and Randolph–who hadn’t seen real floor time in quite a while. This lineup promptly surrendered five points without ever crossing half-court but then actually managed to scuffle their way back into the game. And although none of them outside of Barea was on their game enough to actually put the Wolves over the top, they managed two important accomplishments. First they injected some energy into a pretty lifeless game. Second, because of them, no Wolf had to play over 30 minutes. In a season like this, that counts as a real contribution.