Game Analysis

Timberwolves 80, Grizzlies 85: Chronic fatigue

Henry Meynell Rheam

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.

Minnesota Timberwolves 80 Final

Recap | Box Score

85 Memphis Grizzlies
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
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0 thoughts on “Timberwolves 80, Grizzlies 85: Chronic fatigue

  1. This sucked. It was a gettable game, and Adelman gave up.The lineup that played the bulk of the fourth quarter was putrid. Good thing it was in Memphis. If it were in MPLS they should offer refunds. That was crap.

    1. Definitely don’t agree that Adelman gave up here. I think he was just a) giving the starters an opportunity to rest after a grueling stretch of games and b) playing a lineup that might be able to play with some more energy than the starters had mustered. Popovich did the same thing last week. Considering how poorly Ridnour and Rubio were playing, I don’t think that lineup was all that bad.

  2. Yep, right all around. I was surprised, though, that I’d come back at 9:30 EST to see the starters having the shooting woes they were having. When we miss 10 threes in a game, we usually lose (I bet there’s some decent statistical backing there, but I won’t pursue it). I think that single thing – missed 3s – is an understated element of the Wolves offense that HAS to be working on some level. Pekovic cannot pick up all the slack underneath; and without the bruising presence of Love down low, we are weak… UNLESS we are hitting threes with relative consistency. Meaning, 30% or more are falling, and enough so that we’re never down by 15+. I love this team in that a ten point deficit in the fourth is generally not a big problem. But in this game, it was so obvious by the way the clock just ran down in the fourth that Rick was kind of using this game rather than trying to win it.

    Sometimes you need to do it. Like you said, no Wolf had to play over 30 minutes. The starters got some rest, and Love had some more time to spend in detention, no doubt scheming about how best to approach Friday’s game (his twitter post suggested it). Some teams are so deep they can absorb the suspension of their best player and win the second of a back to back against a good team on their court. So few can, though, especially in this crunchy season.

    I think Love is the second best player in the league to LJ. It really says something that only the NBA itself could stop him from playing. Looking forward to Friday, and future domination. We’ve exorcised the .500 mark, as well as the over-.500 mark. All that’s left is… you know, winning big and often.

    p.s. might want to fix the score and stats above, some are from the Sacramento game.

  3. Addendum to my first post: I suggested a link between three point percentage and wins, and went ahead and used my insomnia to do the math:

    As of 2-9-12,

    In wins, the Wolves shoot 37% from 3 point range;

    In losses, they shoot 29%.

    Not very surprising, but I think the importance of the three is stronger this season because people are exhausted, and when exhausted, as any basketball player knows, you tend to hoist up the long ball more often.

  4. That’s 2 games now where they got man handled by the other team and went flat. I’m hoping this game was mostly due to being tired. But, like against the Pacers, a stronger, more agressive team seems to be able to push the Wolves around and force them into bad decisions. Some more ball movement and this game might have been closer and a possible win.

  5. Hey Zach!
    I’m a brazilian Wolves fan and while playing on the trade machine I came up wiyh that:

    Nets get Howard and W. Johnson
    Magic get Okur, Beasley, Randolph and Ridnour plus the Wolves Utah`s pick and 1 or 2 picks fron the Nets
    Wolves get Lopez, Morrow and Turkoglu

    I tryed and it works financially
    Do you think it could work well also on the court??

  6. Two things from watching last night:

    1. It really seemed for large portions of the game that the Grizz knew the Wolves’ offense better than they did.

    2. How was Pek not getting touch after touch when Gasol went out? At the very least this would have opened space in the form of double teams. I didn’t get it. Still don’t get it.

    In the end, I feel we gave up a bit, from the coach on down. Yes, the team was fatigued. I concur wholeheartedly with that observation, but Memphis wasn’t exactly lighting the Forum afire, were they? If that is the case then maybe go to your fresher legs earlier than to start the 4th. Just a thought.

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