Wolves 102, Bobcats 90: K.I.S.S.

Zach Harper —  February 16, 2012 — 19 Comments

Keep it simple, stupid.

It’s funny how basic professional basketball can be sometimes. You’re bigger and stronger than the opponent so you pound it inside and get easy points. You have a problem with turnovers so you just stay more patient and stop giving the ball to the other team. You’re facing the worst team in the league, start off slowly and just wait for them to regress to the mean.

This was the night against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Wolves look disinterested early on, giving up EASY baskets to Corey Maggette, Reggie Williams, and everybody else in the Charlotte unis. It was like the Wolves weren’t taking this game seriously at all. And maybe they weren’t. That’s what happens when you’re facing a team on a 15-game losing streak that happens to have a scoring margin of around -15 this season.

Minnesota gave up 30 points in the first quarter to a team that hadn’t reached 90 points in seven straight games. Not to take anything away from the Bobcats but I’m totally going to take everything away from the Bobcats here. They’re a horrible team that can’t score and the only way they have a 30-point first quarter is if you don’t take them seriously.

By the time the Wolves got around to caring, they were able to slow the momentum and scoring attack of the Bobcats while getting their own game on track. JJ Barea had his best game as a T’Pup so far with 12 points (4/9 shooting) and eight assists with zero turnovers. He controlled the pace of the game for the Wolves when he was on the floor without Ricky, which is something he hadn’t been able to show much at all this season.

Outside of the mean slapping Charlotte in the face, this game was won with the play of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.

After the game, Love was talking about how much the presence of Nikola Pekovic opens up Kevin’s game for him. And I’d imagine the same could be said the other way around. You’re not moving Pek when he’s getting position inside. I’ve been up close for almost every home game this season and I’ve watched player after player try to move him out of the spot he wants on the floor. It just doesn’t happen. Once he plants himself in the lane, you need a bulldozer to even think about displacing him.

The way to counteract that is to be in his way. Again, it sounds simple but if you’re already in the spot the post player wants then he has to wedge you out of there. If he tries to move you from the spot with his upper body, you’re going to see a lot of offensive fouls called (Dwight Howard does this a lot). The problem is if you’re in help defense because Kevin Love is on the floor, it’s really hard to beat Pek to sitting down in the key where you have no chance of stopping him from making his post move.

Love spreads the floor for Pek and in turn, Pek opens up the floor for Love. As a help defender, you know you have to keep a body on Pek so he can’t set up camp right in front of the basket for an easy hoop. This leaves Kevin with one-on-one coverage for much of the area between his man and the basket. Love mentioned that in situations like this he knows he has a great chance of getting off a good shot or getting to the free throw line. He credited a lot of that to the presence Pekovic has given the Wolves down low.

The symbiotic relationship the two big men seem to have on the court is developing into a deadly combination. Yes, they went against the Bobcats Wednesday night and you should be able to do whatever you want against the second worst defense in the NBA. They combined for 51 points and 29 rebounds against Charlotte’s frontcourt. The Wolves got 34 attempts at the rim (14 attempts by Pekovic) and shot 50.6% from the field for the entire game.

The Wolves didn’t have to do too much against a horrendous Bobcats team. They survived Kemba Walker’s streaky shooting, Boris Diaw’s versatility on offense, and whatever terrible shots Corey Maggette decided to put up throughout the game. Wes Johnson did a great job of forcing Maggette into bad and contested attempts after a good first quarter (4/8 in the first, 2/9 the rest of the game).

Wednesday night, the Wolves kept the gameplan and execution simple, and they let the talent on the floor naturally take over the game to win out.

Zach Harper

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19 responses to Wolves 102, Bobcats 90: K.I.S.S.

  1. 30 points in the first quarter, not half. Right?

  2. Yep. Had it right in one place, wrong in the other. Fixed. Thanks!

  3. Barea looked much, much better last night, as did Luke. Amazing how much better the offense looks when Luke is hitting that mid-range J, and Barea is making smarter decisions and actually making layups. Not to mention a desperation 28-29 footer with the shot-clock winding down. But this was a game that the Wolves should’ve won this way – the Bobcats are a terrible team. We’ll see how things shake out on Friday against the Rockets – will it be Scola’s revenge?

  4. I feel at this point Pek’s awesome play has to be considered a trend and not a temporary hot streak. If he can maintain 80-90% of this level for the rest of the year, he has to be considered one of the better centers in the league. And on a very reasonable contract. And he doesn’t take bad shots. And he plays pretty decent position defense – especially against traditional post-up centers.

    It is hard not to lament the lack of a single above average wing play on this team. I feel like if the Wolves actually admitted they had a problem and made a trade or two they could make the playoffs. Rubio + Love + Pek + some competent wing play could be pretty special.

  5. Wile E Coyote, I don’t disagree with you at all but my question is who do they have to trade for a good wing?

    Does Wes have any value? Do Randolph, Beasley or Luke really have much trade value? The only way to go about it might be trying to pry a malcontent like Stephen Jackson away from the Bucks and then pray that he doesn’t act like an a-hole under Rick.

    I don’t really like this idea, but I don’t really see who is gettable. People mention OJ Mayo all the time, but is Luke Ridnour really good enough to match up for a trade? I just don’t see Memphis being that desperate and I really don’t think OJ Mayo is THAT competent.

  6. I think the most important variable in terms of trades is Adelman’s long-term view on DWill. Does he think his body type and game are permanently going to be suited for PF? If so, he is playing behind an All-Star PF in Love and is never going to blossom here. If that is the cause, then the Wolves need to trade him while he still has some of the “new draft pick” shine. There are a lot of athletic PFs in the league who are a few years into their rookie deal and who haven’t done much.

    If Adelman thinks DWill can convert to a SF over the summer with some weight loss and skills work, then I think the best option is Luke + Wes + MEM/UTA pick. Luke provides steady backup PG and shooting now, Wes provides a young high flier you can sell to fans as an upside guy, and the picks are decent. For example, how much does HOU want for KMart? McHale does not seem especially enamored with him, and he is due a new due fairly soon. Including Webster, who I believe is only partially guaranteed for next year, could allow them to increase their cap space if they have summer FA plans.

  7. Sorry typo – Kmart is due a new *contract* soon. His expires in 12/13.

  8. Zach – I’d really like to know what you think about DWIll, as Wile points out above. I know he has a great work ethic (or at least I hope I know) and a lot of talent, but can he fit as a Small Forward in the NBA? Offensively he has the driving capabilities of a 3, and I think we will see his shot improve next year to a more respectable range. Defensively I’m not sure. Sometimes he seems lost on D, but I feel he is competent enough to figure out the defense relatively quickly. If he sheds some weight will he be able to stick with quicker forwards in the league? I’m not that incredibly hopeful. He is already a premier athlete (as he showed yesterday) and if he could guard the 3 well I think he would already be doing so at some level. Do you think he is a valuable piece to this team with Klove taking all the time at the 4 and Pekovic becoming a real force (making it unnecessary to play Love at center and bring in Williams), or should we look at getting a competent wing player for him?

  9. Williams was a terrible fail draft pick that never should have happened. Should have traded down or traded it completely… And this is what I said at the time (aka it’s not hindsight.) Drafting an overrated tweener PF that is too slow to play SF was sooooooo damn dumb.

    He’ll never get minutes here. Trade him before his trade value completely evaporates. We so desperately need a competent SG; and I guess a SF too.

  10. Absolute statements are absolute.

    Luke, I have a lot of thoughts on D Dub and what he could or couldn’t be for this team. Let me throw them together and have a post for tomorrow on it.

  11. Is it me or does Wes seem like he is steadly getting better? It must be me the way everyone is hateing on him. His defense seemed to improve last night. He acn stay in front of his guy. He had a block and almost caught another one from behind on a breakaway lay up. And he hit some jumpers and caught the second lob from Rubio for a nice dunk. He still is missing from 3 but I get the feeling that if a couple of those start going through he could rip a game wide open and score a bunch. I don’t know. I have real hope for the guy because he is so athletic and could shoot the ball last year. He just seems so hesitant. Maybe…It just must be me.

  12. I dont think Wes Johnson is getting any better. One game out of 35 hardly says he is getting better. But you are right, he does hesitate alot. He is a Major liability on offense and his defensive skills are not elite enough to justify his starting or his minutes. You want to see if DWILL is a capable SF? Start him and give him some real playing time to see if he can do it night in and night out with 30 mins a game. He couldnt possibly do any worse than Wes Johnson.

  13. Problem is DWill is slow and can’t defend SF’s. Wes is at least an average defender (which happens to be about the only thing he doesn’t totally suck at.)

  14. I’d love to see Williams get extended minutes at the 3 but Beasley is a roadblock, not to mention D-Will’s apparent failings at the 3 in practice. If they didn’t think Williams could play the 3 in the league I don’t know why they drafted him. Far too many incompetent 3s on this team and zero SGs. They really need to put some time and effort in the offseason on Williams so he can play the 3 next year. Beasley and/or Wes aren’t even stopgaps at this point. Hoping they can move Wes and Beas with a few picks by the deadline or else we will be hanging around .500(if we’re lucky) all year. Don’t know how much I’d watch them if they go into the second half of the year with the same roster. They are simply put: consistently inconsistent.

  15. Wes Johnson’s defense must be bad if Jim Peterson is going to call him out in-game for getting schooled by Maggette. I don’t think he is getting any better.

  16. Think of it like this……..Wes Johnson plays 30 mins gets 5 points 2 rebounds and a assist. Meanwhile the player he is defending is getting 13 pts 10 rebs 5 assist against him. You play DWill for 30 mins you are getting 14 pts 8 rebs 1 assist 1 steal/block and maybe he gives up 18 points to the person he is defending but he will out rebound his opponent and do the little things on defense that Johnson just does not do. You give up a little on defensive side but it will be a bigger help on the offensive/rebounding sides. The average NBA players efficiency rating is 15. Wes is 5. Which means on top of not scoring, he is doing nothing else either (rebounds/assists/blocks/steals) Not to mention, DWill gets to the line alot more than Johnson.

  17. It’s not just DWill that’s having trouble fitting in; it’s Beasley too. He’s about the same body type and athleticism of DWill with a little more insanity and a little less practicality.

    Everyone’s saying picking DWill was a mistake – I don’t believe it was. Our second-round rookie pick, Malcolm Lee, has just been reactivated – a 6’4″ SG, yes, six-foot-four-inch shooting guard. If he plays even marginally well, he can fill the defensive hole that Ridnour couldn’t ever fill at his size.

    Ridnour, to me, is the most annoying problem facing the team. His 4th-quarter shooting has flat-out won us some games (the best example being the Nets game) and it is very often him who is the only person on the floor who can hit any shots early in games. He also has the tendency to go stone cold, pulling the rug out from underneath the offense. In short, he’s unreliable as a shooting guard, and not unique enough to compete with Rubio/Barea for point guard. I think we should get rid of him immediately.

    Other dispensables: Wayne Ellington, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Martell Webster, Wes Johnson. Milicic is needed so we don’t get Shaq’d by Andrew Bynum. Brad Miller is a grizzled vet that coach Adelman knows well, a nice foul machine down low.

    If we dump some of these guys, Beasley and Williams get playing time, DWill stops whining about minutes, Beaz gets responsibility put on his shoulders (with point guards that can actually play well). These two guys, in my mind, are the keys to the success of the team; Love/Rubio/Pek is guaranteed to produce, we just need those wing scorers to start working on both ends.

    That’s my two cents, and I’m sticking to it.

  18. I honestly don’t mind “Hanging around .500″ for the season. After the last two seasons it’s exciting to see a competing team even if we do lose some games we feel we should have won. It’s the first year with a real coach who can teach the players something useful but that won’t happen overnight either.

    We do need a reliable SG, but they are hard to come by. There aren’t that many in the league and those that are good and would do a good job on the team are likely to cost quite a bit of talent in a trade. Who can we trade? Beasley, Johnson, Ridnour, Webster, Ellington, Tolliver, Randolph? As everyone just pointed out, all these guys have serious drawbacks which is why we would want to trade them. Who would want to take on these drawbacks in return for a good SG? The only GM I could think of being willing to take the risk on a combination of the above mentioned is our own. Could we (should we) trade Derrick Williams for an SG? Probably a much better trade bait and he can blossom better on another team, but I don’t think we should trade him. Not yet at least.

    I think we’re pretty stuck with what we have right now for this season. Let’s see if Lee can play. Never really seen him so I’m curious. If he can, good, if not, well, we’ll still be around .500 which is a huge improvement.

  19. “Not to take anything away from the Bobcats but I’m totally going to take everything away from the Bobcats here”….love that line. No “nice” way to put it…Bobcats stink. I’m going to keep it short and go all rube here: Trade Johnson and/or Beasley if you can. Johnson isn’t getting it and Beasley’s stats are misguided…he’s a black hole on offense and will never change.

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