Wolves 109, Clippers 97: Night of the Living Potential

Zach Harper —  February 29, 2012 — 13 Comments

“Hanging around. Hanging around. Kid’s got alligator blood. Can’t get rid of him.” – Teddy KGB.

It starts with a run. The Clippers came out of halftime, inexplicably only up three points and looking to put this game away early. A layup from Randy Foye drops in. Blake Griffin hits a jump shot. Randy Foye makes a 3-pointer off of a pass from Blake. The Clippers are carving up a young Wolves’ team with passing and effort. They’re being more physical. They’re quicker to the ball. They’re now up 10 within the blink of an eye.

For some reason this season, the Wolves find a way to stick around. There are plenty of games in which I’ve watched the action unfold before my eyes, then look up at the scoreboard and wonder how Minnesota had kept it so close. They have sneak ways of going on runs immediately after an opponent’s run. And it’s rarely anything but subtle.

Luke Ridnour made a technical free throw after an illegal defense. After a missed 3, an offensive rebound by Rubio and DeAndre Jordan swatting a shot attempt, the Wolves got a stop against the Clippers. Pek gets to the foul line for two, Wes hits a jumper off the Rubio setup, and then Rubio finds Wes in transition for the layup. All of a sudden, the 10-point lead is a two-point deficit and you’re back in the grind of the game.

The story of the mini-runs and the grind it out mentality of this team kept them in it. But the bench certainly won the game for the Wolves tonight.

And the bench. CAUGHT. FIRE. 

Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley showed us why exactly potential in a player can be so tantalizing. There is so much raw ability that can be harnessed at any one moment and give you a euphoric sense of future tidings. In a game Kevin Love was befuddled, shut down and incapable of bestowing his usual impact, Derrick Williams fought back against athleticism with his own athleticism. He lived in the paint in the first half, before he peppered the Clippers with jumpers in the second half. He stretched the floor and made mobile giants of the interior uncomfortable defending the perimeter.

Michael Beasley was also an arsonist with D Dub, especially in the fourth quarter. They each had 13 points in the final quarter of the game but took turns going on their own respective runs. All 13 of Williams’ fourth quarter points came in the first 5:02 of the period, including 10 in a row. He helped the Wolves turn a three-point deficit into an eight-point lead. Over the next four minutes and 22 seconds, Michael Beasley went on a scoring binge of his own.

Beasley scored 13 of the next 14 points (thanks, Hack-a-Darko!). He scored inside and outside, with pull-up jumpers and face-up firings. He cut to the basket and he buried long-range shots. He went 5/5 in this short period of time, extending an eight-point lead to 17 points of pure Clipper frustration. There was nothing the Clippers could do to stop Minnesota and there was nothing Minnesota could do to slow themselves down. We could pretend they were all good shots, but there was heat check after heat check going on and the temperature was still toasty. All of the heat checks fell into the hoop. Minnesota started 10/10 in the quarter and it wasn’t until a JJ Barea missed 3-pointer with 1:29 left that they finally misfired.

This entire time, the Wolves were swarming on defense and being overly bothersome. Martell and Barea flew around the perimeter, hoping to disrupt passing lanes and cut off drives. Beasley and Williams were attempting to stay in help and keep the Clippers off the boards. And Darko Milicic used his length to stifle Blake Griffin for the second time this season. Ethan Sherwood Strauss loves to discuss how big of a factor length and wingspan are in the NBA. He’d be proud of the Wolves in this game.

Love and Pekovic thrive off of being stronger than opposing frontcourts. They move them out of the way and bully them like they have lunch money in their pockets that is first come, first serve. But that didn’t work against the Clippers. The Clippers’ frontcourt of Jordan and Blake is not only strong physically, but they also have the quickness and athleticism to beat you to whatever spot you’re trying to get to on the floor. The way the Wolves were able to counteract this was with Derrick Williams’ athletic abilities and Darko being too long for Griffin to feel comfortable shooting over.

This is where you find D Dub’s greatest value. Allow him to be an athlete on the court, find him ways of getting the ball moving to the basket, and he can get into a rhythm that becomes a matchup nightmare for opposing big men. Allow Darko to just be big and in the way against smaller frontcourt players and his length can bother the other team.

The entire bench was stellar tonight. They close out a road game without the help of the starters in the final quarter. They scored all 36 fourth quarter points and only Rubio and Wes were starters who played in the final 12 minutes. They combined for two minutes and 25 seconds in the fourth. Martell had big buckets in the second half and Barea combined with Darko for five assists in the final quarter. The starters weren’t very good all night and the bench picked them up.

These are valuable road victories that help a young team grow. It’s one thing to just rely on your starters and stars to pull you through this, but what if the potential of your tweeners off the bench can be realized in a flurry of made jumpers and chest bumps? What if you can teach your second unit how to put games away?

What if all of your raw talent learns how to be harnessed?


.gif from @cjzero

Zach Harper

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13 responses to Wolves 109, Clippers 97: Night of the Living Potential

  1. Word…

    But I’m still down for shipping Beasley off. let him start somewhere else. Throw in randolp or wes to unload some baggage. get back 6-7 million worth of a wing player.

    we shall see! good game

    way to stay up and write good discipline haha.

  2. D-Will coming up huge again… He said after the Utah game that he felt more comfortable in pressure situations, which seems evident when you look at his free throw shooting the past two games. Beasley is always a sight to see when he starts rolling, but our younger 3-4 tweener was the spark, yet again.

    I don’t have any idea what this means for the future, but the fact that the bench – OUR bench – scored the most in a game for any team this season. I’m continually boggled and impressed by this team, but a game like this can only mean more good things are on the way. If you ask me it all started when Pekovic started receiving national attention as a budding, dominant center. That might have spurred on Beasley and D-Will to play better, since they now knew the team was officially good. And they are damn good when the 3-4s (that should be their new nickname..?) start dropping bombs with aplomb.

    Suddenly sweeping this 4-game trip seems a reality, dare I say it. One game at a time…

  3. somebody said the nickname Twin Tweeners earlier and i love that nick name for those two.

  4. Well even a kobe-less lakers and a phoenix team without a plan (and players past their prime) aren’t quite d-league material. The Mighty Thunder have lost to Sac-town and the Wizards. I told myself I’d be happy going 2-2 on this 4 game roadie. Living in Portland, I can attest to how dominant they can be at home. Love doesn’t match up well against Alridge, and if he’s in game shape, the Vanilla Gorilla is back in p-town. With a potential for no-kobe, I think a 3-1 trip would be great, but overall, if you play .500 ball on the road, you should make the playoffs in most leagues (we just gotta do a better job of taking care of our home court).

    Put enough top 6 picks together and something good has to happen :)

  5. I hope the trend continues with D-Dub and B-easy. They can gobble up minutes and give K-Love the rest he needs. Some of the losses the wolves have had can be contributed to a very tired K-Love. With his usage minutes down and others able to help carry some of the load this team is suddenly dangerous and have to feel good about there chances of easily getting into the playoffs. Hopefully Kahn doesn’t do anything crazy and mess up chemistry to make a trade he can make this summer.

  6. Fantastic win. Glad I stayed up.

    Looks like the 3 point shooting is regressing back to the mean, as they have gone 21-44 from deep over the past two games. You win a lot shooting like that.

  7. Pay zee man khis maaahhhneeeyy

  8. Ohh here we go. Everyone is back on the Williams ship. Funny how fast everyones opinion on him changes in one game. Ive been saying give him some time and consistent minutes and you will start to see flashes of his potential. He is getting it. His footwork is coming around and he is figuring out how to create his own shots. NO CHARGES!!! Thats the big sign to me he is playing a little more loose out there and knowing when to take it to the hole and when not to. Sure was fun watching him and Beas take over the game and still play solid defense.

  9. DWILLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Another night another win against a Division leading team (yawn). This is why I am excited about the Wolves in general, they are finding ways to dig in and stay positive when getting down early in games. Last couple of years a game like this would have been a 30 point loss.

    It is tough to really say that any one thing is the reason for it all, but the biggest contributor in my opinion is that even while the defense STILL will have lapses of effort and bad rotation, when the game is about to lose control, they get stops. Plain and simple.

    The Wolves are one Martell brain fart away from having won 6 in a row, and aside from Charlotte (and perhaps Utah), they were wins against quality teams.

    The next challenge for this team is to go out and not have a let down tonight against the wounded Lakers. If Kobe does not play and Bynum is still gimpy, it will be a shame to let the rest of the team best us.

    Great job Wolves, I look forward to seeing if last night was due to a series of adjustments by the team and staff, or if it was just a magical night for our tweeners.

  11. This team is such an up and down team, it’s crazy – I was lucky to attend the game last night, and when my wife and I got up at halftime to get a cocktail or two, the third quarter started – I look up at the TV, and the Wolves are suddenly down 10. We hit the restroom quickly before returning to our seats, and by the time we sit down, the Wolves are down 2. What a pleasant surprise.

  12. Being a Wolves fan, or a fan of any Minnesota team, is a serious commitment.

  13. I love this: “There are plenty of games in which I’ve watched the action unfold before my eyes, then look up at the scoreboard and wonder how Minnesota had kept it so close.”

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