2011-12 Season, Game Analysis, Player Analysis

Wolves 92, 76ers 91: World of difference

It’s a shame to see all that Kevin Love does and wish he would do more. But watching Elton Brand dismantle him in the post probably made some of us do just that. Early in the first quarter, Brand recovered a loose ball at the elbow, sized up Love with a dribble between his legs, put his back on him and pivoted into a fade away 12 footer as fluidly as 33 year old knees can be expected to. Not pretty by any measure, but sound and effective.

Kevin attempted to fire back from the perimeter but continually missed the mark. His shots were flat and rushed. Philadelphia’s defense certainly took much of the credit, but this also bore the look of someone shooting simply because he was expected to. Not to say that he shouldn’t, only that he has more options. Love only made two shots in the quarter; a layup in transition and a hook shot over Brand off a post up. He missed five jumpers.

So then how did the Wolves win this contest? With a timely flurry of Kevin Love jumpers, of course. He faced up Brand from the left elbow, jab stepped and fired from sixteen feet. Then he faced up on Lavoy Allen, swept the ball through a series of fakes and finished with a nifty hook shot. Feeling a rhythm, Love faced up on Brand from the right block this time, jabbed again, and again, sunk another sixteen footer. Then he flashed into the paint and immediately flipped in another hook.

Four consecutive baskets to open the fourth quarter during a crucial five minute stretch. There surely were other factors in this victory, but Love’s display provided the late boost needed to stave off a potentially debilitating run by the 76ers. Now perhaps he was just off early, but there was also a discernable difference in the quality of his makes later in the evening. He appeared much more patient, decisive and confident, as shown by a gutsy drive through Philly’s defense that led to those deciding free throws. I’d like to see more of it.

I had this discussion last year with our friend Ben, who rightfully pointed out Kevin’s gaudy three point percentage (42%). However, whether it’s the wear and tear of this truncated season or just the appropriate adjustments by opposing defenses, his three point percentage isn’t so gaudy anymore (35%), especially when considering he’s on pace to attempt more this year in far less games (211 in ’11, 135 in ’12). It’d be irrational to expect Love to overhaul his game, yet in order to remain efficient, some variety in his shot selection would be prudent. Surely he can reconcile between the two, right? That’d be nice.

Anyway, this was a pretty surprising victory. The 76ers have all the grit and defensive intensity one would expect of a team representing Philly, but more importantly, they hardly ever turn the ball over. So facing a mistake prone unit such as ours could’ve been a disaster. Strangely enough though, as our visitors ground this game to an uncomfortable pace, the Wolves valued their possessions. The ball moved decisively, generally resulting in good shots. Which of course begs the question, “Then why do we play so fast?”

Well, because we can’t score in the half court consistently. As we’ve discussed ad nauseum, there isn’t a brilliant scorer here to save us every game. Kevin definitely tries, but we know his limitations, as does he. Looking at our personnel, there simply aren’t many easy buckets to be had on this team; most of our players are earthbound and their shooting percentages plummet towards earth’s core. Nikola Pekovic’s emergence has been an encouraging sign of dependable post play, but much of his success is directly attributed to Ricky Rubio’s wizardry. And despite marked improvement, our Wolves don’t have a reliably strong defense to create many points in transition either.

So they do what they can with what they have; out finesse their opponents with speed and guile. It’s clearly been working, but just as often, it won’t. The only ways to reconcile ourselves with that reality is with lowered expectations or a trade. What we did learn tonight though, is that manageable tasks- taking care of the ball and making free throws- can lead to our pups winning more of the close ones. This isn’t anything we didn’t already know, but the evidence is still appreciated.

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0 thoughts on “Wolves 92, 76ers 91: World of difference

  1. Of course the Wolves (as young as they are) knew that a lack of turnovers plus hitting freethrows helps in the win column. But just like any young team, They need to figure out how to do that. I mean, we all know if you travel the speed of light you could get to Mars in probably 3 mins. The tough part is figuring out how to travel the speed of light. The Wolves are going to do just fine. Dont expect a trade this year. They need a full season with all these guys on the roster to make a better evaluation before you start shipping people off. Everyone start paying attention to Utah. We get there 1st round draft pick next year (Jefferson trade) and it kind of makes me laugh if we get a higher pick than New Orleans will get when they traded for our conditional pick from the Clippers for Chris Paul. Either way the future looks very bright for this young team. Stay tuned.

  2. Beasley is the prolific scorer that the Wolves need to get it going. He seems to be playing a little bit better defense and rebounding the last few games. I think he might finally realize that this coaching staff isn’t going to play him unless they see 100% effort on both sides of the ball. Everyone is calling for Wes to be removed from the starting lineup. I think the coaching staff is not going to do that until Beasley takes the job away from him.

  3. Utah’s pick is lotto protected this year (and then top 12 protected next year) so unless we are seeded higher than they are in the playoffs, the NO pick will be higher than ours (if we get one)

  4. The Utah pick is lottery protected. So, we need Utah to make the playoffs to get their pick. Hard to see both Minnesota and Utah making the playoffs, so the pick may come at the expense of a trip to the playoffs for the Wolves.

  5. The Wolves are a team of streaks and sprees at the moment. They can pour the basketball down your throat or they can throw it out the window. I understand everyone’s impatience. After that befuddling 4 game losing streak that followed the Sacramento win (in which Love was suspended). I let loose on the team, throwing out questions as to whether this team was really worth getting excited about.

    I was encouraged, though, by their effort last night. I disagree with you (Myles) about Love in that I believe that he is developing the ability to close out games. Most teams don’t really have a go-to-guy in crunch time, but Love has essentially had two buzzer beaters this year already. However, I will attest that he doesn’t have the freakish physical finesse that, say, allows him to create his own shot from anywhere, at any time, against all kinds of defenses. He simply isn’t that agile. However, Rubio is. Derrick Williams is. And Michael Beasley is. Their entire team is built around that dichotomy; the steady, often dominant post play of Pek and Love combined with the speedy finesse of Rubio and the other guys. I believe that, even without a trade, it can work on a consistent basis as long as no one loses their head after a loss.

    If they pursue a trade, however, they could make it a lot easier for themselves (as you suggest above). In my mind there is a potential game changer out there that has been floating under the radar due to injury, someone who a lot of people think is one of the top 10 players in the league. I’m speaking of Eric Gordon of course. The Hornets have one of our draft picks, yet we have Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams riding the pine for most of the game… then again, he isn’t perfectly ideal. That would be a SG/SF with the size dimensions and athleticism of Kobe Bryant. But sometimes you have to settle for less-than-perfect.

  6. It´s going to be really hard to get him because we would be needing to take either Jack or/and Okafor or/and Kaman in that trade…it´s very tough…

  7. Gordon is a nice idea, but I read recently that he is suffering from a mysterious injury. There is some speculation that he won’t play again this year, or that he could be out for an extended period. Do we really want to deal with another mysterious injury a la Sidney Rice?

    Personally, I’d love to see Marshon Brooks in a Muskies jersey. I know it doesn’t solve the small forward issue, but he’d look great playing next to Rubio. It kills me that we could have had that guy. I think we passed on him twice in last year’s draft? Anyone who did as little research as reading the espn reports on pre-draft workouts had to know the kid had game. Oh well, at least we got the cash to pay off Rambis.

    As for small forward, I’m of the belief that Demarcus Cousins would be a nice chip for any potential trades. Way more value than Wes, at the very least.

    Anyway you cut it, I love our potential and greatly increased watchability, but I just don’t trust Kahn not to screw it all up. (See Kevin Love.)

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