Wolves 95, Clippers 94: Strategery

Zach Harper —  March 7, 2012 — 13 Comments


Apologize for the late recap post but we had some issues with the site yesterday, and I’m just now able to get it posted.

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been absent from recap duties and other postings on this site the past week because I was out of town. I went to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston to see what the latest nerds were doing in trying to figure out new ways to quantify sports.

Basketball has always been one of the fuzziest ways to figure out what we’ve just seen and what we’ll see in the future because there are so many variables and intangibles that we haven’t figured out how to measure yet. People argue about PER, Win Shares, plus/minus, adjusted plus/minus and everything under the sun. We don’t know what is good enough for analysis and what isn’t but we do know that advancements in the field are happening every season.

One of the biggest arguments that stats analysts and non-stats analysts have had over the years is about “the hot hand.” Can we really predict if the next shot is going in based on consecutive makes just prior to the next attempt? Do people ever get hot or are they just mathematically trending upward? Whether you believe in the hot hand or not isn’t really relevant to this recap.

Just know that whether he’s hot right now or he’s just trending, Kevin Love has been destroying two really good frontcourts the last two games. 

After dropping 42 points on Portland the other night, Love followed it up with 39 points against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan Monday night. It wasn’t just that Love got 39 points either; it’s the way he was pouring in the scores from all around the floor that was really eye-catching. Ricky and the rest of the team did a great job of finding Kevin early. He started out with 16 points on 8 shots in the first quarter. He matched the entire Clippers’ team after 12 minutes.

Now, Kevin Love didn’t score in 11-point bursts throughout this entire game like he did briefly in the first quarter, but he did receive scoring runs from his teammates to help keep the Clippers at bay for most of this game. In the second quarter, Derrick Williams exploded for 14 points on seven shots. In the third quarter, Darko Milicic scored nine points on four shots. In the fourth quarter, Michael Beasley scored nine points on five shots.

All of these quarter runs by various teammates helped surround Love’s constant attack on DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin and Kenyon Martin. They were also all completely matchup based throughout this game.

Derrick Williams was able to exploit the horrendous perimeter defense of the Clippers’ frontcourt. Kenyon Martin wasn’t comfortable guarding him on perimeter jumpers. He put a great jab step on Blake to free himself up for a 20-foot jumper. He found DeAndre Jordan lost in transition to be open for a 3-pointer. When he was in the game, they kept him where he had the advantage.

Darko’s points in the third quarter came when the T’Wolves realized DeAndre Jordan was a terror coming from the weak side and overmatched against Darko’s size in the post. So they went after DeAndre and put the pressure on him straight up in a matchup, rather than letting him set the tone defensively. With Beasley in the fourth quarter, they went after Bobby Simmons and a mismatch with Kenyon Martin for his scoring opportunities.

All the while, the Wolves kept going to Kevin Love because he was hot mathematically trending upward. He dropped 12 points in the third and helped close out the game in the fourth with mismatches against Martin on the perimeter.

The biggest strategy of the game came at the end and it was a personal sacrifice I loved to see. Rubio has been struggling to score the last month and it sort of looks like it’s getting into his head when he’s taking shots. Whether you believe he’s not getting calls or not, he’s definitely forcing shots when he thinks the calls should come his way. To say he could use free points at the free throw line is an understatement.

After the Wolves ONCE A-FREAKING-GAIN fouling on a 3-point attempt at the end of a game, Chris Paul made two of three free throw attempts, missing the third attempt with roughly two seconds left. Rubio came flying into the paint, grabbed the board and was fouled with 1.8 seconds left.

Because the Clippers didn’t have any timeouts, Rubio intentionally went back iron to start the clock and force the Clippers into pulling off something miraculous. It was personal sacrifice of individual numbers for the greater good of the team that you love to see. Chris Paul’s heave from the opposite 3-point line went over the backboard and the Wolves pulled away with the victory.

Throughout the game, the decision to keep Darko on Blake Griffin and make him deal with some mass and length proved to be a good one. Griffin still got his points (26 and 12) but he had to work much harder for them than he usually does, which cut down on his preening to the cameras throughout his time on the court.

This is a game we probably don’t see the last two years and it’s something we should get used to seeing in the Rick Adelman era. He’s not afraid to scrap what the team is supposed to do, in order to take advantage of a mismatch for a few possessions. I know there are some people that get frustrated with rotations and minutes, especially to a young guy like Derrick Williams. However, the Wolves are deep into the playoff race right now and it seems to me he’s willing to sacrifice development at the moment in the regular season in order to put their feet to the fire if they can sneak into the playoffs.

There’s plenty of time to get these guys regular minutes and introduced to being a big part of the season later. Right now, we’ve got playoffs to make. With Kevin Love playing the way he is, it’s getting harder and harder to think the Wolves won’t have a great shot.

Zach Harper

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13 responses to Wolves 95, Clippers 94: Strategery

  1. Kevin Love has been a monster in the last 2 games and it seems to been when he gets rest and is healthy he puts up really good numbers. Does that mean that Aldeman will be able to get him the rest he needs coming up? Give hime a game off like Pop does with the Spurs? Or does he ride him and squeeze out as many games as he can?

  2. This is Adelman, from everything I’ve heard, he will ride him nonstop.

  3. Rubio “intentionally” went back iron? I think you’re reaching there, my friend. He bricked it just like he bricked the previous free throw, just like he’s been bricking shots for a month. He’s still a vital cog in the T-Pups’ machine, but he needs to devote his entire offseason to shoring up his shooting mechanics.

  4. Kyle, he missed it and was leaning in as he released it. It was a completely different stroke than his normal one. It was forward and not up. He knew exactly what he was doing and where it was going. The first miss was left iron and a much different trajectory. Knock his shooting all you want, but his free throw stroke is good and has been all year.

  5. Eric in Madison March 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Oh, there’s no question Rubio missed the 2nd one on purpose. He asked Adelman and Adelman said “miss it.”

    The whole exchange was on the broadcast.

  6. There is nothing wrong with Rubio’s freethrow mechanics. He has not been considered “good” at free throws, but I will give him “consistent” He seems to miss them at opportune times but all in all he is consistent. kyle is right though. Rubio does need to spend this offseason working on his jump shooting mechanics. He also needs to hit the gym a little more. Im not saying put on 10 pounds of muscle, but he needs to get stronger over all. He will fill out naturally as he ages. Rubio’s shot selection is what is killing his shooting percentage. If you go back to the beginning of season you would notice his shot selections were really good and he was hitting his shots more often. He was more patient waiting for his opportunities and took it to the hole at the right times. Its all a learning process that young teams go through. These teams love to break your heart! lol

  7. He missed the first one unintentionally, but to assume that Adleman would allow Rubio to make the second free throw is silly.

  8. I like what I see but cannot wait until we make a deal. Whether it’s Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin(hoping), or someone else who can score points at the wing position, I will be a happy man.

  9. I like Monte Ellis. I dont know why the Wolves are not in talks about getting him. He is young and explosive scorer that plays defense. Young, and could fill our 2 guard needs for years to come.

  10. What has impressed me the most about the 2012 Wolves, and it shined in this game. The Wolves show a lot more poise, and don’t seem to be as easily rattled by the other team going on a run. Last year, we would see them be in control for 40 minutes, and let 8 minutes undo all their work towards a win.

  11. Ellis, Crawford, or Morrow? I personally would like Morrow because he’s the best shooter of the three. At 6’5 he’s got pretty good size as well.

  12. Ellis would be good shooter, but he’s a ball hog as well. I’m not sure he’d fit in. I like players that willingly share the ball. Good passing offense beats isolation dribblers any day of the week. And the way Jamal Crawford is playing right now he’s not really convincing other teams to trade for him. Of course, coming to a new team can make a big difference. I’d love to get Kevin Martin but I doubt we have the resources to get him without giving up a player that I’d rather see stayed.

    Rubio has hit a wall it seems. He was way better than I though from game 1 and is struggling a little right now. He’ll get back into the mix though. Other teams are learning how to play him and he needs to figure out how to adapt to that and get back to his efficiency. He’s a competitor who really cares about the team (as opposed to a few other players on the team).

  13. Good point Ivan. I agree with alot but you also have to remember that good players on bad teams usually dont have many other options to score. Often those players try and take the full load on their shoulders. Coming to a winning team that has established scorers and leaders can change someone like Ellis. Take a look at Boston and Miami. They make it work and they win. Ellis comes here and he doesnt have to take on that offensive load and can use that energy to make better plays on defense. :)

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