Kings 116, Wolves 108: Go Utah!

Zach Harper —  April 3, 2012 — 5 Comments

I think it’s safe to say the nail in the playoff coffin has been inserted.

After the loss to Boston on Friday, the Wolves had a favorable stretch of games in which they could presumably sweep them and end up climbing above .500 and right into the Battle Royale playoff fight. After the first two games of this stretch, the Wolves have dropped both while trying to shuffle through injuries and playing atrocious defense all around. Wolves are now five games under .500 and free falling into a lottery position they don’t get.

I think to expect playoffs as an actual possibility, even if it’s mathematically possible, is just irrational hope wrapped in a warm blanket of denial. Luke Ridnour is probably gone for a long time after that ankle injury tonight. Even if it’s just three or four games (by some miracle), there are only 11 games left in this season. Pek came back tonight and gave good minutes, but they were probably able to afford his absence a lot more than Luke’s.

Maybe JJ Barea can come back on Wednesday and play some good basketball. Maybe Pekovic’s ankle will still be okay (he told Adelman after the game that only his conditioning gave him problems) and he can build on his minutes while still scoring efficiently. Maybe Malcolm Lee will grow with each outing and give the Wolves some really solid minutes at the point.

Even then the Wolves have 4.5 games to make up with just 11 to play. The math looks funny to me. 

In reality, the defense has been just putrid the last three games and I don’t see any reason to believe it’s just going to magically get better. The Wolves’ are getting broken down off the dribble on the perimeter almost every play. If they’re lucky enough to hedge properly on a pick-and-roll, the team seems to be recovering slowly to shooters and cutters.

You can’t really blame them either. The compacted season teaming up with the waterfall of injuries in a dastardly way have really put the core players who aren’t too injured to sit out at a pace of exhaustion that many of us will never know. This team is battered and bruised. It’s been pummeled and run through the ringer of an inhuman schedule of play.

But the Wolves aren’t the only team to go through injuries this year and Rick Adelman certainly is never going to let them use it as an excuse for poor play. It doesn’t excuse not exploiting a mismatch with Kevin Love being guarded by Donté Greene. It doesn’t excuse letting Terrence Williams go for 12 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. It doesn’t excuse letting Jimmer go off for 19 points in 25 minutes.

The Wolves shot 48.1% from the field, 52.4% from the 3-point line and got to the charity stripe 26 times in this game. They didn’t really turn the ball over much (12) or give up points off of those turnovers (10). They scored 108 points in a 93-possession game. By all accounts, this should have been a very good game for the Wolves if you just look at the offensive numbers.

The two big problems are they allowed the Kings to make more than half of their shots and they gave up 60 points in the paint. I don’t even care about the 21 points in transition right now. 60 points in the paint is just an unacceptable effort, even if the team is injured.

It sucks wondering what this team could have been with a healthy Rubio and Pek not having such a bum ankle. I would have loved to see what this team was capable with a relatively healthy squad on their seven-game road trip. We just didn’t get that luxury and now the team is 4-10 since Rubio’s injury and falling away from the playoff race.

I want to be wrong about the playoffs not being within reach. But there are four teams to climb in a short amount of time. A win at home against the Warriors on Wednesday may be the difference between team morale being high enough to finish out the season strong and completely falling apart in the last three weeks of the season.

Now, the best we can hope for is a competitive finish to the season and for Utah to make the playoffs as the 8th seed. Go Jazz?

Zach Harper

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5 responses to Kings 116, Wolves 108: Go Utah!

  1. Yes, go Jazz. We looked very tired today. It looked like the Kings played way too fast for us to react to where the ball was going and we were too slow in rotating to cover the shooters. I’d like tot think that Adelman has taught defense to this team and usually it’s implemented better in a game. Having played with a short bench due to injuries is taking its toll more than anything else right now.

    It’s kind of funny that everyone always laugh at Kahn for drafting so many PGs. It’s kind of funny how people were talking about why did we sign JJ when Rubio was coming and we had Luke already. It’s kind of funny because now all our PGs are hurt. Only Kahn knew how many we’d need on the team and we ended up with not enough after all. I hope Luke and JJ will be able to get back soon. Meanwhile, Malcolm Lee, you got the keys to the car I guess.

  2. I’ve been cheering for Utah and rooting against Denver and Houston for a couple of weeks now. There are some interesting players in the draft that could help the Wolves out next year. Unfortunately, Houston keeps finding a way to win games, despite having some key guys out with injury.

  3. Yep, stick a fork in that playoff-dreams lasagna. It is done. We really are lost on perimeter D, and slow to help inside. We can score, so our focus should really be on limiting the opponents’ offense. Time to start rooting for 30 wins as the goal. If they can do that with this depleted roster, it will be a solid season. I’m not convinced they will get there, however..

  4. Is it better to have a pick this year in a relatively unimpressive draft this year or have a chance at a slightly better pick next year?

    And I don’t totally understand this:
    “Minn has option to swap picks in 2014 if Utah pick is 10 or lower. Otherwise Minn receives 2nd rounder.”

    Or maybe I do, but it seems kinda meh.

  5. Whenever I predict the future, I find it almost always either A) inaccurate or B) infuriating to someone else. The latter case is usually when I am forced to estimate when I’ll get artwork done for some client, or picking my (ex) girlfriend up at work and being forced to estimate when I will get there during an unexpected traffic jam.

    However, this kind of prediction doesn’t fit the “B” case – it’s just that I don’t see any possible way the Wolves will make the playoffs. As Zach Harper intimates above, the Golden State game seemed like “the” game; the one that would make or break the team’s season. They almost won, but I had virtually stopped watching the games at this point. They were playing like I imagined they played for their moratorium years in the latter half of the 2000′s (I had stopped following sports for most of this time). They’d get a lead, then quickly cough it up, then get it again, then Kevin Love would start complaining for a foul every time he drove to the basket.

    It was sad to see. But, not entirely unexpected. A while back I said that they might recover from the Rubio injury by simply following the tone of tough, defensive, selfless play he had set in motion months earlier. I even suggested that Pekovic was more important to the team than Rubio at the time.

    Alas, I was wrong on so many counts. Rubio “was” the reason this team started filling up the Target Center, and also the reason they were nipping at the heels of the Western Conference powerhouses every single game. Luke, sadly, lacks any kind of dynamism that the league’s elite point guards all share. I’d almost rather have him be flashy and turnover prone than what he is, which is a gag-worthy epitome of convention. There were two games – at OKC and home against Denver, that we played with tenacity.

    IF we had won that OKC game, we might be in a totally different spot right now. But of course we lost, I think due to a blown traveling call at the end of the first OT by that familiar old, pudgy referee with a huge bald pumpkin head. The image of him stopping, hunching over, then almost dancing into the “travel” gesture, is deeply etched into my memory. You could clearly sense that he was doing it to please the packed, raucous OKC crowd. I bet he blew that whistle, realized he was wrong, then just made that call to make up for his error.

    That to me was the watershed moment of our tumultuous season, where we simply gave in to the forces around us.

    I look forward to next season, but curse the hellish fate that Kobe wracked on Rubio (I never liked Kobe before, now I hate him even more!) and utterly flattened the livelihood of a burgeoning powerhouse franchise. What a sad and painful end to a season that at one point seemed too good to be true. There was a post a while back in which one of the bloggers here said something like, “I keep thinking something awful is going to happen, like Adelman announcing he has to spend time with his family, or Rubio….” And it happened about a month later.

    Here’s to hoping Rubio never gets seriously injured again.

    As to the Wolves’ season, the nail is in the coffin. And this is one prediction I will stand firmly behind.

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