Ok, ok. We already know that these Wolves have been massacred by injury, have seen a season of beautiful renewal utterly incinerate itself, have been robbed by history of even a good reason to tank (see more on this below), are fielding a roster that I’m pretty sure would have a good shot at the D-League championship. Thank you lockout-compressed schedule, for all of the marvelous gifts you continue to give.
With all of these things being true, Wolves fans are faced with an all-too-familiar scenario. When the Wolves play really well, when they play with great energy, when unexpected players go off, when they hit their shots and play inspired D, they are very nearly (but not quite) capable of winning a game. When they play just ok, they have no chance and lose by double-digits. And when they play especially poorly, as they did tonight in Indianapolis…really, really terrible things start to happen.
I’ll spare us all a detailed analysis of this game. Suffice it to say that all of the problems that have characterized the Wolves’ spring, particularly since Kevin Love went down–very poor perimeter D; poor defensive intuition off the ball; lackluster effort; over-dribbling and poor shot selection; the tendency for those poorly selected shots to lead to easy transition points for the opponent–went steroidal and cancerous. The Pacers opened the game with a 32-7 run and things never really got much better after that. This was one of the more gruesome halves of basketball you will every hope to see. Some notes on the nightmarish spectacle:
- You know things are bad when your opponent sits its best players, nestling themselves comfortably into garbage time…in the third quarter.
- You know things are bad when you rip off an 18-0 second-half run (mostly thanks to that garbage time lineup, plus the casual, watch-checking way the Pacers approached the fourth) and still can’t get the game within shouting-distance of single-digits.
- In the second quarter, the Pacers managed to grab five offensive rebounds on one offensive possession, the last of those being George Hill’s ridiculous windmill putback slam to extend Indiana’s lead to 32.
- I submit that the lineup of Malcolm Lee, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Tolliver, Derrick Williams and Ye Olde Brad Miller, which took the floor for two different stints in this game, may be the single worst lineup the Wolves have fielded since the Kevin Garnett trade. Although I’ll allow that some combination of Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic and Jonny Flynn (throw in maybe Brian Cardinal and Corey Brewer?) could probably have given them a run for their money
- …And yet, they weren’t the even the Wolves’ worst-performing lineup against the Pacers. That honor would fall to the starters, who’s average plus/minus for the evening was -23.6. J.J. Barea took the prize with a stunning -28.
- The Wolves began the game by missing seven of their first 11 free-throws. They missed 29 of their 40 first-half shots. Derrick Williams went 3-15 on the game. J.J. Barea went 5-14. Nik Pekovic: 4-11. Anthony Randolph: 1-7. I don’t want to do this anymore.
- What’s the difference between a healthy Nikola Pekovic playing with natural distributors like Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour and a hurt Pekovic, not playing with those guys? Well, Roy Hibbert blocked two of Big Pek’s shots without jumping.
- At 8:59 of the second quarter Anthony Tolliver misses a completely uncontested point-blank layup. At 8:34 of the second quarter, Brad Miller passes the ball off of AT’s head and out of bounds.
Finally, about that tanking. The Wolves have entered some terrifying anti-matter negative-tanking dimension. It is astounding to me that a team could look this awful, could be fielding a team this ragged, while actually trying their hardest to win basketball games. The Warriors’ best players were, respectively: shut down with a suspiciously tender foot; traded for a player with a broken ankle; shut down with a suspiciously tender groin. The Wolves’ best player was shut down for getting his head actually and obviously crushed by an incredibly bony elbow. Where is the cosmic justice in all this? Oh, here it is. From Royce Webb at Truehoop:
In the final game of the [’05-’06] season, the Wolves sat Garnett and Ricky Davis, and then turned the game against Memphis into a joke by inserting Mark Madsen and letting him fire away. In six seasons, Madsen had made only one 3-pointer in nine attempts. But in that game he tossed up seven 3-pointers and missed them all — they were his only 3-point attempts of the season. The Wolves lost the game in double overtime (Madsen started the second overtime with three 3-point bricks in less than a minute) and secured the draft pick.
After the game, Wolves coach Dwane Casey didn’t deny that the team was less than serious about winning the game: “The guys were having fun with it. For what we’ve been through this season, I thought the guys deserved it. I hope what we did didn’t make a mockery of the game.”
Guess which pick we’re talking about. Yes, that’s correct: the same first-rounder they still currently owe the Hornets for Marko effing Jaric. Good one, universe.