Timberwolves 85, Warriors 96
I know that it seemed as if the Warriors only took control of this game with their commanding 19-2 second half run, that, until that point, the game was the Wolves’ to win. After all, didn’t the Wolves did boast a double-digit first half lead and play evenly until that rickety fourth quarter? But despite some nice bench play from the likes of Shved and Cunningham, the answer is: only sort of. The truth is, the Wolves never put together an extended stretch of truly competent play. Their offensive execution was painfully inconsistent and while they defended with effort, their defense was marked by some serious structural problems. As Zach told us yesterday, this is no time to panic. The return of this many important players at one time is bound to cause some awkwardness and disarray. But lets not sugarcoat things: this was a pretty bad game from our Wolves.
|Kevin Love, PF 34 MIN | 6-20 FG | 2-4 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | -15A difficult night for Kevin Love. Didn’t look comfortable working within the flow of the offense. Didn’t look comfortable handling or shooting the ball, even after he tossed aside his ungainly hand pad. And although he battled hard on the defensive end, he was a step out of rhythm on D and even on the glass. I guess this is what happens when you don’t play basketball for a month.|
|Andrei Kirilenko, SF 35 MIN | 4-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | -7An off game for AK, and it was still pretty good. He didn’t have his customarily efficient shooting night but he got himself open, moved the ball well and battled defensively–even if he did occasionally lose sight of Harrison Barnes while roaming the strong side.|
|Nikola Pekovic, C 30 MIN | 7-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | -11Pekovic did some nice things: as usual, he rolled well to the basket; he moved well laterally on defense to cut off driving lanes. And he did some not nice things: he failed to get deep enough position on many of his post-ups, leading him into awkward jump hooks out of his range; he struggled to challenge Warriors’ shooters in the pick and roll game; he occasionally found himself out-of-position on defensive rebounds; he missed some make-able shots in the paint.|
|Luke Ridnour, PG 24 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 4 AST | 2 PTS | -7Luke missed wide open spot-up jumpers, and just about everything else he threw at the basket. He struggled mightily to stay in front of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, especially when defending the pick-and-roll. Suffice it to say, this was not his finest hour.|
|Malcolm Lee, SG 15 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -1Malcolm Lee displayed his full arsenal on Saturday. He played frenetic on-ball defense but still looked distinctly rookie-ish away from the ball. He strayed too far from the Warriors’ very good shooters on the weakside and struggled to fight through screens. And he just couldn’t do enough offensively–couldn’t finish his own chances or create any for anyone else–to justify extended minutes.|
|Derrick Williams, PF 11 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +2As was documented in detail by Jim Peterson during the game, this was a solid 11 minutes from Derrick Williams. He shot the ball well (although one horrendous brick and one flailing offensive foul are pretty much par for the course for DW) and, despite some errors in execution, played valiantly on defense and on the glass.|
|Dante Cunningham, PF 15 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +2You have to love the fact that the Wolves let Anthony Tolliver go and then brought in a more athletic, better shooting version of the exact same player to replace him. Cunningham was seriously disruptive on defense; he finished his scoring chances; he gave supreme effort throughout. In my view, he was Wolves’ best player of the game.|
|Josh Howard, SF 13 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -4Just a nondescript outing by Josh Howard. Nothing much to see here.|
|Greg Stiemsma, C 6 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | 0Stiemsma was priced out of this game by Marc Jackson’s small frontcourts. Still, he did what he does when he was out there: play an extremely limited offensive game and do his damndest to protect the rim. That’s alright by me.|
|Alexey Shved, PG 25 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 9 PTS | -3Shved made some great decisions with the ball–I love seeing him find Pek on those pick-and-rolls–and was the only Wolves’ guard to make anything of substance happen in the paint. But he also showed again that he is the master of the cold-check–that is, gunning off-balance 26-footers when you haven’t hit an outside shot all game. His long jumper remains hurried and unbalanced. And he looked a step slow defensively all game.|
|Jose Juan Barea, PG 31 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 10 AST | 8 PTS | -11JJ still doesn’t look as quick or explosive as he did before his foot injury and that is clearly affecting his ability to finish once he penetrates the paint. But, as he has for most of the season, he made good decisions and found open shooters.|
Four Things We Saw
- I mentioned earlier some issues with offensive execution. This was mostly a problem for the starting lineup. Their were a few factors at work here. The first is that Malcolm Lee and Luke Ridnour, weren unable either to force the Warriors’ defense into help situations with dribble penetration or stretch that D with outside shooting.But the more pervasive problem at the moment remains the team’s inability to play off of Kevin Love. As it has since his return, the offense seems to stagnate when the ball is in Love’s hands. The Wolves have gotten used to playing without a true isolation scorer and have been unable to move effectively without the ball now that they have one. And it certainly doesn’t help when that scorer is as off his game as Love was tonight.
- Here’s another offensive problem, one that we’ve become all too familiar with: the Wolves’ outside shooting is terrible. They hit only five of their 27 three-point attempts tonight. Some of this was due to shaky shot selection but it was mostly thanks to simply missing wide open spot-up jumpers. Whatever the reason, though, its pretty hard to win in this NBA if you can’t hit threes. I’m afraid this is not going away.
- As I alluded to earlier, although the Wolves played mostly competent defense, there were some real problems at the point of attack. Problem 1: the Wolves’ guards were mostly unable to bother Curry and Thompson as they turned the corner on the pick-and-roll. Problem 2: this left the Wolves’ bigs in a tough spot. Do you retreat in an attempt to contain dribble penetration? When they did this, Curry and Thompson simply pulled up and hit jumpers. Do you hedge the screen, giving the primary defender the chance to recover? Sounds great, except that the Wolves’ were inconsistent in their hedges, allowing those ballhandlers to penetrate the paint and cause all kinds of problems.
- That Harrison Barnes dunk was utterly filthy. When he rose up and cocked his arm back, I thought we were in for a hilarious JaVale McGee-esque fastball off the backboard. Barnes just didn’t seem even remotely close enough to the hoop to throw it through. But when he did, crushing the game but, um, physically limited Nik Pekovic in the process, I was put in mind of ‘Nique himself and his elastic, eyes-at-rim-level tomohawk classics. That was sweet.