Timberwolves 96, Hawks 104: Homemade Alarm Clock

Steve McPherson —  January 21, 2013 — 15 Comments

Hawks-vs-Twolves-LMI

You can throw this game on the heap with other Timberwolves defeats this season where a hot start proved to be unsustainable in the second half. Several of these games happened under Adelman’s watch, particularly just after Love’s return, but it’s gotten progressively worse with Porter acting as head coach in Adelman’s stead. As Zach pointed out, the Wolves have the worst second half differential in the NBA under Porter at -21.1 points per 100 possessions. In today’s game, after scoring 58 points in the first half, they piled up just 38 in the second, divided evenly between the two quarters.

It’s tempting to chalk this up to a lack of resolve or heart or some noble and abstract notion. Doing so would confirm what is in a way both our greatest fear and our greatest desire as Midwesterners broadly and Minnesota sports fans more specifically: that it’s hopeless. This way, we get to grump and grouse about our team. Maybe it keeps us warm. But at this point, staring down the stacks of bodies piling up on the trainer’s table, I don’t think we have to draw any big lessons from this other than realizing that it’s damn hard to build a team that can hold up over a whole game when the parts aren’t doing the jobs they’re supposed to be doing.

The Wolves are now, essentially, a Rube Goldberg machine.

RubeGoldberg

The machine can work for stretches, and we saw that in the first half of this game. It didn’t hurt that the Hawks were sloppy, especially on defense. What this meant is that within the Wolves’ limited offensive repertoire, players were getting the looks they want: Dante Cunningham got open midrange jumpers, Luke Ridnour hit pull-up jumpers in transition, Chris Johnson finished alley-oops, Derrick Williams hit jumpshots and executed dunks (although it may have cost him future Derrick Williams, Jrs at one point).

But coming out of the half, the whole jury-rigged machine started falling down around their ears. The Hawks jumped out on a 10-0 run and went on to score 26 in the third and 34 in the fourth, including 14 points from the Hawks’ own 10-day hero, Jannero Pargo. Pargo was signed this morning to fill the void created by Lou Williams’ season-ending injury and fill it he did.

The Wolves own stopgap solutions—Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson—were not the saviors they were on Saturday against the Rockets, but Gelabale put in 7 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in 16 minutes of action. Johnson ran into foul trouble early.

At this point, stopgap solutions are all that’s coming down the pipe, and I found myself thinking as the third quarter slipped away that maybe the Wolves’ best strategy is to come out with just a ridiculous amount of energy in every game and then hope whatever lead they can build is enough to carry them through the end of the game. For a while, it looked like that might be what they were doing in this game, except as the minutes ticked off, it became apparent they couldn’t hold the Hawks at bay, especially once they got Horford working down low (where the Wolves got beaten up to the tune of 16 points in the paint to 12 and 8 second chance points to 2) and Korver hitting from outside.

A novel idea: having a guy who can bang down low and a guy who can hit from outside and basically working the push-pull between the two of them. As it stands, the Wolves best player on paper right now is Andrei Kirilenko, but he’s not a player the team can climb on top of. He works best in the seams between other players, while a player like Barea works best as a hot change of pace off the bench. But there’s so little stability to this team right now that not only are players being asked to do too much, they can’t even be sure when they’re going to be asked to do it in a game.

And here’s where I take it to Terry Porter, to come back to that differential rating I started with. Last week, when asked about how much input Adelman still has in the team right now, Porter said that it’s still Adelman’s team, that he’s still making lineup decisions and rotation decisions, that he talks to him a couple times a day. And that has me worried, because no matter how much on the same page they feel they are, we’re talking about two different people with a hand in how the team is planning to play, and I’m not sure that there aren’t crossed wires, or even just a conflict within Porter as he’s out there on the floor between what he thinks he should do and what Adelman would do.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. As I said, this team is so far from being in a kind of regular working order that it might not make a big difference. And there’s no sense in which I want Adelman back if he can’t be fully back given his family situation. But a little clarity might go a long way towards making the path forward clear for this battered and bedraggled team.

Steve McPherson

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15 responses to Timberwolves 96, Hawks 104: Homemade Alarm Clock

  1. I’m sympathetic to their situation, but with that said, it doesn’t seem productive to me to strongly connect every loss with their shorthanded roster. The Hawks played better in the second half than the first, but the Wolves gave up that lead through undisciplined play by the starters. However tired and weary they may be, they still need to be able to get back on defense and avoid mistakes on offense. Just doing those two things would’ve given them a shot to win in the final minutes.

  2. I gotta say something about Steisma. What’s goin on? Is it Sikma? Is it the home he grew up in? Did he well-marry? Somebody told him to mind his own business and things will work out. Somebody was a wonderful influence on him! Who was it?! Haven’t seen this group- focus, like ever. Not typical NBA, not typical “things come easy to some people.” I only recognize what it is not. A monk-like quality to deal with only things that matter. Somebody told him how to play, a very mature person. He is a goal tender, like in soccer or hockey. He is to be a force, in a clever way. He will fight and talk, but usually the physical nature of sport is the last word. He is like Sikma. It never looked like he was anything other than his own man. A solitary creature, playing within himself, and representing his God as best he can. So he is adept to learn and grow.

    Before Pek went away, I cried for additional backup. Seems like no one saw a reluctant Pek and an untalented Steisma is no way to man a center position. Then Pek goes down, and I remember early-Steisma as admitting all he must’ve had going for him is he’s tall. The open shot worked, but anyone can hit an open shot. His shot was quick and automatic, and probably now indicative of his easy-outlook on this job/career he seems to be involved in. It is at arms length that he keeps his emotions from his job. Whether playing well or not, winning or losing, he still jumps around if he wants to. He is independent of the game. He can only play the game his own way. If you don’t like that, fine, but I wouldn’t give him guff about it. He may lose a fight sometime, but not an argument, and not his pride. Probably a thinking-mans player, but in a very blue-collar, common sense way.

    Before someone thinks this can be said after anyone’s good game, he’s consistent isn’t he? I think he has an approach that will work in most situations, given that he is healthy to participate. A bit of a throwback, a real crow magnum, a unique character. And who doesn’t want to see something else play this game?

    P.S. Rubio’s done.

  3. Crow magnum? Ye gods!

  4. I am trying to figure out what the T-wolves should do? I am thinking that now is the time to make a trade. They can get pretty good value on a lot of their pieces. Are Pekovic and K-love going to truely play well together? How about Rubio and Ridinour and Barea? How about Derick Williams and Pekovic and K-Love? The Wolves are going to lose value on their pieces because they are going to keep stinking and losing games so pull the trigger now I say.

    K-Love is probably one of the players to hang onto. He is very talented. Rubio probably hang onto as well, but I am less sure about him because something is missing in his game. I had my eyes on Demarcus Cousins for a potential multi team trade with his nice post up game and outside shot or an athletic shot blocker 5 type. Would love a 2 that could defend and hit threes with a Demarcus Cousins or a slightly better defender then Ridinour that can score if they go for a shot blocker type.

    The wolves have expiring contract with Brandon Roy, Pekovic, Williams, one of three point guards, and a high first round. Hopefully they can package those assets into two players and see what they can get now and for the future.

  5. Yes. A large crow. Indeed.

  6. The real problem is that the Wolves, in their current situation, are so bad that opponents don’t make a sincere effort until the end of games. As soon as the other team gets over their lethargy, we’re overwhelmed. It appears like we’re truly competing in the first half, but it’s a ruse.

  7. They gave up big leads last year as well. This is an Adelman trend that has nothing to do with injuries. The Wolves were giving up big leads early into this season when the team was relatively healthy. Its a bad trend that happens to younger more immature teams and when teams figure out how to hold those leads, thats when they turn the page and become that elite team in the NBA. audreyandchuck – What the heck are you rambling about. No where in that rant do you make any sense. Ha. Rubio is done. Please.

  8. @audreyandchuck Huh?

  9. Rubio is not done, somebody just needs to tell him to score more. He’s the best distributor the Wolves have and the one of the top 10 in the NBA right now, even coming off an ACL injury. But for whatever reason he can’t shoot. His mechanics are right but he’s got no confidence. The only way scorers can build confidence is by scoring. He needs to teach NBA teams that he will and can go to the rim and then his entire game will open up.

  10. Cro-Magnon Man is a name applied to the earliest known European examples of Homo sapiens, modern human beings.

    crow magnum = large raven = Bryant McKinney

    It’s Stiemsma. . . S-T-I-E-M-S-M-A

  11. Right, because Jannero Pargo is so talented that he overwhelmed Rubio/Ridnour/Barea. It’s not a ruse, and they weren’t overwhelmed by this Hawks team, nor were they overwhelmed by Houston on Saturday. No one’s saying the current group would be a playoff team, but they didn’t lose because they were overwhelmed by Josh Smith or because Al Horford was plowing through double teams. The Wolves had an advantage in the backcourt and played their frontcourt well in the first half; in the second half, their lack of focus and effort combined with the Hawks playing well added up to a loss.

  12. As for making trades, there’s no reason to trade anyone unless it makes the team better without sacrificing too many future assets. Roy will obviously be in play, but they can’t lose value in a deal by taking on a bad contract or giving up too much else. I’m hesitant about giving away more than 1-2 future 1sts over the next 5 years, but that’s obviously an option. If they question the value of Pek and would seriously contemplate not matching an offer sheet from another team that was too high, they have to get something valuable for him (though if they really didn’t like him they’d be better off signing him either way and trading him in the future, like Denver did with Nene). If they plan to let Cunningham walk in the summer so they can open up more minutes for Williams, they have to consider getting something back that would provide value beyond this season. If they’re certain AK47 is opting out and won’t come back, they need to weigh how much cap space they might have and determine whether they’re better off getting something for him or just using any cap space to bring in another player.

    Other than that, selling out to make the playoffs can’t be their goal, but they also have to assume that they’re a playoff contender for next season and not get rid of useful players who are under their control and wouldn’t bring back players that’d make the team better.

  13. Wow, some real out-there comments today. What is it that audreyandchuck is trying to say? Rubio is done?!? Big trades to re-shape the roster? Silly. This roster hasn’t even had the chance to play together. DeMarcus Cousins? Puh-leeze. The guy is talented but toxic. It will be interesting to see what they do with Pek. Best option is to keep him, I say. We may end up having to overpay him, but he’s a beast, we need a center, and what other C would we get in a trade? My biggest concern is that KahnTaylorAdelman will make a short-sighted trade to try and get the #8 seed and save that 10% refund to season ticket holders. Let’s roll with what we have. Watching Williams and Rubio develop will be fun. We’ll win a few more games with Rubio improving every day, better depth from Gelabel and Johnson, and a rested Alexey. And, when we get Buddinger and Love back, maybe we’ll get a jolt and make a run at #8.

  14. Dante C. has made a nice mark with the Wolves but he would no doubt love to walk in the summer. He will qualify for a much better contract than $2M on the open market.

  15. I’m pretty sure the guy with the boner for Steisma is trolling.

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