Bulls 104, Timberwolves 97: a broken clock is wrong almost always
“A broken clock is right twice a day.”
This is one of those sayings that is supposed to be clever and profound, but all it does is make me irate when people use it as a crutch for a terrible argument. Sure, a broken clock is correct twice a day, unless you’re in the military — then it’s correct only once a day. And the rest of the 1,439 minutes, you’re left looking at a time holder that is incorrect and you start wondering how you can get this clock fixed. Or maybe you’re wondering if you need to get a new clock altogether.
The point is a broken clock needs to be fixed. Depending on the type of clock, it could just need new batteries or it could need to be wound up. Or maybe there is a gear that’s completely disconnected. Regardless, if you want that same clock to work then you need to figure out what’s wrong with it and how to get it back to keeping the intended time.
Watching the Wolves struggle with the Chicago Bulls Sunday evening, I couldn’t help but notice how off the timing was. Aside from the loose ball in which it felt like Andrei Kirilenko dove for the ball about four times before securing, the Wolves just seemed to be a step slow. The Bulls secured short rebounds and long rebounds before the Wolves could correctly react to the trajectory of the errant shot. The Bulls got to loose balls on the ground before the Wolves could turn them into turnovers and possibly points the other way. If there was a step to be taken, it just looked a split-second too slow.
It started with Andrei Kirilenko. In his five games back, he’s had flashes (he was great against the Suns but they’re not a real basketball team) of being his old self, but he hasn’t been able to put together a string of consistency in any of the games. That could partly be the injury still lingering (sometimes it just flares up again) or it could be a lack of rhythm because of the restriction on minutes. It’s likely a combination of the two for such a heady player that is constantly looking for the ebb and flow of a basketball game to make his mark. He had an extremely tough task of dealing with Luol Deng and he did a good job. But he rarely found a way to make an impact on offense against the Bulls.
We saw similar things with Nikola Pekovic in this game. He had a great second half against Chicago, but his first half seemed like a series of mistimed calculations. He couldn’t find defensive rotations, he missed a couple of passes that he normally catches, and the rebounding just wasn’t good enough as the Bulls completely worked over the Wolves on the boards. In fact, the Bulls just flat-out owned the paint in the first half of the game. In the first 24 minutes of the game, Minnesota had 17 total rebounds and the Bulls had 13 rebounds just on the offensive side. The Wolves made just 9-of-23 on their first half attempts in the paint.
This was enough of a lull in the game to give the Bulls the advantage they needed to maintain the lead and withstand the runs of the Wolves. The second half looked like this team finally figured it all out, in terms of how they needed to attack Chicago. They showed a much better sense of shot selection throughout the game; sometimes it’s just really hard to score against the Bulls’ defense and their system, even if Joakim Noah isn’t playing. Tom Thibodeau plugs in a role player and they adjust what they need to do. It’s something you’d love to see Rick Adelman be able to do when injuries come up, except he hasn’t had much of a chance to implement his system over the first two seasons of his tenure here because of injuries, a lack of practices, and lockout shenanigans.
As frustrating as it is to see your team be beaten by Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson (they both had fantastic games), there were some encouraging signs from the Pups. They only attempted 12 3-pointers in the game and knocked down six of them. The majority of the attempts were good shots in the flow of the offense. They didn’t really force a whole lot from the perimeter. This is the kind of shooting you’d like to see more of from them. It looked measured and it looked pure, for the most part. We also continue to see the team fight back when faced with adversity. However, there is a problem with that.
The Wolves still haven’t learned how to turn the game on their opponents from the get-go. It seems like they’re still getting down in the first half, fighting back, and coming up short. I’d love to see them come out against a good team with a good system and take the fight to them before they have to realize the fight has been brought to their arena. The players sounded unusually upbeat after the loss, perhaps confident that the second half of basketball was a good sign that the pieces are starting to fit back together. Perhaps as everybody gets more tuned up and we see Chase, AK, and Pek worked back into the rotation without restrictions, it will all begin to make sense.
Or maybe we’ll continue to see a team that always looks like it’s on the cusp of getting it but never actually grasps what is needed to become the team we hope to see.
The positives to take away from this game were Rubio deciding to take on a scoring load and doing so efficiently, Pek playing well in the second half and even looking like he was jumping much quicker than he normally does, the team falling into a zone and making it work against the Bulls’ outside shooting, and Derrick Williams’ continued scoring success. The negatives were the bench struggling early, AK’s slow reactions, poor free throw shooting, and the team getting slaughtered on the boards.
There were times against the Bulls in which the Wolves’ clock seemed to be keeping perfect time. However, there were still too many moments in which I looked at the clock and started wondering what the time really was.