Maybe it doesn’t matter what type of team you have.
People get tired and worn down. It’s hard to continue to fight for something that really doesn’t have an end game. There are days you don’t want to be at your job, even when you make a lot of money and have a cool profession. And what we see with a lot of teams that don’t have anything to play for at the end of a lost/wasted season is they give in to the regular human nature the majority of us have and they just kind of stop fighting like they used to. It’s something that you can get frustrated about as a fan, but at the same time, I get it.
I don’t want to say the Wolves aren’t fighting. I think they’re clearly fighting.
It’s just in the NBA, you’ve really got to fight and have the proper focus and the skill set to go with it and still need a little luck on your side for everything to bounce your way. Well, they don’t have the skill set of making shots. That’s been well documented by myself and many other people covering this team in the 2012-13 season. Against the Clippers, they struggled once again to make shots. It’s not just Ricky Rubio either, although he continues to abandon the improved mechanics that showed us a glimmer. The entire team struggles to make shots. Take away Ricky’s 2-of-8 performance from the field and their 38.9% success rate jumps up to a scintillating 40.2%.
“Jump on in! The water is nice and warm — mainly because I’ve been peeing in the pool!”
They also went 6-of-23 from 3-point range against the Clippers. Chase Budinger went 1-of-5, dropping his percentage since he came back from his knee injury to 34.1% from downtown. And while that’s not the sharpshooting the Wolves need, it would still be the second best percentage for the Wolves this season if he did it all year. The Wolves did a good job of taking care of the ball (11 team turnovers) and sharing the ball (23 assists on 35 made baskets). But making shots? It just wasn’t happening against the Clippers.
The Clippers have something to fight for right now. They’re gunning for that number three spot in the Western Conference or at least still trying to secure home court advantage in the first round if they end up playing the Denver Nuggets or Memphis Grizzlies. They needed to come out and stop messing around with opponents. They needed to dominate and remind everybody of the team that was sizzling to begin the season. That’s exactly what they did against the Wolves.
The Wolves don’t have anything to fight for right now. We can say pride and we can say professionalism; both of those answers would be correct. But with just a week left in the season and still having to play five games in the final seven days, mental and physical fatigue can easily swaddle you into a blanket of blah and let slip into the warmth of just trying to get through the rest of the season without major injury. With that said, they are fighting, but I’m not sure the focus is there. Or if it’s there then it’s not enough.
They’ve been blown out in the last two games by two teams that are better than them. The focus is easier to show up against bad teams like Detroit and a decimated Boston team. When you need it for two teams still fighting for playoff positioning in the Western Conference? That’s when the bad nights have. It could be bad against Friday night in Utah against a Jazz team that is fighting for their playoff lives. It should be much easier Saturday at home against a Phoenix Suns team that just lost a game on a goal tended 3-pointer. Then the Wolves close out the rest of the season with that same Jazz team still fighting for an extension in their season and then a Spurs team in San Antonio in which I’d be shocked if everybody on the Wolves didn’t have senioritis that night.
Again, I don’t fault them. It’s human nature and they’re still humans, even if some of them are humans that slay dragons. If I were going to try to spin this in a positive way, it took a lot longer than it has in years past for the focus at the end of a losing season to wane. Last year’s team was mad at each other for not everybody being on the same page and circling the vacations on their calendars. You haven’t seen any of that this year for two reasons:
1) This is a much better team, top to bottom, than what we were subjected to last season.
2) This is a much more mature team that plays better basketball across the board.
This team has fought much harder and for much longer. But eventually, apathy and exhaustion set in. As of right now, the Wolves could shoot for two goals to end the season and both involve winning two more games. Two more wins would give the Wolves their first non-losing April since the 2004-05 season. If they get two more home victories, it will be the first winning record at home in a season for Minnesota since the 2005-06 season when they went 24-17. Oh yeah, one more win means it’s the first 30-win season in franchise history that didn’t involve Kevin Garnett.
I guess this is progress?
Let’s just keep everybody healthy.