I try to stay pretty measured when I’m talking about basketball for a very egotistical reason: I like being right.
I wish I had a nobler quest for discussing basketball but for the most part, I don’t see the point of taking a biased look at the NBA when it could stop you from being correct. I realize what an elitist attempt at viewing the NBA this ideology is but I’m being honest when I say that I like being right more than I like talking myself into my team being better than it might be. Some people aren’t built like that. They want to immerse themselves in the team, hope for the absolute best, talk up the guys they love watching and supporting (emotionally and financially), and be ride or die with their team.
I don’t fault that kind of thinking at all. It just doesn’t work for me just like my way of approaching it doesn’t work for a lot of people. One way is fun for some and not for others, and vice-versa. What does this little insight into my thought process have to do with the Wolves losing to the Houston Rockets?
My analysis of this game is pretty simple. I don’t want to take away from the Rockets’ victory. They beat the Wolves and did it pretty handedly. It wasn’t a blowout by any means but it also wasn’t really in question at any point. Maybe that does make it a blowout after all? Sometimes it’s hard to discern what’s a blowout and what has a chance of turning around. But again, I don’t want to take away from the Rockets’ victory. They were certainly the better team and exploited some poor defensive rotations on the perimeter. There are two things that seemed to great influence the outcome of this game.
First, the Wolves were on their fourth game in five nights. They were at Washington on the 19th, came home from D.C. to host the Clippers on the 20th, had the 21st off, hosted the Brooklyn Nets on the 22nd, and then flew to Houston to face the Rockets for the 23rd. They got in late to Houston, which is often a tough travel zone for a lot of teams around the league. The Rockets, on the other hand, played the Mavericks in Dallas on the 20th and then had the 21st and 22nd off to rest up and prepare for the Wolves on the 23rd.
Considering the talent and style of the Rockets (even without James Harden), that’s a pretty nice advantage for them thanks to the schedule. That doesn’t mean the Wolves shouldn’t get a loss there. You have schedule losses sometimes, something a lot of coaches are cognizant of when they look at what’s ahead of them. It was important for the Wolves to blow the Nets out of the water the night before but it still didn’t prevent them from getting run ragged by Houston. The schedule dictated they’d be behind the 8-ball in that game from the start. They probably would have been in a precarious situation anyway.
The Rockets are a really good team and if they can remain healthy and get some continuity together over the next couple of months, I could even see them contending for the Western Conference crown when it comes to the playoffs. We seem to forget that Dwight Howard is a great player, even though he’s an insufferable jackass in the media. Add in James Harden (yes, his defense is suspect but his scoring is suffocating) and a cast of role players that accept their roles and buy into the system and you’ve got a really well-balanced team. They need to learn how to defend better as a team, but I’d imagine that will come with time together on the court. It could be both a scheduled loss and a bad matchup for the Wolves. But give the Rockets credit; they beat a good Wolves team handedly without James Harden. That’s a big feather in their cap as well.
The second thing that influenced this outcome is the following:
AARON F***ING BROOKS HAD 26 POINTS IN A GAME IN 2013!
I don’t know what you do there. Aaron Brooks hasn’t really been a good NBA player since the 2009-10 season when he won Most Improved Player. Since then he’s had a huge regression. His legion of fans on Twitter (trust me; they come out of the woodwork when he’s inexplicably dropping points and you’re tweeting about it in a dumbfounded manner) will tell you the lockout screwed him over and he’s still good. I can assure you he’s really not. He hasn’t been a good shooter since his MIP season and he certainly hasn’t been a good player.
In his 123 games since the 09-10 season, he’s scored 13 points or more in a game 33 times. He’s scored 20 points or more seven times in a game. In the games he’s scored 13 points or more, his team is 16-17 (5-2 when he scores 20 or more). The idea of him dropping 26 points in a game in 2013 wasn’t just unlikely; it was almost funny to think about. The Wolves seemed to allow him to shoot. They defended some of them well but for the most part, he was the accepted safety valve from the Wolves’ perspective. At least that’s how it looked watching the game. He even had a couple of drives to the basket in which he tossed up some floaters off the glass that fell through.
Sometimes, it feels like if it’s going to take Aaron Brooks scoring 26 points to beat you, I think you just accept that as a fluke/freak occurrence and move on with the season. The Rockets still won fair and square. They controlled the majority of the game and got to play their style. They worked the Wolves for good shots and the 3-point shooting was sort of unseasonably warm, even for them. But Aaron Brooks scored 26 points in an organized, sanctioned NBA game in 2013 and it only took him 14 shots to do it.
I try to stay very measured in how I view the Wolves and basketball in general because I believe it’s the most beneficial for me, how I view the league, and my job. I would never want to come off as biased in a loss and pretend the other team didn’t work for their result and/or earn it. A lot of things happen throughout the course of a ball game that affect the outcome and that’s why I don’t like to blame the refs or generally make excuses for the loss. I think it makes more sense to look at what the Wolves can do better than to try and figure out a scapegoat to blame the loss on.
But… I mean… Aaron Brooks scored 26 points. He nearly matched his season total (28) in points in that one game. There are no excuses for the loss. The Wolves need to play with more energy and better focus to execute. But sometimes it’s just not your night.