The hardest thing for me when it comes to writing about basketball is figuring out what to write when the Wolves blow somebody out. Everything typically goes correctly, because that’s how blowouts happen. There’s something odd about writing, “hey, the game plan worked!” especially when it’s against a bad team that is missing key players.
I’ve had a hard time coming up with stuff to say about the game, which might be a good thing. The Wolves had a bad collapse at the end of the loss to the Suns that sent everybody into a craze. It was the Wolvespocalypse and nothing was ever going to be sane again. Kevin Love was demanding a trade. Ricky Rubio needed more D-League time than Shabazz Muhammad. And the game had passed Rick Adelman by and he needed to get fired. These were obviously some of the extreme reactions to what happened.
And then they bounce back by taking care of business the next day. This has been the pattern for the team, which shows resilience but it doesn’t show growth. The question ends up being is resilience enough?
The Wolves have certainly been resilient. They’ve avoided losing streaks over two games since they fell under .500 for the first time this season back in late November. They usually follow up a loss or two with a win or two. After each heart-breaking loss since that moment, they’ve followed it up with a victory. The Wolves know how to bounce back but it’s the bouncing forward that seems to be a bit of an issue. That’s where the panic comes from. If they can’t figure it out now, how do we know they’ll ever figure it out?
As long as they manage to stay resilient over the next month or two, they’ll manage to stay in the playoff hunt. You can stick around .500 in the West for most of the season and feel really good about your chances of making a run at the postseason but eventually you have to start running. If we’re going to look for the potential of growth from the game, looking at the bench would probably be the way to go.
The Wolves’ bench had 43 points, thanks to Alexey Shved knocking down some shots, Chase Budinger looking more confident in finding his shot, Ronny Turiaf changing the energy the second unit has, JJ Barea dealing instead of pouting, and Dante Cunningham putting the ball in the basket. You can’t say that “this is what this bench unit is supposed to do” because that’s probably unrealistic. However, it’s definitely better than the five-point efforts we’ve seen several times this season and the expected production is probably somewhere in the middle. If the bench is holding or extending leads for the Wolves, it takes a ton of pressure off the starters.
As we know, the starters have been tested this season and that lineup plays more minutes than any other lineup in the league. That can be fine on any given night but it can’t be the norm every given night. If the Wolves are going to indeed make the leap, the bench unit has to improve and play with the energy and effectiveness we saw from them against the Bobcats. It doesn’t mean they have to have that same production, but the impact must find a way to show itself again and again.
As long as this team is relatively healthy, I don’t think many of us expect them to not be resilient. Losses will be followed by wins most nights. This team is too talented to not endure the tough ones and bounce back with a good effort. However, resiliency rarely guarantees the playoffs and we get to find out over the next stretch of games if the growth will start to happen. Even if they dip below .500 a couple more times this season, we want to see growth and proof that this is simply the interim and not the norm.
Maybe that’s what you learn from a blowout like this? Perhaps, you learn about how to start looking for the growth from this team? Sure, they beat a bad opponent but that still counts for something, especially in April. Failing to drop these types of games will set them up for success. Cohesion needs to be the norm and putting the bickering aside as early as the next game shows some personal growth and understanding from the parties involved. Next up? Let’s hope for some team growth to shine through.