Grizzlies 94, Timberwolves 90: Questioning with questions
The Wolves lost another four-point game.
This one was deceiving though. The Wolves were down big early then came roaring (howling?) back to take the lead for some time in the fourth quarter. Then they gave up the lead and the game was pretty much decided in the final minute with a five to seven-point margin of defeat before some random offensive possessions brought the final deficit to four points. It was one of those odd endings that skew the numbers like a couple of other games have, but that’s neither here nor there.
What’s on everybody’s mind is the decisions made in this ball game because that’s ultimately what it came down to: decisions. With so many questions about these decisions from the fans and media tonight, I figured I’d just answer every question about this game and the Wolves and the meaning of life and the coach and Kevin Love leaving and whatever else can come up.
Why didn’t Rick Adelman play Ricky Rubio in the fourth quarter?
He thought JJ Barea gave the Wolves the best chance to win. He was a little perturbed by the line of questioning regarding this aspect of the game but he was also probably cranky because they didn’t pull off the victory. He said that he asked the people around him (I’m assuming he meant the coaching staff and not the courtside fans) if Barea gave them the best chance to win and they allegedly agreed. That means everybody around him agreed with the bad decision. If the Wolves win that game, fans still wouldn’t be happy about the decision to sit Rubio for the entire fourth quarter but they’d at least have a fun win to bask in. Instead, there is the cold paranoia of defeat to wallow in, which makes all of this questioning (justifiably so, I might add) happen.
But JJ Barea was horrible in this game, wasn’t he?
Wrong. Barea had a bad first half but so did the entire team, other than Kevin Martin. That doesn’t excuse Barea’s poor decision making in his 7:35 first half time; I’m simply not trying to pretend he had some overall amazing game that fell apart at the end. In the first 9:36 of his second half minutes, the Wolves were running beautifully. They outscored the Grizzlies 22-18 and Barea had eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, was 2-of-2 from downtown, and had three assists with no turnovers. He created 14 of those 22 points. He was good and there is no way of skewing it otherwise. He gave the Wolves a huge boost while giving Rubio some big rest.
The problem is that the final 3:20 of the fourth quarter were not fortuitous for the Wolves. Barea scored two points on two shots and didn’t have a single assist. His two points were also meaningless because it came in the final seconds of the game with the Wolves down six and the game basically finalized. I was ready to write about how Barea played poorly in the final 3:20 of the game because that’s what I was saying last night. Then I went back and looked at the possessions on offense. He actually didn’t play poorly. The Wolves just missed shots.
Other than the 3-pointer from Barea, it’s hard to find an actual mistake he made there. Wolves mostly got good shot attempts, whether because of Barea or because of somebody else and they missed. If you hated Barea’s 3-point attempt, that’s fine. Re-watching it, I thought it was a good look but I’m not sure it was the best shot they could have taken there, which is typically the criticism of Barea’s game, right?
So you think it was the right call by Adelman? Why are you defending this decision?
I DON’T think it was the right call by Adelman at all. I was vocal about that during the game and after the game. I appreciate Jon Krawczynski and Jerry Zgoda making sure after the game that the coach fully explained the thought process there because it was a legitimate question. Adelman has done this probably seven or eight times this season in which he’s benched Rubio in the fourth in favor of Barea. This is the second time I’ve absolutely disagreed with it. Rubio wasn’t playing poorly the last two times this decision has been made. When Rubio isn’t playing well, I’m fine with it because he’s very dependent on rhythm of the game and confidence. That wasn’t the case against the Grizzlies.
I’m trying to be as thorough with fleshing this out because I think the mutual exclusivity of the two ideas is important. Rubio should have played in the fourth. Barea wasn’t bad in his time out there. Just because you don’t like Barea as a player doesn’t mean every missed opportunity is an indictment on his game, role, or play on the court. There is plenty to criticize with Barea on any given night that we don’t need to force it. Adelman gambled and it failed. He screwed up this call.
So Rubio should have played in the fourth?
Absolutely. Rubio owned the third quarter in a way we’ve rarely seen. He was everywhere on defense and he created most everything on defense. It’s rare you see a point guard dominate a quarter without scoring a single point and yet Rubio did just that. He harassed Mike Conley, he dug down against the post on defense, and he was as disruptive as you can be without recording a steal. He created 13 points to the Grizzlies’ 16 points in the quarter. His passing allowed the floor to open up against a stifling Memphis defense, which allowed Kevin Love to handle the rest of the quarter. He had 18 points on his own just in that quarter. I haven’t seen two Wolves players combine to rule a quarter like that since KG and Sam Cassell.
Rubio would normally come in around the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter if we go off typical rotations for this Wolves team. There was a dead ball at 6:24 when Rubio could have checked in. There was another one at 5:24 of the fourth as well. During that 6:24, the Wolves were outscored 15-11. Barea had two points on three shots and two assists. Over the final 5:24 of the game, the Wolves were outscored 14-9. Considering Conley went down with an ankle injury (hope he’s fine) at 6:37 and the Grizzlies were forced to play Courtney Lee at the point, Rubio’s defense could have turned every Grizzlies’ offensive possession into a nightmare.
Should Adelman be fired or on the hot seat?
No. There is not a single one of us that knows this game as well as Rick Adelman. We would all do such a worse coaching job than him but as a collective, people seem to think the fan base knows the team better than he does. That’s absurd. It doesn’t mean Adelman doesn’t make mistakes and shouldn’t answer for them. He should and he had to after Friday’s loss. He’s going to screw up again. He’s also going to consistently put this team in a position to win games. Unless the Wolves are replacing him with Rick Carlisle, Stan Van Gundy, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, or Erik Spoelstra, I don’t understand how threatening or taking his job accomplishes anything positive or constructive this year.
Can we blame this loss on Adelman not playing Rubio?
It’s partially that but a lot more went into it than just that one decision.
Why did the Wolves lose this game then?
Well, they played like crap for the first 24 minutes of the game. They didn’t know how to push through against the Grizzlies’ team without Pek, they missed shots, and they gave up a bunch of shots inside to start the game. I love Ronny Turiaf but the fact that Pek wasn’t in the game was the worst possible injury for this matchup. If Pek plays, Gasol defends him. That means Z-Bo defends Love and maybe tires out a bit. Instead, Gasol defended Love almost the entire first half (and most of the game) and Z-Bo didn’t have to do much against Turiaf or Gorgui Dieng. Love defended Randolph well in the fourth, but Z-Bo was just too good and too fresh to not win that late matchup.
Throw in the big moment when Corey Brewer doubled Z-Bo and then had no idea where Tayshaun Prince was for the backbreaking corner three and you have your game right there. It wasn’t just not playing Rubio but that was certainly a factor.
If we keep losing these games, won’t Kevin Love want to leave?
He might leave. He might stay. If he does leave, the Wolves will still exist and they’ll try to figure this out with Flip Saunders at the helm. If he stays, they’ll continue building and we’ll have other things to figure out. Until that moment comes, worrying about it just seems like you’re terrified your girlfriend will break up with you so you ruin a chance of making the relationship fun. Plus, have you seen the Lakers these days? I know they can bounce back but sweet Olowokandi are they a mess both short and long-term.
So Kevin Love is going to stay?
Don’t games like tonight show just how much we need Kevin Love?
Absolutely. It’s cute when other fans want to call their favorite power forward the best one in the game but that’s just wrong. This guy is unreal and he was as engaged defensively against one of the toughest frontcourts without his bruising mate as we’ve ever seen him. He outscored the opponent in one quarter by himself. He defended. He dominated the boards. He slung passes for assists. The Wolves need him but we can’t do this:
Is this just another one of those stupid moral victories we keep hearing about?
You can spin this loss as a moral victory because of the Pek injury but I wouldn’t. This was just a loss, plain and simple.
Did you at least see that awesome block by Gorgui Dieng when Ed Davis tried to dunk on him?
What about the cool dunk from Kevin Martin?
What does Adelman not playing Rubio say about Adelman?
It says he doesn’t totally trust Rubio in these spots, even when he’s playing well. He loves a point guard (Mike Bibby) that can put up shots and the Wolves’ struggles at the end of games have been his worst nightmare. Adelman needs to adjust a bit like they’ve tried to do and Rubio has to consistently show up in these moments. It looks like he’s getting his confidence back the last week or so and I believe he’s finally breaking through those struggles from the past month.
What does Adelman not playing Rubio say about Rubio?
You got work to do, kid. Just keep working and we’ll see results.
Why did the Wolves only shoot seven free throws in this game? That’s as many as Courtney Lee shot. Was this one on the refs?
The officiating was not good. I don’t think it was one-sided; I just think it was bad officiating all around. It may have favored the Grizzlies more but I don’t think it was THAT much in favor of Memphis. They allowed a physical game for the most part (with some inconsistencies) and the Grizzlies will benefit from that. The Wolves benefit from the refs not allowing so much physicality. Martin and Love seemed to earn more free throws than they were given (just one!) but they need to play through it and figure it out.
Is the 3-point shooting ever going to get better?
Wolves are shooting 34.4% from 3-point range this season. That’s 25th in the NBA. It’s much better than last season but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. Chase hasn’t helped solve that problem yet. The Wolves went 6-of-22 from 3-point range in this game and it just hurt too much when coupled with the free throw scarcity.
Does this mean you’re bringing back Infinite Morrow?
I don’t think anybody wants that.
Is the game against the Hawks on Saturday a must win?
It’s a huge game, especially since the Hawks are so banged up. Going to be a tough back-to-back but this team has been good about bouncing back this season. Not a must-win because we haven’t even hit the 50-game mark this season but it’s very important.
So now what do we do?
I recommend watching the Will Smith/Jaden Smith movie “After Earth” today if you can. Watching how awful that was (for my second time) last night after the game really did a lot to put horrific happenings in perspective.