2013-14 Season

Timberwolves 93, Bobcats 105: Fire and Nice

BrewerSmileOver the past week and a half, the Wolves have had three opportunities to get to two games over .500 – a place they haven’t been since before Thanksgiving – and all three times, they’ve laid eggs. Minnesota lost to New York and Toronto at home, and last night, they fell to Charlotte on the road. The Bobcats are a plucky team, now 13-7 over their past 20 games, with a red-hot center (Al Jefferson), a good coach (Steve Clifford) and a roster full of hungry players, but detailing the opponent’s merits following disappointing losses is beginning to get tired.

Rick Adelman, employing both diplomacy and rationalization, is fond of speaking well of the opposition in his post-game pressers, which is somewhat expected, yet tiresome all the same. No salvos are fired inward, no matter how warranted they may be. Kevin Love had some sharp words for J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham awhile back, but that was the closest thing we’ve had to a fiery, public confrontation. When it comes to addressing his own team, it’s impossible to know what happens behind closed doors, but Adelman’s content to offer simple platitudes, rather than strongly worded criticism, through the media. Last night was no exception:

“They’ve got to play. The season’s still there, playoffs or no playoffs. You’ve got to play. You’ve got to finish the year out and you’ve got to compete. Next game, we’ve got to come out and try to win.” 

Fortunately, I am bound by no such diplomatic fanfare. There are plenty of reasons why the Timberwolves have lost as many as they’ve won, and last night had a little bit of everything.

1. Kevin Love’s shoulders are sagging from the weight of the load.

Postgame, he spoke about his fatigue, having played 42 and 40 minutes in the Wolves’ previous two games, respectively, and last night he looked gassed. He played 31 of the first 36 minutes in the game, starting strong, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first half. After the break, however, Love missed all 7 of his shots from the field and failed to get to the free throw line. He became a jump shooter, failing to capitalize on the post-ups, putbacks and catch-and-shoot threes that contribute to his success.

2. Nikola Pekovic is nicked up.

The big man’s ankle issues flared up again, leaving Pek lumbering up and down the floor and unable to finish post moves. He exited early in the 3rd quarter and was replaced by Gorgui Dieng, and Al Jefferson’s appetite for the Wolves’ rookie could not be satiated. It was a tough assignment for Dieng, guarding the man with (perhaps) the most polished post game in the league, and Big Al had a feast, scoring 13 3rd quarter points on his way to a 25 point, 16 rebound performance. Pek’s absence left Minnesota woefully shorthanded inside. Speaking of which…

3. The rotations were all out of whack.

The second unit was terrible, again, partially by design, and partially due to execution. The Wolves opened the 2nd quarter with a lineup of Barea – Budinger – Muhammad – Mbah a Moute – Cunningham. Huh? The Wolves’ lack of interior presence allowed the Bobcats to drive into the paint, because there was no big fellow in a black shirt to deter them, and once inside, were able to finish or kick it to open shooters on the perimeter. Adelman’s reluctance to match Dieng up with Al Jefferson (until Pek’s injury forced his hand) was understandable, but the Bobcats’ big man for this run was Bismack Biyombo, who Dieng could’ve probably handled.

A sequence from the 8:00 to 7:27 mark of the 2nd quarter was the turning point of the game. It started with Luke Ridnour hitting one of his patented 17 foot midrange jumpers, extending the Bobcats’ lead to 6. Up to this point, the Wolves’ bench had been treading water, but this is where they drowned. Minnesota brought it up the floor, failed to generate even a half-decent look, resulting in J.J. Barea taking a wild scoop shot. Barea grabbed his own miss (great!), was free in the paint (awesome!), but instead of shooting it (what?!?) he attempted a misguided lob to Shabazz Muhammad (why?!?) who missed, leading to a Charlotte fast break (of course), during which time Barea sauntered back to the defensive end leisurely (uh oh), where Gary Neal was standing open behind the three point line (woops!), and suddenly the bad guys led by 9. The Wolves were never within 9 points from that point on.

4. Corey,

I like Corey Brewer more than most, and I hate to go all in on calling out one specific player when a loss is (clearly) a team effort, but holy crap, Corey Brewer was awful. Awful. I have pictures.


We’re three minutes into the game for this one. Steve McPherson look-alike, Josh McRoberts, holds the ball at the top of the key. Gerald Henderson, on the left wing, begins to make his cut, with Corey Brewer defending him.
Henderson takes a couple of steps to his left – without even aggressively cutting to the lane – and Corey… Corey gets lost, anyway.
McPherson, I mean, McRoberts, swings the ball to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the right wing and prepares to set a screen on Brewer, but Corey has taken himself so far out of the play, it isn’t necessary. This ends with a Henderson three-pointer.

And this:

At the 5:00 mark of the first quarter, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stands on the right wing and begins give-and-go action with Cody Zeller.
Brewer is able to cut around the Zeller screen, cutting Kidd-Gilchrist off, which seems perfect, right?
Except Brewer sells out for the steal attempt, instead of staying in front, leaving Kidd-Gilchrist a wide open lane to the rim when his gamble fails. MKG, by the way, shoots 55% at the rim and 36% everywhere else this season. Brewer just needed to stay in front.

 And one more:

Does this need commentary? Brewer is watching the ball instead of his man (MKG, again)…
… so MKG just walks right around him…
… and this happens.

5. Differences in body language.

Ever since you-know-who started talking about body language incessantly, and to the point of absurdity, I’ve tried to avoid the subject. It’s far too subjective for my taste. However, you could tell that the Bobcats genuinely enjoyed playing basketball together, and it was actually sort of refreshing to see a team act that way. On multiple occasions, following both good plays and bad, the cameras caught ‘Cats players, two or three at a time, huddling up, chatting and gesturing around the court, learning each other’s tendencies, getting a feel for what the other prefers in specific situations. Chris Douglas-Roberts seemed especially invested in pumping up his teammates, particularly new addition Gary Neal, who had a terrific night.

It’s not that we’ve seen the opposite of that out of the Wolves – they’ve had no instances of on-court quibbling, really – but the total absence of cohesiveness and chatter is a bit troubling. Ronny Turiaf really, really tries to foster that, but he’s been hurt so often it hasn’t taken hold. I have no idea who to pin it on, and I’m not convinced a single person could be blamed for such a thing, but whatever it is, whether it’s swagger or ubuntu or chemistry, the Wolves don’t have it.

Not that such a thing could help you win games. It seems like a byproduct of winning, rather than a cause. At any rate, it’d be nice to see some signs of life out of the Wolves to close the season. A little bit of fire, or a little bit of nice, either one would do the trick.

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22 thoughts on “Timberwolves 93, Bobcats 105: Fire and Nice

  1. Wow, that’s some defensive stopper we have. That looks like the my defense in crappy weekend warrior pick-up games. Also, I think Turiaf being out so much this year has hurt this team quite a bit. Between being a solid defensive presence and an emotional leader he’s an important part of the team. He stepped up huge when Pek was out.

  2. If I took this team more seriously, these pictures make me want to vomit and/or throw things.

    Is it possible to come up with a worse way to complement the defense of Love and Pekovic? Wolves have to strong big men that do well at denying post position and are below average at help defense and Flip pays over $15/year for three wing players (Martin, Brewer, Budinger) that are either unable or unwilling to stop penetration into the lane.

    With Brewer the worst part is that his brain is apparently dominated by System 1 with System 2 fast asleep (h/t Kahneman). He has uncontrollable impulses to steal, he is distracted and lacks focus. Wow.

    Did Flip Saunders watch film of Brewer playing defense in past season and think “yes, this is the wing defender this team needs?”

    We can quibble with Saunders’ off season signings on a player-by-player level. But they are collectively more egregious. These players exacerbate each other’s weaknesses. They are anti-Voltron.

  3. Another game another, another horrific loss. Not much more can be said. I guess it is a process and they have improved on last season but it feels like they are underperforming. I still don’t know what was the purpose of he Mbah a Moute trade. Ok we got a body that isn’t DWill but is that really the way to improve your team? Just get a player who isn’t somebody else. This team is playing very poorly defensively, people can point to all sorts of stats to explain why we aren’t so bad but the fact is when you give up over 100 points per game as has been the case on a fair few occasions in the past few weeks is going to be more difficult to win. Really interested to see what is done in the offseasn

  4. The Wolves don’t just need “shooting”, they need meaningful upgrades at three starting positions. Rubio could improve enough to be his own upgrade (I am increasingly doubtful that will be the case, but it could still happen) but Martin and Brewer are what they are, and they are not good enough. These guys should be leading the second unit, not starters for a playoff team. Unfortunately they are both locked into multiyear deals that are a little too long and a little too pricey for a small market team’s sixth and seventh men (or in Brewer’s case, eighth or ninth man). I think Muhammad can be a useful player, but I seriously doubt he can be a starting small forward for a good team anytime soon, if ever. They have a lot of work to do in the offseason unless their goal next year is to make the incremental leap to winning 43 games which I guess would be deeply satisfying to some of the fanbase (“hey, it’s better than last season and a lot better than being the Bucks, woohoo!!”). Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

  5. Hey, a Daniel Kahneman reference! Like it a lot. The strange aspect of Adelman and Rubio is that Brewer has more bad decisions and there are more options to replace him with, yet he’s in during crunch time more than Rubio.

    Also, “soft bigotry of low expectations”? Anyone remotely okay with how this season has gone gets labeled with something like this. Um, no. I can’t speak for others, but going to terrible games for 5 seasons, seeing constant tank jobs and botched front office moves for 10, and understanding that Taylor is singlehandedly keeping this franchise in town lead to this: Anger about not making the playoffs is unproductive and unnecessarily takes away from the wins and occasional dominant performances.

  6. Everything is a ok, it’s games like these that really make you realize how much “progress” has been made and how well the moves made have worked out.

  7. JJ, despite his ‘passion’ (over-emotional small-man syndrome), seems to spark the beginning of many losses. By that I mean, an emotional JJ play, or lack of hustle on defense, starts the last run by a given opponent. Maybe JJ just cannot do what he’s being asked to do, but I just do not see what he could provide (especially in Q4) that someone like AJ Price cannot.
    We can’t call it tanking, because the team is about to secure the 14 pick and send it to PHX. I’m just baffled by these rotations.
    And, no, Kurt Rambis, I don’t miss you yet.

  8. Can we scrap this season yet? I want to see how the team would react with putting Pekovic at the 6th man spot and starting Gorgui Dieng. Dieng looked good last night and I would like to see if he could keep that up for a few weeks, and Pek could be a good reliable way to score off the bench when Kevin Love and Kevin Martin are getting a break.

    Just thinking taking a page out of the Jamal Crawford/Manu Ginobilli playbook wouldn’t be a bad idea. We don’t necessarily have to start the 5 best players, and we desperately need some offensive threat off the bench.

  9. Last night off the bench DWill 26 points 11 rebounds on 8 of 15 shooting in 28 mins with a +/- of 11 Mbah a Moute 0 points 0 rebounds in 6 mins with a +/- of -7. The entire twolves bench combined 13 points 2 rebounds on 4 of 19 shooting

  10. In the 8 games before that he scored 10 points once and never took more the 5 shots and only had more assists than Turnovers twice. He collected an entire block and 2 steals over that span.

    1 good game against his former team is probably what matters most though

  11. Stop comparing dwill and mbah a moute. It’s pointless. What happened happened. No amount of whining or harping will make it undone. Let’s just move forward.

  12. Do we really want to go down the road of DWill vs Mbah a Moute in the last 8 games?

    In Mbah a Moute’s last 8 games 0 points in 6 of them, 2 points and 6 points in the other 2, a total of 7 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 blocks.

    I wasn’t going to mention it but the ESPN article on the game actually calls mbah a moute a non factor since the trade.

    But I promise this will be the last time that I mention this trade on here

  13. This trade was based on the incorrect assumption that Barea, Budinger, and Luc wouldn’t have their worst seasons. From that perspective, wing defense and a complementary role player work.

    Williams was given every opportunity to do well last season: he started and played with three above-average passers in Rubio, Ridnour, and Kirilenko, yet Cunningham still outplayed him. If he’d stayed at the 3, Brewer finishes as well at the rim as he does while cutting effectively off the ball and creating turnovers defensively; what are the chances he would’ve outplayed even Shabazz or Hummel? Those guys are assertive offensively and aren’t ball stoppers, and they barely play. When he makes shots, he looks good, but that happens in fewer than half the games he plays, and it only works if he’s aggressive; no one wanted him to hold the ball as much as he did with the Wolves, but it still happened. He’s a $6 million stretch PF with 2 average skills (finishing at the rim and defensive rebounding) and a host of weaknesses (shot blocking, passing, ballhandling, shooting, inefficient offense) in a league where stretch 4s have to at least be able to score efficiently or block shots and the ones who don’t are minimum salary players. No NBA team is going to give up good value for someone who doesn’t know where he’s supposed to be on defense and can’t function offensively unless he has the ball a lot and isn’t expected to score efficiently or create open looks for his teammates.

  14. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about Derrick Williams on a basketball court that annoys the shit outta me. It’s almost like he has this sense of entitlement, like being selected #2 guarantees him relevance in the NBA. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the league values him once his rookie deal expires. In the meantime, let’s all remember what we “let slip away”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V6XKTT145k

  15. Oh my. I’m glad I don’t have to watch this team every night. When their on national TV I record the games and watch them with my kids. My son has asked why they let Ridnour go and kept Barea, now I think at 10 he understands more about hoops than I do.

    Corey Brewer, wow, how about not turning your head on D. I tell that to the eight-year-old girls team I coach. Here’s one of the 500 best hoops players on earth not paying attention to his assignment. I hope that someone makes his life hell while watching the film of this one. I just walked my boy through the photo sequence he knew immediately what was wrong. Does Adelman?

    This whole, they’re .500, that’s ok, or we won more games than we have in 8 seasons so it’s fine stuff blows. I’m sorry, this franchise has a history of being pitiful, we are wasting the best years of one of the best power forwards. Yes, we’re small market, yes no one wants to be in the Twin Cities in February, but honestly, really, being happy about this kind of stuff isn’t good. It could be worse, your hand could be stuck in garbage disposal.

    This season is disappointing, really disappointing, Adelman has sucked the joy out of Ricky, and no one’s having fun. What ever happened to the guy who told Shved to “change his face”, because playing hoops is fun. I can’t imagine how the locker room feels these days. Maybe Pek is holding Barea upside down over the toilet.

  16. NBW just claimed the title of worst comment on this site, and he took it with flair.

    Seriously, you think after showing your ten year old a bunch of photos from a game, that he has a better understanding of the game than Adelman. Are you high? You do know, that every NBA team hires people to break down film and that every coach regularly goes over tapes with his players? You wanna tell me that Adelman looks at this and thinks thats good defense from Brewer? Seriously, are you high?

    And nobody is happy about missing the playoffs. Not Love, not the coach, not the other players and most certainly not anybody here. Adelman didn’t suck the joy out of Rubio, you can blame that on all the losses this season.

  17. Barea had one more year on his contract, which made Ridnour more attractive to any team who was taking him in to cap space. dattebayo is right; no one is happy with the season, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the good things that have happened and treating basketball fandom as one of the less serious parts of life.

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