Mavericks 131, Timberwolves 117: One More Dollar, I'm Going Home

A long time ago left my home
Just a boy passing twenty
Could you spare a coin and a Christian prayer
My luck has turned against me

-Gillian Welch, “One More Dollar”

I’m a sucker for folk music, so I am leading off this recap of the Wolves’ fifth straight loss with the lovely “One More Dollar” by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, as performed live on The Prairie Home Companion (where my Garrison Keillor fans at?), in an attempt to buoy your spirits and stoke the embers of your parochial fire. Listen to the song. Gorgeous, right?

Know what wasn’t gorgeous? Pretty much everything about Minnesota’s shellacking at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks last night. 

I say “pretty much everything” because there were a few positives, almost all of them on the offensive end. Kevin Martin scored 34 points on 17 shots, and without him turning iso opportunities into buckets, it’s likely the Wolves would’ve trailed by 40 like they did the night before against the Pelicans. But they kept the opponent’s maximum lead to 26 (progress!), and Kevin Martin is to thank for that.

Other bright spots: The Wolves’ shooting line on the night was 50/41/83, which is pretty good. Everybody who was available got to play (except for Ronny Turiaf, who probably didn’t mind) so the player participation percentage was 100%, which is the highest percentage there is! Anthony Bennett had a nice night, scoring 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, chipping in 7 boards and 4 assists as well. Corey Brewer needed 14 shots to get his 13 points, but added 6 assists and hustled like a madman the entire night.

Speaking of hustle, Shabazz Muhammad  scored 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting, grabbed 4 rebounds (2 offensive) and dished out 2 assists. All of his minutes came in the second half, when things were already well out of hand, but if there’s one thing to say about Shabazz, it’s that he doesn’t give a crap what the score is. He battles for every rebound and takes the fight to his defender, whether it’s on the block or in transition. He must be giving Flip and the rest of the coaching staff something to think about. When he checks in, he’s always ready, and good things usually happen.

That concludes the positive portion of this recap.

Minnesota played the final four and a half games of their long road trip without their best defender (Ricky Rubio), and the final two games without Thad Young, who is at least serviceable at that end. But holy moly, you guys, the Timberwolves’ defense was a record-setting kind of awful against New Orleans and wasn’t much better against Dallas.

The Mavericks tallied 76 – SEVENTY SIX – points in the paint. That’s 38 shots (mathematics!) inside the painted area. That’s one every 1:26 of gameplay. That’s one every third possession or so. That’s… really, really, really bad. Nikola Pekovic isn’t much of a rim protector, which is well understood, but he couldn’t box out Tyson Chandler (7 offensive rebounds) to save his life. Gorgui Dieng, who is supposed to be more of a shot-blocking presence near the restricted area, was slow on rotations and late in recognizing when to help from the weak side. When he was in place, he either didn’t get his hands up, committed a foul, or allowed whoever was driving to slide by for an easy two.

Neither Pek nor Gorgui blocked a shot, and since Maverick shooters found themselves in the paint 50 times, they had plenty of opportunities. Why did they have plenty of opportunities? Because Andrew Wiggins can only guard one person at a time. He did fine when he was matched up with Chandler Parsons (12 points on 12 shots), but that meant Kevin Martin was guarding Monta Ellis, who put up 30 points of his own. When Parsons slid up to power forward in a smaller lineup, Anthony Bennett drew the assignment, and the Wolves’ second-year man was totally unable to keep him out of the paint on drives. Corey Brewer and Mo Williams gambled recklessly. Robbie Hummel was thrown off by early ticky-tack calls (he appeared to be complaining to the refs for the first time in his Wolves career). Zach LaVine got into early foul trouble and never got in a rhythm on either end.

Long before it was a blowout, there were back-to-back-to-back first quarter defensive possessions that were harbingers of what was to come for the Timberwolves:

1. Pek walks away from a three point shooter.

PEK communicado 1

The Mavericks bring the ball up the floor following a Timberwolves miss. Mo Williams is in the middle of the paint to cut off an easy bucket. Pekovic is responsible for the ball handler, Jameer Nelson.

PEK communicado 2

Nelson pump fakes, and Pek jumps to contest the potential shot.

PEK communicado 3

As soon as Nelson passes the ball to Chandler Parsons near the right corner, Pekovic turns his back on him to retreat to the paint. Mo Williams doesn’t give up his spot in the low post quickly enough, however, so all Parsons has to do is swing the ball right back to Jameer Nelson…

PEK communicado 4

… for a wide open three.

2. Mo Williams gambles, Pek tries to help, Tyson Chandler catches a lob.

Williams gamble 1

Mo Williams guards Jameer Nelson on the perimeter. Notice the defense behind him isn’t set. The one thing you can’t do if you’re Mo is allow Nelson to go right, because he’ll have a path to the basket.

Williams gamble 2

Here is a picture of Jameer Nelson beginning to drive right.

Williams gamble 3

Pek comes over to try to help. Jameer tosses up a lob to Tyson Chandler…

Williams gamble 4

… who finishes the alley-oop.

3. To pack the paint, or vacate the paint…

Martin 1

The Mavericks’ spacing gives plenty of teams fits defensively, but the Wolves were especially bad at containing drives to the hoop. Kevin Martin covers Monta Ellis on the left wing as Dallas moves to spread the floor.

Martin 2

Monta reverses on the pick from Dirk with plenty of room in front of him, especially since Kevin Martin bit hard on the action. Parsons keeps one defender close to him on the right wing. Pek sticks close to Chandler to avoid giving up another lob. Mo Williams sticks close to Jameer Nelson to avoid a wide open short corner three. It’s up to Anthony Bennett to cut off Monta’s path to the rim.

Martin 3

Bennett’s lack of foot speed allows Monta (who, to be fair, is one of the best drivers in the game) to get into the paint for an easy two.

It’s tough to reduce an entire basketball game to a few plays, but the three above show the problems that are plaguing the Wolves defensively right now. It’s certainly true that Minnesota doesn’t match up, personnel-wise, with either the Mavericks or the Pelicans. But simple things – containing basic pick and roll action, communicating on the defensive side of the floor, knowing where your help is behind you – aren’t happening. And that’s discouraging to see.

The other way to look at it is that the Wolves are on the end of an insane six game road trip, featuring four playoff teams from last season, two sets of back to backs and a “home” game in Mexico City. The veterans are tired, the rookies are probably getting used to this much condensed travel, and the team’s two best players missed time. They have a few days off to make adjustments and get yelled at by the coaching staff before taking on the slumping Knickerbockers Wednesday night at the Target Center.

While everyone on the roster is a transplant to the Twin Cities, the idea of finally going “home” must’ve been appealing when they boarded the plane last night.

One more dime to show for my day
One more dollar and I’m on my way
When I reach those hills, boys, I’ll never roam
Just one more dollar and I’m going home

– Gillian Welch, “One More Dollar

 

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11 Responsesso far.

  1. gjk says:

    In general, a 2-week trip that starts in Brooklyn, has 2 back to backs, and includes Florida and Mexico probably isn’t conducive to quality play, and losing 2 of their starters didn’t help. But the last 2 nights were still unacceptable. Besides the things Bill brought up, they never adjusted to Chandler tapping offensive rebounds back to his guards, and Bennett guarded Parsons while Aminu was on the floor, which made no sense. Any grace period for Flip adjusting as a coach is over. I’m already hoping he’s done after this season; this franchise can’t wait for Hoiberg if he’s not leaving after this season.

  2. Fan says:

    Losing Rubio is critical in offense, we know. The defense should not be down grade in such tremendous way. That’s frustrating. We play like 76ers. The veterans should be get responsibility to change the atmosphere.

  3. Abdisalam says:

    Losing Rubio and Thaddeus young is big blow to their offensive and defensive.these kind of stuff is simply play that any player could defend.Some goes fault at coaching staff.they need to learn to adjust without Rubio and play mo William not zack Levine.

  4. Luke says:

    If the trade value for pekovic is at its highest right now I say we try and trade him. It may not be popular but I’m not sure how much we can really get for pekovic next year if his production suffers this year or he is plagued by injuries (which would be pretty par for the course) and I don’t think he figures into long term plans for this team without a defensive minded pf who can cover for him. I think getting a young asset for him right now is the best option. Hardaway Jr. from the knicks maybe, especially if brewer is being shopped. I am worried about becoming too young though. A nice stable of vets is great which gives me pause for trading pek.

  5. farnorth says:

    I do not think the coach needs to be fired or center needs to be traded. Pek is 28 (almost 29) the Wolves are at least a year away from being anything that resembles a pro team. But Pek’s game does not require a ton of athleticism. Flip is doing the right thing in regards to limiting his minutes this year and saving the wear and tear on the body.

    Trading Brewer makes a lot of sense considering all the wings we already have. Trading Pek when our main backup is still raw and thin does not.

    LaVine is making progress but his D is nonexistent, (I could say that about pretty much the entire team right now). The focus needs to be 100% in identifying the system the coaches want the players to be in and then everyone getting on the same page in that regard.

    2/5 of the starting lineup is made up of rookies, there are going to be growing pains. Huge intensive needle off the charts gut wrenching growing pains it appears. Before we start talking about firing the coach lets see how he handles this and how much growth we see. That is how we need to measure this thing. Not the 9th game of an 82 game schedule.

    Wednesday we play a much weaker opponent (than we have been playing). We have time off to adjust to what we’ve seen and correct the mistakes. And they’re at home. That is a measuring stick game for us. That’s where we are looking to see improvement.

    I’m not saying they’re going to win. But I do expect them to be competitive.

  6. shlabotnik13 says:

    Gillian’s my girl!! And David Rawlings’ guitar work is exquisite. Keep the music coming, William. I dig the stuff that Steve shares, too.

    Thanks more for the defensive photo descriptions. All of that in the game’s first 5 minutes!! Hopefully the insane road trip had something to do with that. But I don’t think so. The Wolves are currently dead last in opponents’ FG%. It’s over 51% allowed and team #29 isn’t even close. That’s very concerning and missing Ricky and Thad doesn’t explain it. It seemed that Flip has been emphasizing defense for this team, which is the way it should be, dammit, to build a young team’s identity. But either he’s got the wrong type of players or the point is not getting across. Needs to change quick.

  7. gjk says:

    “I’m already hoping he’s done after this season.” Nowhere is firing him in-season mentioned; I don’t think that would help, and it’d be extremely improbable that Taylor was that impatient. I’m just hoping he goes back to being the full-time president next summer and hires the most-qualified available candidate instead of waiting until Hoiberg is ready or until the insane Memphis owner fires Joerger. At this point, it doesn’t look like he recognizes how he needs to strategically adjust to the modern NBA, and I’d rather put up with that for one season instead of several, especially considering the young guys who should be developed within a long-term offensive and defensive system. There’s nothing wrong with his ability to develop talent or win individual games, but he’s not Popovich or Carlisle with Xs and Os or motivation, nor does he take advantage of the rules the way Hornacek or Spoelstra do.

    Let’s just drop any thoughts that Pek and Martin will be traded. Maybe that’s how some feel, but it’s not happening because of their contracts; they also provide elements that aren’t replicated on the roster.

  8. Luke says:

    I agree that Pek in all likelihood will not be traded, it’s just his value is nowhere near full realization on a team with no shot-blocking around him. You put him on the Thunder with Ibaka and he becomes a monster. We just don’t have the pieces to really play to his strengths or hide his weaknesses which is a problem for the entire roster. We need an identity like farnorth said and I don’t think Pek fits that identity unless Flip somehow brings in a shot-blocking 4 which would necessitate giving up playing time for Young and/or Bennett. Granted Young only has one year left (player option) but the best defensive big available next year is a center (Asik). I think Asik/Dieng pairing with Young/Bennett is a quick fix to the frontcourt identity. I just don’t see the value to holding on to Pek at this point for the Timberwolves. It’s just a confused mess of players out there right now that don’t mesh at all.

  9. Fan says:

    Indeed I would think Pek and Martin’s production match his contract. Trade any of them for better asset is not easy to implement in early season. The key right now is the team has to adjust much better after Rubio’s injury. We allowed lose but cannot tolerate to forfeit 140 pts a game. That’s about the atmosphere and motivation for a young team. You can see what Suns did last year. Many miracles starts with defence, and defence only depends on how hard you work. Come on Young wolves!!!

  10. Daron says:

    I have seen better defense by 2nd graders. The Pelican game didn’t bother me so much because that was a shooting tour de force and the Wolves just became deflated by the hopelessness, but against the Mavericks, it was as if they were letting them drive to the hoop at will. The pick n’ roll was 100% effective against the Wolves D, and nobody was boxing out for the rebounds. I was disgusted.

  11. Daron says:

    I love reading your articles – but one recommendation – try posting a html5 video (gfycat / gifv) instead of a sequence of stills for your breakdowns. It’s difficult to see the play unfold through stills.

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