The NBA regular season is too long. We know this for two main reasons:
- We don’t need 82 games to determine which teams are the best and most deserving of playoff berths;
- The sport is too physically demanding to require so many games of the players.
But the status quo of 82 games is long established and worthy of a gargantuan television contract that is making players and owners wealthier than any people in American sports history. For that reason, it isn’t changing.
In watching, analyzing, and writing about so damn many games, there is a tendency to chalk results up to either inevitability, (“Team A beat Team B because Team A is better”) or, as I found myself doing during last night’s Wolves-Pacers tilt, to one team simply making more shots than the other team.
While there is obvious truth to either of those explanations of many game outcomes, if it all ended there, this whole basketball fandom thing would get really boring really quickly.
So, aside from the fact that the Pacers shot the ball better than the Timberwolves in last night’s 109-103 contest at Target Center, here are a few other explanations for the result:
- “Both Teams Played Hard.” –Rasheed Wallace, only if he was sarcastically describing the first quarter of last night’s Wolves-Pacers tilt
The first quarter was poorly played by both teams. The Wolves, with KAT being defended by woefully undersized Thaddeus Young, failed to put pressure on the Pacers defense and instead struggled to feed the post quickly (or sometimes at all). During this early stretch when the Pacers were looking sluggish themselves, an opportunity to build an early lead was lost. Almost 5 minutes into the game, the Wolves led 5 to 2, and the low score had much more to do with sloppy offense than gritty D. After the game, Thibs described his team the same way that Donald Trump once described Jeb Bush: “Low energy.” In this climate, that’s a stinging criticism to receive from the coach.
Paul George then started going Full Paul George, and the Pacers played much of the rest of the game from a lead. Had the Wolves started out better, the game would’ve taken on an entirely different feel.
For good measure, here’s Sheed (who made another awesome guest appearance in KG’s Area 21 on TNT last night) explaining to the media that Both Teams Played Hard:
- Paul George was the best player on the floor.
It’s fun to watch an elite player at his best. That was the consolation prize for Wolves fans who turned out last night to see their own team struggle. Paul George did everything: shoot, drive, pass, and defend. Thibs was asked about George after the game, and specifically whether he is the “prototype” for Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves long-and-athletic young wing. Thibs didn’t really address the specific comparison, but only went out of his way to heap praise on George, a player he has coached with Team USA in the past.
“And it didn’t happen overnight. If you look back at his career, he’s always been a great defender — he had that part from Day 1. Offensively, he’s just grown each year. He’s become a great shooter, he’s got the mid range, he’s got the post up, he’s got the pick-and-roll, he moves without the ball, he’s tough. You know, there’s not much he can’t do. He can hurt you in transition and if you give him any seams or you make body position mistakes against him, he’s clever. I thought he got a couple calls [tonight] that were tricks.”
George looked unstoppable last night against Wiggins, who at times played pretty decent defense but simply couldn’t smother a 6’9″ player with a point-guard’s handles.
- Jeff Teague got away with one (I mean, “seven”)
The Wolves did an admirable job of clawing back in this game in the final two minutes. Down by 8 with just 47 seconds left, they managed to cut the deficit to 3 with about 15 seconds left in the game. Against their press defense, Jeff Teague decided to expand the court dimensions about six inches and waltz up the sideline with his feet on the wrong side of the line. The ref appeared to look down at all of this, but allowed the play to go on. Wiggins could’ve been whistled for a foul, but because he wasn’t, it should’ve been Wolves ball with a chance to tie.
In any event, I still think that the outcome is best explained by cold shooting from the Wolves (the box score is prettier than the game was, due to the flurry of 3s and other scores in the last-minute scramble) and the hot Pacers shooting (particularly contested jumpers from George and end-of-shot clock jumpers by his teammates after pretty-good Timberwolves defense).
But those are a few stabs at digging deeper than “The Pacers made shots.”
Wolves play the Nets at home tomorrow night at Target Center.