When that video of Kevin Love’s postgame comments after the Timberwolves’ 109-92 to the Memphis Grizzlies was posted last night, reactions were both swift and morose, with many jumping to the conclusion that this means Love is done in Minnesota, but let’s pump those brakes, OK? Continue reading Timberwolves 92, Grizzlies 109: The Long Bright Dark
Last night, the first season of HBO’s loathed and laudedTrue Detective came to an end but DON’T WORRY. There are no spoilers here because like many, many people I couldn’t watch it because HBO GO sputtered and died under the weight of everyone logging into their parents’ accounts to watch the finale.
But before that, the Minnesota Timberwolves lost a basketball match to the Toronto Raptors, dropping the Wolves to 31-31 and five games back from Memphis (in the eighth and final playoff spot) and Phoenix (in the ninth). The Wolves’ playoff odds according to the ghost of John Hollinger at ESPN now stand at 11.5%. The capsule summary of the game looks a lot like ones we’ve seen before: In spite of 26 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists from Kevin Love (and a new single season record for made 3-pointers by a Timberwolf (144)) and 17 and 11 from Nikola Pekovic, in spite of a strong level of effort all around, the Wolves couldn’t get enough production, particularly up close. Continue reading Timberwolves 104, Raptors 111: Time Is A Flat Circle
Here’s a problem: You watch a game of basketball and you know something about basketball. You might know a little, or you might think you know a lot, or you might even be aware that the rather large amount you know pales in comparison to what everyone who’s directly involved in the game knows. And not in some “You can’t know unless you’ve played” way, but in the way that it’s nearly impossible for you to comprehend the volumetric gap in knowledge between whatever you know about the game — as vast as that amount might feel — and what, say, Rick Adelman knows after coaching 2,794 games. Two thousand seven hundred and ninety-four. Continue reading Timberwolves 97, Trail Blazers 108: The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine
Going into last night’s game against the Houston Rockets, the Wolves were in a flat spin and headed out to sea, losers of five of the last six and facing a team they match up with exceedingly poorly. Consider: without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, their biggest impact players are at the point guard and power forward positions, while the Rockets’ most essential positions are shooting guard, small forward and center. The result, then, was to be expected—especially with Rick Adelman’s absence from the bench for personal reasons—against a team that’s not yet in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, but is still pretty damn good.
Note: The title of this post should not be construed as a statement that it’s time to blow up the team. Just read this poem by Jack Gilbert called “Tear It Down.”
Man, what happened? I mean, let’s be honest: The Wolves — in spite of getting Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger back, in spite of being on their home court, in spite of facing a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back after losing in Chicago and only two games into a five-game road trip, and at the beginning of a long road trip — never grabbed this one away from the Phoenix Suns. Their biggest lead? Nine points, while the Suns’ biggest lead was eight.
On the macro level, it begins with poor shooting. The Wolves’ three main scoring options — Kevin Martin, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic — ended the night just 16-52. Love was 4-20 and though Pek got it going a bit in the third quarter, he was 1-8 in the first half. Kevin Martin started torchingly, scoring 7 points in the first 2:11 of the game, a pace that would have yielded roughly 168 points, had he kept it up. Sadly, he did not. Continue reading Timberwolves 103, Suns 104: "Tear It Down"
As we speak, the Wolves are sitting at 16-16, three games out of the eighth spot in in the Western Conference. For many of us, this comes as a great disappointment, especially after the team’s strong start. This was supposed to be the year that the Wolves finally fulfilled those years of deferred promises (deferred by injury, by the vicissitudes of foreign contract buyouts, by drafting Wes Johnson). It doesn’t seem to make sense. The Wolves have added Kevin Martin, the perimeter scorer they’d always craved. Nikola Pekovic is learning how to dominate games in the paint. Kevin Love is having a near-MVP season. Most importantly, thanks to the relative paucity of injuries (knocking so hard on basically anything that even remotely resembles wood) all of the Wolves’ principals are able to share the floor (at the same time!).
So what’s happening here? There have been many explanations offered, most of them containing a large grain of truth. Up until just this past week, the Wolves’ schedule had been a gauntlet of road games, back-to-backs and elite teams. Their half-court defense has been inconsistent, their transition D abysmal. Their late-game execution has been awful, accounting for their 0-8 record in games decided by fewer than five points. Their bench has been among the league’s worst.
After contributing a paltry five points — a total so low that MLA style would ask you to please write it out rather than use numerals — in Monday night’s difficult loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Timberwolves’ bench came startlingly to life against the New Orleans Pelicans, pouring in 42 points with double-digit totals for J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham. With media crushed around him after the game, Love praised the bench he had called out on Monday night.
“Nobody’s ever going to like [getting called out],” he said. “But it wasn’t me being down on them. It’s just me asking for more because we’re going to need them in 2014. What are we, 16-16 now? They’re going to have to help us if we want to win. It was just a challenge more than anything. I wasn’t mad at them, I wasn’t saying they were bad. It was just tough love and sometimes that’s the best way to do things.” Continue reading Timberwolves 124, Pelicans 112: Headliners and Openers
J.J. Barea sat in front of his locker reading down a ripped box score sheet after the game. Nikola Pekovic leaned over to look at it and a member of the PR team walking by offered a crisp, freshly printed one to Pek. “I don’t need it,” he said, and returned to putting his socks on.
I tried. I really tried to churn out some thoughts on the Wolves losing to CSKA Moscow on Monday night and just nothing appeared. The effort was there for me trying to write about what was an on-the-surface embarrassing loss to a really talented Euroleague team. But ultimately, I just didn’t care enough about the result or what we saw on the court from a team standpoint.
And really, that was the problem with the Wolves in that game as well. I’m not sure they cared enough about their opponent throughout the 53 minutes of action to really want to do what they were supposed to do. There were individual players like Derrick Williams, Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, and Ronny Turiaf that appeared to give a damn. They fought through as much as they could against CSKA Moscow and nearly walked away with a victory. But there were too many mental mistakes, too many lazy offensive sets, too many poor defensive rotations throughout the game to end up defeating a quality opponent.
Make no mistake about it either; CSKA Moscow was a quality opponent. They have six guys (seven if Sonny Weems is playing) that can play in the NBA right now. The rest of their team is full of solid players as well. It’s an opponent that even the third string of the Wolves should be able to close out, but you have to have a full game of effort in order to do that. The Wolves didn’t have that and it showed both in their play and in the way Rick Adelman discussed the game afterward.
The title of this post is a lie. I haven’t stopped worrying, nor have I learned to love preseason rankings. But I guess I grudgingly understand why they’re there. Because following basketball closely — and I don’t mean your favorite team, but the whole thing — through its annual cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is a lot like breaking up with a serious girlfriend every year. Like a five-year relationship compressed and injected into nine months.
It all begins with such promise in November and you don’t really know what’s going on or where it’s going but you just want to enjoy it. So you try to relax into it, thinking how all you’ve got is time. But then it starts getting serious. You stop taking it as it comes and start wondering where it’s going. And then, just like that, it’s over. This is June. Continue reading How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Preseason Rankings