Archives For William Bohl

James Harden Video Gaming

When Houston came out of the halftime break and put on the offensive clinic that sealed Minnesota’s fate, many words ran through my head, and surprisingly, all of them are fit to print. I root for the Timberwolves – of course – but sometimes basketball is so beautiful that even when bad things happen to my favorite team, I can’t help but appreciate it. In the first 3:29 of the second half, Harden & friends pushed their lead to 19 points with a 16-to-7 run, which sounds relatively unremarkable. It was the way it happened, though – the Rockets became a well-oiled machine, a freight train, a hurricane, a buzzsaw, something created in the nebulous netherworld of a gaming console to destroy everything in its path. Continue Reading…

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. Continue Reading…

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors

“I have seen the dark universe yawning

Where the black planets roll without aim,

Where they roll in their horror unheeded,

Without knowledge, lustre or name.”

- H.P. Lovecraft

If the lowly Bucks, owners of the worst record in basketball (now 13-51), didn’t have the Timberwolves’ full attention prior to tip-off, they certainly did when their 12th consecutive shot found the bottom of the net to start the game. By the midway point of the first quarter, each of Milwaukee’s five starters had recorded a field goal and the team held a nine-point advantage. Guards Nate Wolters and Brandon Knight led the charge – between the two of them, they were responsible for the Bucks’ first seven buckets. Center Zaza Pachulia had 4 1st quarter assists, en route to 10 for the night (a career high).

Fortunes turned, volleys ceased, the tide abated – after all, the team with the league’s 4th-worst Offensive Rating and 6th-worst True Shooting percentage wasn’t going to shoot at a 71% clip (as the Bucks did in the opening quarter) all night long. But for awhile, things were very strange inside 600 1st Avenue, North, and even stranger things spurred the Wolves’ comeback victory. Continue Reading…

 

Love and Cousins

“You knew the Kings weren’t going to go down without a fight…” – Dave Benz

“I thought they might.” – Jim Petersen

The above quotes, offered at the 8:00 mark of the 4th quarter by FSN North’s excellent play-by-play and color analysts, respectively, captured the mood perfectly for the Timberwolves. Minnesota had pushed their lead to 14 after 3 quarters, using a dominant 31-to-14 3rd period to take control after trailing by 3 at the half. The undersized reserve lineup of Barea – Budinger – Muhammad – Mbah a Moute – Cunningham failed to tread water at the beginning of the final frame, and by the time the Wolves’ reinforcements (Love, Martin and Brewer) checked in with 8:34 remaining, the lead was just 7 points.

You knew the Wolves weren’t going to blow another game to the lowly Kings, especially given their current desperate state, right? That the bench wouldn’t be to blame, especially since they’ve been better of late? You knew beforehand that Quincy Acy and Reggie Evans weren’t the same person, correct? That the Timberwolves weren’t going to fail to keep Rudy Gay in check for the second time in a month and a half? And you knew, at some point, the Wolves record in close games would progress to the mean, that they couldn’t just keep losing tight contests in perpetuity?

The answer to all these questions: “I thought they might.” Continue Reading…

SHABAZZMATAZZIt’s important for a professional sports team to have an identity, right?

Maybe that’s a tired cliche, pushed by sports media types looking to fill columns, game recaps and hours of airtime. After all, it seems like a funny concept: a group of individuals, well-compensated and competitive, sublimating their egos to the collective group, only to have the group assume an identity of its own. What function would it serve, other than a convenient talking point, a narrative driven by those outside the locker room?

And yet, it does seem important for a team to have something to fall back on, a support system, a consistent backbone to help them weather the various storms that pop up throughout a six month campaign. It could be defense, a run-and-gun-style, corner threes and free throws. It could be something sinister, like tanking for a draft pick, or dizzying dysfunction. Most teams around the NBA have a personality, whether they’re aware of it or not. Thus far, the Timberwolves are an underachieving bunch being dragged along by a superstar, which feels less like an identity and more like an indictment. Continue Reading…

Love and Rubio

Even the most optimistic Timberwolves fan probably didn’t expect the hometown squad to dominate one of the top teams in the NBA as thoroughly as Minnesota dominated Indiana on Wednesday night. True, the Pacers were on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Wolves were fresh after having a full week off thanks to the All-Star break. But this is Indiana we’re talking about, owners of a 41-12 record (at the beginning of the night), rolling along with the game’s next superstar (Paul George) and sporting the league’s best defensive rating. How did Minnesota, short two of their three best offensive options (Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin), manage to handle Indiana so convincingly? Continue Reading…

The Isolation Blues

William Bohl —  February 17, 2014 — 14 Comments

BAREA ALONE

There are many reasons why the Minnesota Timberwolves have underachieved thus far, leaving them mired six games out of the West’s final playoff spot, sporting a 25-28 record that doesn’t jive with their solid point differential. Some of the problems were expected – the Wolves struggle to generate stops late in close games, but they weren’t built to be a defensive juggernaut in the first place. Health has been a problem for both Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic – but a perusal of their injury histories indicates such a thing was likely to happen at some point in the season.

Some of Minnesota’s problems are complete surprises. The healthy returns of Kevin Love and Chase Budinger, as well as the free agent acquisition of Kevin Martin, led many observers to predict a dramatic improvement on both the Wolves’ 3 point and effective field goal percentages; instead, the team’s 3 point success rate has only improved from dead last in 2012-13 to 25th this season, and their eFG% is just .006 higher than it was last year, despite vastly improved personnel. Though the point’s been thoroughly discussed (and enumerated, nicely, by our own Zach Harper) I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the Timberwolves’ 1-12 record in games decided by 4 points or fewer – a factoid that will encapsulate the enduring legacy of this team, unless they drastically reverse course down the stretch.

For many forlorn fans, hope of witnessing a postseason berth for the first time in a decade is flickering in the wind. The brunt of their displeasure, if social media is any indication, is borne by J.J. Barea. Continue Reading…

 

Love three point contest

As a whole, the first 53 games of the 2013-14 Minnesota Timberwolves season can be described in many ways: disappointing, inconsistent, portentious, a “middle finger to point differential” analysis (well put, Patrick Fenelon). Rick Adelman’s squad has undershot its Pythagorean win total by 8 (mathematically speaking, teams who outscore their opponents by 3.7 points per contest ought to be 33-20 at this point, not 25-28). The reasons have been discussed ad nauseam; the Wolves can’t close out games, they failed to beat weaker opponents while they were at full strength early in the season, and on, and on, and on.

Every game isn’t a referendum of the franchise as a whole, nor do any of these individual games dictate the future in any meaningful way. Since the Wolves have Kevin Love’s early termination option hanging over their heads, it’s easy for fans (and even – shockingly – the media) to worry about the future, forgetting that it’s okay to enjoy individual games when good ones come around. Some of Minnesota’s losses have been wildly entertaining contests – the loss to Oklahoma City on January 4th and both losses to the Clippers in L.A. come to mind – but blowouts can be fun, too. Especially when they feature the kind of ball movement, efficiency and hustle that the Wolves displayed in thumping the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night. Continue Reading…

No one expected much from the Timberwolves on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, where they were set to play the red-hot Thunder, winners of 11 of 12 coming in. Not only had Minnesota played the night before, the starters logging big minutes in a closer-than-it-needed-to-be victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, but Corey Brewer would miss the game (for the happiest of reasons – his son was born on Tuesday), and Nikola Pekovic would again sit due to his (ongoing) ankle bursitis issues. Twenty minutes before tip, it was confirmed that Kevin Love, the conduit through which the entire Wolves’ offense flows, would not dress due to a stiff neck. The writing was on the wall: Wednesday night would be a loss.

When the Love news came down, all I could think about were the new, interesting lineup possibilities and offensive strategies Rick Adelman could employ for the game. Maybe I’m desperate for silver linings, but once I conceded the (likely) loss, I shifted my focus to the little things – would Luc Richard Mbah a Moute get extended minutes? How about Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad? Would Kevin Martin shoot 40 times? Had Robbie Hummel, who’s been wearing suits for a while now, remembered to bring his uniform on the road trip? Continue Reading…

Butch and Sundance

Rick Adelman has, on more than one occasion, and often without provocation, informed the assembled media that his message to the club on that particular day was to “forget about playoff talk; you’ve accomplished nothing, yet.” It’s come after victories, when the coach wants to temper complacency. It’s come after defeats, when Adelman, shoulders slumped in disappointment, chastises his squad, at a loss for their maddeningly inconsistent play.

It’s funny that the Timberwolves’ 67-year-old coach wants his team to forget about postseason talk, because that’s all the rest of us can think about. Minnesota hasn’t been to the postseason since 2003-04, the final season of the Garnett, Cassell and Sprewell triumvirate; the franchise, and the fan base, craves a playoff berth, even if it’s just for appearance’s sake. The Wolves’ disappointing weekend – dropping a game at home against Memphis, and on the road in Atlanta – dimmed their postseason outlook considerably.

But is it hopeless? With 35 games to play, the Wolves are three-and-a-half games out of the final spot in the loaded Western Conference, not an insurmountable gap, by any stretch of the imagination. Their horrible record in close games, and horrible luck in a few others, both feel fluky. The Wolves continue to post solid Net Rating differentials, a historically accurate way of predicting season-long success. Those who believe Minnesota will make it await self-correction, a reconciliation of advanced statistics (which favor the Wolves) and results (which, thus far, have not). Continue Reading…