Archives For Steve McPherson

Minnesota vs. Clippers

This was a weird game. It’s a well-worn cliché that basketball is a game of runs — that when one team falls behind by double digits suddenly, it’s just a matter of time before the other team scores a bunch of unanswered point. But this game pushed that to extremes. The Clippers opened up the game with a 12-0 run, which was probably the easiest one to see, but look at the game flow from ESPN’s box score.

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The whole first half was just runs back and forth. Here I’ve highlighted Clippers’ runs in yellow and Wolves’ runs in light green (just because the colors used for each team were red and blue) and you can see that aside from about a minute and a half in the first quarter where the score went from 12-0 to 16-4, the game was seesawing back and forth precipitously. Yet at the end of the first, the score was 24-24 and at the end of the half it was 46-46. Continue Reading…

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Before we get started, look at this:

RubioFakePassLayupCeltics

LOOK AT IT. OK, cool.

I can make this pretty simple: This is a game the Wolves were supposed to win and they did, even though they weren’t terribly great at any point, really. Yes: The Celtics got as close as 5 points at the end of the second quarter after Avery Bradley sunk a 3-pointer at the buzzer shortly after Jordan Crawford sank one (because hey: if your last name is Crawford and you’re playing the Wolves you should probably go ahead and just fire up threes at the end of quarters). But it wasn’t really the full-on kind of swoon we’ve seen from the Wolves before and Minnesota put the hammer down in a 34-point third quarter. Continue Reading…

Our very own Zach Harper penned this thought-provoking, nuanced take on Kevin Love and where he is right now with the Timberwolves for TrueHoop’s new series of TrueCities features centered around different teams and their local stories. (See also Danny Nowell’s great read about Portland’s indie culture and how it relates to the Blazers.) But naturally — because this is sports we’re talking about here — the nuance got sucked out of the discussion the moment readers took to Twitter or the comment section to complain about Zach saying Love’s departure to the Lakers is inevitable. Continue Reading…

The NBA on ESPN promos centered around a cross-country RV tour with basketball players and commentators have always been great, but this one will warm Timberwolves fans’ hearts with the power of a thousand thermonuclear devices.

I don’t want Rubio’s basketball career to ever end, but when it does, he should go into acting. His line read on “That was close” is PERFECT.

Over the years, most Timberwolves fans have had their share of moral victories, and most have likely grown sick of them. If you’ve been a fan for more than this season, you know what I’m talking about: although the team loses, they keep it close, or maybe at least show some teeth somewhere in there. But any long-suffering fan is ready for moral victories to be replaced by actual ones, and now that the team is actually winning games they’re supposed to win and looking pretty damn strong — both on offense, where they’re second in pace, and defense, with the league’s sixth best defensive rating at 98.1 — maybe we can begin to accept that there are ways to be successful without necessarily winning, and not feel like we’re just trying to talk ourselves into it.

Last night’s close loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, which came down to three opportunities to score on the final possession and a Kevin Love tip-in that came up just short, showed us a lot. On a basic level, it reinforced something we already know: the Timberwolves bench is in trouble. But even this is interesting because the bench seems to be poorly understood by a lot of people. Almost by definition, your bench is going to be flawed in some ways — if the players there were closer to flawless, they’d likely be starting. Continue Reading…

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.

Barea looked at it another minute, then crumpled it up and threw it on the floor. Continue Reading…

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“One down!” bellowed Nikola Pekovic in the locker room after the game.

“Eighty-one to go,” replied Ronny Turiaf with a bit more reserve. Moments earlier, Shabazz Muhammad had inadvertently knocked a cup of Gatorade over next to Turiaf’s chair, and Turiaf had not been pleased. Gorgui Dieng had tried to calm the waters. “Come on,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. We won.” Continue Reading…

It’s old news by now that over the weekend the Wolves waived Othyus Jeffers and Lorenzo Brown, instead retaining Robbie Hummel and A.J. Price. Color me a little surprised they didn’t keep Jeffers given his physicality in the backcourt and based on Hummel’s ho-hum(mel) preseason, but Adelman praised both him and A.J. Price, singling out Hummel’s work ethic during the week gap between preseason games the Wolves had.

What was less surprising, though — given how little floor time he saw in the preseason — was the release of Chris Johnson. In the grand scheme of things, Johnson’s tenure with the Timberwolves will not much matter, either to the team or to the league as a whole. But there are so many subtle undercurrents inside of it that are worthy of attention, revealing things that may not always be as apparent in the more opaque dealings that happen around star players. Continue Reading…

The Talented Mr. Bohl

Steve McPherson —  October 25, 2013 — 3 Comments

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Ah: smell that crisp fall air. It signals the beginning of basketball season here in Minnesota, but it also signals change, and A Wolf Among Wolves is not immune. Founder and bellwether Ben Polk and his wife welcomed a brand new child into the world just recently and so for the time being he has decided to take a step back from the game-to-game work of covering the Timberwolves. Have no fear: he’ll still be writing, just maybe not as much.

We can never fill that hole in our hearts. But we can paper over it and welcome our own kind of brand new child, Mr. William Bohl of Break the Huddle. Bill (or Billy, up to him, really) has been doing fine work covering the Wolves, including an even-handed and thoughtful series of player previews that really sold me on his work. He’ll be pitching in around here, contributing his insight and view of the game. But let me get out of the way and let Bill speak for himself. — Steve McPherson

The love of basketball came to me much later than it did for most of the people who spend their time and energy covering it. For most of my life, the NBA was white noise, humming away as I paid closer attention to other sports, and girls, and trying to make it through 12 years of Catholic school.

Occasionally, clear signals emerged from the fog of the Association and registered with me. I loved Michael Jordan, who was less a player and more a childhood superhero. Since I’m from Wisconsin, I cheered when the Bucks of Allen, Robinson and Cassell pushed the Sixers to seven games in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals. Since my hometown (Eau Claire, WI) is much closer to Minneapolis than Milwaukee, I switched allegiances when the Garnett-led Timberwolves nearly broke through in 2004.

It wasn’t until I got married and settled in the Greater Twin Cities area that basketball finally bewitched me. My brother-in-law had an extra ticket, and I saw the Wolves hang tough with the Miami Heat in Ricky Rubio’s third NBA game. It was December 30, 2011; two months later, I started a sports blog, and soon it became nothing but Timberwolves content. Finally, the nice people at A Wolf Among Wolves decided to give me a shot, and here we are.

Basketball is both a beautiful game and a vehicle to write, a means to an end and an end itself. My clumsy tautology aside, what I’m trying to say is that I’m drawn to highlight plays, the pure spectacle of the sport, but also the background movements – the statistical evolution that’s blossoming before our eyes, challenging perceptions with ever-improving data, and exploring the myriad factors determining individual and team success. Writing about basketball affords insights that extend beyond the court and into a few of the challenges of living in modern times. Feelings, or numbers? Individualism, or teamwork? How do we best measure what we see?

And while I cannot claim decades-long suffering at the hands of the oft-maligned Timberwolves franchise, the disappointments of the past two seasons have left an indelible mark on me. I’m familiar with the fatalism of many Timberwolves fans, but prefer, instead, to keep a reasonable amount of hope.

I’m humbled to be included in a group of such talented people and I’m excited for the opportunity. As the Wolves take a step forward (we hope), so will I (I hope). Maybe I’m naïve. Let’s find out together, shall we?

Conservatively, 85% of the pictures of Rick Adelman on the Internet are of him doing this.

Conservatively, 85% of the pictures of Rick Adelman on the Internet are of him doing this.

Head coach Rick Adelman was more than a little disappointed with his team’s showing in a 104-97 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. It hardly seemed to matter that it was the preseason. “We just didn’t come with it,” he said. “I don’t understand. It’s like I told them afterwards: we played two home games here and we’re just going through the motions. We’re not the San Antonio Spurs, we’re not Miami. We act like we have plenty of time.”

Consistency might have been the watchword for the Wolves through training camp and these first four games of preseason, but urgency can’t come too far behind. Whatever the reason — maybe an unusual exhibition season schedule that had them playing four games in six nights, including a back-to-back, and then nothing for nearly a week before three away games had something to do with it — the team, especially the starters, have looked like they’re still waiting for someone else to arrive on the court. Continue Reading…