Archives For 2011-12 Season

I kept waiting for Jonny Flynn to check in.

I’m not even trying to be a smartass here. That game felt a lot like last season and it was a malaise over the team that I just didn’t want any part of anymore. Maybe that’s why it’s taken a day for me to sit down and write this recap. If I don’t write it, if we don’t talk about it, if we pretend everything is just fine then maybe it will go back to how it used to be. But that’s not the reality. The reality is injuries happen and everybody has to deal with it.

To expect the Wolves to lose Ricky Rubio Friday night and then come into the next day’s game without a practice and without a shoot around and still come out with fire seems a little unfair. The Wolves had very little time to process the news as a team. There were certain members of the team that probably assumed the worst Friday night. There were guys that didn’t know the news until some time on Saturday. The “grieving process” was truncated much like this season.

Even still, the Wolves had a home game against the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night and there was no reason to lose that game. We all had flashbacks to last season. Kevin Love put up insane numbers once again. His 31 points and 16 rebounds happened almost effortlessly. He tipped in missed shots. He faced up and made jumpers. He got to the free throw line and made nine of those 10 attempts. It was a pretty easy scoring night as he put guys like Lance Thomas and Gustavo Ayon in a hurt locker for much of the game.

Speaking of effortless, the Wolves’ defense seemed to be completely uninspired. They gave up 44 points in the paint to a Hornets team that employs Chris Kaman as the best scoring option. Only eight of his team-high 20 points came inside. The rest were on jumpers from all over the baseline. Marco Belinelli, Gustavo Ayon, and Lance Thomas helped score inside. The Wolves watched the ball move and then reacted. There was little anticipation. Positioning was off-kilter.

Everything was a fog of excrement.

Offensively, it was probably worse. The team turned the ball over 17 times and gave up 25 points off of those turnovers. In the previous 10 games with Ricky, they were averaging 13 turnovers per game and only 15 points off of them. Luke seemed tentative setting guys up early and it set the tone for how the rest of the game finished. Guys didn’t move the ball like they had been doing. Movement without the ball was minimal.

As Inspectah Deck once said, “Life without Ricky shouldn’t be so tough.”

I’m not so sure that the Wolves were running a lot of plays under Ricky. It was basically calling out a pick-and-roll half the time and seeing where his magic carpet ride of passing would take them. Saturday night, that carpet was stuck in neutral and incapable of going anywhere. Broken plays turned into facepalms. Executed sets became bailouts for a horrible Hornets team. The Wolves got out to a decent start offensively because Love and Pekovic were dominating the interior. Once the Hornets closed off offensive rebounding areas, the Wolves had no answer.

Malcolm Lee made his debut and he wasn’t terrible. His defense, especially the help defense, was vaguely energizing. He blocked a couple of shots, got a steal and sealed off driving lanes by Greivis Vasquez. Offensively, he looked like a deer in headlights trying to set the team up. He picked up his dribble early to move the ball to the next station. He had one nice drive to the basket that he ended up missing a layup to finish. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of leadership with him on the floor.

Wayne Ellington had the cobwebs dusted off of him and he scored 12 points off the bench. He was one of the few guys that didn’t hesitate when he got the ball. He just caught it and fired, like you’d expect an NBA shooter to do. It made me think that the Wolves are going to need more of this and more of Beasley initiating offense off the bench if they want to survive the next 24 games.

The Wolves shot poorly (5/23 from 3-point range), only Luke moved the ball (mostly in the fourth), and you rarely saw this team get out in transition to get easy scoring chances.

Maybe this game was a wakeup call for Minnesota. Ricky is gone, this is the worst it can probably get, and the team needs to rally for the rest of the season. Or maybe this is the norm of what we’re going to see – a lot of flashbacks from last season in real time right now. Personally, I’d be shocked if Adelman let this team feel sorry for itself for very long. This isn’t Kurt Rambis sauntering through his workday. This is one of the better NBA coaches of the last 25 years figuring out adjustments for this team.

Here’s hoping we don’t look down the bench anymore out of habit and wonder when Jonny Flynn will get minutes.

I waited to post this recap of the game last night because I didn’t know the outcome of the game until a short time ago.

While I know there is plenty to talk about with Derrick being a scratch starter for Love right before tip-off or Pekovic being a monster against two twin towers from the Lakers or Wes continuing his good shooting from last game, the story of the game was what happened with 16 seconds left when Ricky tried to take a charge from Kobe Bryant on right left wing and we saw his knee buckle before the contact even really happened. He had to be carried back to the bench by teammates. When he tried to walk under his own power to see if he could be okay to finish the game, he took a couple of steps before knowing the pain was far too severe.

There was a lot of fight in this game by the Wolves. Without Kevin Love, the Lakers, even on the road, should be able to blow out this Minnesota squad. And yet, the team jumped all over the Lakers from the start and maintained a comfortable-ish lead throughout the first half. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher got hot mathematically trended upward in the third quarter. And the offensive rebounding woes that happen when you take Kevin Love out of the lineup against two of the better big men in the NBA seemed to take over at the worst times in the fourth quarter.

While one rookie had his season ended on a freak accident, I loved what Derrick Williams showed down the stretch of this game. Did he screw up royally? ABSOLUTELY. He goaltended a shot that he probably shouldn’t have touched. He drove baseline for a weak layup that Pek ended up tipping home. And he drove past Ron Artest (I’m not calling him that name) only to be stifled on a shot inside the key by Pau Gasol. Were some of them ill-advised moves? Yes, absolutely. Is it possible the Wolves suffered blown calls on some of these final possessions? They certainly did. However, seeing Derrick Williams step up to take big shots is not a typical thing you see with most rookies. He’s been doing that all year long.

The big loss didn’t come in the standings though, it came from Ricky tearing his ACL and being done for the season. I’ll have more thoughts on this as I attempt to gather them, but it’s definitely not the end of the world. It’s not like Ricky is never going to play again. A year or so from now, he’ll probably be fine and we won’t even notice that he had such an injury. It just sucks right now because he was part of what made this team so fun to watch. Last night, there was a point in which the Wolves were in transition and Rubio dropped a behind-the-back bounce pass between four defenders.

BETWEEN FOUR DEFENDERS!

Between that and everything he brought to the table every night, it just sucks we can’t continue to see him galvanize this franchise and fan base anymore this season. But there is still a season left to play. There are 25 games left and I would imagine these guys aren’t just going to give up. Kevin Love has been on a tear like we’ve rarely seen in this game. Nikola Pekovic is flanking him inside and ready to continue to dish out punishment for anybody unfortunate enough to draw him as a defensive assignment. And Luke Ridnour will now swing back from the do-whatever-his-coach-asks-of-him role player to the playmaker we saw in Seattle and Milwaukee.

The team is still in the thick of the playoffs race. Houston is without Kyle Lowry for a bit as he nurses a strained groin. Portland is in shambles right now and could go through some big changes on the roster. And Utah… well we don’t really know what they’re doing either but Devin Harris is heavily involved.

All we can do right now is hope Ricky has a speedy and healthy recovery with this rehabilitation process. Wolves can bounce back against the Hornets tonight. Get well soon, Ricky.

Yesterday, Kevin Love went to Sea Life at the Mall of America to introduce himself and the world to K-Love the Octopus.

According to the press release from the team:

K-Love the octopus will be joining the team of 10,000 sea creatures from SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium at Mall of America. The octopuswill be released into his new tank by Kevin Love. Kevin will also be feeding K-Love the octopus as well as giving him a special basketball toy. Children from Hope Kids will also be on hand to be the first to see K-Love in his new tank.

Why an octopus? Both the octopus, K-Love, and Kevin Love have excellent grabbing ability – one to grab boards, the other mainly grabs food. An octopus is also one of the smartest animals in the sea, while Kevin is surely one of the smartest on the court. Lastly, both Kevin and K-Love will be making Minnesota proud for many years to come.

Thanks to the Wolves PR and Sea Life, I went down there with Myles Brown and others posing as media to check out the event first hand. Here’s a little video of the afternoon.

(Apologize for the subpar audio. Tried to reduce the background noise the best I could.)

Kevin seemed to have a fun time with the kids and everyone involved in the event. Here is a scientific look into the future at what K-Love the Octopus will look like when he’s fully grown.

Do you remember the Wolves-Lakers game in March from last season?

The Wolves didn’t know it yet, but they were in the early stages of a 15-game losing streak to end the season and clinch the worst record in the NBA. What stood out that game was Wes Johnson went off against Kobe Bryant. He scored early and he scored often, totaling 29 points on 11/21 shooting. Kobe had an off night, partly due to Wes’ defense on him, scoring just 18 points on 7/16 shooting. It was a beacon of hope at the end of a tumultuous season.

Then this season happened and Wes has been so bad shooting the basketball that people (myself included) wonder why he’s even out there. His confidence has seemed shot and he wasn’t attacking the basket like he promised before the season started.  Continue Reading…


Apologize for the late recap post but we had some issues with the site yesterday, and I’m just now able to get it posted.

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been absent from recap duties and other postings on this site the past week because I was out of town. I went to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston to see what the latest nerds were doing in trying to figure out new ways to quantify sports.

Basketball has always been one of the fuzziest ways to figure out what we’ve just seen and what we’ll see in the future because there are so many variables and intangibles that we haven’t figured out how to measure yet. People argue about PER, Win Shares, plus/minus, adjusted plus/minus and everything under the sun. We don’t know what is good enough for analysis and what isn’t but we do know that advancements in the field are happening every season.

One of the biggest arguments that stats analysts and non-stats analysts have had over the years is about “the hot hand.” Can we really predict if the next shot is going in based on consecutive makes just prior to the next attempt? Do people ever get hot or are they just mathematically trending upward? Whether you believe in the hot hand or not isn’t really relevant to this recap.

Just know that whether he’s hot right now or he’s just trending, Kevin Love has been destroying two really good frontcourts the last two games.  Continue Reading…

These things happen.

We can’t all be Kobe Bryant. In fact, these are the nights we wonder how Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant. He should’ve been in bed like the rest of us; wallowing in self pity and reaching for that second pint of ice cream. Instead, there he was, pirouetting into those patented fadeaways, jumping passing lanes, and whipping assists to teammates. If dislocations, torn ligaments, aching knees, a broken nose and a concussion won’t slow him down, then Kobe has simply run out of ways to amaze us. We applaud his excellence with a yawn and shake of the head.

Kevin Love, on the other hand, didn’t play tonight; presumably bed ridden with reported flu-like symptoms. This doesn’t make him weak, or any less of a competitor, it just makes the Wolves a befuddled mess. They’d gotten by without him before–including much of the previous night–however those are the exceptions, not the rule.

Or did you expect the bench to outscore our starters for the second straight contest? Well, they did (49-36), but Kobe (31) almost did too. There simply weren’t enough shooters to keep the defense honest, there weren’t enough post threats on either side of the ball  to negate the Lakers size advantage, and there never has been a slasher to keep things moving, much less compete with a Hall of Famer.

Continue Reading…

“Hanging around. Hanging around. Kid’s got alligator blood. Can’t get rid of him.” – Teddy KGB.

It starts with a run. The Clippers came out of halftime, inexplicably only up three points and looking to put this game away early. A layup from Randy Foye drops in. Blake Griffin hits a jump shot. Randy Foye makes a 3-pointer off of a pass from Blake. The Clippers are carving up a young Wolves’ team with passing and effort. They’re being more physical. They’re quicker to the ball. They’re now up 10 within the blink of an eye.

For some reason this season, the Wolves find a way to stick around. There are plenty of games in which I’ve watched the action unfold before my eyes, then look up at the scoreboard and wonder how Minnesota had kept it so close. They have sneak ways of going on runs immediately after an opponent’s run. And it’s rarely anything but subtle.

Luke Ridnour made a technical free throw after an illegal defense. After a missed 3, an offensive rebound by Rubio and DeAndre Jordan swatting a shot attempt, the Wolves got a stop against the Clippers. Pek gets to the foul line for two, Wes hits a jumper off the Rubio setup, and then Rubio finds Wes in transition for the layup. All of a sudden, the 10-point lead is a two-point deficit and you’re back in the grind of the game.

The story of the mini-runs and the grind it out mentality of this team kept them in it. But the bench certainly won the game for the Wolves tonight.

And the bench. CAUGHT. FIRE.  Continue Reading…

In the future, the Wolves will make the playoffs and we will all live in places like this.

The regular season is just a tick over halfway done. Almost miraculously, your Timberwolves have won as many times in 33 games as they did all of last year. They have players that do incredible things, players that people enjoy watching. It seems possible that they may actually be competing for a playoff spot as the season winds down. The days of dreary, callow basketball, of loss after disheartening loss, seem to be over.

But the riddle is far from solved. The Wolves remain incomplete, full of gaps and shortcomings. And they face a punishing schedule, sure to deplete whatever reserves of energy they may have stowed away during their long weekend. So Zach, Myles and I will here attempt to tackle some of the big questions facing the Wolves as the season’s second half gets underway.

Continue Reading…

Puppy Breath and… Nutmeg?

Zach Harper —  February 25, 2012 — 2 Comments

In last night’s Rising Stars game, Ricky Rubio put on a passing display that had the internets a blazing.

He also went 5-hole against DeMarcus Cousins before finding Blake Griffin on the alley-oop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rne9SeYx8To

Big ups to Derrick Williams for not trying to Greg Monroe the end of this play.

There was also this pass to a running and traveling Markieff Morris:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egXg1bb3u3w

He caught Evan Turner looking too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEZNmhH30i8

Overall, it was a pretty decent night of “basketball” in terms of highlights. John Wall’s dunks were ridiculous and Kyrie Irving somehow shot 130% on 3-point attempts. D Dub in the dunk contest tonight!

That was the weirdest and most fun comeback I’ve experienced in a long time.

There was no reason for the Wolves to win that game last night and maybe that’s why the comeback was so fun. Everything was working against Minnesota for so long in that game, that the comeback never really seemed real to me until the final minute of the game. The Wolves were essentially without three of their starters for most of this contest, even though they logged a combined 99 minutes in the game.

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic were not good last night. Rubio looked slow and incapable of running the offense. He made a couple of 3-pointers, but he seemed more intent on earning foul calls than getting quality shots in the second half. Nikola Pekovic was playing on a bum ankle, but didn’t seem to be really affected by it. He just couldn’t make shots inside, no matter how many times he grabbed the rebound. And then there was Kevin Love.

Before the game, Love talked about how he’s wiped out physically. During the first few minutes of the game, it looked like something was seriously wrong with him. When Utah jumped out to an early lead, Adelman called a timeout to quell the storm. As Love came to the bench, he was completely red and sucking in as much oxygen as he could possibly manage. He had his head in a towel with Michael Beasley trying to offer words of encouragement. It looked as though he had an illness, and maybe he did if you consider pure exhaustion to be an ailment.

So there the Wolves were; getting their teeth kicked in by an impressive frontcourt. First 20 points of the game for Utah were scored in the paint. They were bullying Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic like it was two Darkos. Passes were being picked off, dribbles were being lost and the easiest of interior shots were complicated endeavors.  Continue Reading…