Archives For Game Analysis

Let's assume Wiggins convinced Embiid to join the Wolves in 2021.

Let’s assume Wiggins convinced Embiid to join the Wolves in 2021.

The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t been putting a great roster on the floor over the last two seasons. It’s been by design and it’s a risky proposition. It’s an idea that I’ve had, along with plenty of Wolves’ fans, when it comes to the rebuilding style of this Minnesota franchise. Strip down the roster, rid it of almost all of the veterans available, and just let the young guys get their reps, as many as possible.

It’s something I’ve gone back and forth with as the season progresses. We’ve seen components of such an idea when Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and Ricky Rubio missed time as Mo Williams was dealing with some nagging injuries as well. We’ve seen the Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Thaddeus Young, and Gorgui Dieng lineup out there and full of failure on a possession by possession basis. You can talk yourself into this being a valuable learning experience for all of the young guys involved, but you can also see how the process and the results can be stilted.

Over the last two games, we’ve seen the Wolves get the pairing of Pekovic and Martin back into the rotation. The result has been a more organized brand of basketball that doesn’t lack a sense of hope while possessing a tunnel vision on the spectacularly calm moments of Wiggins doing cool stuff out there. You see the value of veterans mixed in with young players, removing many of the frustrations we’ve experienced watching that overmatched basketball team from November 19th or so to earlier this week. That’s where I start appreciating the plan of the Wolves because I’m not sure they have the infrastructure to pull off what the 76ers are doing.  Continue Reading…

FindAHappyPlace

This isn’t something I normally do, but I was watching that UFC fight night on Fox Sports 1 Sunday night. I’m not a UFC or MMA person. It really doesn’t appeal to me. I used to love boxing and will still watch the big fight cards but I definitely don’t keep up with it like I did in the 90’s. That’s probably because the quality of the product, especially with the heavyweight division is just so down. Perhaps that’s another blowout recap for another day though.

I was at a restaurant, enjoying some lovely ribs on a patio and they had the UFC card on all of the televisions. The NFL games were done and the NBA was smart enough to not schedule against the night of the conference championships in the NFL. Once the action from both leagues was done, the fights were on and I had an apple crisp to put down. During the fight, the camera flashed a picture of Mickey Rourke on the screen. He was wearing an odd hat, had some odd hair, and that meant it was time for Twitter to have a little fun with it.

And fun we had.  Continue Reading…

Getty

Getty

At a certain point, I feel like I’ve really got to make a conscious effort to pace myself with writing about Andrew Wiggins. Ideally, I’d get to break down every game of his, possession by possession. Like an overzealous father with a camcorder (I guess an iPhone in today’s modernity), I want to show not just the first steps of Wiggins’ career and break down how they’re better than the steps of just about anybody else we’ve ever seen at that age. That’s a weird feeling too because I am in no way related to Andrew Wiggins, so really I’m just breaking down someone else’s child.

This is the excitement that he brings. I wrote about his improvement earlier this week for CBSSports.com (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!) and in it I showed how his improvement in attacking the basket has really transformed his scoring ability. He’s so good absorbing contact and finish right now that it’s also helping him draw fouls for easy points at the line too. What I failed to mention in the article is that he’s simply not taking bad shots unless he’s forced to at the end of the shot clock. Everything is within the natural flow of the game and Wiggins’ basketball IQ is shining through with his shot selection.

In the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 113-105 road victory over the Denver Nuggets, Wiggins set the tone early by knocking down his first six shots and eventually settled on new career highs with 31 points, four made 3-pointers, and three blocked shots. He went 11-of-17 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3, and even had nine rebounds, four assists, and a steal. He’s just the second teenager in NBA history (LeBron James is the other) to rack up 31 points, nine boards, four assists, and three blocks or better in a game.

That’s officially good.  Continue Reading…

BucksWolves

Remember that weird game against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this season?

The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Western Conference powerhouse with some gritty effort and a lot of luck. I don’t want to diminish from what the Wolves did to the Blazers that night, but Portland shot just 17-of-51 (33.3%) on uncontested shots that night. They shoot 43.8% this season on uncontested jumpers, so you could say that was a bit below their normal production. And because of it, the young, scrappy Wolves walked away with a victory that night. There are two significant things about that game:

1) It was the Wolves’ last victory.
2) It was exactly a month ago today.  Continue Reading…

JohnWallIsTheOneWhoKnocks

This game wasn’t as close as the score would imply. However, it was pretty close at various times throughout the night, which makes it a bit confusing as a whole. About six or so minutes into the game, it seemed like I was going to have to find a blowout recap topic for tonight’s game and I even crowd-sourced for a few ideas. John Wall was picking apart the Wolves and we had several instances of big men not getting back on defense.

There were multiple plays in the first couple of minutes in which Thaddeus Young and Gorgui Dieng were slow to either get back in transition, only to get beaten down the floor by Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries, or to locate their defensive assignment once they did get back. You don’t give space to John Wall’s passing targets and win to talk about it. He’s too good at this stage in his career and as the Wolves found out a few times, you can’t just play 10 feet off of him and expect him to Kemba Walker that jump shot. His game doesn’t break like that anymore.

Since this was a blowout that wasn’t a blowout, let’s actually recap instead of me just rambling for 1,400 words about Pauly D from Jersey Shore or something along those lines.  Continue Reading…

KobeToWiggins

While Kobe Bryant can elicit some pretty polarized takes on how great he is or isn’t, how nice he is or isn’t, how good of a leader/teammate that he is or isn’t, and everything else involved with historic players, what you can’t deny is his psychotic, competitive nature that has fueled one of the greatest careers you could ever imagine. To be completely honest with everybody, I was beyond jealous that I wasn’t in the Target Center Sunday night when Kobe passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list. Sure, it’s come in what will essentially be a lost/wasted season for Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers, but history is history, and the Target Center saw something no other building will ever see — Kobe passing Jordan on the all-time scoring list.

The game was another injury-riddled loss by the Wolves, desperate for the direction of a point guard with a little bit of a veteran touch at his disposal. But there were aspects to this game that were fascinating. Mostly, they resided around the burning desire of Kobe to kill the defender in front of him, despite the Hall of Famer being at the end of his rope athletically (relatively speaking, of course). 36-year old Kobe Bryant plays a megalomaniacal brand of basketball. It’s both an inspiration to those that have come after him and a cautionary tale of finding the right balance between hubris and a pathos of sorts. That’s not a knock on Bryant either. If anything, it’s a compliment about a player that by all historical measurements shouldn’t be able to do what he does anymore.

Kobe is the league’s third leading scorer after 1,269 games, 18-plus years, and over 46,000 minutes in the NBA. That just doesn’t happen. The retort is about how he’s shooting under 40.0% from the field while hoisting all of these shots that allow him to be the scoring leader. And it’s completely correct. He’s allowed to play a certain way that almost no other player has ever been afforded at this point in their careers. To me, that’s why it’s so impressive and it’s a blueprint for competitiveness that I pray someone on the Wolves picks up. I’ll explain:  Continue Reading…

“This ain’t reality TV!”

That’s one of the big lines from the movie The Departed, delivered by Jack Nicholson in a bizarre role that both fits, doesn’t fit, and falls everywhere in between. It comes during a scene in which (SPOILER ALERT) the tension surrounding a Boston crime boss, an undercover cop, and a bunch of lackeys has built to an uncomfortable level. The undercover cop (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is on the verge of being found out and murdered by the crime boss (played by Nicholson). DiCaprio’s character just watched a fellow henchman die when Leo was close to getting busted and soon after the death, DiCaprio, Nicholson, and several henchmen watch a news report revealing that the body had been found and the deceased had been identified as an undercover police officer.

The henchman responsible for burying the dead body is wondering how the police found the body so quickly, and Nicholson is furious at everything going on as his empire is starting to unravel. As Nicholson berates him for not doing his job properly, the henchman laughs at the colorful analogy Jack offers up for where the body was dumped. The laughter adds to the vitriol and frustration suffocating Nicholson and he screams:

“Don’t laugh! This ain’t reality TV!” Continue Reading…

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

This was a weird game. It was a fun game. It was a game that showed just exactly where the Minnesota Timberwolves need to be this season while seeing just how dire things are for the Los Angeles Lakers. In a 120-119 win over the Lakers, we saw just how horrendous the Lakers can be and how energizing and cathartic their defense can be for struggling opponents. And that’s what the Wolves have been since Ricky Rubio went down with his ankle injury — they’ve been struggling.

It’s probably why the Lakers felt like they’d get an easy victory at home against the Wolves. This is a Wolves team missing three starters and three important starters at that. We all know how important Rubio is and have seen that night in and night out since his injury. Nikola Pekovic is the type of post scorer that can make a frontcourt like the Lakers’ feel like quitting basketball with his punishing post play. And Kevin Martin can torch Kobe Bryant at this stage in their respective careers just as easily as Kobe can torch Martin. It’s all about putting pressure on an embarrassing defensive effort that looks to be historically poor.

You mostly hurt the Lakers’ offense in two ways: Continue Reading…

(via Getty)

(via Getty)

I don’t know how many of you watch the show “Sons of Anarchy” but I’ve been fascinated by the character Juice Ortiz [probably some spoilers in this but I haven’t written it so I’m not positive]. Other than Opie, who was my favorite character on this show, Juice has kept my attention throughout the duration of this series. I’ve been completely enthralled with overall story arcs on this show and I’ve been checked out on plenty of story arcs over the course of the seven seasons. Characters have lost me left and right.

I’ve never been all that in to Jax’s character, even though early on in the show he was like a young lion trying to figure out how to rule the jungle. Once he broke through to the leadership role and started his family with Tara, his struggle just didn’t grab me at all. The story arc of Gemma has always been boring. She’s an awful, power-hungry matriarch who will do anything to protect her family. The secret though is the family she’s protecting isn’t her actual family but the mythical family of controlling the club like she’s done for decades. It’s the same cycle every season with just new dastardly ways in which her subversive nature breaks through. Yawn.

And while I love Bobby, Tig, Happy, Chibs, Piney, and Clay [he would rank third in my character rankings], only Opie has been able to surpass my fascination with Juice. The Juice storyline has given his character the most depth on the show and we’ve seen the most range from this actor (Theo Rossi) in portraying that character. While I want to see the finality of the close of this series, I probably would have ejected shortly after Opie’s exit from the show had Juice not been so compelling.  Continue Reading…

LivingLaVineaLoca

In two weeks, the Minnesota Timberwolves will reevaluate Ricky Rubio’s ankle. He’ll be on crutches during that time and then we’ll see how the swelling and ligaments are progressing. Optimistically, I’d say the Wolves are looking at a four-week recovery overall for the significant/high ankle sprain, and six weeks may even be the more likely scenario. That’s simply a guess based on covering injuries like this and talking to a couple of people who are smarter about it than I am.

In the next 4-8 weeks, or however long Rubio is sidelined, Zach LaVine will likely be the starting point guard. Flip Saunders is wary about playing Mo Williams more than 25 minutes a game due to advanced age in the NBA and not wanting to wear him down. When the Wolves made the decision to keep Glenn Robinson III over J.J. Barea, they knew the risk of injury at the point guard could thrust them into a situation like this. And it’s a great chance at developing LaVine in a way they probably didn’t believe was a likely scenario. Saturday night against the Heat, we saw a lot of what the process should and likely will look like during Rubio’s down time.  Continue Reading…