In many ways, Rick Adelman’s 1,000th win resembled his 703rd loss. As in Friday night’s game against Toronto, his team enjoyed spells of real ease, in which an overmatched opponent appeared ready to fold the tent and cede the game. In this one, the Wolves cruised to an 11-point lead in the first quarter. They dropped a 12-0 run in the second quarter and a 10-0 run late in the third. But as in their loss to Toronto, they repeatedly gave those leads back with stretches of unfocused play. That is what young teams do I guess, especially one whose primary ballhandlers include an emotional, turnover-prone 22-year-old, a 5’8″ shot-chucking black hole and the fourth Karamazov brother (the skinny, depressed-looking one with the wildly inconsistent shooting mechanics).
There are few things in basketball as deflating as watching an opposing midrange jumpshooter on a hot streak. You know that, even with his impressive arsenal of fades and stepbacks, when he shoots that beautiful 18-footer over his defender’s outstretched hand, he is taking the least efficient shot on the floor. He is doing exactly what you want him to do. And still, the ball goes in the basket.
For the most part, the Wolves defended DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay the way that you hoped they might. They walled off the paint, prevented layups, kept the two long slashers off the free-throw line, stayed at home on three-point shooters. There are a few quibbles here and there–we might’ve liked to see Andrei Kirilenko give Gay less room to maneuver at the point of attack; they blew a rotation with two minutes to play that resulted in a DeRozan three-point play–but, in general, when we see anybody besides Dirk Nowitzki circa 2010 taking contested long-range twos, we can conclude that the defense has done its job. Nevertheless, there were Gay and DeRozan deploying their full array of pivots, hesitations and crossovers, hitting contested jumper after contested jumper.
Still, a team could do worse than allowing its opponents’ two best scorers–both unreasonably accurate from outside and preying on mismatches–to tally 51 points on 46 shots. Much more problematic, if you ask me, were a) the Wolves’ inability to fully capitalize on their 40-16 free-throw advantage and b) their inability to parlay moderate leads into decisive leads, to complete the job of beating a team that, for a while, was begging to be beaten.
Lets dispense with part ‘a’ quickly, because it is both aggravating and tedious. The Wolves, as they do, got to the line a lot. And, just as typically, they missed 25% of those free-throws. They missed three out of their last six free-throws and, of course, Ricky Rubio missed the one that would have tied the game at 94 with 1.7 seconds remaining. There, done.
Now for ‘b.’ The Raptors played some stretches of truly listless defense, in which, for instance, Alexei Shved was allowed to dribble unimpeded to within five feet of the hoop and loft an uncontested floater and Chase Budinger was given free reign to run off flare screens, rise up with a nice, clear look at the hoop and hit some perfectly relaxed, unimpeded jumpers. What’s more, the Raptors were saddled with the problem that neither Jonas Valanciunas nor Aaron Gray seemed capable of single-covering Nikola Pekovic without blatantly fouling him.
And so, in the first three quarters, the Wolves were able, with relative ease, to cruise out to leads of nine, eight and 11–but no more than that. That they were unable to extend those leads into more forbidding territory is a testament to their simple lack of consistent execution. A case in point are the minutes following the third-quarter Andrei Kirilenko three that gave the Wolves their one and only double-digit lead. Ricky Rubio penetrates the Raptors’ defense but delivers a pass to Pekovic’s feet. Derrick Williams falls over while attempting a rather ornate spin move in isolation. Luke Ridnour dribbles the ball out of bounds. Rubio attempts to initiate the offense by entering the ball to Kirilenko at the elbow; but AK does not fully seal his defender and Rubio’s pass is too casual. Rudy Gay jumps into the passing lane and streaks to the other end of the floor for a breakaway dunk. The Wolves go to a 2-3 zone in order to contain Kyle Lowry’s dribble penetration–and yet Lowry still manages to split the two backcourt defenders and hit an open floater at the third-quarter buzzer.
And things only got worse over the first few minutes of the fourth quarter when Rubio got his rest and J.J. Barea took the opportunity to perfect his ball-pounding, clock-killing, impossible-jumper routine. Its worth noting that at no point during the 12-4 run that brought them back into the game did the Raptors look particularly dynamic on either end of the floor. Minnesota’s slack execution simply allowed them to crawl back into the game.
By the time Rubio had settled things back down with a series of shrewd pick-and-rolls, in the process remembering to take advantage of Pekovic down low, the one truly shining matchup advantage at the Wolves’ disposal, Toronto had gained a measure of confidence. Their defense started to buzz, Gay and DeRozan got hot. It ended badly.
It’s amazing how fun Ricky Rubio can be at times.
We know about the passing and the steals. We know he can crash the boards and break down opposing perimeter defenders. And we see glimpses of an improved jump shooter. In fact, over Rubio’s last 10 games, he’s over 40% from the field (41.2%) and he’s made 50% of his 3-point shots. Now, I wouldn’t say he’s fixed his ability to put the ball in the basket; it’s still very much a work in progress. But there are signs of improvement.
Two things I look for when Rubio taking a jumper are 1) was he readying himself before the pass got to him and 2) where is the arc on his shot? Continue Reading…
To tank or not to tank?
That’s what teams are left trying to figure out at the end of disappointing seasons. For some organizations, the entire season is one big tank fest as they rebuild and try to bring some youth and cheap labor to their re-growing roster (see: Bobcats, Charlotte). For other teams, the season just hasn’t gone their way and they go with a “change in direction” for their organization so they start focusing on “the young talent” on the roster (see: Suns, Phoenix). Teams would never admit to tanking because it’s a nightmare in terms of selling your product.
Also, you can’t tell players not to try hard unless they’re Michael Olowokandi. In that situation, he’s WAY ahead of you. You have to finagle the roster and the lineups as an organization to put out a crappy product. But you can’t come out and tell the coaching staff that a guy isn’t allowed to play because you want a higher draft pick. Players get “held out with injuries” because it’s an easier sell than being “held out with hopes of landing a top-3 pick.”
I don’t have a problem with tanking either. I wish the system wasn’t constructed in a way that promotes tanking. I’d rather have an unweighted lottery because it wouldn’t give teams any incentive to put out a crappy product the last three weeks of the regular season. But the system is what the system is. You get more beer pong balls by losing more games and that means more chances at putting together the right combination to win the draft lottery. As long as the system is this way, you would be stupid not to tank in most cases. Continue Reading…
A game the Wolves should have won and did. Against a thoroughly depleted Celtics squad whose frontcourt rotation consisted of Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Shavlik Randolph (who is apparently the first person named Shavlik in the history of the world based on my research) and even 3 minutes and 50 seconds of D.J. White, the Wolves found themselves with an advantage in the post thanks to the return of Nikola Pekovic from a brief ankle injury. And Pek put in work on the offensive side of things, dumping in 29 points (2 short of his career high) even though he only collected 5 rebounds.
The Wolves shot badly from 3-point range (naturally), managing only .278 on 3-pointers, but they didn’t need to space the floor with Boston’s centers so badly overmatched physically by Pekovic. The aforementioned ankle injury didn’t seem to bother Pek, and Adelman said that he didn’t go the last game because he just couldn’t get it loose before the game.
Kirilenko looked Kirilenkish with 17 pts, 9 rebs, 5 asts and 2 stls. Honestly, the only reason this was even a somewhat close game was that the Wolves’ defensive effort just wasn’t there in the first half. Their offense clicked immediately, but they couldn’t seem to transfer that energy into their defense, which lagged until they tightened up in the second half, pushing the lead out to as much as 14 and holding it mostly steady around double digits.
We cool with all that? Because now I want to talk about Jordan Crawford. Continue Reading…
During Friday night’s stunning win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rick Adelman talked about how he was happy to see that the team didn’t have any lulls throughout their game. It was a reason they were able to match the runs the Thunder went on. It was the reason they were able to topple a more talented team. If you can stay even keeled throughout the course of a game, you’re almost always going to be in great shape to win that game. It’s hard for even the toughest teams to do because the peaks and valleys that occur in the NBA are so commonplace.
Against the Thunder, it didn’t happen to be a problem. Against the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday night, that was the Wolves’ undoing. The final score makes the game look like a typical Grizzlies’ blowout of their lesser opponents, but really this was a highly competitive game. Without Nikola Pekovic and without Kevin Love, the Wolves had the daunting task of trying to handle the tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph inside. And I was actually quite impressed with what we saw from the undersized Wolves. Continue Reading…
Something you hear a lot of commentators say is that the NBA is a “make or miss” league. I don’t get this. Or rather, I understand that the game is decided by who scores more points, and thus that the team that wins has—by design—made more shots than the other team. But is that all there is to this cliché? If anyone has some deeper insight to it, I’d appreciate it.
But another thing that makes a lot more sense to me that people often say is that the NBA is all about matchups. Consider this: This season, the Timberwolves have a winning percentage of .366, while the Thunder have a winning percentage of .726. And yet the season series between the two teams is even at 2-2. And last season—even though the Wolves were 0-3 against the Thunder—the games were hard fought. Minnesota lost their season opener to OKC 104-100 in 2011-12, and that was before anyone really knew what Rubio could do on a basketball court. And then, of course, there was that magnificent double overtime game in Oklahoma City that saw Barea and Durant notch triple doubles and Love score 51 while pulling down 14 rebounds. Continue Reading…
That’s the only thing we’re going to remember from this game and probably rightfully so.
The Lakers gave the Wolves a lot of opportunities to stay in this game. They played horrendous defense throughout much of the second half and the Wolves fought back to make it a game, thanks to Smite-a-Dwight in the 10th minute of the fourth quarter, a rare missed free throw from Steve Nash, and a rare missed free throw from Kobe Bryant. After Bryant’s missed free throw, Rubio grabbed the board and avoided Kobe as he hauled tail up the court. He released a low percentage runner that never really got a chance to go in because Kobe contested the shot.
In the process of contesting the shot, Bryant hacked Rubio across the forearm. It isn’t the most egregious non-call in NBA history, but it’s certainly a foul that should have been called because it potentially influenced the outcome of the game. Was it more important than the moments in the game that led to 120 points by the Lakers? Absolutely not. But it’s still a chance at a player tying the game and sending it to overtime that was taken away because of a foul that wasn’t called. Continue Reading…
The first A Wolf Among Wolves zip-up hoodie is now available.
Have $40 to spend? Want to avoid being cold while we wait for the snow to thaw and the mercury to rise? Need something swaggeristic (made it up) to wear to Wolves games? Then the AWAW zip-up hoodie is perfect for you!
It comes in black with white print or heather grey with blue print. There is a design on the left sleeve that may look familiar to you, a standard zipper down the middle of the front, and our AWAW lettering on the hood of the sweatshirt. They run a little big for their size, but will also shrink a bit if you wash them on warm.
There are still a few issues in getting up a store on the site right now (stupid plugin coding I don’t understand), so until that gets resolved we’re going to have to go through a much more archaic manner of ordering the hoodies.
Supplies are limited until we print more, so you’ll need to act fast if you want one. Here’s how the ordering process will be until the store can be implemented into the site: Continue Reading…