Archives For Blake Griffin

Dudley 3

 

Some nights, the words for these recaps come easily; there are so many basketball games to watch and write about that churning out approximately 1,000 words, summarizing the experience, becomes second nature. A process forms, and no matter the result – a win, a loss, a blowout, a narrow defeat – as a writer, you contextualize what you can, highlighting moments that made this particular game stand out, attempt to offer helpful commentary, adding your personal voice, and hopefully wrap a bow on it at the end.

Minnesota’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night didn’t feel anything like a regular game, which meant I needed to throw my process out the window. It simply wouldn’t suffice. After 48 minutes of positively sublime basketball from Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, there were five minutes of free basketball (overtime), followed by an evening of smoldering discontent from Timberwolves fans and media types. Why did the Timberwolves lose? They were ahead by 5 with 30 seconds to go in regulation. With 13 seconds left, they held a two point lead and possession of the ball. With 46 seconds left in overtime, they were up by 2 (again). All favorable scenarios for victory, but none of them played out that way. Who is to blame? And what does it mean? Where to begin? 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…

“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…

Against the Clippers, the Wolves did at least three things that they haven’t done consistently for years. They: came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half when it appeared that the game was slipping away; made poised, aggressive plays down the stretch; executed a last shot out-of-bounds play–and actually made the shot. (In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time they did it was Michael Beasley against these Clips last fall, and that game was no where near as interesting or encouraging as this one). This was a wild, ragged, competitive, thrilling game–with Hubie Brown providing the breathless, grandfatherly commentary. In short, its a game we’re not used to seeing our Timberwolves even playing in, much less winning. It was an awful lot of fun.

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If there’s an NBA schedule that must mean there will be a season right? right? You can check out the entire thing right here. Some notable dates:

Season Opener, Monday December 26th, vs. OKC: Hm, Derrick Williams playing the three, eh? Does that mean we’ll get to see him try to guard Kevin Durant? Or maybe Mike Beasley will get a crack at it. Shudder

Friday, December 30th-Monday, January 2nd; vs. Miami, Dallas and San Antonio: Three games in four nights in the season’s first week against some serious heavies. Could be a little ugly.

Sunday, January 10th-Tuesday, January 12th; @ Washington, @ Toronto, vs. Chicago: Three games, three nights, three flights. The first of three triple-headers for the Wolves.

Monday, March 5th; vs. LA Clippers: Will we get to see one (or many, many) Chris Paul to Blake Griffin alley-oops? Just writing that made my computer shut down.

Friday, March 30th; vs. Boston: Our boy returns, again.

 

Blake Griffin prepares to transcend Samsara.

As Hanny and Jim Pete repeated more than once, Wednesday night’s Wolves-Clippers matchup was likely the most highly anticipated game in the entire history of this storied rivalry.  And it turned out more strangely than I could have imagined.

The strangest of all is a point that Myles alluded to in his writeup: Kevin Love actually did a solid job of forcing Blake Griffin into tough shots, but then couldn’t prevent Griffin from putting back his own miss, often in stunning style. Of course, Love then proceeded to grab 10 boards in the second half while matching up with the 7-foot tall, 300-foot wingspanned human elevator, Deandre Jordan. So I thought this called for some rebounding bullets. There’s also a little Jonny Flynn and David Kahn in this mix.

Forget about the dead birds, the dead fish, and the functional illiterate squatting on The Times’ Bestseller List. Our surest sign yet of the coming apocalypse came last night in Los Angeles. Kevin Love didn’t grab a single rebound in the entire first half. Not one.

This is quite possibly the rarest of statistical anomalies the NBA has to offer. Even an uncontainable talent like LeBron James has the occasional cold streak, as do Rajon Rondo’s fellow Celtics, which would explain either of the two respectively failing to register a point or assist. Try as they might, the ball doesn’t always go in the basket. But that’s exactly what made this so….strange.

Not one? Really?

Then again, it wasn’t hard to understand why. Saddled with early foul trouble, Love saw limited minutes and upon returning to action, he simply couldn’t handle Blake Griffin. You see, even after acknowledging them for the coded indicators of race that they are, we must also accept that the essence of Kevin’s game is hard work and a high IQ. Underwhelming physique or not, he knows the entire floor, positions himself well and never gives up on a play. This alone has been enough to outperform championship frontcourts in both Boston and San Antonio, in addition to hanging a 30/30 game around Amar’e Stoudemire’s neck. But Griffin is an unparalleled athlete and workhorse. It almost…no, it was unfair. The Clippers carried a twelve point lead into the half, which by no coincidence was the same advantage they held in second chance points, thanks solely to Blake Griffin. Nothing that powerful should be so nimble.

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Stats nerds analyzing stats. Photo by Peter Renshaw

It’s been a banner week for the Timberwolves’ young ballers. 42 point outbursts, 30/30 games, thrilling buzzer-beaters, interviews on NBATV–it’s like another dimension. But here are some sobering numbers to keep things in perspective.

The first concerns Michael Beasley. Right now, Beasley’s prolific scoring is largely based on hot shooting from from deep two-point territory, generally the lowest-percentage shot in the game. Since the Sacramento game, Beasley his hit 63% of those shots, which is 23 points higher than the league average. Suffice it to say, Kevin Pelton (writing at ESPN Insider) hears the clock ticking on B-Easy’s prolific scoring:

That kind of accurate shooting on long 2s will be difficult for Beasley to sustain. Before [last] Wednesday, he was shooting 42.9 percent from 16 to 23 feet. The league average from that distance is even worse (39.9 percent). While players like Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki show that it is possible to make a living with long 2s as a staple, Beasley has not yet proved to be at their level.

Despite his hot shooting, opponents have been mostly conceding Beasley these long looks. The question is: will defenses at some point begin to challenge these shots, or will they simply sit back and wait for him to cool off? Will Beasley respond–to new defensive tactics and his own inevitable cooling–by taking the ball to the basket? Friday’s game against the Lakers would seem to be a good test of all of these questions.

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Photo by Laser Burners

In the past three years, the Wolves haven’t had many opportunities to win basketball games of any kind. Thrilling endings and clutch buzzer-beaters have mostly been some enviable luxury, like when the rich kids at school used to show off their Girbauds and Valterra skateboards. My memory of potential game-winning shots includes: Randy Foye getting a three blocked by Dwyane Wade; lots of hurried, un-lovely, poorly executed plays; Damian Wilkins’ blind luck.

In any case, it’s been a really long time since we’ve seen any T-Wolf with the ability to do what Michael Beasley did in the Timberwolves’ Wednesday night 113-111 win against the Clippers. There he was, with the game tied and time running down, isolated against Ryan Gomes at the top of the key. He took two hard dribbles to his right, pulled up at the elbow, elevated over the double-team and hit the game winner. For the past week at least, and for the first time in years, the Wolves have had somebody who can salvage a bucket when the offense fails to produce an open look (which is often), who can create for himself when the wheels fall off the machine, who actually can hit a game-winner over a double-team. Its a strange feeling.

And it’s a good thing, too, because the Wolves went to extraordinary lengths to lose this game. Their previous seven possessions had been a carnival of horrors: hurried execution, careless passes, poorly chosen jumpers, missed layups. Only Corey Brewer’s utterly ridiculous flailing bank-shot to tie the game at 111 with 1:14 remaining salvaged this hideous stretch of play. The shot was vintage Brewer in that it was almost more troubling than heartening. It had no conceivable reason to go in the basket; it was a sign of an offense entirely out-of-sync.

Continue Reading…