Maybe the Wolves shouldn’t explore the Mozgov/Pek backup plan after all?
In a game that was incredibly fast in the first half because of a lack of calls and completely bogged down in the fourth quarter because of 23 foul calls and 38 free throw attempts, the Wolves had to power through their first game back from the All-Star break. Luckily for them, they have the most powerful guy in the NBA with Nikola Pekovic. It’s amazing how a guy with so much brute strength can have such a feathery touch when it comes to scoring with hooks and push-shots around the basket.
There was one shot in particular in the second half when he used about four or five bounces on the rim and backboard before the shot dropped in which I thought he was practicing for Plinko on The Price Is Right (Actually, how awesome would Pek be on The Price Is Right?). The thing with Pek is he’s a rare breed of center now. In the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s, the NBA was ruled by powerful guys on the low block who could move mountains with a drop-step. Because we have such a faster and more athletic game now, guys like Pek just don’t come around anymore. Continue Reading…
For the final play of the Wolves-Blazers game, Rick Adelman drew up a play that gave Ricky Rubio a fairly basic pick-and-roll set with the floor spread and plenty of options off of that play. And the Wolves actually ran it really well. They ended up with Dante Cunningham pump-faking, nearly traveling, and then having to rush a jumper just a bit against his defender.
After the game, Adelman described the play they ran:
“The last play was a bang-bang play. I thought it was the best play we had. Pek might have been open rolling down the middle. At least he was going right to the basket and forcing the action. Dante made a nice pump fake, missed the shot but he’s not used to having the ball in his hands like that.”
Cunningham had made eight of his 10 shot attempts in the fourth quarter and was 20 for his last 25 heading into that final play. The Wolves options on the play were essentially spot-up shooting from Barea and Shved on the two sides, Rubio driving to the basket, Pek rolling to the basket or DC pupping near the top of the key.
“When Rick draws up a play, it’s not only one option,” Rubio said in the locker room after the game. “You never know what’s going to happen. It was like a different option and I felt that was the best option because he was shooting pretty good. But they defended it pretty good too.”
How good was the play and could it have been better? Let’s take a look. Continue Reading…
The idea of wanting it more than the other team is a confusing concept to me. Wanting it more doesn’t really mean anything positive, necessarily. Do the Wolves lose games because they don’t want to win enough? Or do they lose games because they don’t want to win it correctly? Or do they lose games because they are simply too banged up?
After playing an abominable 38 minutes to start out against the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night, the Wolves found some pride and decided to fight back by executing basketball plays. It sounds simple because… well, it is simple. When the Wolves play basketball like they’re designed to play, good things can happen. It doesn’t mean they’d always win if they played the way they’re supposed to. Certain match-ups will always be problematic for what they have for personnel.
However, watching them run pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, and get controlled dribble penetration in the fourth quarter against a team like Portland showed they have potential to compete even with the current injuries.
After Saturday night’s blowout victory over the Pelicans, I said it was really hard to learn anything from a blowout win or loss because you don’t see your team tested or responding. Have enough blowout losses in a short amount of time and you’ll learn that your team just isn’t very good, but having them sporadically really just means they’re random occurrences rather than tell-tale signs. But when your team keeps consistently getting down big early in games and then has to fight its way back, what does that teach you?
The Wolves had just gotten pummeled by the Lakers. I know the final score was pretty close, but any time you’re down 29 points to a team at any point in the game, you’ve been pummeled. The Wolves eventually whittled a 29-point second quarter deficit down to four before losing by double digits to Kobe and Friends Colleagues. And the cliché in games like that is “use the momentum of the run to make it a game and roll it over into the next game.”
I don’t know if there are statistics readily available to back this up, but I feel like that doesn’t happen a lot. The idea of game-to-game momentum doesn’t seem real to me unless the team has walked away with a victory. And yet, the cliché rang true Saturday night for the Wolves. After getting down 61-32 just a few minutes into the second quarter of Friday night’s game, Minnesota built their own 29-point lead. Theirs existed in the third quarter of their victory over the Pelicans but it existed.
Know what I realized during the Wolves’ blowout victory when juxtaposed to their ginormous deficit just 24 hours prior? I have a hard time learning anything from blowout games. Continue Reading…
We have kind of been talking about tempering expectations over the last week or so. The Timberwolves are extremely banged up and I think it’s becoming apparent that without a shooter (Chase Budinger) to space the floor and without an All-NBA focus of the offense (Kevin Love) for the defense to key in on, we’re headed into a very dark and murky area of not knowing which team is going to show up most nights.
The natural inclination is to find someone to blame. The blaming of Love seems to have passed through our area for now. Since he’s not around and won’t be for a couple of months, there’s no point in belaboring the point and hammering down a guy that can’t prove anybody right or wrong. His hand just won’t allow it. And thankfully, fans seem to acknowledge that for now and I haven’t really seen any blame placed on his beard. However, you still have someone to blame. Eventually, it will be Rick Adelman because the coach always takes the fall at some point. But for now, his situation doesn’t allow him to be with the team and our thoughts go out to him and his wife right now.
So who else is blame-worthy? A lot of the sentiment peppering the Twitter waves last night went toward the guy pictured above. No, they weren’t blaming Tony Parker. I mean… Parker was a big part of why the Wolves got destroyed. He had 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting in just 29 minutes of action. He did whatever he wanted out there.
No, people started freaking out about Ricky Rubio, saying he shouldn’t be playing if he can’t produce like we need him to produce. I’m not going to lie; this enraged me. It enraged me because it seemed so short-sighted and desperate. Is Ricky Rubio 100%? Not even close. Is Ricky Rubio 80%? I’m not even so sure of that. I know Rubio definitely isn’t healthy enough to do what he did last year consistently. That much is obvious. But to pretend that Rubio has been bad this season because he’s not scoring the ball or even looking to score the ball seems odd.
Each game for Rubio is a building block. It’s not a building block for improving his game, necessarily. That will have to come during the summer months and into next season. That’s when we’ll see if he can improve his impressive but flawed set of skills. It’s a building block with his body and more specifically his leg. If you notice on every single shot Rubio took last night, they were all short — every single one of them. Rubio’s feel for the game is still impressive. He knows where to deliver the ball most of the time.
However, his feel for when and how to score is back to square one. There is a certain snap of the wrist you can have in passing the ball that doesn’t need much leg strength at all. That’s not the case with shooting a basketball. You want your legs on that wall; you need your legs on that wall. Shooting a jumper without legs is like throwing a football off your back leg. There are times you’re going to complete the pass to the intended receiver but most of the time you’re looking at it going the other way.
Sitting Rubio, even when he’s struggling, is not the answer. He needs to continue to build strength in his legs and confidence in his game. It will waver from time to time but ultimately, it’s a lot better than the alternative. The alternative brings about more questions about his game. Not letting him play his allotted minutes leads to a lack of trust in his game and in his body, and it also leads to atrophy.
And you know how the old saying goes: atrophy never leads to a trophy.
Okay, that’s not a saying. I just made it up. But it kind of makes sense.
If you want to blame something, then blame injuries. They happen and they suck but they’re a part of the NBA. There seems to be a team every season that gets blitzed by them and never quite recovers. Apparently, it’s the Wolves’ turn to suffer through this for whatever reason.
The Wolves got done in by the bench of the Spurs last night. Their bench was A LOT better than our bench and it showed. They had more skill and more energy. I don’t think that would necessarily be the case if these two teams faced each other completely healthy, but “what if” scenarios don’t do anything but make you daydream about a healthier time. The Spurs kicked the Wolves’ butts fair and square. A lot of that could be you’re asking the Wolves’ reserves to be starters and their reserves to be part of the second unit.
Greg Stiemsma, Dante Cunningham, and Lazar Hayward are being asked to do way too much because of injuries. Alexey Shved is being asked to create way too much and you can see how inconsistent his production has been lately because of it. There isn’t any real blame that has to go around right now. Guys are hurt, units are depleted, and our one “savior” is trying to get his body right. He probably won’t accomplish that until next season. Maybe he can get consistent play when March rolls around, but most likely, we probably won’t see him being consistently back to himself until October of this season.
For now, we’re just hoping to see some highlights here and there.
It would be nice to see consistently competitive games but that’s going to be hard against the elite of the NBA. This is what the Spurs do; they destroy those that are beneath them. And the Wolves are definitely beneath them for the time being.
Complain about officiating or the effort or the energy or whatever. Doesn’t really matter. The Wolves played like absolute crap in this game. It happens every once in a while in this league. You hit a road game, you don’t have anything to offer that night, and the home team blows you out. The Wolves have been on the winning side of this equation before and they’ve been on the losing side of this equation before.
Tonight was the losing side and the Jazz just absolutely outplayed them in nearly every way. There isn’t much analysis that can go into it. The team still can’t make 3-pointers. They shot 2-of-17 from the field. It was the eighth time in team history they’ve shot worse than 12% from 3-point range while taking at least 17 3-point attempts. They’re 1-7 in those games with the only win coming on opening night against the Kings this season. It’s not a recipe for success and at a certain point, you have to wonder if they should even take more than a few 3-pointers in a game anymore.
But we’ll get into the 3-point debacle of the season more in the next post.
I don’t really want to talk about the game directly because it was just a bad game. We can eviscerate the people involved with it, but I’ve never been one for overreacting to a small sample size of “evidence.” What I really want to talk about is the lack of athleticism within this team right now. Continue Reading…
Derrick Williams driving to the basket… imagine that.
Is Derrick Williams a bad player who doesn’t belong on the Timberwolves?
The growing sentiment with an impatient fan base seems to be yes, he is. And that’s what we are right now; it’s an impatient fan base because the biological clock of Kevin Love’s potential early termination option is ticking like a time bomb. There is a presumed small window to get this team into the elite ranks of the Western Conference or we’ll be back at the first step again in a few years. Through impatience comes great desperation and understandably so. Continue Reading…
Rick Adelman became a broken record last year. Someone for the Wolves would go down with an injury and he’d start talking about how guys couldn’t feel sorry for themselves and had to step up. They had to make the most of their opportunity to help the team. Ricky Rubio went down with his ACL injury. Kevin Love got a concussion. Nikola Pekovic had bone spurs in his ankle the size of Gibraltar. Pick any of JJ Barea’s 27 injuries from last year.
Guys went down and the Wolves went down with them. Nobody stepped up. Nobody cared. Everybody had the calendar circled for their vacation and not for the playoffs. Once Rubio was gone, the season was lost. Once Love was gone, the season was a joke. Once Pek was gone, it was the same old Wolves again. Adelman begged a set of players without anything close to a guarantee of a future with this organization to show some pride and we only saw it one game, when they finally broke their April losing streak. Continue Reading…
I needed to wash away the stank the Chicago Bulls defense put on the Minnesota Timberwolves last night so I decided to check out the final moments of the Pacers-Wolves game from Friday night. There were a couple of hilarious things off to the side on George Hill’s step-back 3-pointer to tie the game and Chase Budinger’s game-winning layup.
First, let’s look at the 3-pointer by George Hill. To start out, let’s recognize how dirty this move by Hill is. He pulls the ball back between his legs to get Dante Cunningham off-balance, then starts moving forward again before he steps back about two feet to shoot a game-tying 3. That’s just unfair. Dante played that possession extremely well and still ended up looking bad. Somehow, George Hill’s ACLs remain intact too.
But something funny happened on the play. Check out the video and notice the spotlight of Lance Stephenson on the bench:
For some reason, Stephenson tripping over the feet of teammate Jeff Pendergraph and then seeing Frank Vogel look down on him, probably wondering what the hell he was doing on the ground just killed me. I’ve watched this sequence maybe 15 times today and can’t stop laughing about it.
Secondly, let’s look at the game-winning play by Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger. The patience of AK47 was fantastic and the coincidentally heady play of Chase to crash the boards on an assumed shot, only to find himself wide-open for a pass was just fun to witness. Check out Hill’s reaction to the play in real time though. It’s not even over yet and he can’t believe what happened.
We all knew Gerald Green was hilariously asleep on the play and lost where Chase was. But I didn’t notice Hill wondering what the hell Green was doing before the game-winner had even left Chase’s hands. Again, watching this a bunch of times today left me laughing at the final moments of an awesome game.
I’m sure I wouldn’t be as entertained by it if the roles were reversed and the Wolves lost that game, but alas, we have the good fortune of getting to laugh about a great win for the team.
Now let’s never speak of the Bulls’ game again. Stupid Nate Robinson…
I really can’t believe the comeback that happened tonight for the Wolves in Brooklyn. Without their two best players, Minnesota went on the road, got down by 22 on unbelievable shooting from the Nets, and still managed to pull out a victory.
Alexey Shved and his new haircut became a real pro player tonight, Dante CunningHAM continued to woo us with his incredible energy and valuable movement off the bench, and the 3-point field goals finally began to fall. This is such a cliché but this was a total team effort on all counts. They were getting blown out as a team and came back as a team. Their mistakes were corrected during the course of the game and the regression eventually smacked the mean in the face and challenged it to a duel at ten paces.
Rick Adelman can’t receive enough credit for the coaching job he did. He trusted guys who were getting the job done, and gave them the tools and scheme to get it done. Check out the night’s grades after the jump.
(Note: if you’re not seeing grades show up, try looking in Firefox. There have been issues with Chrome and the recap generator.)