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).
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Just two more games are left in this preseason before we get to see some real action on the court.
Now if we could just get through this without having anybody else get injured, we might just make it through the first month of the season when we see how tough and resilient our second and third units are. If the Wolves start out 2-8, I won’t be singing the same tune but there is something nice about seeing which players belong because of a big injury.
I’ve mentioned this before but last season we got to see who belonged and who didn’t belong once Rubio, Pek, and Love got hit with injuries. It was probably better than if the Wolves had made the playoffs and pretended Darko, Beas, and Wes were long-term options on this team. It allowed for a changing of the guard outside of the core of this team. Situations like this make me think that there are small glimpses into if you actually want a player on your team. Continue Reading…
The Philadelphia 76ers are a model franchise for the Timberwolves right now.
Their best player isn’t widely regarded as a franchise guy but he is a player that sets the tone for everybody else. They’re fairly deep in terms of role players who can be effective on any given night. They’re playing great defense, explosive offense and there isn’t a single ego disrupting that team right now.
People want to blow them off because their schedule thus far has been pretty weak. And to be fair, it really has been pretty easy. They have the lowest strength of schedule in the NBA at 37.2%. They’ve played 10 games against teams under .500 and won nine of them. Their point differential this season is currently over six points per game better than the Bulls, who have the second best point differential in the NBA with +8.53. The Sixers are blowing bad teams out of the water, and it’s helped propel them up nearly every team metric measurement there is.
The only quality win they’ve had is against Indiana. The rest of the wins are against bad teams. However, there is no reason to overlook what they’re doing. I don’t care that they’re blowing out bad teams left and right because that’s exactly what you want them to do. I’ve never been impressed by improving teams hanging with the big dogs in the NBA. It’s a nice story to show you can hang, but playing to your competition isn’t necessarily a sign of future success to me. I want to see the good teams destroy the bad teams to show just how serious they are about taking the next step.
It shows a certain level of readiness that you want to experience with a young team. It doesn’t mean the Sixers are going to eventually win a title with this squad. It doesn’t mean they won’t fall apart next season with Pat Riley’s “Theory of More” potentially trying to kick the door down. It just means they’re maturing as a unit.
The Wolves have a similar situation. Whether Kevin Love is truly a franchise guy or not in terms of the traditional, go-to scorer we all worship, he’s definitely the guy you want leading this organization because he sets the tone in every way, shape and form. The talent pool of role players on the team is deep and you expect almost anybody to be capable of stepping up on any given night. They’re currently a top 10 defense in the NBA (8th in defensive rating at 100.2, according to Basketball-reference.com) and the offense with Rubio on the court is capable of drowning any opponent in the league. Looking around the locker room, there isn’t one unlikable guy on the team that would submarine his teammates with a subversive attitude.
When they walk into a game like tonight against the Pistons, there is no reason to think they shouldn’t run away with this victory. Despite a couple of bright spots with Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, and Brandon Knight, this is a very bad Detroit team with little reason to give you a game on the road.
According to the mySynergy numbers, you can score against the Pistons quite easily on isolation plays (23rd), with the pick-and-roll ball handler (21st), in the post (19th), with the PnR roller (21st), spot-up shooters (27th) and in transition (30th). Other than transition situations, the Wolves are in the top half in points per possession on all of those other situations. They are perfectly set up to run this team off the court with Kevin Love’s versatile scoring and Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour picking the defense apart with dribble penetration, shooting and passing.
It’s not really reasonable to expect the Wolves to be the type of team that runs bad teams off the court like Philadelphia is doing. This is essentially the first season together (thanks to Rubio addition and Adelman’s hiring) for this entire team, so there are going to be plenty of ups-and-downs. And while the game against the Kings Monday night was ugly for the majority of it, the way they closed out such a bad team gave me hope they were understanding how to win a lot more than I would have expected.
This isn’t a must-win game by any means for Minnesota. It’s just another game against a really bad team. The Wolves struggled to dominate the Hornets last week in New Orleans, despite being a much more talented team. After blowing a big road lead to a good but inconsistent Hawks squad, they rallied back and ended up running the Kings out of the building in the fourth quarter. It showed growth from the win in New Orleans and hopefully is a prelude of what is to come tonight and moving forward.
It’s not essential for the Wolves to win by a wide margin. Any win at this point is a good lesson in some way. But it would show this team becoming ready to take care of business against the lesser teams in the league. That’s what good, improving teams learn how to do.
Playing point guard in the NBA is hard. Each possession in a professional game is a fluid landscape, a field of constant, seemingly chaotic motion. Good point guards nearly instantaneously perceive patterns in that chaos and respond with decisive movements of their own, movements intended to complete the pattern, to give final meaning and shape to all that motion. This requires, obviously, outrageous skill and quickness, but also a capacity for a holistic, practically sub-cellular physical decision-making and creativity.
Friends, the Wolves are 5-1. Attempts to plumb the depths of this strange statistic for hidden meanings and portents will probably be futile. When we look back on this season in June, after the Wolves have either won 45 games or 14, have either blossomed with promise or collapsed into a quivering husk, we’ll say we knew which way the wind was blowing back in October. But that will be a lie: at this moment, we have no idea what this means. Best to simply, calmly inhale, exhale and accept it. Onward:
- Here is a recap of the Wolves’ 99-88 comeback win over the Prince/Wallace/McGrady/Hamilton-less Pistons in Syracuse. Love that low angle:
- And here are some equally cinema verite highlights of their 114-109 win over the Bucks in South Dakota. Check Darko’s dream-shake early in the clip:
- In case you hadn’t noticed, in his past 53 minutes of play, Kevin Love has hit 21 of his 29 shots and pulled down 23 rebounds. That mythic 20/20 game is on the horizon.
- Here in the Strib, Kurt Rambis reinforces our thought that depth and interchangeability in the lineup were major goals this past off-season:
“One of the things we wanted to have is a deep roster and the ability to change things around,” Rambis said. “I think we have enough flexibility with this team. With as many young players as we have, I don’t feel like I’ve got to lock myself into something, particularly at this stage of who we are as a ballclub.”
- As we did some weeks ago, Steve Aschburner indulges his sentimental side at NBA.com with a look back at KG’s daemonic Game 7 of the ’04 conference semis. Is this a cruel reminder of faded glory or an early sign of renewal? Only the oracle knows and she ain’t sayin’.
- Not specifically Wolves-related, but over at Fanhouse, Shoals and Ziller spin what is, to my mind, the definitive genealogy of the new technical rule and David Stern’s politically savvy paternalism. References to Obama’s rhetoric of hope and red-state electoral strategy abound (via our friend David Roth at the WSJ’s Daily Fix):
[Stern] generally comes out on top, or at least brings the league through unscathed at the end of the day. (Donaghy? Who?) He does so by making extreme overtures and overreactions that seek to nip public opinion in the bud. But down the road, almost all of these lunges prove to be just that: stunts to keep the heat off of this most vulnerable of pro sports leagues…It’s a game, one where blowhards get the hot air they so badly want, and players know that in the end, everything will even out.