I like to talk about how a game’s unfolding–its ebbs and flows, the processes that shape its outcome, the feeling and texture of the performances–are more interesting to me, and ultimately more important than its final result. And I’ll stick to that assertion. Nevertheless, and despite any pretensions to journalistic professionalism (which, not too many) I will admit this: I really want the Wolves to win.
I desperately, nauseously wanted them to win when KG was hammering away at the Lakers and Kings. I wanted them to win when they were slouching toward the lottery under Wittman, McHale and Rambis, draft positioning be damned. I wanted them to win when Rubio and Love were lighting hearts on fire. And although there’s supposedly nothing to play for at the moment, although the Wolves are fielding a raggedy crew of misfits and loners, many of whom likely won’t wear a Wolves uniform again after Thursday, I still want them to win now.
And so despite it all, despite the fact that I’m a grown man watching a bunch of young dudes play a game on TV, watching the Wolves, for the second time in a month, fritter away a 20-point lead to the grievously undermanned Golden State Warriors, I found myself: groaning, sighing, clasping my face in my hands, noticing feelings of dread rise in my gut. I don’t care that it was the penultimate game of a long-destroyed season; it still felt terrible.
They lost this game because they simply could not score in the second half. (20 points in the third quarter, 13 in the fourth, 25% shooting for the half: that’s about as close to zero as it gets in the NBA.) You can expect that a team that boasts Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush and Charles Jenkins (who is shooting 32.9% over the past 10 games but is evidently the greatest point guard in the NBA when he is being guarded by J.J. Barea) will begin hitting shots at some point in a game. But the Warriors employed what is now a familiar late-game defensive strategy against our Love-less Wolves: choke the Barea/Pekovic pick-and-roll by exaggeratedly sagging into the paint (in the process deterring people like Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph from getting to the rim); wait for the Wolves to start taking and missing outside shots. Full stop.
But I don’t want to burden you with gory details. We all know this crew is capable of some truly ungodly basketball. Let’s talk about the elements of this game that bear some relevance to the Wolves’ future.