When you’re a losing team and you have injuries all over key parts of your roster, you need a full team effort to pull out victories. It isn’t getting good performances just from your remaining top players. Of course, you need good games from them but it takes a village to raise a victory, or something like that.
It also helps playing a really bad team. It gives you more and less pressure at the same time, which is an odd thing for a team to manage. The Cleveland Cavaliers are not a good basketball team — at all. They have Kyrie Irving, who might already be a top 5 point guard, and if he’s not then he’s knocking on the door like one of those creepy stalkers in the movie The Strangers. Continue Reading…
Let’s say you were trapped in a cabin somewhere. No, this isn’t some bizarre R. Kelly musical idea; I’m serious.
Sometimes I watch this team shoot 3-pointers and I feel like I’m trapped in a cabin. I typically get this feeling when I review all of the 3-pointers from the past month, chart down the results, and realize progress hasn’t been made. For a while, I thought it might feel like a zombie apocalypse survival journal, but I ultimately determined this wasn’t the feeling. 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.
Here’s Rick Adelman lamenting the Wolves’ effort against Portland last night: “I just hope this game taught our guys a lesson, because for the first three quarters we hung our heads, we didn’t make shots, we didn’t compete like we have to compete.” On the face of things, even through the first three quarters, this game appeared relatively even. Both teams shot poorly overall, the Blazers just a few percentage points better than the Wolves (indeed the Wolves made one more field goal than Portland on the game). The Wolves out-rebounded the Blazers by a significant margin and played solid on-the-ball defense. Free throws were roughly even; turnovers were even.
The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) taken this afternoon at TRIA Orthopadedic Center revealed that forward Kevin Love suffered a re-fracture of his third metacarpal in his right hand. The injury occurred during the third quarter of Thursday’s game at Denver. Love will be examined by Dr. Andy Weiland, a hand specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, later this week. An update to Love’s status will be provided after that examination. Love initially suffered a fracture of his third and fourth metacarpal in his right hand on Oct. 17. For the season, Love has played in 18 games and leads the Wolves in scoring (18.3 ppg), rebounds (14.0 rpg) and double-doubles (14).
It bears mentioning, if only as an add-on to Zach’s excellent post from yesterday, that Love’s hand never seemed to have fully recovered from the initial injury. The strange swelling and the odd, angular way the ball came off his hand when he shot is evidence enough of that. We don’t yet know whether this injury is in any way a result of the initial break, but we do know this: the Wolves’ (and our) dreams of Love and Rubio playing together at full strength have been deferred again. Maybe this will make you feel better:
A few of the readers from the last 3-point shooting audit suggested that this should be an updated post every month. All of the numbers for this post are through the win over the Suns and don’t include last night’s debacle to the Utah Jazz.
At a certain point, the 3-point shooting has become laughable to me. Part of me is frustrated but part of me is Rene Russo in the movie Tin Cup as I watch Kevin Costner egotistically club golf ball after golf ball into the water hazard as he tries to prove through machismo and grit that he doesn’t have to layup on the par-5 18th hole at the U.S. Open. He’s good enough and strong enough to clear the water and get onto the green. Russo (his girlfriend/shrink) in this scene at one point just starts laughing and cheering him to keep at it, even if it means he sinks all of his golf balls into the water and he isn’t allowed to finish his one final shot at glory by being disqualified from the tournament.
The Wolves are such a historically bad 3-point shooting team right now that I’m now finding myself maniacally laughing whenever a long distance shot clangs off the iron. There are two teams in NBA history who have attempted more than 13 3-pointers per game while shooting under 30% from beyond the arc. One of those teams is the Charlotte Bobcats from last season. That’s right; the worst team in NBA history shot 29.5% from downtown while attempting 13.5 3-point shots per game. The other team? You’re currently rooting for them.
The Wolves take 19.5 3-pointers per game right now and are making just 29.3%. At a certain point, you start wondering if actual wolves could make a higher percentage of these shots or if the team could make some by accident when trying to throw alley-oop passes. The fact that they’re historically bad at this just floors me for some reason.
What I feel like is we’re watching one of those “coin pusher” machines you find in casinos. Continue Reading…
The makeup of what this team is good at and what they struggle to do still confounds me a bit.
Going into this season, I don’t think there were many people who assumed the Wolves would struggle offensively (22nd) and be a defensive juggernaut of sorts (6th). A big part of the reason is the outside shooting of the Timberwolves. This team is still under 30% on the season and no team in the history of the NBA has taken more 3-pointers per game while making under 30% of them. The Wolves just can’t shoot the 3-ball right now and probably won’t shoot it well until Kevin Love gets back into rhythm and Chase Budinger gets back onto the court.
Until that happens, the Wolves have to go inside and they have to be clever about the way they go inside. Just straight pounding the ball into the post with Love and Pek is too basic to be consistently effective against opposing defenses. The Wolves have an advantage in the frontcourt that most teams don’t seem to have around the league. Between Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love, there are few SF/PF/C hydras as crafty at scoring the basketball as the Wolves’ trio. Continue Reading…
The Wolves covered each pick-and-roll the same way: Alexey Shved sends Harden right, away from the screen and his strong hand. But Shved doesn’t really stick with Harden after Harden refuses the screen, in effect leaving him one-on-one with Kevin Love. Because Shved doesn’t contain the ball, Love has no angle to cut Harden off and twice lets him race past him to his strong left hand for the finish.
I originally wrote that Shved was going over Omer Asik’s screens, but, as Beckley points out, this is incorrect. Instead, the Wolves were “jamming” the action, attempting to prevent Harden from using Asik’s screen, in the process pushing him away from the middle of the floor and toward his off hand.
Before I go on, look at the way that the 2011 Celtics execute this technique. You’ll see that, after jamming the screen, the man guarding the ball stays glued to the hip of the ballhandler, which limits his (the ballhandler’s) driving angles and pushes him into the lap of the sinking big man. When the Celtics execute this really well, as they do in the second instance, with Paul Pierce guarding Danny Granger, they effectively trap the ballhandler down low.
But now look at what happens to Shved. Despite attempting to push Harden away from Asik, he still gets hung up by the screen. So instead of Shved sticking to Harden’s hip and funneling him into the help, Harden is effectively isolated on Kevin Love in the paint, with plenty of space at his disposal. In other words, Love is screwed. There are elite defensive big men who can handle this situation (I’m thinking of Kevin Garnett or Dwight Howard at their best), but, needless to say, Love is not among them. Check the vid (both these clips, by the way, come via Hoopspeak):
Love was not at his best defensively on Wednesday, but there is essentially no way, even on his best day, that he could ever handle Harden one-on-one in space. Now, this raises a set of questions that Beckley partially addresses: After being burned twice on this play, why not switch things up–perhaps by forcing Harden to give up the ball by trapping him off the screen, or by switching Love and Kirilenko to allow AK to contain Harden’s penetration?
Well, Adelman clearly believed that both of these options compromised his defense even more than it already was. Trapping Harden opens up the distinct possibility of a wide open jumper by either Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons or Carlos Delfino. As for switching Love and AK: I imagine that, had Adelman put Love on Delfino rather than Asik, the Rockets would simply have run an identical set, except with Delfino rather than Asik setting the screen. This would have created the additional problem of accounting for Delfino on the perimeter as well as the driving Harden. No good options left here besides executing the defense properly. Unfortunately, the Wolves weren’t up to the task.
Its hard to feel something you don’t feel. Your family tries in vain to reinvest old holiday rituals with their primordial emotion. Your band struggles to recapture the magic of a song that once sounded vital. You show up to work and unsuccessfully attempt to force yourself to care. These things happen to us and they happen to basketball players. Part of a professional’s job is forcing the body to expend the effort and forcing the mind to focus even when, as is inevitable, the heart just isn’t in it.
Neither the Rockets nor the Timberwolves were particularly successful at this task on Wednesday night. The Rockets had, just a day earlier, spent massive quantities of energy in burying the Bulls in Chicago; the Wolves merely looked as if they had. Whatever the reason–homesickness maybe, or physical fatigue or too much butter in the mashed potatoes–both teams approached the greater portion of the game with a kind of glassy-eyed, morning-after ennui. Suffice it to say, the basketball on display was neither precise nor particularly spirited.
LeBron James seems to spend entire quarters of basketball simply haunting the game’s periphery. He fades into the mesh of his team, defers to his teammates, takes only the opportunities that present themselves. Bt he doesn’t disappear, as some have claimed; he looms like some awful force rising in the distance. When you play the Heat, there’s always the possibility, as both Boston and Oklahoma City discovered last spring, of LBJ stepping out of the shadows and crushing you where you stand.
It gets worse. It turns out that even when LeBron seems to be peripheral–as in the first half of tonight’s game, when Dwyane Wade spun and sliced his way to 18 points on 12 shots–he is still exerting subtle control over the game’s narrative. There are only a few moments of LeBron’s performance against the Wolves that really stand out–hitting that string of third quarter threes or finishing that nasty half-court alley-oop from Ray Allen. And yet: 22 points; 11 assists; seven tough boards; four blocks. Yes, this is the best basketball player in the world.