There are so many possible places to go with this game recap that is never really a recap of the actual game but a rumination about something bigger happening within the construct of the season.
There’s the road trip the Wolves needed to nail and did. Right before the trip, I commented on how the Wolves needed to go at least 3-2 on this trip and preferably go 4-1 in order for them to have an outside chance at still making a playoff run. They managed to go 4-1, with the only loss coming in Portland on the second night of a back-to-back in which the Wolves were still missing their second and third options on offense (yes, the Blazers were missing LaMarcus Aldridge). They closed it out in a tough place (Denver) against a team that was getting healthier for this game. Ty Lawson returned and Wilson Chandler returned, giving the Nuggets a much better attack than we’ve seen in previous weeks.
Successful road trips can be spark plugs for a young-ish core (in this case, one that isn’t terribly experienced) still trying to figure out how to win. After seeing the upcoming schedule for the Wolves, you hope this successful road trip was a bonding experience reminding the players involved that success is possible when they bring the type of energy and execution they’re supposed to, especially against weaker opponents.
And then there are different aspects in the game itself, which scream of the intricacies and curiosities of the NBA game. Continue Reading…
Here’s a problem: You watch a game of basketball and you know something about basketball. You might know a little, or you might think you know a lot, or you might even be aware that the rather large amount you know pales in comparison to what everyone who’s directly involved in the game knows. And not in some “You can’t know unless you’ve played” way, but in the way that it’s nearly impossible for you to comprehend the volumetric gap in knowledge between whatever you know about the game — as vast as that amount might feel — and what, say, Rick Adelman knows after coaching 2,794 games. Two thousand seven hundred and ninety-four. Continue Reading…
What can you accomplish in 32 minutes and 35 seconds?
You can run a load of laundry. You can probably cook a really nice dinner as long as the preparation isn’t too time-consuming. You can watch an episode of Full House with commercials and even pause it on the DVR to use the bathroom or play Words With Friends without distraction during each move. All the while, you’re pondering how Joey Gladstone possibly made enough money to not be a complete burden on the Tanner family household. What Kevin Love was able to do in just 32 minutes and 35 seconds last night was pretty ridiculous.
Even the most optimistic Timberwolves fan probably didn’t expect the hometown squad to dominate one of the top teams in the NBA as thoroughly as Minnesota dominated Indiana on Wednesday night. True, the Pacers were on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Wolves were fresh after having a full week off thanks to the All-Star break. But this is Indiana we’re talking about, owners of a 41-12 record (at the beginning of the night), rolling along with the game’s next superstar (Paul George) and sporting the league’s best defensive rating. How did Minnesota, short two of their three best offensive options (Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin), manage to handle Indiana so convincingly? Continue Reading…
Kevin Love sat down with ESPN Radio to talk a bit about his experience of being voted in by the fans, Minnesota’s struggles, the rumors swirling about his future, and who’s manning the phones at Love Dial these days. Listen to the interview here, transcription below. Continue Reading…
I used to play basketball with a guy we’ll call Chris. We’ll call him Chris because that’s his name. I never actually knew his last name. He went to my old gym in Sacramento and was part of the regular games we’d run on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday nights. He’d also be around for Thursday nights sometimes but that was typically just two-on-two basketball. Those Thursday night two-on-two runs were the toughest ones.
A lot of people would rather play full court basketball for many reasons, but mostly it’s because it’s so much easier than half court basketball. Full court pick-up basketball is mostly a game of cardio and skill. Sure, it’s not going to be two hours of fast breaks but you’re getting to choose the type of workout and effort you’re giving. That’s not so much the case when you’re suckered into playing a half court pickup game. Half court basketball requires a lot more strength than you’d play in a normal basketball game.
You’re not getting space by running the floor and putting pressure on the defense to pick up. Instead, you have to constantly use physical play and more muscle to find the necessary space in a half court game to make plays. There is more pushing, more positioning, and much more physicality. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a different style of basketball that forces you to exert more energy throughout your body, rather than just getting some good cardio in.
Watching the way the Los Angeles Lakers adjusted to Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but think of that guy Chris when we had to play two-on-two with him.
Chris was physical. He ended up joining the Marines at some point, so he was a very tough guy. He had very little basketball skill, but he could throw his 6’3″ body around, hack the crap out of your arms, and was borderline dangerous to play against because he was clumsy in the way he moved around you. You knew you were going to get beat up a bit if you played against Chris because that’s just the way he played.
We saw something similar in the second half against the Lakers. All of a sudden, they turned a free-flowing game they couldn’t keep up with into a physical game they had nothing to lose from being in. We already had Gorgui Dieng take one in the temple and leave the game. Luckily, he’s fine. Then for some ungodly reason, Nick Young figured out if you pressure the hell out of Corey Brewer, he’s largely ineffective on offense. He started denying Brewer the ball 40 feet from the basket and it took a few possessions for the Wolves to just forego the unnecessary ball swing that starts with Brewer.
By that time, the rhythm of the game that the Wolves had controlled was dead and they were finding themselves in a bit of a scrappy affair.
I wonder how much of the second half of this game was the Wolves not taking a horrendous Lakers’ roster/lineup seriously and how much of it was the Lakers adjusting perfectly to what the Wolves were trying to do. It was probably a healthy portion of each and the Wolves just figured talent would win out. And it did, but not without paying an unnecessary price.
Robert Sacre is a big physical guy. He has some basketball skill and showed a decent little touch around the basket and with his jumper in this game. But mostly, he’s out there to bang some bodies around and give guys bruises. He’s such a big human being that he probably doesn’t even realize the force in which he hits people. He’s also such a solid mass of muscle that large human beings just bounce off of him when they collide. That’s what happened when Kevin Love drove against Wes Johnson with a little over four minutes left in the fourth quarter of a game that should have been long over.
First off, this was scary. I was behind the Wolves’ bench on the other end of the floor and I heard him slam into the ground as the crowd is making noise. That is a loud thud, my friends. He abused his tailbone there and had some whiplash that caused his head to snap back and hit the ground. However, he was so lucid and didn’t complain about his head that they didn’t feel the need to test for a concussion. I’m not sure I agree with this assessment, even though he did seem fine, but that’s the trainer’s call to make. He clearly knows that job better than I do.
Love stayed in for most of the rest of the game, was a warrior on the boards, scored a few points, and the Wolves avoided an embarrassing loss. Sacre was physical with Love in help and Wes Johnson managed to harass him plenty. They hammered him on the boards and ran to make him work as his body was probably screaming at him to go sit down.
It was that unnecessary use of muscle due to letting the Lakers make it an ugly game that allowed such a dangerous situation to present itself. Instead of free-flowing, it turned uncoordinatedly physical. They were shoving all over the half court instead of running in the open court because they didn’t adjust or didn’t take it seriously or whatever reason there is. They were always going to beat the Lakers because talent pretty much always wins out in the NBA as long as an acceptable level of effort is there. But instead of the third unit handling the final six minutes, the Wolves screwed around and let it be closer than it needed to be.
It’s not a huge deal; it’s just hopefully a reminder to the team of how important it is to take advantage of an inferior opponent by exerting the necessary energy to put the game away early. If you don’t, you run the risk of your star player nearly getting a concussion for no reason.
Kevin Love had a pretty nasty spill last night against the Lakers with about 4 minutes to go in the fourth. Here’s a video of it and if you don’t enjoy the sound of the human body making hard contact with unyielding surfaces, you might want to mute your computer speakers right about now:
Oh, the Minnesota Timberwolves, as vexing and perplexing as ever, up one night and down the next, from one half to the next, one quarter to the next, one possession to the next. If anything is consistent, it’s their inconsistency. They haven’t lost more than three in a row, nor have they won more than three in a row. They blow out bad teams on the road and fail to hold serve against mediocre teams at home. They shoot 7 free throws as a team one night, and 39 the next. Their rotations are an ever-changing, ever-controversial sea of head-scratching decisions and perfect harmony. In short, no one’s sure what to expect, and each evening provides a unique, yet eerily familiar, story. Continue Reading…
The myth of Narcissus concerns an impossibly beautiful young hunter who comes upon a pool of water in the forest and falls in love with his own reflection. Depending on the particular version of the story, Narcissus then commits suicide because he cannot possess his beloved, or maybe starves to death looking at his own image, or misses the playoffs. Basically, if Rick Adelman stumbled upon this youth in the woods entranced by his own image, he’d probably inform him that he hasn’t done anything yet. Continue Reading…
There was a point early on in the Wolves’ win over the Chicago Bulls in which Kevin Love was struggling. He wasn’t playing poorly but he was having trouble finding his way to the free throw line against Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed. The struggles against Taj Gibson aren’t anything new for Love, or anybody around the league really. Gibson is one of the top defensive players in the NBA and rarely gets his national due because he’s a role player off the bench.
Taj is familiar with Love’s game too. They’ve played against each other on every level of play — high school, college, and in the NBA. Along with his defensive prowess, his familiarity with Love may be a big reason he’s had such great success defending the Wolves’ big man throughout their respective careers. Before Monday night, Love was 0-5 against Gibson at the NBA level. Love’s had three pretty awful games against the Bulls in this time, one decent game, and one Kevin Love game.
Overall, he was shooting 40% in these match-ups and attempted just 19 free throws in five losses. The Bulls have been a great defensive team during this run (analysis!) and part of the reason they’re so good is they know the angles to take, when to take them, and use their incredible frontcourt to slow guys down. Even Carlos Boozer is a plus-defender in Tom Thibodeau’s system, or at least enough of a plus-defender to hold the fort as Joakim Noah and Gibson protect his back.
So what changed for Love during Monday’s game to finally give him a big advantage against Gibson, Boozer, and Thibodeau’s system? Continue Reading…