This was a game that could best be described as a fever dream, a disorienting mix of lightheadedness, unreasonable giddiness and unmoored feelings of unease. In spite of all that, this is more or less the house where Wolves fans should reasonably expect to live. Most of the things that are supposed to happen did: a stuffed stat sheet from Kevin Love, Brobdingnagian numbers from the Brobdingnagian Nikola Pekovic, effective and efficient scoring from Kevin Martin. Oh and Ricky Rubio did this, stirring feelings of pure joy that don’t seem to happen as often as they once did with him:
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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?
What it teaches the Wolves’ team is a lesson. Continue Reading…
Good to have you back, sir.
I’m still trying to parse my thoughts on his surprise return and what it means for the team. I think we’re in for some awkwardness over this road stretch. The Wolves will basically have one practice in between about four games. There isn’t a ton of opportunity to get Love and his teammates back on the same page and they’ll all have to re-learn what’s going on in the system. You know, assuming they can run their system. The Wolves are going to be a pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop heavy team until they’re closer to full strength. Love can thrive in this environment but how does everybody else manage to do it?
Kirilenko looked stagnant in the second half of the Nuggets game and the Wolves just can’t have that. He’s a smart player and he’ll quickly learn how work off of Love. But it’s probably more important he figures out how to have a two-man game with Nikola Pekovic while Love is drawing so much attention on the strong side of the ball. A quick reversel to Kirilenko in the high post should allow him enough space to get a quick pass to Pek when he has position.
Until Rubio comes back, we’re going to see a lot of forced offense by everybody on the floor. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it just means the games will be a bit harder on offense. The nice thing is the Wolves have enough talent this season to make it work, as long as the defensive effort keeps up. Continue Reading…
The Portland Trail Blazers have experienced a remarkably tumultuous season so far. They began the year setting fire to the league. They were humming on offense, beating really good teams, doing a fair impression of a serious contender. Then everything came apart. By the trade deadline, the coach had been fired and half the team had been traded away. This looked for all the world like a team entering shutdown mode, playing for cap room and lottery positioning.
Except, strangely, they haven’t really been much worse than they were before their grand implosion. Nevertheless, I had somehow conceived of this as a winnable game for the Wolves, as if a formerly good team playing out the string was somehow more vulnerable than a formerly good team playing without four of their top six players. But I was wrong about that.
It’s funny how the schedule works out sometimes. Kevin Love has been engaged in a heated battle with LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin for the past month over an All-Star spot. Now that he’s been named to the team, he has to face them both before Sunday’s festivities. How’s that for congratulations?
Well, let’s ask LaMarcus…
“First of all, I have nothing against Kevin Love, he is a really good player. But I thought All-Star was about making your team better, making your record better. But now I know: It’s about stats, not record.”
How’s that for passive aggressiveness? It’s disappointing that his ire wasn’t directed towards Tim Duncan, an actual undeserved candidate, but then again, his bewilderment with Kevin’s selection was equally understandable on this night. Not only did the Love and the Wolves starters go scoreless for the first eight minutes of the contest, LaMarcus nearly outscored our entire team in a first quarter where we could only muster 14 points to his 11.
It was just another Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Lakers and Rockets were engaged in a mildly entertaining matchup and we were all probably searching for something better to watch while they delayed the inevitable. But those who couldn’t find the remote were treated to a noteworthy showing from Lamar Odom.
As it has for quite some time, Odom’s game defied definition. His elongated frame swept through the lane with a preternatural grace, each step too casual to have been calculated. On the defensive end, opponents were denied and rebounds were snatched with an aggression that belied such finesse, each board leading to a magnificent whirlwind of versatility. He conducted fast breaks, dished with a captivating flair, calmly pulled up in transition, and spotted up expertly from three. Of course this wasn’t anything we haven’t seen from him before, just more of it. Kobe Bryant’s theatrics may have dominated the nightly recaps, but the W was primarily thanks to Lamar’s 20 points and 20 rebounds.
If you never watched any NBA basketball games besides those played by the Minnesota Timberwolves, this is what you would think: LaMarcus Aldridge is the tallest man in the world; LaMarcus Aldridge is more like a physical force than a human–like gravity, like radiation; LaMarcus Aldridge is a genius at basketball. (You might also wonder if there was some kind of new rule prohibiting you from guarding three-point shooters. But we’ll get to that.)