Against the Clippers, the Wolves did at least three things that they haven’t done consistently for years. They: came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half when it appeared that the game was slipping away; made poised, aggressive plays down the stretch; executed a last shot out-of-bounds play–and actually made the shot. (In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time they did it was Michael Beasley against these Clips last fall, and that game was no where near as interesting or encouraging as this one). This was a wild, ragged, competitive, thrilling game–with Hubie Brown providing the breathless, grandfatherly commentary. In short, its a game we’re not used to seeing our Timberwolves even playing in, much less winning. It was an awful lot of fun.
Archives For Los Angeles Clippers
There are days when it’s really difficult to be a Timberwolves’ fan. The season is grows long. The weather changes in strange ways. The accumulated disappointments and tiny humiliations, the constant losses begin to take their toll. Did you know that Rudy Gay was drafted just after Randy Foye? Did you know that Deandre Jordan was drafted in the second round, three spots after Nikola Pekovic and one spot after Mario Chalmers, whom the Wolves traded away for basically nothing?
Did you know that the Wolves’ last three lottery picks are now, in no particular order: playing on another continent; missing 21 out of their last 25 shots (and looking terrible doing it); “resting”? That the Clippers had lost consecutive games to Cleveland, Toronto and Milwaukee, allowing two of the three to shoot over 50%? And that the Wolves managed just a gnarly 35.4% against that same crew of Clips? Well it’s all true.
As Hanny and Jim Pete repeated more than once, Wednesday night’s Wolves-Clippers matchup was likely the most highly anticipated game in the entire history of this storied rivalry. And it turned out more strangely than I could have imagined.
The strangest of all is a point that Myles alluded to in his writeup: Kevin Love actually did a solid job of forcing Blake Griffin into tough shots, but then couldn’t prevent Griffin from putting back his own miss, often in stunning style. Of course, Love then proceeded to grab 10 boards in the second half while matching up with the 7-foot tall, 300-foot wingspanned human elevator, Deandre Jordan. So I thought this called for some rebounding bullets. There’s also a little Jonny Flynn and David Kahn in this mix.
Forget about the dead birds, the dead fish, and the functional illiterate squatting on The Times’ Bestseller List. Our surest sign yet of the coming apocalypse came last night in Los Angeles. Kevin Love didn’t grab a single rebound in the entire first half. Not one.
This is quite possibly the rarest of statistical anomalies the NBA has to offer. Even an uncontainable talent like LeBron James has the occasional cold streak, as do Rajon Rondo’s fellow Celtics, which would explain either of the two respectively failing to register a point or assist. Try as they might, the ball doesn’t always go in the basket. But that’s exactly what made this so….strange.
Not one? Really?
Then again, it wasn’t hard to understand why. Saddled with early foul trouble, Love saw limited minutes and upon returning to action, he simply couldn’t handle Blake Griffin. You see, even after acknowledging them for the coded indicators of race that they are, we must also accept that the essence of Kevin’s game is hard work and a high IQ. Underwhelming physique or not, he knows the entire floor, positions himself well and never gives up on a play. This alone has been enough to outperform championship frontcourts in both Boston and San Antonio, in addition to hanging a 30/30 game around Amar’e Stoudemire’s neck. But Griffin is an unparalleled athlete and workhorse. It almost…no, it was unfair. The Clippers carried a twelve point lead into the half, which by no coincidence was the same advantage they held in second chance points, thanks solely to Blake Griffin. Nothing that powerful should be so nimble.
“No excuses;” this is the chant emanating from NBA locker rooms across the land. In some ways, this allergy to excuse-making is an admirable trait, a willingness to take responsibility for one’s own performance. But it also carries with it a whiff of noble self-aggrandizement, of wishing to be seen as piously professional, as virtuous and manly. Oftentimes too, this righteous self-reliance can descend into a kind of absurdity, leading folks to elide what are not excuses, but actual reasons for a team or individual’s performance. For instance: the Wolves put on a grisly show in Los Angeles on Monday because they were clearly fatigued from their brutal west coast road trip. This is not an excuse but a reason.
In the past three years, the Wolves haven’t had many opportunities to win basketball games of any kind. Thrilling endings and clutch buzzer-beaters have mostly been some enviable luxury, like when the rich kids at school used to show off their Girbauds and Valterra skateboards. My memory of potential game-winning shots includes: Randy Foye getting a three blocked by Dwyane Wade; lots of hurried, un-lovely, poorly executed plays; Damian Wilkins’ blind luck.
In any case, it’s been a really long time since we’ve seen any T-Wolf with the ability to do what Michael Beasley did in the Timberwolves’ Wednesday night 113-111 win against the Clippers. There he was, with the game tied and time running down, isolated against Ryan Gomes at the top of the key. He took two hard dribbles to his right, pulled up at the elbow, elevated over the double-team and hit the game winner. For the past week at least, and for the first time in years, the Wolves have had somebody who can salvage a bucket when the offense fails to produce an open look (which is often), who can create for himself when the wheels fall off the machine, who actually can hit a game-winner over a double-team. Its a strange feeling.
And it’s a good thing, too, because the Wolves went to extraordinary lengths to lose this game. Their previous seven possessions had been a carnival of horrors: hurried execution, careless passes, poorly chosen jumpers, missed layups. Only Corey Brewer’s utterly ridiculous flailing bank-shot to tie the game at 111 with 1:14 remaining salvaged this hideous stretch of play. The shot was vintage Brewer in that it was almost more troubling than heartening. It had no conceivable reason to go in the basket; it was a sign of an offense entirely out-of-sync.
We’ve publicly touted our appreciation for Ryan Gomes in these very pages, so its nice to discover that somebody else shares the opinion. ESPNLA’s Kevin Arnovitz recently wrote a nice piece on Gomes and found the new Clipper to be just as thoughtful and open as advertised:
Ask him why the Timberwolves struggled in the triangle, and he’ll tell you the specific point in the sequence when defenses anticipated the action and clamped down on the offense. Ask him how his good friend Al Jefferson will fare in Utah’s flex offense, and he’ll speak in detail about how Jefferson will flourish and which reads will prove most difficult for the big man. Ask him about the particulars of his game as an NBA small forward, and Gomes is an open book.
True that. While I’m happy that Gomes has the chance to start for a team that could make some playoff noise, I must say I’m a little bummed that it had to be the Clips.
I know that, as Wolves fans, we get used to moaning about our sometimes bewildering front office. But always remember that it could be so, so much worse. You could be a Clippers fan. I know the Clippers have a talented group this year, but they also boast probably the worst owner in sports. When Donald Sterling speaks, you can just feel the doom descend. Here’s his most recent offering, this time touching on Gomes and another old acquaintance of ours (from TJ Simers of the LA Times via Mr. Arnovitz at Truehoop):
A couple of months ago this was going to be the summer of all summers for the Clippers, a fresh start, a chance to hire a new coach, $17 million in cap space to go after LeBron or other big names like him and make a huge splash. And so they signed Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes.
Or, as Sterling put it, “If I really called the shots we wouldn’t have signed Gomes and what’s the other guy’s name? You know, they told me if we built a new practice facility we’d attract all the top players in the game,” Sterling adds. “I guess I should have doubled the size of this place.”
He’s no different than most Clippers fans.
“I swear to you, I never heard of these guys,” Sterling says, “but what if the coach says he wants them?”
Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve felt the need to defend Randy Foye’s honor. While I will admit that the Clippers apparent attempt to reconstruct the 2008 Timberwolves roster (along with Foye and Gomes, Craig Smith and Bassy Telfair have all been Clips in the past year) is pretty amusing, as Arnovitz points out, this Sterling quote is pure, ignorant poison.
- In other news, Kevin Love has some soothing words for Wolves fans in a recent interview with Jorge Sierra of Hoopshype (via SG at CanisHoopus):
How would you rate the job GM David Kahn has done so far with the Timberwolves?
KL: I was hoping Ricky Rubio comes over and play… We definitely upgraded our team this summer. We re-signed Darko Milicic, we got Michael Beasley, we got a bunch of other players like Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair… So we’re definitely looking better. Last year was a very tough one. As far as the job that he did, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens the next couple of years with our team.
Would you like to become a free agent or would you rather sign an extension and get that out of the way?
KL: I’d love to sign an extension and kind of get that out of the way. I’m very comfortable in Minnesota, I like the style that Kurt Rambis has and the coaching staff as well. I want to keep getting better and better and signing an extension would be a little more sweet rather than bitter sweet.
- Then there’s this rather amazing tidbit from Pete Thamel at the NY Times on Wolves’ Assistant GM Tony Ronzone:
Few know this better than Tony Ronzone, the director of international player personnel for the United States team. His years of circling the globe as an N.B.A. scout and a coach in New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and China earned him a spot on the staff. Ronzone, also an assistant general manager for the Minnesota Timberwolves, will prepare the American players for the personnel on the court and the atmosphere off it. In Europe, Ronzone said, lighters and loose change are commonly confiscated at the gate because fans have been known to heat coins before throwing them.
They heat the coins!
- Finally, this is not Wolves-related but I command you to read this SI piece on Hubie Brown (thanks again to Kevin Arnovitz at Truehoop) from 1983, in which Hubie expands on the need to “make [your players] cry for mercy,” his own desire for “complete control” of his team, and the fact that “Bill Russell is a terrible human being.” Paranoia, homophobia and undiluted rage abound. Maybe I’m revealing my age here, but I had no idea that Hubie was such a reactionary maniac in his younger days. How did he turn into such a nice old granddad?