There’s a kind of weird, inherent contradiction in writing about sports. Because here I am, preparing to build something out of words about a game played by people who don’t use words to illuminate, but rather to sometimes obfuscate, sometimes motivate, and almost always for ulterior motives. I don’t mean that athletes are dumb—far from it, actually. The clichés they often speak in are tools as surely as the pick and roll is a tool. I simply mean that I’m always striving to use words to carve away the noise from the game, to find some skein of sense—or at the very least, a clearer perspective—that can build a resonance for myself and, hopefully, whoever reads this, while athletes and coaches are packing together words for themselves, for their team, for the public in multi-layered and often contradictory ways. Continue Reading…
Archives For Nikola Pekovic
After a night of next to zero sleep (not Wolves related, just your basic insomnia), I was in a zombionic haze all day long. Because of this, I never got around to writing a recap of the Wolves’ loss to the Thunder from Wednesday night. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to write about it; I just didn’t really know what to say about it.
The Wolves are incredibly short-handed, especially with Barea missing the game. Having three guards, one of them on a minutes restriction due to ACL rehabilitation, is not an ideal situation for facing Russell Westbrook. Throw in the fact that Kevin Love isn’t around and the Wolves are almost out of shooting guards, and you could see the writing on the wall before this game even started. And that’s fine. You can’t expect to have a Disney moment every time this season. The Thunder are just too good to topple consistently. They aren’t going to let that Wizards game happen often.
While trying to come up with something to write, I looked at a pen I recently got and couldn’t help but think about Nikola Pekovic. 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…
What a fantastic win for the Minnesota Timberwolves last night. I wrote yesterday that to be a really good team, you have to win games that should be wins. The Wolves need to win games like this against the Magic and that’s exactly what they did. Kevin Love was phenomenal in his performance. It was great to see him back to being himself.
He knocked down 3-pointers as the trailer in transition, he scored out of the post, and he was active going to the basket. Andrei Kirilenko’s passing was incredible and it seemed to be contagious with Love. This was by far his best passing performance of the season. It didn’t result in any assists, but I thought he moved the ball extremely well. He helped Nikola Pekovic dominate the paint inside. The Wolves didn’t finish at a high rate in there, but you could tell they were determined to break the will of the Orlando interior and that’s exactly what they did.
I was disappointed that Ricky Rubio didn’t really have much impact on the team when he played, but you can’t expect him to be a unicorn at all times. Sometimes unicorns have to sleep and that seemed to be what he needs to do. But overall, I think we can be extremely proud of the tenacity, execution, and effort that the Wolves showed us. This is what good teams do. They take care of lesser teams in a destructive and matter of fact manner.
What’s that? No, I didn’t watch the second half. Why? What happened? Did Ricky have a great second half I should be talking about? Did Love end up with 40-20? Did Pekovic eat the Epcot Center and then reconstruct Disney World into Euro Disney with all of failed robots from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride? Continue Reading…
Second night of a back-to-back is hard to win, especially when you’re facing a veteran team like the Boston Celtics on the road. The tricky part is this isn’t the normal Boston Celtics team we’re used to seeing. This is an offensive-oriented team that is harder to keep up with than they are to score against. When you’re a team that misses out on as many easy points as the Wolves did Wednesday night, it’s hard to keep up.
After the deluge of 3-pointers that rained down on the 76ers Tuesday night, the Wolves went much colder from 3-point range. 31.6% is a bad shooting night, but it’s above what the Wolves have done so far this year. However, losing because you made only 14-of-30 free throw attempts in a road game is just frustrating.
This isn’t a good free throw shooting team either. Heading into tonight’s game, the Wolves were 24th in the NBA in free throw percentage. The volume of free throw attempts the Wolves usually get can help them make up for it typically (Wolves have the third best FT/FGA rate in the league). But when you dip below 50% on 30 attempts in a game, there really aren’t a lot of questions as to why you lost the game. Maybe I should write 2,400 words on why the Wolves are a terrible free throw shooting team and see if they can make my effort look completely futile once again?
The funny thing about free throw shooting is the only way to improve on it is to simply hone your mechanics and make them. It’s not like other shots in the NBA where you can devise a plan to get better looks at the rim. You’re getting the same looks at the rim every time. Either they’re concentrating too much or not enough or this porridge is too cold. Whatever the reason is they’re not making them, at a certain point excuses of tired legs and poor conditioning due to injuries have to end and the Wolves just have to make them.
The one thing I noticed about this game is the Wolves never seemed to have much flow on offense while having a defensive presence. What I mean by that is the Wolves were never really clicking well enough on both ends at the same time to go on extended runs in this game. Even in frustrating losses or hard-fought victories this season, the Wolves were able to go on runs throughout different points of the ball game to establish some kind of cushion or some kind of momentum. Whether it was the poor 3-point shooting or the poor free throw shooting, the Wolves were never in a groove on both ends.
The Celtics went on four different big runs throughout the game. They had an 11-1 run in the first quarter, a 10-0 run in the second quarter, a 9-0 run in the third quarter and another 11-1 run in the fourth quarter. The Wolves had a 10-0 run in the first quarter and that was about it. Poor free throw shooting, bad 3-point shooting, and no extended runs after the first quarter. This is how teams lose the second night of a road back-to-back.
I’m not quite sure what else could have been done, either. This was just one of those games.
One thing I would have liked to see more of is the Wolves pounding the ball inside. More than half of their points came in the paint, and they had a real size advantage with Pek and Love on the floor. While Love struggled against KG at times, there was a lot of cross-screening, pick-and-roll switches, and quick hitter stuff the Wolves could have done to get Love a mismatch inside. And once that happens, he can either score quickly or find a cutter coming through the lane. There could have been much more movement.
The Wolves played a game with 98 possessions and typically they like to play around 94 possessions. The tempo of the game was never theirs, and that’s where you want to see them pound the ball inside more. Find Pek when he has position. Trust him to make smart passes out of double teams. Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger can’t handle Pek inside. Neither can Chris Wilcox. When JJ Barea and Alexey Shved are in the game, I’m all for pushing the tempo. But when you don’t have the personnel to push (and without Ricky on the floor yet, the Wolves really don’t), then you have to grind out possessions and punish teams with your size.
Sure, you’re going to get some shots blocked. We saw that against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, eventually you’ll get the other team’s interior to break down. Granted, you might end up going to the free throw line more and that wasn’t a good thing in this game. I’d just like to see the Wolves take advantage of their advantages more often.
Minnesota now has tomorrow off before the battered Cavaliers come to town. Hopefully they can take advantage of the matchup and get back to .500.
The team with the best web presence in the NBA (and trust me, I waste a lot of time online so I know these kinds of things) has done it once again with a holiday video. The Wolves’ web team just continues to churn out fun videos that crack everybody up.
The video isn’t on YouTube yet so here’s a link to the video. Enjoy and happy holidays.
All of the talk and panic about this team last night seemed to be two-fold:
1) The team is 0-2 since Kevin Love surprised us with an early comeback. Is he hurting their chances of winning?
2) Derrick Williams has had two straight DNP-CDs. HIS CAREER IS OVER.
I feel like this is easily explained, or at least it should be pretty easy. In regards to Love, I really think fantasy basketball and basketball video games have skewed how we judge performance on the court. Numbers and stats mean the world and they exist in a vacuum. Kevin Love had 34 and 14 in his first game back. He had 24 and 13 in the loss to the Blazers last night. Those are good stat lines for any player, so he must have had an enormous impact on the game. And if he didn’t, why can’t he make this team much better when he comes back. 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 rosters don’t look similar and it’s only a couple weeks into the season so take this in the spirit that it’s intended, but this Bobcats team reminds me a lot of the way the Timberwolves played last year.
After so much mediocrity, the Wolves became a scrappy bunch that played an exciting brand of basketball. The Wolves were fueled by Kevin Love’s emergence as one of the top players in the NBA, Ricky Rubio’s creativity and electricity, and the discovery that Nikola Pekovic was a wrecking ball out of nowhere. This Bobcats team doesn’t really have any of that. They have a coach who decided losing wasn’t going to be acceptable anymore. They have a guard trio that has fueled their offense most nights, and their offense most nights is really good this season. They have a rookie swingman who is probably going to be the next great defender in the NBA.
The Bobcats don’t have much in terms of interior scoring or presence. Byron Mullens and Bismack Biyombo are the two key big men for them. Brendan Haywood is playing a lot of competent minutes. And this team is doing a fantastic job of hitting the offensive boards, taking care of the basketball, and finding a way to get shots at the rim. The Bobcats scrappiness and frenetic style are what reminds me of the Wolves of yesteryear. Continue Reading…
Rick Adelman became a broken record last year. Someone for the Wolves would go down with an injury and he’d start talking about how guys couldn’t feel sorry for themselves and had to step up. They had to make the most of their opportunity to help the team. Ricky Rubio went down with his ACL injury. Kevin Love got a concussion. Nikola Pekovic had bone spurs in his ankle the size of Gibraltar. Pick any of JJ Barea’s 27 injuries from last year.
Guys went down and the Wolves went down with them. Nobody stepped up. Nobody cared. Everybody had the calendar circled for their vacation and not for the playoffs. Once Rubio was gone, the season was lost. Once Love was gone, the season was a joke. Once Pek was gone, it was the same old Wolves again. Adelman begged a set of players without anything close to a guarantee of a future with this organization to show some pride and we only saw it one game, when they finally broke their April losing streak. Continue Reading…