Archives For Orlando Magic

Sleeping unicorns are the least fun unicorns.

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…

PekBound

The Minnesota Timberwolves are a good team.

This is fun to say. This is also weird to say. Last season, we were enjoying an incredible ride for the first 41.98 games of the campaign. Kevin Love was playing like an MVP candidate (remember when Wolves fans still liked him?), Nikola Pekovic was emerging as the Chuck Norris of the NBA, and Ricky Rubio was dancing around our hearts with his one-handed bounce passes and defensive effectiveness. They had us believing that the playoffs were a legitimate possibility because Rick Adelman was coaching three really good players and a bunch of middling role players.

Then the ACL tear happened and then the bone spurs in Pek’s ankle happened and then Love was concussed and we were left with Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, and a rat maze of feces the team couldn’t get out of. The lone highlight after Love’s showdown with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City ended up being the Wolves finally winning an April game.

The fallout of the falling out of the 2011-12 season led to a huge roster overhaul. As now we see the roster before us. The crazy thing is it’s not even our complete roster. The Wolves are still missing Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, and Malcolm Lee right now. Josh Howard is out with a hyperextended knee too. The Wolves are getting by with Andrei Kirilenko’s awesomeness, Pek coming into his own the last few games offensively and playing great defense all season, Alexey Shved proving a spark off the bench before and in the lineup now, and the Barea-Ridnour combo playing really good basketball as of late.

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This is what happens when you Google “Magic Wolves.”

We’ve got a big stretch of games coming up for the Wolves and it starts tonight.

Ever since Kevin Love broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups, we’ve been trying to figure out how this team survives the presumed month he’s out healing. If the Wolves can be a .500 team during the month of November, it keeps them deep in the playoff race in the Western Conference. After a 2-1 start, the Wolves have five of the next seven games at home. Tonight’s game against Orlando, Friday’s game against Indiana, and then three in a row starting Wednesday of next week against Charlotte, Golden State, and Denver. In between, there are two road games against Chicago and Dallas (without Dirk and possibly without Marion).

This is a stretch in which the Wolves really need to win at least four of these games.  Continue Reading…

I was never, to put it mildly, a natural when it came to math. I vividly remember taking the SAT during my junior year of high school. The verbal sections were fine; I was comfortable; I knew my way around. But the math sections got ugly. I would begin to sweat; my mind would fill with expanding thickets of mostly useless information; the numbers would seem to float off the page. I knew that the problems were mostly tests of insight; and so I also knew that every mark I added to the paper, every tangential path my mind wandered, were taking me farther away from that nexus of intuition and efficiency that was crucial for good performance.

Defending the Orlando Magic is a little bit like that. When their offense is really humming–when the ball is moving inside-out and side-to-side, when they time their screens precisely–it presents the defense with a series of ever more hopeless decisions, each one leading them closer to a doorstep dunk or a wide open three. And then, of course, there is the Superman himself. I will ask you, just once, to recall how disheartening it was to watch Al Jefferson or Mad Dog Madsen or, like, Ryan Hollins try to guard Dwight Howard and consider how his frighteningly athletic presence down low can disfigure a defense and inflict crippling foul trouble. But for a number of reasons–foul trouble of his own, being forced to defend the perimeter, one meaty hunk of Montenegran man–the Wolves were able to limit Howard’s effectiveness on Monday.

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Photo by ajsadeh

The first half of Saturday night’s game was among the best that the Wolves have played all season. They hit open jumpers. They forced Dwight Howard to put in real work for his points.  Luke Ridnour found open space in the paint, hitting Darko Milicic with two sweet pick-and-roll passes for wide open dunks. Corey Brewer drove Hedo Turkoglu to distraction with his relentless, ball-denying defense and burned the aging Turk with two back door alley-oops. Kevin Love reeled in 11 hard-earned boards.

But if you paid attention, the bad omens were in the air. Stan van Gundy made a series of moves to match  Ryan Anderson, the three-point gunning power forward, with Love. This forced Love to chase Anderson around the perimeter, to fight his way around screens, to recover from inside help to contest Anderson’s long-range shots. And although Love himself presents this same problem to many opposing fours, perimeter defense is perhaps his weakest defensive  skill (which is certainly saying something). What’s more, all of this perimeter work pulled Love away from the basket, neutralizing some of his rebounding fervor.

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