Archives For Pek

I waited to post this recap of the game last night because I didn’t know the outcome of the game until a short time ago.

While I know there is plenty to talk about with Derrick being a scratch starter for Love right before tip-off or Pekovic being a monster against two twin towers from the Lakers or Wes continuing his good shooting from last game, the story of the game was what happened with 16 seconds left when Ricky tried to take a charge from Kobe Bryant on right left wing and we saw his knee buckle before the contact even really happened. He had to be carried back to the bench by teammates. When he tried to walk under his own power to see if he could be okay to finish the game, he took a couple of steps before knowing the pain was far too severe.

There was a lot of fight in this game by the Wolves. Without Kevin Love, the Lakers, even on the road, should be able to blow out this Minnesota squad. And yet, the team jumped all over the Lakers from the start and maintained a comfortable-ish lead throughout the first half. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher got hot mathematically trended upward in the third quarter. And the offensive rebounding woes that happen when you take Kevin Love out of the lineup against two of the better big men in the NBA seemed to take over at the worst times in the fourth quarter.

While one rookie had his season ended on a freak accident, I loved what Derrick Williams showed down the stretch of this game. Did he screw up royally? ABSOLUTELY. He goaltended a shot that he probably shouldn’t have touched. He drove baseline for a weak layup that Pek ended up tipping home. And he drove past Ron Artest (I’m not calling him that name) only to be stifled on a shot inside the key by Pau Gasol. Were some of them ill-advised moves? Yes, absolutely. Is it possible the Wolves suffered blown calls on some of these final possessions? They certainly did. However, seeing Derrick Williams step up to take big shots is not a typical thing you see with most rookies. He’s been doing that all year long.

The big loss didn’t come in the standings though, it came from Ricky tearing his ACL and being done for the season. I’ll have more thoughts on this as I attempt to gather them, but it’s definitely not the end of the world. It’s not like Ricky is never going to play again. A year or so from now, he’ll probably be fine and we won’t even notice that he had such an injury. It just sucks right now because he was part of what made this team so fun to watch. Last night, there was a point in which the Wolves were in transition and Rubio dropped a behind-the-back bounce pass between four defenders.

BETWEEN FOUR DEFENDERS!

Between that and everything he brought to the table every night, it just sucks we can’t continue to see him galvanize this franchise and fan base anymore this season. But there is still a season left to play. There are 25 games left and I would imagine these guys aren’t just going to give up. Kevin Love has been on a tear like we’ve rarely seen in this game. Nikola Pekovic is flanking him inside and ready to continue to dish out punishment for anybody unfortunate enough to draw him as a defensive assignment. And Luke Ridnour will now swing back from the do-whatever-his-coach-asks-of-him role player to the playmaker we saw in Seattle and Milwaukee.

The team is still in the thick of the playoffs race. Houston is without Kyle Lowry for a bit as he nurses a strained groin. Portland is in shambles right now and could go through some big changes on the roster. And Utah… well we don’t really know what they’re doing either but Devin Harris is heavily involved.

All we can do right now is hope Ricky has a speedy and healthy recovery with this rehabilitation process. Wolves can bounce back against the Hornets tonight. Get well soon, Ricky.

That was not a fun way to lose a basketball game.

Denver’s side of it will talk about how they gutted out the win with depth and heart and all of that crappy romance novel stuff that people love to spit after a win like this. And on some level, it’s completely valid. Ty Lawson injured his ankle in the first half and never returned. Then Andre Miller acted like a petulant teenager to the refs and was thrown out, leaving Denver with something called a Julyan Stone (I think you can get one from Crate & Barrel) to run the point.

Denver did outhustle the Wolves. They were active in the paint, fought for every loose ball and seemed to want to rebound more than the Wolves. Several times, it looked like guys on the Wolves were looking for someone else to grab a rebound, while Denver chased down the ball like it was a historic artifact in the National Treasure movie franchise. Kevin Love ended up with a 20 and 13 night, which doesn’t sound bad at all until you watch Kenneth Faried destroy him on the boards in the second half and overtime (Love had five rebounds, Faried had 10).

But let’s get down to the embodiment of what went wrong in this game – the Martell Webster blunder. Continue Reading…

Keep it simple, stupid.

It’s funny how basic professional basketball can be sometimes. You’re bigger and stronger than the opponent so you pound it inside and get easy points. You have a problem with turnovers so you just stay more patient and stop giving the ball to the other team. You’re facing the worst team in the league, start off slowly and just wait for them to regress to the mean.

This was the night against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Wolves look disinterested early on, giving up EASY baskets to Corey Maggette, Reggie Williams, and everybody else in the Charlotte unis. It was like the Wolves weren’t taking this game seriously at all. And maybe they weren’t. That’s what happens when you’re facing a team on a 15-game losing streak that happens to have a scoring margin of around -15 this season.

Minnesota gave up 30 points in the first quarter to a team that hadn’t reached 90 points in seven straight games. Not to take anything away from the Bobcats but I’m totally going to take everything away from the Bobcats here. They’re a horrible team that can’t score and the only way they have a 30-point first quarter is if you don’t take them seriously.

By the time the Wolves got around to caring, they were able to slow the momentum and scoring attack of the Bobcats while getting their own game on track. JJ Barea had his best game as a T’Pup so far with 12 points (4/9 shooting) and eight assists with zero turnovers. He controlled the pace of the game for the Wolves when he was on the floor without Ricky, which is something he hadn’t been able to show much at all this season.

Outside of the mean slapping Charlotte in the face, this game was won with the play of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.

After the game, Love was talking about how much the presence of Nikola Pekovic opens up Kevin’s game for him. And I’d imagine the same could be said the other way around. You’re not moving Pek when he’s getting position inside. I’ve been up close for almost every home game this season and I’ve watched player after player try to move him out of the spot he wants on the floor. It just doesn’t happen. Once he plants himself in the lane, you need a bulldozer to even think about displacing him.

The way to counteract that is to be in his way. Again, it sounds simple but if you’re already in the spot the post player wants then he has to wedge you out of there. If he tries to move you from the spot with his upper body, you’re going to see a lot of offensive fouls called (Dwight Howard does this a lot). The problem is if you’re in help defense because Kevin Love is on the floor, it’s really hard to beat Pek to sitting down in the key where you have no chance of stopping him from making his post move.

Love spreads the floor for Pek and in turn, Pek opens up the floor for Love. As a help defender, you know you have to keep a body on Pek so he can’t set up camp right in front of the basket for an easy hoop. This leaves Kevin with one-on-one coverage for much of the area between his man and the basket. Love mentioned that in situations like this he knows he has a great chance of getting off a good shot or getting to the free throw line. He credited a lot of that to the presence Pekovic has given the Wolves down low.

The symbiotic relationship the two big men seem to have on the court is developing into a deadly combination. Yes, they went against the Bobcats Wednesday night and you should be able to do whatever you want against the second worst defense in the NBA. They combined for 51 points and 29 rebounds against Charlotte’s frontcourt. The Wolves got 34 attempts at the rim (14 attempts by Pekovic) and shot 50.6% from the field for the entire game.

The Wolves didn’t have to do too much against a horrendous Bobcats team. They survived Kemba Walker’s streaky shooting, Boris Diaw’s versatility on offense, and whatever terrible shots Corey Maggette decided to put up throughout the game. Wes Johnson did a great job of forcing Maggette into bad and contested attempts after a good first quarter (4/8 in the first, 2/9 the rest of the game).

Wednesday night, the Wolves kept the gameplan and execution simple, and they let the talent on the floor naturally take over the game to win out.

This is the in-game, jumbotron video from the game “Where in the world is Nikola Pekovic? in all of its glory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Heu05Vs7Id8

While some might complain about Kevin Love’s suspension being unjust, I’m trying to look at it as a positive thing.

I’ve grown tired of Kevin Love’s complaining to officials this season. I’m fine if he wants to belabor a point or fight for his team verbally during stoppages in play, but when he’s taking an extra second or two to turnaround and complain to a referee that is booking it up the floor to keep up with the action (hint, hint: Kevin you should too), I find it disheartening to see a brief 4-on-5 defensive effort.

It’s not something that happens all the time. It happens maybe two or three times per game at most. It’s not costing the Wolves games either. It’s just a poor decision he makes that puts his team at risk of giving up scores and at a certain point, enough is enough.

The good thing about this suspension is it gives a real test to Nikola Pekovic, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams to step up and prove their production without the attention defenses pay to Kevin Love. Anybody could argue that everybody on the Wolves benefits from Love’s presence out there and they certainly do to some extent. But that isn’t the reason someone like Ricky Rubio gets a lot of assists or Nikola Pekovic is able to have a presence inside.

With Love out last night, the entire team had a chance to prove themselves and they did a pretty good job. There were times when his absence was felt. The Wolves got sloppy with the ball, forced shots they normally wouldn’t have to take and had to deal with DeMarcus Cousins dominating the boards in the third quarter. However, players stepped up when they needed to and the Wolves dodged a bullet at the end to secure the win. Continue Reading…

It’s time to Pek a fight

Zach Harper —  February 3, 2012 — 14 Comments

Watching the Indiana Pacers punish the Wolves with physicality the other night made me a little jealous. The Pacers want to punish you. They want you to feel their presence every second of the ball game.

Stop-n-Pop at Canis Hoopus put it beautifully when he said:

The Pacers entered last night’s tilt with a single goal: to beat the living hell out of Our Beloved Puppies.

Mission Accomplished.

Here’s what I think was going through the head of each and every single Indy player:

“You want to run the pick and roll? We’ll crush the pick. You want to throw your body around on the defensive glass? We’ll grab at you until we get called. We’ll poke, pry, hustle, and hack and we’ll beat your finesse. We’ll beat you because you’re soft. We’ll beat you because we’re better. We’ll beat you because our bigs are bigger and our wings can play. We’ll beat you because our coach has an edge.”

I don’t know if this model of play is sustainable in a league in which scoring is valued by the rule-makers and ratings-counters. It’s hard to sell something as ugly as woodshed basketball when you’re trying to convince people they need season tickets to see your product. People love to see scoring. They want to see dunks, no-look passes, and 3-pointers raining hellfire on the nightly opponents.

I, myself, love a free wheeling team. Other than having an affinity for watching Kevin Love’s child-bearing hips remove opposing players from rebounding position, seeing Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, and others whip the ball around the court has given me a joy with this team that I haven’t felt since the KG era. Sharing is caring and sharing is also selling you a team for consumption.

But there is still part of me that wants this team to have a bully and a presence inside. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Darko isn’t that guy. Despite David Kahn’s best attempts to sell this roll of the dice to everybody years ago, the production just isn’t there and probably never will be. Continue Reading…

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Michael Gerard Tyson

Forget the Danny Granger incident in the third quarter.

We can pretend this was a turning point in the game and that it fired Granger up to lead his team over our beloved Wolves. We can pretend he wasn’t already in the process of torching Beasley, Wes, Martell and anybody else that was unfortunate enough to run into the 2007 version of the Pacers’ leading scorer. We can pretend Granger didn’t wait for Beasley and Webster to step between him and Love before he showed he wanted a piece of Love.

Everybody is a tough guy when there is no chance of actually fighting. Continue Reading…

Dirk Nowitzki didn’t play against the Wolves Wednesday night. Does it cheapen the road victory?

It’s easy to look at this game flippantly and just assume the Wolves got a road victory in Dallas because the Mavericks were missing their best player. And on many levels, that certainly helps the gameplan and execution of the Wolves on both ends of the court. It changes the game for both sides and gives the Mavericks fewer outs on broken possessions. However, to look at Dirk’s injury and then ignore the Wolves’ bevy of bang-ups is too much oversight and not enough credit for the Wolves’ gritty performance in Dallas.

No J.J. Barea, no Luke Ridnour, no Martell Webster, no Malcom Lee. That’s a lot of guards on one roster to be absent from a game. It left the Wolves with Ricky Rubio, Wayne Ellington and Wes Johnson as the only players familiar with the backcourt.

The kind of strain that can put on such a young backcourt is immeasurable. The Dallas Mavericks’ defensive system isn’t the title-clinching plastic bag that is not to be used as a toy we saw last year, but it’s also not the essence of benevolent resistance you would assume from a unit anchored by Brendan Haywood. Dallas was the third best defense in the NBA heading into this game, and despite missing their franchise’s best player and leader, they still had a very deep and difficult backcourt ready to battle two wing players and a microphone rookie point guard. Continue Reading…

Potential is stupid.

I have discussions with basketball fans every night on the Daily Dime Live chat on ESPN.com and every night I read comments about how good several young prospects in the league are going to be. There’s nothing wrong with being excited about what could happen in the future. As a Wolves fan, we’ve been going through this mental process for years on years on years now.

Al Jefferson could be a franchise guy some day. If Gerald Green can get some consistent play, he’s going to be a steal for us. Good lord, did the Wolves really just bring back Sebastian Telfair again? Kevin Love needs to get minutes because he’d be the best rebounder in the NBA. Maybe if Jonny Flynn isn’t in the triangle, it won’t look like he’s trying to murder the game of basketball.

If Wes would just attack the basket… If we can get Ricky Rubio to just play here for a couple seasons… Michael Beasley’s scoring ability is like none other if he’ll just get better shot selection… THIS will be the team that Anthony Randolph finally shines on if he can get some minutes…

It’s always if, if and more ifs. Continue Reading…

Stars in the NBA can be incredible, stat-accumulating displays of effort, skill and whatever that extra special something is that makes them the elite 1% of NBA players. We marvel at their touch, power, speed, agility, and hand-eye coordination throughout a basketball game. We want to buy their jerseys and show everybody which star we back on a nightly basis.

Stars are only as good as the role players around them. Many people feel like it is the duty and mission of NBA stars to make those around them better, and to a certain extent it certainly seems to be a recipe for success. However, the top players in the NBA can’t necessarily give the role players on their team the confidence to make big shots, or the wherewithal to know when to step up to close out a team. Continue Reading…