Archives For THN-POR

Here’s Rick Adelman lamenting the Wolves’ effort against Portland last night: “I just hope this game taught our guys a lesson, because for the first three quarters we hung our heads, we didn’t make shots, we didn’t compete like we have to compete.” On the face of things, even through the first three quarters, this game appeared relatively even. Both teams shot poorly overall, the Blazers just a few percentage points better than the Wolves (indeed the Wolves made one more field goal than Portland on the game). The Wolves out-rebounded the Blazers by a significant margin and played solid on-the-ball defense. Free throws were roughly even; turnovers were even.

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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.

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Do you remember the Wolves-Lakers game in March from last season?

The Wolves didn’t know it yet, but they were in the early stages of a 15-game losing streak to end the season and clinch the worst record in the NBA. What stood out that game was Wes Johnson went off against Kobe Bryant. He scored early and he scored often, totaling 29 points on 11/21 shooting. Kobe had an off night, partly due to Wes’ defense on him, scoring just 18 points on 7/16 shooting. It was a beacon of hope at the end of a tumultuous season.

Then this season happened and Wes has been so bad shooting the basketball that people (myself included) wonder why he’s even out there. His confidence has seemed shot and he wasn’t attacking the basket like he promised before the season started.  Continue Reading…

Timberwolves’ fans should be glad that Saturday’s game against the Blazers was not decided on the basis of a head-to-head matchup between Wes Johnson or Michael Beasley and Gerald Wallace. Wallace’s game is a study in the contrast between the immense, relentless energy he expends and the languid, loose-limbed way he physically expresses that energy. Watching him attack the basket, scramble for rebounds, streak into passing lanes–well its a really a thing of beauty.

All of which made it a little bit hard for me to watch Wes and Beaz saunter through their time on the floor. That Beasley would be slow to loose balls or would fail to match the energy of one of the league’s most inspiring wing defenders is not a terrible shock and, at this point, doesn’t seem to be worth lamenting (although there are moments…). But Wes Johnson really mystifies me at the moment. I know that he is still a novice when it comes to NBA team defense and that he currently lacks the instinct for negotiating screens and defending the myriad articulations of the pick-and-roll. Ok, fine.

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