Archives For THN-UTA

Everybody loves March Madness and you can hardly blame them. The frantic, frayed late-game possessions; the mad, ten-man scrambles for rebounds and loose balls; the blood-thinning, oxygen starved comebacks; kids holding hands; grown men shedding tears: this stuff is truly compelling. But I will tell you now that I’m perfectly content sticking with the NBA, even as the tournament rages on.

For one thing, the players are better at basketball and I really appreciate that. But for another, even your average NBA game carries a certain narrative richness, a structural depth that the college game really can’t match. Matchups evolve over the long course of the game. Players surge and regress. Momentum wavers and shifts many times over.

Take, for example, this game here between the Wolves and the Jazz. There were at least three moments in the game when it seemed that the Wolves were poised to overtake Utah and make a significant run. And there were at least as many when it seemed that the Jazz had the Wolves buried. Wes Johnson went cold and then got hot. Nik Pekovic smashed, disappeared and then returned to smash again. The Wolves went through phases worthy, in their brevity and extremity, of a hormone-addled 15-year-old boy. First they couldn’t seem to cross half-court; then they couldn’t miss a shot; then they couldn’t manage an entry pass, despite many tries at it. Effing madness.

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That was the weirdest and most fun comeback I’ve experienced in a long time.

There was no reason for the Wolves to win that game last night and maybe that’s why the comeback was so fun. Everything was working against Minnesota for so long in that game, that the comeback never really seemed real to me until the final minute of the game. The Wolves were essentially without three of their starters for most of this contest, even though they logged a combined 99 minutes in the game.

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic were not good last night. Rubio looked slow and incapable of running the offense. He made a couple of 3-pointers, but he seemed more intent on earning foul calls than getting quality shots in the second half. Nikola Pekovic was playing on a bum ankle, but didn’t seem to be really affected by it. He just couldn’t make shots inside, no matter how many times he grabbed the rebound. And then there was Kevin Love.

Before the game, Love talked about how he’s wiped out physically. During the first few minutes of the game, it looked like something was seriously wrong with him. When Utah jumped out to an early lead, Adelman called a timeout to quell the storm. As Love came to the bench, he was completely red and sucking in as much oxygen as he could possibly manage. He had his head in a towel with Michael Beasley trying to offer words of encouragement. It looked as though he had an illness, and maybe he did if you consider pure exhaustion to be an ailment.

So there the Wolves were; getting their teeth kicked in by an impressive frontcourt. First 20 points of the game for Utah were scored in the paint. They were bullying Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic like it was two Darkos. Passes were being picked off, dribbles were being lost and the easiest of interior shots were complicated endeavors.  Continue Reading…