Archives For Wes Johnson

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.

Still Wilding

Benjamin Polk —  February 4, 2012 — 3 Comments

One more note on Pekovic’s recent play. On Thursday, Zach wrote this:

One of the most impressive and basic things you see Pek do each time down the floor is he runs as deep into the key as he can, seals the defender to his back and calls for the ball. Many times over the last few games, we’ve seen Ricky Rubio recognize this development, dump the ball into Pek and get a great scoring opportunity for Minnesota. It’s what you teach big men to do at a young age and Pek certainly attempts to comply with such teachings.

My thoughts exactly–and I’d even add that Pek also does this when diving to the hoop off a pick-and-roll, even when he doesn’t get the ball. (On one fourth quarter play against the Nets, he set a screen for Rubio, recognized that the Nets had switched and immediately bulled his away past Jordan Farmar to the hoop. Meanwhile, Rubio had kicked the ball to Love outside. Love missed his three but because Pekovic was able to take advantage of the mismatch and put back the miss.) As Zach alluded to, when Pekovic dives to the hoop and seals his defender–be it off of pick and roll or in transition–Rubio delivers him the ball in perfect rhythm. All that is left to do is pivot and lay the ball in; the seal, the pass, the pivot and the shot seem to occur as one fluid motion.

A few people have raised the idea that, because of Rubio’s role in Pek’s resurgence, it behooves Adelman to play the two of them together as much as possible. And this may be so, but I’d offer that crucial differences between how Pek was deployed this year and last play just as large a part. Pekovic’s great skills, as we’ve noted, are instincts without the ball, his soft touch around the rim and his obvious, raw, fleshy physical force. Post moves and ball-handling, not so much. And yet in the triangle, as administered by Kurt Rambis, Pekovic was asked to use just those skills. He generally caught the ball in the block, eight or so feet from the basket, forced to pound the ball and facilitate the offense; not exactly playing to his strengths there. Given a more appropriate context, both Luke Ridnour and Kevin Love have recently been able to deliver Pek the ball in good scoring position.

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Speaking of Ricky Rubio, if you didn’t get the chance to see last night’s game, you missed some real gems. This one is a must-see; the aspect ratio is weird but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Enjoy:

The amazing thing about this is that the ridiculous around-the-body dribble was clearly both improvised and fully necessitated by the play. Do you see how Farmar bites on the feigned behind-the-back pass? And how that little lean opens up a nice little lane into the corner for Wes to slide into?

As promised, we were entertained. But with nothing to show for our efforts besides faint praise and yet another moral victory, we have to wonder if anything has actually changed.

Our Wolves are still a team with enough recognizable strengths to compete with anyone. Voracious rebounding, accurate shooting and a blistering pace have been the theme in several quarters of basketball brimming with potential. However this is also a team marred with glaring weaknesses, visible to even the most inept opponents. The lack of a dependable scorer, a propensity for carelessness and porous defense have left us scratching what hair we haven’t pulled out on many a night. One step forward, two turnovers and a failure to get back.

And so it began in Target Center this evening; another contender presumably content to delay the inevitable for forty minutes before sapping us of our will.

Michael Beasley continued to struggle. Gone was the ball stopping irreverence of games past, but the inattentiveness and inefficiency remained. Shots were rushed, entry passes were practically rolled into the post and an inability to do much of anything else rendered him useless. Since Beas is still the only player capable of creating a shot, sheer necessity will afford him several more opportunities, but a lack of productivity won’t be tolerated as tonight’s box score reflects: 2-6 FG, 3 REB, 1 AST, 2 TO, 4 PF (the last two courtesy of an unnecessary over the back and a shameless tugging on Bron’s jersey), 22 MIN (none in the fourth quarter).

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BREAKING NEWS: Sources say, Wolves went 2-0 in the preseason against the Bucks.

So as we prepare for the Preseason Playoff series against the 2-0 Clippers, I thought I would share some notes I made on Wolves players from the two games we just witnessed.
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Now that the Corey Brewer trade demands, or Melo Drama as I like to call it, are over, the Wolves were finally able to get back to some sense of normalcy.

With Corey actually gone from the team, it gave us an opportunity to see Wes Johnson in a more defined role. It’s not like Wes hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do before, but now it’s him and only him as a main option on the perimeter. Personally, I don’t think he disappointed in any way.

Wes didn’t shoot the ball well and he didn’t wow anybody by taking over the game. That’s not his type of game anyway. What he did was make the little plays here and there that you really want a role player to do. His final line shows a 14-point effort on 5/14 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. But it’s the way that he accomplished such a modest line that impressed.

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With Hockey Day in full effect on Saturday, it left the local channels blistering with high school, college and professional hockey games while anyone hoping to catch a Timberwolves game against the 76ers with a poorly cropped, low definition broadcast from the Philly side of the telecast world.

It shocks me when there are professional basketball games in 2011 not being broadcasted in high definition. While I realize this is a first world problem, it was sort of symbolic of the effort I saw from the Wolves as my eyes bled the unknown pain of basketball viewing from a decade ago.

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"The Nightmare" by Henry Fuesslie

Judging from my own reactions and those of my (many) correspondents, this latest Wolves debacle has given us all that awful feeling of waking up from those really significant nightmares. I’m talking about those dreams that leave little remnants of dread shimmering around in your body all through the next day. This game was like that.

For me, it wasn’t just that the Wolves lost another late lead, or that they played so very badly for so much of the game, or that they lost to such a rotten team (although it’s all of those things too). There was something really unsettling about the way the team related to itself at the end of the game. I’ll start with an observation.

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No disrespect intended for the Charlotte Bobcats but the Wolves absolutely gave this one away.

And it feels really good to say that.

I’m not happy the Wolves lost by any means, but I’m extremely happy they were in a position on the road to have a game to put away. I don’t know that this team is necessarily better in the sense that the Wolves can keep this unit together for a few years and have it develop into a title contending team. This unit isn’t that. But they’ve been competitive since the Miami-Orlando-Houston debacle and Michael Beasley decided to take over as the on-court leader of this team. They still have future bench players starting in key spots but bringing in guys to push them down the depth chart will definitely make this team dangerous in the future.

The way they gave this game shows the growth they still need but it also shows that this team might not be such a pushover most of this season.

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