Enlightening Loss (Bulls 111, WOLVES 100)

Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose battled Tuesday evening at Target Center. (AP, 1-10-12)

In another hard-fought defeat, the Wolves were actually close to a full-fledged disaster on their hands at Target Center, Tuesday Night.  In front of a capacity crowd and after Coach Adelman stubbornly started the same lineup as in recent games, the game quickly fell out of control.  MVP Derrick Rose made it rain from outside (14 first-quarter points), and the offense could hardly have been more stagnant coming out of the gates.  The score was 51-29 in Chicago’s favor when Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour checked in for Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea.  The following were then on the floor together:

1 – Ricky Rubio

2 – Luke Ridnour

3 – Anthony Tolliver

4 – Kevin Love

5 – Anthony Randolph

Love scored 11 points in the next 2:23, with three treys coming off of nifty Rubio assists.  That pairing is dynamite on pick-and-pop, and penetrate-and-kick sets.  Love was done challenging the incredible interior of Chicago (there is no better defensive front line than Chicago’s, particularly when Gibson and Noah are on the floor) and instead was floating in the right spots where Ricky could fire those one-handed rockets right on the numbers.  But things weren’t done after Love’s triple-three sequence.  Next would be a Rubio-to-Randolph alley-oop that perfectly captures everything about why Ricky is the buzz of NBA talk everywhere.  The crowd was going crazy, the refs were all of a sudden exchanging heimlich maneuvers as they choked on their whistles for about five should-have-been Wolves fouls, and Randolph finished another Rubio dime to cut the once-24-point Bull lead down to 6, at the half.  ORDER WAS RESTORED.  A lineup was established.  That five was (+16) over a 4:50 closing stretch.

Unfortunately for Minnesota on this night, reality would bite in the form of its opponent’s excellence.  Da Bulls are possibly the best team in the world, depending on the health of Dwyane Wade and the chemistry between Westbrook, Harden and Durant.  Chicago plays a brand of defense–both its starting five and second unit–that is probably unmatched across the league, perhaps save the offensively-challenged Bucks of Milwaukee.  In tonight’s game the Wolves not only faced this defensive monster, but also white-hot shooting nights from Derrick Rose (12-22, 31 points, 11 assists) and Luol Deng (21 points, 11 rebounds) and just to remove any doubt as to who would leave Target Center victorious, Ronnie Brewer hit a pair of clutch jumpers, both coming at times when the Wolves desperately needed a stop.  In short, the Wolves took Chicago’s best shot tonight and came up empty.  Whether a proper starting five would change tonight’s result is up in the air.  My guess is that there would have been too much Rose-and-Deng for the young T-Pups to prevail in this one.

Some bullet points:

  • Derrick Rose is more than worth the price of admission.  In my opinion, Rose represents the best of everything about NBA basketball.  He has world-class athleticism and strength and yet is visibly improved–certainly due to his maniacal work ethic–season after season.  His MVP award last year was controversial amongst many experts, particularly those who analyzed it by statistics.  Certainly, the award stemmed from his team’s success which is often true of all NBA accolades.  But make no mistake about it: Rose is the Peyton Manning of that offense.  Every decision and meaningful action starts with him at the top.  He torched the Wolves from downtown in the early going, and then deferred while his teammates took shots.  When the Wolves’ hot shooting and improved defense made the game close, he stepped on the accelerator and every Wolf’s throat with dagger jumpers and crazy-acrobatic moves in the paint.  There is no comparison around the league for a lead guard who can carry a team to victories.
  • Another Derrick–this time Williams–struggled in this game.  He shot 1 for 7 and sort of got away from the catch-and-shoot basketball that has, at times, made him a nice sidekick for fellow-rookie Rubio.  There is no getting around that he is a bit of a “tweener.”  My advice to D-Thrill would be to focus on the Rubioop highlights, and then stick mostly to jumpers where he has advanced skills.  His coach preaches focusing on strengths and simplifying where appropriate.  Derrick should follow those principles.  Oh, and practice free throws.  He’s now shooting about 59 percent at the stripe–barely above his college 3PT%.
  • Anthony Randolph is nothing if not an enigma, but he seems to anticipate Rubio’s… well, anticipation.  More than any other Wolf–and this may be in large part due to his length and ability to catch different passes–AR15’s game is bolstered by Rubio passes.  His (+6) tonight is consistent with his season-long on/off numbers that show his minutes to be the best for the team.  I worry about his head sometimes–he can quickly spiral into crazy play–but his aggressive style and instincts with Ricky are certainly working for the team in the season’s early going.
  • Up next is New Orleans, on Friday Night, on the road.  Eric Gordon has been out with injury, but the Hornets just beat the quality Nuggets without him.  They aren’t to be taken lightly.  PLEASE RICK ADELMAN DON’T PLAY WES JOHNSON OR DARKO MILICIC.  That’s all.

Season Record: 3-7

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Enlightening Loss (Bulls 111, WOLVES 100)

  1. Dave A.

    Coach is done starting Darko Milicic and Wes Johnson. Darko has a big body to defend the low post but his energy level isn’t consistent. Wes Johnson is shooting only 32% from the field. They need a rest, as Andy indicated. Wayne Ellington is shooting only 35% from the off-guard position. Looks like the team will go with three point guards for now – Rubio, Ridnour and Barea – rotating to fill both guard positions. This makes us too small on the defensive. Johnson needs to step up to his high draft pick. Seems like a nice guy who lacks confidence. I’m pulling for him. Understand, though, that building for the future is over. Attendance and interest is up. Coach needs to show his smarts — is Wes Johnson your shooting guard or is a trade coming?

    • Dave,
      I suspect Wes will follow a path similar to Corey Brewer’s (has since been traded to Dallas and Denver, and gets a few minutes here and there), if he’s lucky. What Brewer has going for him though, that Wes doesn’t, is a motor that is always running hot. Wes is at his *best* when he’s a non-factor. One of the problems is that he’s always out there with Luke Ridnour, who can’t really create easy shots for others. If Wes played with Rubio, he MIGHT have a little bit more success. But his dribbling and ball decisions are so shaky that he shouldn’t be given any playing time, no matter what. His consistently-bad shooting lines are really hurting this team. He was drafted to be a shooter!

      • @Dave A @Andy G: I think Wes’ upside is as a smaller version of Anthony Tolliver. They have a similar build; both lack flexibility and ball-handling skills; and both can make stand-still jump shots. Wes is supposed to be more athletic, and he is, if you only consider vertical leap, but his lack of ball skills will relegate him to a sort of Bruce Bowen-like offensive role, where he benefits from teammates who force the defense to collapse and then buries the resultant kick out. That’s far from an exciting upside, and it remains seen whether he’ll even play to that level, but that’s my expectation if he remains with the Wolves.

        Different question: What is Beasley’s role when he returns?

        • Dave A.

          Beasley’s role?
          He’s a small forward who can score from the perimeter and penetrate. He’s the team’s best one-on-one player. In the NBA with the short clock, Beasley is needed. Hard to understand his less than 50% free throw shooting percentage. Most negatives with him seem between the ears related – like getting down on himself, making foolish fouls, when struggling. Coach wants consistent energy and guys playing within their abilities. The second part is more complex for Beasley because he has the ability to do everything very well – a unique talent, for sure. I’m amazed at that he can do. Sometimes, though, he acts too cool for his own good. He’s not cool but could be.

          • @Dave A.: You had me (and probably Mike Beasley, too, if he’s reading) until the last sentence! In all seriousness, I fully agree that Beas fills an important void on the team, and it was fully noticeable last night. Here’s hoping he shakes his injury and his slump–and soon.