Playing to the Competition (WOLVES 93, Pistons 85)

15,598 people attended tonight’s matchup between the Timberwolves and Pistons, and most of them brought the same level of enthusiasm as the Wolves’ players. That is to say the arena had the feel of a tennis match as Tayshawn Prince destroyed Wes Johnson (and anyone else who tried to stop him) and Wolf jumpers continuously clanked off the rim, the backboard, or both.

The saving grace tonight for the good guys was just how inept Detroit has become. Despite a hot shooting night from Prince (13-23, 3-5 3PT, 29 points) and a (relatively) efficient night from Ben Gordon (7-15, 18 points) Detroit made enough mistakes and missed enough free throws to lose to Minnesota on a REALLY cold night. The Wolves shot just 30-75 from the floor (40.0 percent) and that number must have been even lower at halftime, when they trailed 42-36. I overheard somebody in the concession line remark that “it’s okay; you only need to play one quarter to beat the Pistons.” That was proven correct in this game. The Wolves ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the 4th Quarter (WINNING TIME) and buried Detroit with a 29-14 quarter point.

This really wasn’t the most interesting of contests, even for the die-hard NBA fan. With that in mind, and with a weekend double-header on the way (Clippers on Friday (CP3 may not play–hamstring), Jazz on Saturday) I’ll bring this one home with a few brief notes and let readers add anything they see fit in the comments:

* Detroit lost this game at the free-throw line. They shot 10-21 (47.6 percent) and a respectable 15 or 16 makes would have SERIOUSLY pressured the Wolves comeback effort.

* Ricky missed everything tonight–EXCEPT the coolest layup I’ve seen all year. He drove left, whirled the ball around his back and finished as the defenders’ heads were spinning. He shot 1 for 8, yet impacted the game with filthy dime after dime down the stretch. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the winding kick-out to Wellington on the wing for a trey stuck out as an uber-important basket. This bucket extended the lead to 7 (88-81) with 4:22 to go and was the moment that the game felt in hand.

* Oh, and Ricky was getting his hands on every loose ball and rebound opportunity, too. This type of game is what optimists expected as his upside. (9 points on 8 shots; 7 rebounds; 8 assists; 6 steals). His impact was second to Love’s in securing this win.

* Love had 20 and 17. Ho. Hum.

* Derrick Williams, I continue to believe, needs to aggressively drive from that 15-feet, square-up position. When he does it without hesitation, he looks like Amar’e Stoudemire. Too many times, he looks more like Wes Johnson, shuffling his feet and wondering how best to not do something productive. Come on D-THRILL! He’s good, just give him time.

* No matter what you might think, or what you’ve been led to believe, the team is not benefitting from Michael Beasley’s absence. They’ve managed to beat some bad teams (Wizards, Hornets sans Gordon, Kings, Pistons) and have lost to the Raptors, Bulls, and Hawks. If Beasley’s shooting regresses to the mean of his career, he’s a player this team could use. That isn’t to say he’s perfect, great, or even “good.” Just that he possesses a skill set that no other Wolf comes close to. That may change over time with Derrick Williams, but he isn’t anywhere near as polished as Mike is at collecting baskets against real defense. Combine Rubio’s passing with Love’s foul-drawing and then add in Mike’s shot creating–that has the feel of a legitimately-good team. Not just one that eeks out scrappy wins against dog shit competition.

Season Record: 6-8

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Playing to the Competition (WOLVES 93, Pistons 85)

  1. Dave A.

    Nice report as usual Andy. Beasley will have a significant role, as you indicated. Pekovic was +15 tonight on +/- scale and added 11 points. He’s raw and tough. Coach will start him ahead of Milicic. Nice to see Johnson getting to the rim again.

  2. BobP

    I too would like to see Pek get some more minutes. His skill set is similar to Darko’s but he plays with much more energy. Maybe he never figures out how to play in the NBA without fouling, but really what do we lose by having him taking Darko’s minutes. He made some baskets last night going strong to the hoop that Darko just flips up at the basket and misses. He plays tough defense and lets the other team know he is there. The only thing Darko brings is the shot blocking.

  3. @Dave A, BobP-

    Good points about Pekovic. I forgot to mention him, and he certainly had an increased role in this game. Perhaps his injury is fully resolved and he will be the center, when matchups don’t allow the small-ball front line of Tolliver-Love-Williams. Pek did a better job of finishing Rubio assists in last night’s game.

    • @Dave A, Bob P: Pekovic is a nice role player against the right opponents, as he always seems to demonstrate when we play the Kings and he squares off against Cousins. He really struggles to contest shots against tall, long centers, but to my eyes it looks like he’s improved his position defense in ways not dissimilar to how K-Love has leveraged his lower-body strength/center of gravity to improve his D.

      I wish Anthony Randolph could get strong enough and smart enough to fill Darko’s role, but that thinking seems purely wishful based on the inconsistency we’ve seen from AR15 this year.

  4. Reaper

    I agree with you on Beasley. Twolves need him and we have to dance with who we have and get over constantly at what ifs on other teams. When does MIller get healthy?

    • @Reaper: Couldn’t agree more regarding Beasley. Before he got hurt, he was starting to show he can guard some of the kinds of players Wes has been guarding, so I can’t see any reason not to put our best scorer back on the floor when he gets healthy.

      Regarding Miller: No idea, but hopefully sometime…

  5. Joe in Mpls

    The Strib reported today that the Wolves are offering Love the 4 year Max deal of $61 Million, and are considering a 5 year $78 million option. The drawback of offering the extra year is that they would not be able to offer that to Rubio in a couple years.

    Given Love’s scoring, the 4 year deal is probably a no-brainer. But I don’t know about the 5 year deal. Is he really worth that much? Maybe if his defensive play increased.

    • Joe,
      I’m all for paying Love whatever it takes to keep him here. That said, it’s impossible not to think back to Marbury-Garnett. One of the reasons that that duo broke up so fast was Garnett’s ridiculous contract. If a 4-year deal would allow more flexibility to retain Rubio, that would obviously be best. Those two should be the core of the team for as long as possible.

      • @Joe in Mpls @Andy G: Couldn’t agree more with Andy’s concerns about the potential for a Marbury-esque MELTDOWN. Depending on what happens in the next few days, this might be the topic of an upcoming post.

        But yeah, we need to find a way to keep Love around unless Kahn somehow finds a way to trade him for Dwight Howard.

  6. Totally agree on Beasley. Was just saying over on Canis Hoopus that I reckon Adelman will give him time…as he has done to everyone…because of the injury we are now set back further but I still reckon Beasley can develop under the right guidance. He is sitting there watching Darko and AR implode at the moment, if he has even the minute-ist grain of sense (?) he must surely learn and understand what Adelman is looking for. Less Skittles and more omega 3 capsules might do it?

    • Kevin,
      I think you’re right that it shouldn’t take much for Beasley to fit in and do well. If, for instance, he just deferred to Rubio to run the offense and took on the “late-shot-clock” situations, that might alone be enough to be a helpful addition to the team. We’ve all seen what happens to this team when the defensive pressure increases and players are left trying to create something for themselves. At worst, it’s an embarrassing blocked shot or turnover. At best, Love gets bailed out by a defender biting on a headfake. I’d rather see Mike Beasley getting himself a clean look while Love hunts down any rebounds.