“These technical fouls are starting to… have an actual impact on the score.”
My comment after Luke Ridnour hit a technical free throw to increase the Wolves lead to 91-85 with 2:21 to go. He had just fouled Blake Griffin on a breakaway attempt, which was met with an overreaction from Blake that warranted the tech. A moment earlier (3:17 to go) Kenyon Martin was T’d up while his teammate Chris Paul was shooting free throws. That little outburst allowed the Wolves to retain a 5-point lead at 88-83. Eventually, the Wolves would win this game by a single point. The entire outcome of the game was decided by a pair of late-game technicals.
K-Love for MVP?
K-Love put together a gem performance tonight against buddy and rival, Blake Griffin. Love scored 39 points on 13-25 shooting (5-10 on 3’s–keep em coming!) and also pulled down 17 rebounds (7 offensive) and dished out 2 assists. Of course, Twitter blew up with a mix of sarcastic jabs at Blake Griffin, preemptive strikes at “Kevin Love haters” and quips about how he is, indeed, a late-game scorer. I’m less concerned about kneejerk reactions (do these people seriously not remember what Blake did to Love at Staples, last week?) than I am with the 5 for 10 shooting on 3’s. Love can be so, so amazing when he bombs from outside. His one-on-one scoring, a game here or there notwithstanding, is not a recipe for success at the highest levels. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea on a .500 or worse team–particularly on nights when Ricky/Wes/Martell combine for 2-15 shooting (!!!)–but his iso scoring is not of a nature that a) works consistently against good defense; or b) draws even a sniff of a second defender. I’m happy he’s starting to embrace the perimeter jumpshooting. That is, without a doubt, his ticket to MVP conversations. Unbelievable performance tonight.
Wes & Martell
There was some buzz before the game about Wes Johnson’s recent shooting success. He had apparently been shooting something like 50 percent from the floor over his past 5 games. He was excited about this. Martell had just come off a 21-point, 8-rebound performance where he looked eerily-similar to a starting-caliber NBA wing. In this game, Wes reverted back to his worst. He floated aimlessly around the perimeter, never seeking out real scoring opportunities. When the ball would (perhaps inadvertently) come his way, he’d feel the need to shoot–if nothing else just to see a number go up in his box score line. He’d hoist up something off balance, barely drawing iron. Once his confidence was sufficiently shattered, he would then hesitate on should-be catch-and-shoots, put the ball on the floor, and then take a bad shot instead of the good one he could have launched a moment earlier. Martell was nonexistent in this game except in the game’s biggest moment. With a 5-point lead and 30 seconds to go, he threw the ball to Chris Paul and immediately bonus-fouled him for good measure. That blunder nearly cost the Wolves the game. Not a good night for the long-and-athletic wings.
Derrick Williams had 14 points in the 2nd Quarter. Michael Beasley had 9 points in the first 6 minutes of the 4th Quarter. Those rapid bursts of scoring output were key to building and maintaining a lead over the Clips. Of course, it also didn’t hurt that Darko made 6 of 7 shots in Nikola Pekovic’s absense (foot injury). For whatever reason, Darko has the Clippers’ number.
Ricky, and the Elephant in the Room
It pains me to say this:
Ricky’s shooting has officially become a problem. In his last 5 games, he’s hitting 18.4 percent of shots from the floor. He’s airballing wide-open threes, calling into question whether Target Center has a Meadowlands-like jet stream coming in from Section 136. Seriously, I don’t think I can overstate how horrible his jumpshot looks and I say this as a HUGE Rubio fan. Am I overreacting? He isn’t just missing by 5 or 6 feet sometimes, but he’s attempting RIDICULOUSLY difficult shots, often with ample time left on the 24-second clock. Maybe it’s a rookie wall. Or something. I’ll try not to think about it. He still delivers awesome passes and makes heady defensive plays. He’s the team’s best point guard. But I can’t in good conscience make favorable comparisons to guys like Irving and Lawson when he shoots like this. Shooting matters, no matter what sort of magic he creates for others.
Great win and fun game.
Season Record: 20-19