Back to Work (Wolves 127, SUNS 124)

Was it a coincidence that the first seven quarters of Wolves ball that I missed in weeks were the first seven quarters of Ricky-less ball?  Yes, actually.  Saturday’s TV coverage was FUBAR’d by the NBA, with reciprocal blackouts for paying customers of NBA TV and paying customers of NBA League Pass.  I actually thanked the NBA (to myself, at least) for this blunder.  It sounds like I missed a wretched display by the home team.  Tonight’s contest mostly conflicted with my men’s league game (we won, thanks for caring) so I was only able to listen to the 3rd Quarter on the drive home and watch the 4th on FSN.

Based on the box score, radio commentary, and my text inbox, it sounds like Mike Beasley, Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic collectively carried the Wolves through the first half as K-Love struggled with his shot.  Beasley in particular (15 points on 6-7 shooting in 16 minutes, (tied for) team-high +8) must have been crucial to the 7-point halftime lead.

The radio broadcast of the third quarter sounded like Suns matchups of recent past.  Al Horton repeatedly described Suns action begun by Steve Nash and finished by an open jump shooter.  The Wolves 7-point lead quickly became a deficit.  But then, as is happening more and more often, K-Love came to the rescue by bombing from outside.  Love hit 5 threes in the second half (5-9 total for the game) en route to another 30-point game for the superstar.

Now, the part I was actually able to watch: the fourth quarter.  Or as Magic Johnson and Roger Dodger call it, Winning Time.

The Key Players of #winningtime, in reverse order:

5. Derrick Williams – The rookie was on the court for the first 7:42 of the fourth and seemed to be involved in every play.  He aggressively and stupidly goaltended a floating shot that had no chance of going in (sound familiar?) BUT–he got away with it, somehow.  On offense, he hit a pair of square-up J’s, one from downtown, and converted his own backcourt steal into a dunk.  Defense was another story.  His “defense” on Channing Frye reminded of recent Kevin Love efforts against Magic stretch four, Ryan Anderson.  Put simply, Williams does not want to guard out to 24 feet.  You know why?  He’s a power forward.  (This dilemma of the stretch four is exactly why I want K-Love to embrace his own shooting talent, as he is doing of late.)

4. Channing Frye – As I just mentioned, Frye’s shooting was a problem.  He entered the game with 8:26 to go with his team down by 2.  He quickly hit a pair of 3’s, each giving his team the lead.  While the Wolves were ultimately able to hold off the Suns, Frye’s sniping was nearly a deciding factor in the other direction.

3. Sebastian Telfair – Bassy played well in the last Wolves-Suns tilt, too.  He must have it out for his old team or something.  In the early part of this 4th Quarter he was pretty dominant, even if in ways that are UNSUSTAINABLE.  When JJ went under a ball screen, Bassy buried the jumper.  A moment later on another ball-screen sequence, he hit a three and D-Thrill fouled him for good measure and a fourth point.  RIGHT AFTER THAT, he ripped Luke on a careless dribble and converted a layup.  8 quick points in the 4th Quarter.

2. Kevin Love – The MVP candidate had 13 points in the 4th Quarter, despite resting from 8:26 to 4:18.  Not much else to say.

1. Luke Ridnour – Notwithstanding the turnover to Bassy, Luke was huge down the stretch.  He made a layup with 4:35 to go, and a long 2 with 3:55 to go.  With 1:50 to go he made a sick little hesitation move on Frye (I think) and an even-crazier layup in traffic with the shot clock winding down.  He collected an offensive board with 1:15 to go and a key defensive board with 0:54 to go.  With 17 seconds left and a 1-point lead, he calmly went to the line to extend it to 3 and help seal the win.  Great Winning Time performance for Luke.

Nice to get a win.  It’ll be interesting to see if any moves are made before the trade deadline on Thursday.  Also on that day is the next game, a nationally televised (EXCEPT MAYBE IN MINNEAPOLIS!) contest against the Utah Jazz, a key rival for the 8-seed.  Big Al scored 33 tonight on 14-18 shooting in an easy Jazz win, so we’ll have to have our interior defense ready to roll.  Until then.

Season Record: 22-21

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Back to Work (Wolves 127, SUNS 124)

  1. Jose Cordoba

    Random Thoughts from watching these games. I watched a little of half of the New Orleans Game (Didn’t realize it was on NBA TV) and all of Last Night’s

    1. I think Hollinger last week hit the nail on the head best with Rubio in that where he’s really going to be missed is on the Defensive End of the Floor. Where Rubio seemed to excel is his ball-pressure would disrupt the other team’s ball movement enough they’d end up finding less then optimal shots.

    2. The one reason I have a hard time seeing the Wolves really tanking after losing Ricky is their Front-Court is just so good and versatile. Things like Offensive Rebounding should carry over from night to night.

    3. I think when the Wolves miss the playoffs. I figure they’ll fall about 2-4 games short it’ll be due more to the difficulty of their schedule in the Season’s 2nd Half and the Relative Strength of the West.

    4. If I was the Wolves the last thing I’d probably do at this time is make a move trying to shore up for a Playoff run this year. This team’s upside being realized is probably at least 2 years away. Keep D-Will, Keep Pek, Keep Ricky, Keep K.Love and for the record- no point in trading Wes.

    5. Last Night’s game would have actually been a worse loss then Saturday Night- you just can’t blow shooting performances like that and not come out with a W. Saturday’s Game was simple you shot .40 from the field .20 from deep and turn the Ball over 17 times. Even if you’re playing a Bad Hornets squad at home- you’re probably going to lose.

    • Jose-
      On your first point, Jerry Z wrote a column today with Adelman quotes about Rubio’s impact being biggest on defense. That seems to be right on, so far. Although Luke and J.J. can defend certain types of players at certain parts of a game, neither is the all-around defensive force that Ricky seems to be. His length, energy, and instincts add up to an impact player on that end of the floor. If no trades are made, this might be a problem down the stretch.

      • @Andy G: Just for fun, I’ll twist your words and say that you just referred to RR as “long and athletic.” I’ll take it a step further and float a provocative idea: perhaps this phenomenon underlay Kahn’s interest in RR on draft day–what if Kahn didn’t really know what he was getting, i.e., Rubio’s (RIDICULOUSLY SPECIAL) “point guard skills.” After all, Kahn also picked the player with the worst point guard skills of anyone in the draft–Flynn–five minutes after he picked Rubio. Both guys are very athletic, albeit in different ways. That’s the common thread. So how much could Kahn have really known about what he was getting in Ricky? I’m not even a Kahn hater, but I’d bet that privately, he’s been as surprised about Rubio’s transformative play as many Wolves fans.

  2. @Andy G: The game was inexplicably blacked out on my League Pass Broadband here in DC. Has David Stern secretly decided to keep the Wolves off tv now that Rubio’s out of the picture?

    Is Al Jefferson’s 38 year old girlfriend going to be there Thursday? (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7664492/nba-trade-value-part-1)

    • Not sure what’s up with the fine folks at League Pass, but they need to get these blackouts fixed–it’s pretty maddening to plan your night around watching a Rubioless Wolves-Hornets game and then not even get to see it!

      Not sure re: Jeff’s ladyfriend. He seems to be ballin’ of late though. With Portland, Houston and Minnesota battling injuries and other issues, Utah must feel like they’re right back in the hunt for that 8 seed. Huge game for that effort on Thursday.