Heavyweight Slugfest (WOLVES 96, Pacers 94)

Nothing seems easy when David West comes to town.

The largest first-quarter differential was 4, when the Wolves led 17-13.  Early in the second, the Wolves built an 8-point advantage that quickly dwindled, eventually to a 1-point Pacers halftime lead.  The third was a back-and-forth that mostly kept the differential under 5, although that is exactly where the Wolves lead sat at the end of the quarter.  Building on that momentum, Minnesota extended the lead to 8, two times early in the fourth.  But once again, the Pacers answered, with George Hill scoring 7 points in slightly over 2 minutes to cut the Wolves lead to 2.  From there, it was a heavyweight fight, each team trading hard-fought two-point baskets.  A key play to extend the lead to a whopping 4 points was when Andrei Kirilenko cleverly stole the inbounds pass following a Shved layup, and quickly found Alexey under the hoop for an easy two.  When Dante Cunningham’s 20-foot swish extended the lead to 6 with only 0:39 remaining, the game was over.

https://twitter.com/PDWolves/status/267103122839711744

Ohhh, but it wasn’t.  Chase Budinger committed the cardinal sin of playing with a two-possession lead, fouling George Hill as he made a runner.  A 6-point lead was now 3.  Fortunately for the Wolves, Andrei Kirilenko made a beautiful pass to a wide-open Nikola Pekovic for the game-clinching dunk.  Only Pek tried a layup.  And he somehow missed it.

So Indiana now had the ball down by just 3 points when they called timeout with 8 seconds to go.  Of course the Wolves would foul and not allow anything to go up from beyond the arc.

In hopes that Bill Bayno was reading @PDWolves on his iPhone, I pleaded for the foul:

Unfortunately, Target Center has terrible wi-fi, and the message wasn’t received.  Like Mario Chalmers over Derrick Rose in the Final Four, George Hill buried a 3-bomb with under 4 seconds to play.  Overtime seemed likely.  I mean, the best chance we’d get would be some wild, off-balance jumper.  Heroball stuff, you know?

Rick Adelman ain’t having any of that.  Inbounding from the sideline out of a timeout, Kirilenko peeled around a screen toward the passer and the baseline, catching a nice, leading inbounds pass from Luke Ridnour.  With a couple seconds to size up the defense, Kirilenko squared up.  Meanwhile, Gerald Green was watching all of this and none of his assigned man, Chase Budinger.  Air Bud darted directly to the basket, AK hit him in stride, and–unlike Pek seconds earlier–Budinger made the open shot before the horn sounded.  A buzzer-beating win in what seemed like a heavyweight fight from the get-go.

Some observations about last night’s action:

ALEXEY SHVED!

He’s arrived.  He’s arrived, and he needs more minutes.  This is looking EXACTLY like a season ago, when Luke Ridnour was “fine,” but everything worked better when Ricky Rubio checked into the game and started serving open dunks and threes on a silver platter for his teammates.  Shved doesn’t understand English very well.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that he understands how to raise his arm in the air and wait for a ball screen.  From that point on, it’s improv.  At 6’6″ he’s tall enough to see the entire floor.  He jumps–and jumps high–to fire cross-court passes to open shooters.  He negotiates the tiniest of windows with bounce passes to rolling bigs.  And when the defense starts playing pass, he’ll gladly finish it himself in the paint.  His defense, a cause of preseason concern, is not a strength.  But it hasn’t been an obvious weakness either.  He has good instincts for steals (like when he poked the ball from Deron Williams in a key possession, the other night) and enough athleticism to do an adequate job of covering guards on the perimeter.  With Ricky on the shelf, they absolutely MUST play Shved a lot of minutes.  This might happen, because…

Brandon Roy’s knees hurt.

Just when Roy’s jumper started coming back to life (6 points on 3-5 shooting), there was news as the 2nd Half broke and Chase Budinger was on the floor:

And then this:

Ruh, roh.  Look, we all knew this was going to happen.  He doesn’t have cartilage in his knees.  The fancy German surgery thingy doesn’t change that inescapable fact.  Roy’s knees will sometimes hurt.  He will probably sit out many games this year.  I don’t take this setback as a surprise, or a sign that his acquisition was a bad idea.  And hey, here’s a positive development (maybe):

Derrick Williams: More [pretty] good play.

In 26 minutes, D-Thrill only collected 1 rebound and he turned the ball over 3 times.  That’s why the “pretty” qualifier is in there.  He did a halfway decent job defending David West, who looked to be in his old All-Star form for stretches of last night’s game.  Williams hit a couple of those elbow jumpers that HE ABSOLUTELY NEEDS TO MASTER BECAUSE IT’S HIS TICKET TO BECOMING A MATCHUP PROBLEM.  (Sorry, caps lock must’ve gotten stuck.)  Williams had 15 points on 6-9 shooting, and was a team-second-best (to Stiemsma) +7.  I was a little-bit surprised that Cunningham took his place in Winning Time, because it seemed like Derrick’s bulk advantage was serving him well on defense against West.  In any case, nice to see two good offensive games in a row from Derrick Williams.

That’s all I got.  Pat will have a Bulls preview up this afternoon.  Wins are fun.

Season Record: 4-1

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Heavyweight Slugfest (WOLVES 96, Pacers 94)

  1. Alberto Super

    Absolutely NOBODY in the media expected a 4-1 start to the Wolves campaign, NOBODY. And we get absolutely no love, NONE. I thought for sure we would get some hype after that huge turnaround in Brooklyn… I was F’ing wrong. Once again I’m given another reason to hate the mainstream media. Mark Stein better give us some respect in this upcoming Monday’s power rankings. Otherwise, I’m blowing up his twitter feed until he blocks me.

    • Alberto– I wouldn’t worry about Stein. He was loving the Wolves last year, and I’d guess he’ll have a high rank for them on Monday, especially if we can pull a tough one out tonight at Chicago. Last night’s win was the best of the season to date. I think it was reasonable to wonder if those first few wins were related more to weak opposition than the Wolves being great. But the Pacers are legit, George Hill, Lance Stephenson David West, and even Gerald Green made enough tough shots to make it an earned win. Let’s hope the positive momentum carries on!

  2. Eric in Madison

    I don’t want to come down hard on Williams, because he has put together a couple of nice games. But I completely understand why Adelman stayed with Cunningham last night. West was getting things, but DC has much more energy. Still came up with a couple of loose balls, had a big put back, and of course made the jumper that looked like the dagger.

    WIlliams’ game still looks random. One night, he’ll grab 8 boards, then he’ll have one. He gets tunnel vision. A couple of his makes last night were just hoists that happened to go in. He did make a couple of nice elbow jumpers, and I agree, that shot needs to be part of what he does, because he just gets swarmed at this point going to the rim. He also had my 2nd favorite play last night: great pass from the free throw line to AK underneath for a layup. (Favorite: the Shved to a rolling Steamer to Cunningham for the layup. That was sweet).

    Still, he’s not a drive and dish guy; he’s a drive into a morass guy. I think Adelman is just terrified that he’ll make poor decisions at the end of games, and I can’t really blame him.

    • Eric,
      Fair points. I was at my all-time low on Williams a few days ago before he played an all-around solid game against Orlando the other night. I was happy to see his offensive floor game look relatively clean again last night. One shot he took–that three he jacked up for no reason early in the shot clock–had me shaking my head. But on the whole, I liked the way he played on offense. He really seems to respond well to physical play as a defender–that’s kind of why I was surprised with the Cunningham choice. Dante did the same good things he has been doing, but West was pretty tough on him. I certainly can’t argue with the choice though–Adelman knows what he’s doing and Cunningham has played much, much better than Williams this season on the whole.

      What do you make of Shved, at this point? Think I’m getting too excited? His playmaking seems pretty sustainable in a Rubio sorta way, no?

      • Eric in Madison

        Love me some Shved. This is a lot of the stuff I saw last year with CSKA. Really good drive and dish game. He’ll never be a great 3 point shooter, but those will start to go in a bit more often too. The thing to like about his game now is that he’s making things happen while shooting fairly poorly. The stuff he does is completely sustainable. There will be off nights where the TOs pile up, but the fact that 5 games in, he’s making major contributions, that Adelman trusts him in “winningtime,” and that he’s doesn’t look like a deer in headlights is pretty good.

        Also, the defense has looked OK I think. Certainly not as noticeably problematic as Ridnour’s, who tries but just doesn’t have the ability to slow down guys like Hill.

        • Yeah, one area where I think Shved can improve–and I’ve seen a little bit of it more recently–is not shying away from contact on the perimeter when he’s being fouled. The best guards–Chris Paul being the most obvious example–take that contact and sell it to the refs. Then the defenders have no choice but to lay off. Shved sometimes veers out wide around those ball screens, but he’s managing to create good action regardless.

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