Andy G and I are exhibiting withdrawal symptoms after a multiday layoff from Wolves hoops. That should be fixed soon. Here’s what we’re thinking heading into tonight’s game.
Another thing: Punch-Drunk Wolves is at full strength tonight in the flesh. I’m in town for the holiday and about to head over to 600 1st Avenue.
A fatal mistake of the Wolves in Friday’s game against Golden State was a failure to box out and prevent second-chance points. The 17 offensive rebounds pulled down by the Warriors were key in staving off a last-ditch comeback effort. Tonight, the Denver Nuggets come to town with a league-leading average of 16.8 offensive boards per game. Kenneth Faried in particular has been a beast–or MANIMAL, I should say–in attacking the glass, averaging an absurd 6.9 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. If the Wolves want to win tonight, they need to get stops–which, against Denver, means working on the glass after forcing the missed shot.
Hey, while we’re on Manimal, he did something last year at Target Center that I found interesting and led to easy baskets. Whenever possible–long rebounds that he wasn’t a part of, mostly–Manimal would release straight down the middle of the floor. The Nugget that chased down the ball would hit Faried in stride in the opposite lane for an easy dunk. Look for this tonight, and hope the Wolves scouting report has at least one, hopefully two, players back at all times. George Karl likes to pounce on these opportunities. Corey Brewer leaks out sometimes too.
Why isn’t Ty Lawson looking like Ty Lawson so far?
Over the last two seasons, Ty Lawson has reminded Wolves fans over and over what a bad decision David Kahn made in trading Lawson after picking him at #18 in the 2009 Draft, after Kahn had infamously grabbed point guards Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Rubio wasn’t around, and Flynn was playing as if he were AWOL. Last season, Lawson made big strides, averaging 16 and 7 a game with the much-heralded efficiency he’s known for.
Lawson’s not off to a good start this year. Beware sample size, but through the first 11 games of the season, Lawson is shooting 36% from the floor and only 26% from distance – a far cry from the 49 and 36.5 he shot from each last season. His PER is currently at a career-low 11.1, just over half the 19.4 PER he sported last year. But this may just be a cold streak, and his assists and steals are actually up a bit so far over last year’s numbers.
Perhaps the biggest key is, who will stop Lawson tonight? Ricky Rubio isn’t walking through that door. J.J. Barea might walk through that door, and as well as J.J. was playing before his injury, anything we get from him tonight has to be considered a bonus. Shved probably can’t keep up with him were Adelman to play Alexey at the point, which may mean – yes, you guessed it – more Mal Lee than we’d like to see if Lawson is whirring around a lot and Luke needs a breather.
What Will We Learn About Josh Howard’s Role?
Howard is a longtime favorite here at Punch-Drunk Wolves, for a lot of reasons that we’ll explain someday. And that isn’t to say that we expect him to be any kind of savior for this team. But given the depleted roster and Howard’s ability to play aggressive minutes off the bench, he’s going to play a role. We’d like to see a Howard-Shved backcourt for a few minutes tonight to see what two relative newcomers who both have a good feel for the game could do playing off each other.
UPDATE (6:16 PM, 11/21/2012): Multiple sources including Zgoda are reporting Kevin Love is making an unexpected early comeback tonight, and will start against Denver. If true, let the games begin!