PG – Ridnour
If you have a size advantage on Luke (and you probably will) then use it. Post him up. He won’t draw a charge, even if you aggressively back him down. (That’s what the other little guy does. He comes off the bench.) Luke is best shooting off of clear dribbles to the baseline. Don’t go jumping on his head fakes.
SG – Shved
The key to playing against Alexey Shved is to be as physical with him as you can possibly get away with. He’s incredibly smooth with the ball when he has space to operate. He’s incredibly uncomfortable when you take away that smoothness with bumps, slaps, grabs, anything you can think of. If you violently chop him on a breakaway (like Jamal Tinsley did, tonight) don’t worry. Nobody on the Wolves will retaliate to protect their teammate. It’s cool.
Don’t let Shved dribble around without feeling you for most of the process. When Shved is guarding you, and you’re cutting baseline, just “sit down” under the hoop. You can seal him hard and probably get fouled or score an easy bucket. Dwyane Wade did it. Damien Wilkins did it. Hell, Gordon Hayward did it.
SF – Kirilenko
AK47 will be active all night. On offense that means he’ll backcut the second you look away. On defense that means if there’s anything close to a loose ball you can bet he (and/or Dante Cunningham) will be flying toward it. The number one key to neutralizing Kirilenko is to keep him out of the lane. When he has the ball that means sagging off and letting him shoot. If he’s behind the three-point line, he probably won’t make it.
PF – Love
Scouting is of utmost importance when facing Kevin Love. First, if you are guarding Love, do not jump to block his shot. Just put your arms straight up as high as you can. He will head fake, pivot, dig his nose into the front of your jersey, throw up some garbage and look to the ref for a call that was never there to be made. Meanwhile, the ball (likely having flown hard off the rim or backboard, if it wasn’t swatted by a help defender) will be headed the other direction, 5 on 4. Last year (or the year before that) I would tell you to close out hard when Love has the ball behind the three line. Not this year. He’s hitting about 20 percent of 3’s this season, which isn’t so young anymore. Love is crafty, and if his team is in the bonus you can bet he’ll use every trick in the book to get to that charity stripe (and he’ll make the foul shots, too). So watch out for that.
C – Pekovic
Pek is a load and will combine offensive rebounding with deft footwork around the basket (both on the block and in pick-and-rolls) to be a scoring threat. When Pek is on the block, the number one key is to force him to the middle. If you play him straight up, it’s almost a guarantee that Pek will seal you with a drop step and when Pekovic seals you, it’s two points. Invite that running hook in the middle of the lane. He doesn’t get very close to the rim on it, and it isn’t a particularly strong move for him at this point.
[Tonight’s game was awful. After a competitive opening quarter, things unraveled with a barrage of Jazz fast break points and clanked Wolves jumpers leading to an 8-point halftime deficit. The second half only got worse with shots around the basket getting blocked by longer, more-athletic Jazz big men, and our own shots continuing to misfire. The above report tries to highlight some of the things going wrong.]
Season Record: 14-14