1. Kevin Love broke his hand. Again.
This was the big news to hit Twitter in the hours leading up to the game. Kevin Love had an MRI exam done on his right hand and it showed that he re-fractured the same bone that he previously broke during the preseason. Given that Love came back earlier than expected from the last fracture injury and never regained his shooting form (or anything remotely close to it) I think it’s fair to expect the team to take better caution this time around. Love’s latest injury could likely be a fatal blow to the Wolves’ playoff chances. Even if the team can hover around the .500 mark, they’ll do so while watching competitors like Houston (20-14), Denver (19-16), and yes, probably the Lakers (15-17) claim ownership of those final spots with records 5 to 10 games over .500. Portland, currently 18-15, could continue to look like a playoff team, but I personally don’t think they’re that good. One high ankle sprain to Nic Batum or LaMarcus Aldridge (or Wes Matthews or Dame Lillard) would probably mean a losing streak for the shallow Blazers roster. In any case, the Western Conference is loaded and Kevin Love playing so few minutes of good basketball this year is going to keep the Wolves out of the playoffs, barring a major surprise.
2. Blazers Shooting
Last night Portland attempted 24 three-point shots and made 16 of them. 48 points from downtown on 66.67 percent shooting is going to mean a win for almost any team against any opponent. Some of them were open, but that happens. The three-point line is never covered perfectly, and certainly not against a team that also has a matchup problem in the post like LaMarcus Aldridge and a capable playmaker like Damian Lillard. In his press conference, Adelman first pointed the finger at his own team’s lack of effort but then conceded that Portland made just about everything. Damian Lillard’s threes (3-5) were tough to stop because they came off the dribble. Wes Matthews’ threes (5-7) were tough to stop because some were ridiculous fade-aways. Nic Batum’s threes (5-6) were tough to stop because he’s 6’8″ and releases the ball high without even a split second of hesitation.
3. 2nd String Issues
For the first 5 minutes 36 seconds of the 2nd Quarter, the Wolves trotted out the following lineup of professional basketball players:
In the first 4 minutes 21 seconds of this stint, that group collectively scored 0 points. Barea finally bombed in a three off the dribble and Stiemsma got a jumper to fall before Adelman mercifully took all of them out except for J.J. Hayward and Amundson would not see the floor again. The 9-point swing that came with this second unit on the floor was a noticeable factor in the game’s ultimate outcome and in Ricky and Love’s absence they’ll need to manage this better.
4. Shved’s Cold Night
Alexey Shved had one of those nights where nothing would fall. He was 1-11 in the game and, despite having 7 assists in 30 minutes, was one of the reasons the Wolves came up short. I don’t view cold shooting–particularly for an off-the-dribble player like Shved–as cause for any concern. But it’s worth pointing out in the game wrap.
5. Productive Derrick Williams
If last night’s game had a bright spot it was Derrick Williams’ play in the 4th Quarter. The lion was uncaged! D-Thrill had 18 points and 5 rebounds in the final quarter that saw a 19-point Blazers lead cut all the way down to 2 with a minute to play. Williams playing productive basketball is the biggest factor in determining how the Wolves weather the storm of Love’s latest injury. I personally think he should be starting over Dante Cunningham. This isn’t because I think he’s better than Cunningham, but because he looked so lost while out there with the scrubby second unit described above. Williams might benefit from playing next to better playmakers, and Cunningham seems better-suited for energy minutes off the bench. Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference, I don’t know. In any case, it was nice to see Williams finish around the rim (well, aside from that spastic reverse layup miss in the closing minutes) and pile up numbers during a critical stretch of the game.
Season Record: 15-15