1 – Johnson & Gelabale
Nobody quite knew what to expect from the 10 Day Wonders now that Rick Adelman was back with the team. He hadn’t coached them, as each guy joined the team after Adelman’s departure. Tonight, with Nikola Pekovic also returning to the lineup, there was no time for Chris Johnson. Pek was revealing his new bear tattoo (I haven’t seen it yet, I’m just trusting @steventurous on this one) and earned all of his 37 minutes of action. He put up a 17 & 12 line. Greg Stiemsma played the other 11 center minutes. Eventful ones. He took a flagrant-two cheapshot from Matt Barnes, prompting an ejection. A moment later, he knocked over one Clipper (flagrant-one) and was shoved in the back by Caron Butler. Technical foul. Stiemer was mixing it up and played okay. In any case, no Chris Johnson tonight. In some ways, he was missed. The Clips have a ridiculously athletic front court pairing in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and crucial rebounds were lost; often times the “high in the air” variety.
Mickael Gelabale played a solid 16 minutes of action — solid defensively. He shot a forgettable 0 for 2 from the floor, but was noticeably disruptive on defense. He had 3 steals. I suspect his minutes will stay as long as Budinger is out. The Wolves wing defense is suspect and Gelabale is quite obviously a solid defensive player who frustrates the basic things like a post entry pass. He was a +4 in tonight’s game.
2 – Alexey the Flopper
I mean this in a good way. One of my main concerns with Alexey Shved — one of my only concerns, really — is that he too often shies away from the possibility of contact when he dribbles. The NBA is a friendly place for dribblers and Shved did not immediately realize this upon entering the league from Russia. Tonight, and in other recent games before his injury, he showed more aggressiveness, going hard at defenders and challenging officials to blow the whistle. As he becomes more well known (his invitation to the Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend will help) he will continue to get more breaks from the refs. He technically only shot 1 free throw tonight, but was fouled on other plays when dribbling and is clearly looking more for this needed contact. Certain NBA players cause defenders to bounce off of them (LeBron James, Derrick Rose) and most others get bounced when they dribble into contact. Shved is at the far end of the spectrum of players who get bounced. That’s fine, as long as he embraces the NBA’s rules and, when necessary, sells the contact a little bit to shoot more free throws and get the defenders to lay off.
3 – I hate the Clippers.
Tonight’s antics with Barnes and Butler wasn’t unusual for this crew. Unless your name is Billy Crystal I cannot understand anyone cheering for the Clippers. If you live in LA, you’re a Lakers fan. If you live anywhere else, you certainly don’t have a history of giving a crap about the Clips. Go back and read Beckley Mason’s “Boo the Clippers” from last season. Nothing’s changed. Well, except adding Barnes, an act so classy he once trash talked Mike Beasley who had just gotten his ability to ever walk again jeopardized by an Andrew Bynum cheap shot. Adding Barnes certainly makes the Clippers less — not more — likeable.
Chris Paul is lauded for his intangible leadership qualities. They are nowhere to be found on this team. In three clashes with the Wolves this year, there have been two close contests and in each one there was an entire quarter of play centered around Clipper players losing their cool. If Paul is the leader that his huge cult following wants to believe he is, he’d better start showing it before playoff time. Any series that LAC has against the Spurs or Thunder will include a lot of high-intensity moments. The early indications suggest they’ll fail miserably, and Paul will once again not advance deep into the playoffs. (He’s never been to a conference finals.)
4 – Shved’s Shot Selection
Shved shot 5 for 13 tonight from the floor, which is about his season percentage of 38. That number obviously needs to go up. One reason for the low percentage is that he shoots a lot of dribble jumpers from the perimeter. That’s usually okay — at least from an instant decision-making perspective — because the shot clock is usually dwindling when he does that. But he does not get himself very many easy shots. I mentioned earlier his need to get fouled more, but he also needs to continue to find ways to get layups or jumpers that are wide open. For whatever reason — I don’t know if this is scheme or something related to the players themselves — the Wolves don’t seem to get many corner threes. Shved in particular is often waiting for the kick-out pass on the wing; a lower percentage spot than the corner. There are some things he needs to work on and learn en route to a mid-40′s shooting percentage that would make him a better offensive player.
5 – Little Things
I probably should have led off with this, because it pertains to the game and the result. This was one of those games where those proverbial “little things” made the difference. Sure, there was the Big Thing named Blake Griffin and his 26 points and 13 rebounds. But the Wolves could have won this game despite Blake’s greatness had a few things gone the other way. Eric Bledsoe stole two backcourt passes that were immediately converted to 4 points. The Wolves missed 8 free throws. (The Clippers missed 13, but that’s to be expected when DeAndre Jordan goes to the line 10 times.) On a late pair of possessions, Ricky Rubio missed a contested layup and then bonus fouled Jamal Crawford, for no reason. With the game EVEN MORE on the line, the ball kept bouncing away from the Wolves and toward the Clippers in a stretch that ended with a Blake Griffin and-1 — on a play Wolves fans thought was a clear travel. There were a lot of little things tonight that seemed to go the wrong way. A silver lining is that Rick Adelman was back and the team seemed to function more like a competitive NBA team. Even without Chris Paul, the Clippers are a tough test. Tough loss.
Season Record 17 – 25