Blazers 100, WOLVES 98: 5 Things

1. The Comeback

The Wolves closed out the final 6 minutes 15 seconds of last night’s game on a 24-9 run.  Unfortunately this 15-point swing was 2 shy of what was needed to catch the Blazers on a night they dominated 3.5 quarters of action.  In that final stretch, Ricky Rubio dazzled the crowd with 7 assists (14 for the game) and his patented pesky defense that frustrated Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews, who had both played great up to that point.  Dante Cunningham finished most of those assists, finishing the game with a career-high 23 points.  17 of those came in the 4th Quarter.  Unfortunately, Dante’s game-tying attempt at the buzzer fell short and the Wolves lost another close one.

2. Everything Before The Comeback

Not so good.  Alexey Shved was frustrated with Portland’s physical defense not being whistled for more fouls.  He missed a lot of shots.  Derrick Williams might as well have stayed home.  He scored 1 point in 19 minutes of action and sat during the late-game comeback.  I think we’ve reached the point (perhaps some of you reached it months ago) where Derrick’s expectations drop.  If I were his coach, this would be the time I stop yelling at him.  That isn’t a good thing.  Andrei Kirilenko hurt his leg and will probably be out for a week or so.  Pek was okay, but failed to convert — either because his shot was blocked, or he just botched the layup — more than usual, by his standards.  The Wolves couldn’t make shots; a recurring theme.

3. Matchup Problems

LaMarcus Aldridge continues to be a pain.  The Wolves have never really had anybody who can guard him.  Kevin Love, and any of his replacements at the 4, are too short.  Pek is too slow.  LMA is so big and such a great shooter that he ends up attracting all sorts of help defense, leaving snipers like Wes Matthews open for just enough time to swish a corner trey.  Portland has a nice foundation with those guys.  They just need more depth and maybe another year of Lillard developing as an all-around force.

4. Chris Johnson must not be very good in practice.

Chris Johnson received another DNP-CD last night.  Statistically, Chris Johnson is the Timberwolves’ best player.  In limited sample size (7 games; 15 minutes per) his win shares per 48 are more than double the next-best Wolf.  I’m gonna have to just trust that Rick knows what he’s doing on this one.  Perhaps there are some gaping holes that have led to Johnson’s past D-League demotions and current pine riding.  But still — wouldn’t we like to see if he’s an above-average center?  The Pek-to-Stiemer dropoff has been pronounced this year.  Better frontcourt depth is always a good thing.

5. Ricky’s Jumper

I don’t know what the biggest variable is that could give the Wolves an upward swing in the standings.  But Ricky’s jumper must be near the top of the list.  When he hits that dribble 15-footer, he’s a different player.  Last night, after he made a couple of those (and many free throws) he began penetrating the lane with confidence, faking out defenders and finishing at the rim.  A 15-point, 14-assist performance when he also played his ass off on defense is, I think, genuine reason for optimism that Ricky is getting his groove back.  Without the relentless effort on defense that Ricky (and J.J. and Dante) put forth, the comeback never happens and the Wolves lose by 20 in a snoozer.  He’ll have a tougher test on Wednesday when Tony Parker is in town.

Season Record: 18-27

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Blazers 100, WOLVES 98: 5 Things

  1. Nathan Anderson

    LMA is very tough to defend. But I’m fine with him hitting jump shots over people. With a healthy Love, the Wolves gave themselves a chance by outscoring LMA. DC did a good Love impression last night with his 23 points.

    The way to beat the Blazers is limit their three point shooting. Mathews killed the wolves again. Maybe this is where I guy like Malcolm Lee would have helped last night.

    Rubio looked great. I sooo want to win now (er, next year).

    I would trade Pek + change for Pau. Lakers will have no interest in Pek though. Need a third team. Trade proposals from fans are a bit boring so I’ll stop here. But I do want to add that the difficulty in acquiring Pau is where Kahn’s drafts kill this team. They have very few “extra” assets that they can trade. If they had even one non-Rubuio productive guy on his rookie deal they could include him in a trade. But Wes, Jonny, and Derek were or are low value assets.

    • Nathan–

      I think limiting the Blazers three-point shooting is tied pretty directly to LMA drawing double teams against Wolves defenders. Not all the time, but some of the time.

      Pau’s comments to the LA Times today suggest he expects a trade, but with Dwight’s injury I don’t know if it’ll happen this year.

      Agree re: the blown draft picks. Williams over the wings like Kawhi & Klay, Wes over Paul George or Greg Monroe, and Jonny over half the league’s starting point guards hurts the team’s depth of trade value.

      • Nathan Anderson

        Agreed on LMA double teams. That’s why I think the Wolves need to defend him with one guy, let him catch it away from the basket and shoot jumpers. he’s good at that, but I would give those up rather than allow him to pass out to three point shooters or drive in and the paint. This is where Love can be good in that he should be strong enough to deny LMA post position and smart enough not to foul. If Love can out rebound LMA and score as much as LMA does, the wolves are in good shape against Portland.

        I would also use hack-a-LMA strategy in fourth quarter. Wow. J-Pete called it last night.

        • I missed the Jim Pete call (attended the game). Did he predict those bricks?

          Love hasn’t been allowed by Wolves coaches–including Adelman–to defend LMA. It’s been Pekovic and Darko in the more recent encounters. I’m less convinced than you that he could do much to stop him individually. Of course there’s always the chance that a shooter will have a cold night.

      • Andy-

        While I agree that Williams has been a large disappointment thus far, I don’t know if it’s fair to criticize his selection. He was, basically, the undisputed best player available and almost every other team out there would have taken him if in our place. Hindsight 20-20 thompson and leonard would have been better selections, and better fits, for the Wolves but we have no crystal ball. Should we have traded down? Well, that’s a whole other question.

        Wes and Jonny on the other hand… I have no words for. Just like I had no words for when their names were announced on draft day. It’s decisions like those that make it hard to be a Wolves fan sometimes. Can you imagine if we had George and Curry on this team right now? Keeps me up at night…

        As for the game, we need to see more performances like that out of Rubio. I don’t even mean the 14 assists, although I will gladly take those. He needs to be more assertive/aggressive when it comes to his offensive game. I don’t care if he shoots 33%, there needs to be at least a threat of him being an offensive option. Games like last night show you what can happen when he is even an average weapon on offense.

        • Jon–

          I agree, to an extent, about hindsight and the Williams pick, but there were a ton of people who expected a trade of some sort because Williams played the same position as Kevin Love.

          But my disappointment with Williams is exponentially more tied to his own play than the decision to draft him. Even with the fit issues next to Love, I thought he would be a good NBA scorer. But he isn’t — he shoots about 40 percent from the floor as a power forward. Maybe he’ll figure it out someday, but I don’t think it will be in Minnesota.

          • Andy-

            There definitely was a lot of trade speculation surrounding Wililams. I expected him to get traded like most probably did, primarily because, like you said, he played the same position as Love and I doubted he could play the 3. After all, we had already had a offense oriented undersized 4 masquerading as a 3 on our team, and that clearly wasn’t working (thanks B-easy!).

            Even still, like you, I expected him to be better than he has been. The lack of production and his apparent skill set confuses me. I still think he will figure it out one of these days and at least be a valuable piece off the bench, but I doubt it will be with the Wolves. I think you have that pegged correctly. Sad thing is we’d be getting maybe 60 cents on the dollar if we dealt him now.

            • Nathan Anderson

              I didn’t view Williams as a clear choice with the #2 pick. The only thing he did well in college was score. As others have shown, college scoring is often not a good predictor of NBA scoring.

              Jonas V should have been the pick. He was demonstrating solid rebounding and shot blocking and scoring in Europe. And he’s a center, a position as which the Wolves desperately needed some depth.

              But,I’m with you on the idea that its worthless to harp on all these failed drafts, frustrating as they may be.

              What a truly awful organization that someone stumbled through blind luck really onto Rubio, Love, Pek, and Adelman. Now joined by AK can these amazing talents escape the shackles of ineptness and win some damn games!??

  2. i thought Dwill actually did a decent job defending LMA…he was aggressive and looked like he was up to the challenge . concerning chris Johnson I dont see where Adelman is going with this, the guy is on a 10day contract and you refuse to play him?? and how does he not make the team originally in camp? then you go out and get Amundson? I really dont buy that CJ couldnt make the team, besides Pek and love who beat him out? I am sure they release him though, Adelman seems to like Gelabale out of the two.

    • Chico–

      I’m pretty much with you on Johnson. While I could maybe understand choosing Amundson over CJ preseason (Lou was getting minutes on a very good Pacers team last year) I’m not sure what is keeping CJ off the floor now. There are some rumblings in the press that Lou will be moved in the next few days so that the Wolves can keep both Gelabale and Johnson. That seems like a reasonable idea to me.

      Re: Derrick Williams, I’m just tired of being disappointed by his inability to make shots. Whether it’s free throws or layups, he just can’t seem to convert like I had hoped he could. He was drafted to be a scorer — which is exactly what the team needs from him in Kevin Love’s absence. (Dante was good last night, but should not be expected to be a 20 ppg scorer.) His defense has looked good at times this year — an early game against David West stands out in my mind — but on the whole, I can’t really identify a special part of his game. Maybe a change of scenery and more refining of that jumper will do him some good. I don’t think he’ll pan out in a Wolves uni in a meaningful way.

      • I really do hope that’s the case,CJ is what this team needs as far as providing energy and contributing on both ends. The only real concern with CJ is the foul trouble, but the easy points he can get you on put backs and rebounding should keep him on the floor. we’ll see how this turns out though, hopefully for the better.

        Dante is balling..sucks he couldn’t hit that shot last night, but for the most part he’s been consistent. I think someone else mentioned about him driving to the basket, that would be awesome if he could keep shooting the way he is and go to the line maybe 10 times a game.

        I think we can all agree that Dwill is pretty much done here in Minny. It is disappointing and down right maddening that it didn’t work out, But in somewhat defending his play(if that’s possible) I don’t agree with how Adelman handles him, he takes the guy out once and never brings him back in, he barely plays in the 2nd half. He’s obviously going through some confidence issues and frustration of not fitting into Adelmans system. I dont think Adelman to be honest was ever patient with him, he sat him down after a 27pt performance earlier this year. All in all though, Dwill isnt helping himself when he struggles like the way he does. I’ll be shocked if he’s still here come the trade deadline, its an uncomfortable situation for both parties. FREE DWILL.

        Do you know if josh selby is on their radar? I knw he’s a 1guard but can get points easily. God bless luke and JJ, but that back court has no chance against any one. They have to trade for a 2guard, its inexcusable to have Ridnour/JJ guarding Kobe, I know with all the injuries and all but you just cant have something like that happen, ever.