Rubio damn near went Ice Cube tonight, messin’ around and almost getting a triple double. He had 18 points (12-13 free throws) 9 rebounds and 10 assists. He had 4 steals and even 1 block. Just 2 turnovers. The Wolves have formed a bad habit of falling behind in games. This version without Love and Kirilenko does, anyway. A little silver lining is how Ricky continues to scratch and claw, never surrurending defeat no matter the point spread. His TENACIOUS D has been a catalyst for many almost-miraculous comebacks in recent weeks, including tonight’s game. He was pretty damn good in this game.
Defense at End of 3rd/Beginning of 4th
Wolves led by 1 with 3 minutes to play in the 3rd Quarter. The following is Utah’s list of field goal attempts after that point:
Al Jefferson makes driving layup
Al Jefferson misses 20-foot jumper
Paul Millsap makes driving layup
Derrick Favors makes layup
Earl Watson makes 4-foot shot
Al Jefferson makes driving layup
(missed end of 3rd Quarter buzzer-beater prayer)
Enes Kanter makes layup
Enes Kanter makes 7-foot jumper
The Wolves defense totally let up with 15 minutes to go in the game. After this streak of easy Jazz buckets, the Wolves trailed by 9 and struggled to make it close until it was another “too little/too late” comeback bid. While the offense had plenty of issues tonight (they shot 34.1% from the field) this lack of effort and focus was what I noticed as the substantial contributing cause of the game’s result. Utah played Oklahoma City last night and came out very flat. By allowing them so many easy buckets at a pivotal moment, the Wolves surrendered the lead along with any momentum.
Shved only played 11 minutes tonight, shooting 0-4, doing almost nothing, and registering a -16 in just those limited minutes. I don’t think Alexey has hit a “rookie wall,” as much as he’s been scouted and he needs to get physically stronger and fine tune some aspects of his game. In a perfect world, he’ll find a niche next to Rubio that leaves him open in the corners sometimes. (To this point, many of his 3′s come from the difficult wing spot.) It’s a process, he’s got game, and he’ll be fine. But he’s definitely playing at a lower level than earlier this season.
D-Thrill at the Rim
Fifty games into this thing, I’m bound to have some dead horses to beat. I just cannot get over how difficult it’s become to watch Derrick Williams try to score around the basket. The jumping from too far out. The bringing the ball down to his waist so a guard can tie him up for a jump ball, instead of drawing a foul. Rocket-firing would-be layups across the glass to the other side of the floor. That spin move. Ugh, that spin move. It’s just brutal. Sometimes he times things up correctly and gets a whistle on his way up to the rim. Left with an easy layup — the kind that athletic players often make for the proverbial “And-1″ — he just never converts those and instead gets 1.4 points from the foul line.
Williams did a lot of things well tonight. Some of them were after the game was almost beyond doubt, but he did a lot of stuff. He had 24 points and 16 rebounds. But the 7-17 shooting line should’ve been more like 10 or 11 for 17 with 30+ points. He should be capable of the occasional 30-point game. He was — rightfully so — billed as a bigtime scorer. But he isn’t one because he’s so unbelievably bad at basic scoring around the basket. For an easy contrast in tonight’s game, we saw Paul Millsap out-fundamentally-sound Young Derrick to the tune of 21 & 8 in a commanding +12 performance. Millsap just makes the game look easy. Kind of like his former teammate Andrei Kirilenko does. Will Derrick ever learn to make layups? I haven’t a clue. But it wears on me, as a fan, to see so many blunders in a part of the game that shouldn’t be so difficult for him.
All-Star Weekend is upon the Timberwolves. Watch Ricky and Shved in the Rising Stars game on Friday at 8:00 CST.
Season Record: 19-31