Twofer: A Win at The Garden, on to Cleveland

kyrie

The Timberwolves travel to Cleveland tonight to face Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. Artwork by Holly Grimsrud (hollygrimsrudart.com)

Andy G: Last night, the Timberwolves beat the Knicks and improved their record to 3-0. This marks only the second time in 25 seasons of franchise existence that the team won its first three games. Setting aside what that statistic says about the past, it is a small, early accomplishment worth feeling good about on the season’s first Monday morning. An undefeated start is especially impressive considering that the Wolves faced Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in consecutive matchups.

The Wolves won the game at the foul line, where they made 29 out of a whopping 38 attempts. (The Knicks only shot 13.) After a blowout first quarter of steals and pass-ahead assists to Brewer and Love, it was all about survival. Carmelo eventually started making shots and the Knicks cut the deficit to 2 with 4:48 to go. But Kevin Martin converted a technical foul free throw, followed it up with a three-pointer (his fifth of the night; he scored a wildly-efficient 30 points on 12 shots) and the game never got close again.

Patrick J, what’s up with the crazy free throw disparity?

Patrick J: The Wolves have two of the best players in League at drawing fouls–Kevin Love and Kevin Martin. Each Kevin can, and tries to, draw fouls wherever he is on the floor on offense. Both do it with a variety of ball fakes and head fakes to get the defender in the air or lunging at the ball and fouling the shooter across his arms. And both do it by applying liberal amounts of pressure on the refs to give them calls.

What this means is that they draw a lot of calls that could go either way, depending on the defender’s acumen and reputation, and on the disposition of the referee crew calling the game on a given night.

Last night, that meant a lot of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Iman Shumpert fouls, especially on Martin. The Wolves veteran shooting guard exploited the youthful inexperience of Hardaway and Shumpert, who combined for seven fouls in 51 minutes of playing time.

Other nights, Martin will be checked by defenders who have more guile than Hardaway and Shumpert did, and won’t enjoy as friendly a crew of stripes to his foul-drawing tactics, as he did last night. We’ve already seen some of this happen in the Wolves’ first two games. It’s nice to see how potent a complement to Love Martin can be, however, when he’s playing like we expect him to play based on past performance.

***

Wolves vs. Cavs

Patrick J: The Wolves have another game tonight: They play the Cavs in Cleveland at 7:30 P.M. Eastern time. We’ll be there.

The big question, I guess, is why are the Cavs 1-2?

Andy G: Cleveland, through all of three games, has a stark offense/defense dichotomy representative of a Mike Brown-coached team that does not include LeBron James. That is to say, the Cavs are dead last in offensive rating (86.4) and second-best in defense (92.8). However, these numbers are probably skewed for reasons beyond the small sample size theater. The Cavs have faced Indiana, an elite defensive team, and Brooklyn, who figures to be up there too, now that they have Kevin Garnett leading the charge.

There’s a lot of uncertainty with this Cavs team. Andrew Bynum is back (playing very limited minutes) after a season of knee problems. Tristan Thompson changed shooting hands. Anthony Bennett was the top pick in the draft, but has yet to make a field goal. (Eds note: Stat geeks, beware of clicking through that link and seeing Bennett’s Win Shares per 48. You might go blind.) Anderson Varejao is healthy (for now) and Jarrett Jack came over from Golden State. It seems like the list of possibilities for Cleveland spans a wide range. They’re 1-2 now, with an impressive win over Brooklyn and a disappointing loss to Charlotte. As Roger Dodger would say, “Believe me, it is EARLY.”

But that guy featured atop the post… He’s the main story.

Why should Wolves fans be excited to see Kyrie Irving tonight?

Patrick J: This:

Until tonight.

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One response to “Twofer: A Win at The Garden, on to Cleveland

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