Notes on a Disaster

The Wolves lost to the Kings last night. At home. When Sacramento was on a back-to-back and the Wolves were rested.

It might be the team’s worst loss of the season.

Some notes about the game and other issues with the team:

* Rudy Gay was the best player on the floor. He scored 33 points on 12-19 shooting, including an isolation three-pointer to put the Kings up by 5 points with under 20 seconds to play. It’s nice to see him playing (way) better basketball in a new situation, after being traded out of Toronto. If nothing else there are no longer terrible Rudy Gay’s Efficiency jokes filling up my Twitter timeline. (Are there any jokes less funny than inefficiency jokes?)

* DeMarcus Cousins won the post battle that everyone was anxious to see. He put up 20 and 11 and was fouled on many missed field goals that went uncalled. Refs hate Cousins. It’s easy to understand why that is, but still isn’t cool and the league should address it. Pek had just 14 points on 5-12 shooting.

* Isaiah Thomas had 26 points and 7 assists. He’s really fun to watch. He badly outplayed Ricky Rubio, whose erratic play (5 turnovers offset by just 5 points and 5 assists) led to Rick Adelman playing Alexey Shved down the stretch.

* Derrick Williams played a great stint in the first half and ended up with 16 points in 28 minutes of action. Good for him. (But this doesn’t mean he’s a good player or the Wolves were wrong to trade him. Anyone who thinks that, or thinks that Adelman is somehow to blame for anything related to Derrick must not have watched the entire 2012-13 season when he had every opportunity to prove himself, and never came close to doing that.)

* Kevin Love had a nice all-around stat line of 27 points, 11 boards and 5 assists. He hit a pair of crazy threes that nearly gave the Wolves a chance to win a game that they were losing by double digits for the better part of. He seemed to be limping around in the second half after bumping knees (or something) with Quincy Acy. The injury is apparently not serious.

* Alexey Shved had another decent game. He scored 13 points on 4-10 shooting and dished out 4 assists. He had 3 steals and just 1 turnover. Shved’s plus-minus was in the black (+2) when many others’ were red. Shved’s basic stats are usually pretty bad, but here are a few others for people to consider:

First, his month-to-month net rating (team performance, per 100 possessions, while he is on the floor):

November: -16.6
December: +11.0 (by far the best on the team other than Shabazz who almost never played)
January: +4.7

In terms of hurting the team, November was awful for Shved. Since then, his presence on the floor hasn’t seemed to be a problem. In some instances, he has helped.

Shved’s shooting percentage is the most obvious problem area. In November he shot 24.3 percent from the floor. In December it increased slightly to 27.8 percent. In January it’s up to 40.8 percent. He’s hitting 47.4 percent of 3s this month.

A final point about Shved: The team seems to play well when he and Kevin Love play together. Their net rating as a two-man lineup is +9.8. That is the best combination on the team of pairings that have played as many minutes as they have (136). (Though Love and Robbie Hummel were a whopping +15.2 in 131 minutes.) Love’s overall net rating is +6.0, and his net rating while playing with Ricky Rubio is +5.9 (over a much bigger sample size of 1109 minutes).

I’m not ready to start calling for more Shved minutes. He has played much too poorly in far too many games for me to do that. But Adelman CLEARLY thinks Shved is talented and can help the team. He says it all the time and the fact that he never lost faith in the Russian enigma speaks louder than his words. But it’s worth pointing out some of the ways – however few and unconvincing they are – that Shved shows up better in the stats. He played over Ricky in last night’s Winning Time so it’s a factor worth exploring as this roller coaster season moves along.

* Adelman lamented his team’s failure to impose its will on opponents after last night’s game. He joked that it sometimes seems it requires an Act of Congress for the Wolves to foul somebody.

He’s right. The Wolves rank 30th in the league (or 1st, however you want to put it) in fouls per game, with 17.2 of them. They allow the fewest opponent free throw attempts per game (17.9).

Those are good stats. Fouling in general is bad. But the Wolves are dead last in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage (47.6). They allow the 11th most field goal attempts in the restricted area (at the rim, essentially) and the league’s highest opponent field goal percentage at the rim (66.4).

Perhaps the best way to put this in perspective is to remember those games when the Wolves offense is clicking for a couple of quarters against a good team. The Clippers are a good example. When that happens, an ugly stretch often follows were Opponent X/Y/Z starts pushing more on the perimeter and commits a hard foul or two in the paint. The refs might call some of these fouls, but two things usually happen to help tilt the game away from the Wolves favor:

1) The refs don’t call a couple questionable fouls, which lead to Wolves turnovers and opponents points the other direction; and

2) The Wolves stop doing whatever was working in the first place.

This isn’t a huge factor in the stat sheet, but it’s a subtle way that tough teams win when they aren’t at their best. The TNT crew talks about knocking somebody on his ass if he hits too many jumpers in a row. Last night, Rudy Gay needed to be pushed around a little bit after he got going. Instead, the Wolves just played their usual defense and watched him score 33 points and stay right in rhythm. Perhaps we’ll see more Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who is an excellent defender.

Next game is Friday at Toronto.

Season Record: 18-20

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One response to “Notes on a Disaster

  1. Pingback: The Raptors’ Home Dominance Against the Timberwolves: A Trend That Needs to End | Punch-Drunk Wolves

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