No Bruises, No Win

Wolves lost at Oklahoma City, 106-97.

Five points about the game:

* Kevin Love didn’t play. This meant a few things, but most significantly, it meant that the entire Bruise Brothers front line was missing. That’s 43.6 points, 22.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, gone. The Wolves don’t have a good bench to begin with. A starting front line of Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf — jokingly referred to by me as the Snooze Brothers, before the game — is not going to win against the Thunder. Earlier in the day I was surprised to see the Wolves set as 9.5-point underdogs. Maybe the gamblers knew that Love wouldn’t play.

* In Love’s (and Pek’s) absence, Ricky Rubio was more assertive offensively. Ricky had 19 points (on 6-12 shooting) 8 rebounds and 5 assists in 33 minutes of action. It makes you wonder how his poor scoring stats might be affected by playing with such a ball-dominant (and superstar) power forward, and also a scoring off guard and scoring center. Ricky wasn’t exceptional tonight or anything, but he was certainly freed up to pursue scoring chances.

* Kevin Durant had 18, 6, and 5 at the half. That was not ideal. I was hoping Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would do a better job of making KD work for his points, but Durant was dominant throughout the game. He finished with 26, 9 & 7.

* The Wolves got some great bench performances, particularly from JJ Barea and Dante Cunningham. Barea played his second straight solid game in as many nights, chipping in 11 points and 4 assists in 15 minutes of action. Cunningham had his favorite 20-footer behind the elbow rolling all night. He ended up with 18 points on 9-13 shooting. Six of those were mid-range jumpers. If you want to craft a reason why the Wolves should’ve won tonight, despite the absences of Love and Pek, it would be based on how well Dante shot the ball.

* Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson has really improved. Tonight, he had an efficient 20 points and 9 assists, and was a game best +17. Thunder coach and former Timberwolf point guard Scott Brooks takes a lot of heat for playing Kendrick Perkins too much. Bloggers are good at nitpicking coaching decisions with a tone usually suggesting they could do the job better themselves. Brooks seems to develop young talent rapidly and significantly. Jackson, along with Jeremy Lamb, are going a long way in replacing superstar James Harden, which is fiscally necessary in Clay Bennett’s world of team ownership. Brooks deserves more credit than he deserves. His players always improve and never take nights off. Isn’t some of that on the coach?

Next game is Friday at New Orleans.

Until then.

Season Record: 24-25

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “No Bruises, No Win

  1. It was at once nice, and absolutely freakin’ terrifying, watching Rubio assert himself offensively. It’s somewhat amazing that someone whose shooting has been the butt of so many jokes this season can go out and drop what was by the numbers a relatively efficient 19-20 points, especially with that fugly jumper. I know that I’m in the minority of fans who think the League went too far with its handchecking rules and who pines for a return to the 1990s NBA – a time before zone defenses were allowed (Ron Bergundy voice) – but this is yet another data point showing how easy it is for point guards to score in today’s game if they’re at all offensive minded.

    Meanwhile, if J.J. strings together a few more solid games, does he regain a hint of trade value? I’m still clinging to the dream of packaging him and other pieces in an Andre Miller deal before the deadline.

    • It’s a point guard friendly league, for sure. I like the rule changes, but think they should narrow the lane to help out post players a little bit. As you know, I’ve harped on that quite a bit, here.

      I’m not sure about JJ’s trade value. I think teams pretty much know who and what he is, by now. I doubt Denver wants him, but if a contender thinks he could do what he did for Dallas in their upcoming playoff run, maybe the Wolves could orchestrate a 3-teamer that brings Professor Miller back here.

      Oh, and I forgot to mention BAZZ!!! in my little recap there. Nice to see him out there hunting buckets. 6 points in 6 minutes: What is this, the D-League?

      • I was surprised at the Bazz omission – I’m glad that wrong has been righted. ;)

        Small sample size, blah blah blah, it was still fun to see him on the floor. Apart from the one TERRIBLE shot he took, he looked appropriately aggressive around the hoop and on the glass. Methinks that if K-Love misses another game or two, it might be a good time to start lengthening the leash a bit, because we really need some offense to replace that which is currently sitting on the sidelines.

        • Are you trying to say that Dante won’t always shoot like Dirk Nowitzki?

          Re: Shabazz, I think that if the playoffs become unrealistic — say, they drop to 3+ or so below .500 and Memphis and Phoenix stay hot — then the Wolves need to tank a little bit behind the Shabazz Muhammad Playing Time Wheel. The fans want to see it, so it will keep people interested, and it will help Bazz get his footing in the league so that he’s ready to actually contribute in the rotation, next season.

          As long as they’re trying to win, though, I don’t *really* care if he plays. I always enjoy joking about it, but I’m pretty sure the veterans Flip doled out Kahntracts to this summer are better (right now) than Bazz.

          He is kind of an interesting player though (in the few minutes we’ve seen). Who knew he had such a physical and aggressive post-up game? (And, more importantly, is that a sustainable formula for his player type?)

          • Regarding Dante: I like him for what he is and he seems like a cool cat, but yes, that’s what I’m saying. (And that’s putting it *very* politely…) :)

            Bazz does have an interesting offensive game. I’m trying to think of relevant comparisons for the style of his go-to moves. The only one that really comes to mind is that his extremely physical, left-hand dominant, and touch-reliant post game reminds me a bit of a smaller Zach Randolph. Both guys work very hard to establish position near the hoop. Neither jumps much. Both have fairly uncanny touch on their little flips and floats, though Z-Bo’s is better (I’ve always thought his touch around the hoop is among the very best in the NBA, up there in the Al Jefferson territory.)

            Much of Bazz’s success (or lack thereof) of exploiting this skill will likely depend on his being able to take advantage of matchups against weaker threes when he gets them. If I were Rick and wanted to give him spot duty, those would be the matchups I’d target.

            The other thing Bazz does well offensively, which he gets too little credit for, is running the floor extremely hard in transition. He’s ALWAYS filling a wing. He doesn’t have Brewer’s speed to take outlets from Love on the fly, but he fills lanes better than K-Mart, partly because he runs harder and is willing to take contact after receiving a pass on a 2-on-1. Bazz doesn’t get much love for this set of qualities, but they could come in handy on an uptempo team like ours.

            • In terms of using Bazz’s post game, that has to be a bench thing, right?

              I mean, he’s not going to get away with Z-Bo impressions when guys like Love and Pek are on the floor, I don’t think…

              (Not saying it’s a bad weapon to have in the arsenal, though. They could certainly use stronger bench scoring.)

              • Yeah – unless he develops his mid-range (especially elbow/extended elbow) jumper, and/or corner three. My eye test (INFALLIBLE!) suggests he has the former but hasn’t had much occasion to show it yet. The same eye test suggests he doesn’t have the latter. The same eye test (based on games this season) suggests that neither does one of his competitors, Chase Budinger. But Chase’s career stats suggest this is an anomaly.

                The issue isn’t at all Bazz vs. Chase, it’s where Bazz would need to improve to crack the rotation, whether as a bench player rotation guy or a starter down the road. In the extremely limited minutes Bazz gets, he goes straight to his best moves – the Z-Bo ones, for lack of better terminology. With more time, I think you’d see a decent mid-range shot, and bad three-point shooting. Whether or not that’s good enough to crack the rotation, is hard to say. But if he is truly limited to his most sizable comparative advantage right now – finishing or drawing fouls in the post and filling lanes on the break – then he’s at best a career bench guy.

  2. I felt the same way when I read the Rubio statistic, and it made me think of several explanations: (1) Yours; (2) the metric is not as good at capturing reality as it purports; (3) it is as good at capturing reality as it purports, and our “conventional wisdom” – that Ricky helps the team without scoring – is flawed (or simply not captured here, even with all of the data inputs that go into what seems like a reasonable and sophisticated model).

    I don’t think we can really ever know the (true) answer (EPISTEMOLOGY!), but another season of data will surely help us reconcile the weirdness that was Ricky’s performance last year, when he was recovering from injury, playing with a different cast of teammates, etc. If that’s the case, it shows how sensitive the model is to “omitted variables” – which forces one to wonder whether any model can properly capture something as nebulous as “performance” given the complexity and huge number of factors that a camera on the ceiling can’t see.