Andy G: The Wolves took on LeBron James and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat last night, so they must’ve lost, right?
For the first time in approximately forever the Wolves were victors over a team with LeBron James on it. (Eds note: I think Dave or Jim on the broadcast said the last time was 2005, back about when ‘Bron was going to war with Agent Zero and Caron Butler’s Wizards in the Playoffs. How long ago does that seem?) It took a pair of overtimes, some Kevin Love and even Chase Budinger heroics (!) and every ounce of Ricky Rubio’s floor-generaling stamina, but they eked it out.
They eked it out, of course, on a missed Corey Brewer backwards alley-oop layup attempt… in which he was fouled for some reason! He made one of the free throws. Crazy ending to a crazy game.
I enjoyed it tremendously.
Patrick J: The Brewer “shot” (at about 3:20 in those highlights) was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen that didn’t go in. You know how Corey does inexplicable stuff all the time and it’s sort of endearing and sort of grating? This was one of those times. I still don’t know (1) how he even got in position to get that shot, (2) how he formulated the idea that the shot could look like that, (3) how he managed to draw a foul call on such an ill-advised shot. But that’s just Brew.
What was more impressive was the way Ricky and, yes, everyone’s favorite new starter, Chase Budinger Gorgui Dieng played hard over long, grinding, stretches, and managed to take advantage of Miami’s weaknesses–Ricky with pocket passes and kicks (as well as a solid shooting night of his own); Gorgui taking advantage of Miami’s lack of a true center, sort of like a poor-man’s Roy Hibbert. It might’ve been a different story had Greg Oden been available, but did Gorgui expose Miami’s fatal flaw even in what wasn’t a great shooting night by his (or anyone’s) standards?
Andy G: Sort of. He definitely found his self open for dunks and continued his always-aggressive style in ways that helped the Wolves. However, LeBron was ruining shit left and right every time he was within arms reach of Gorgui. I thought a few of those “strips” were fouls, but there were so damn many of them that it was clear how LBJ can patrol the paint from a non-post position. Guy’s unbelievable.
While we’re dishing out Post Praise, Ronny Turiaf deserves some props. He played down the home stretch, really battled Birdman in the paint and even posterized him once. He was key in getting a great win.
It was one of those games that you have to appreciate just for what it was, rather than dwelling on its “meaning” (to the extent any of this really has *meaning*) in a bigger picture. The NBA season is long and we frequently feel the need to look beyond the four corners of the floor and the 48 (or 58, as the case may be) minutes of one game to find bigger-picture items for discussion.
Is Ricky improving his shot? Is K-Love checked out? How about Coach Adelman? Is one of them leaving? Both? Can Shabazz play the wing? Pekovic looks like a hitman when he’s injured, wearing a suit, but does he actually assassinate stuff after the game is over? Is Gorgui the best rookie in his class? Can we make the playoffs? Should we tank for a better draft pick? Why is J.J. Barea?
There’s an infinite list of questions at our disposal to renew our interest in the NBA Regular Season Marathon. Rare is a treat like last night’s game that was just an awesome event, in and of itself. I still remember when Steph and KG beat Michael Jordan’s Bulls. I will also long remember the time when Ricky and K-Love beat LeBron.
I was yelling a lot in my living room. I may also have been drinking.
Any other takeaways from the game?
Patrick J: A few things. And since we’re in the spirit of fandom this morning after the most meaningful meaningless win of the season, I’ll summarize them in bullet points.
- Chase Budinger: Bud replaced Kevin Martin in the starting lineup last night and looked for the first time this season like the guy we hoped we were getting when he signed that kahntract last offseason. It’s debatable whether K-Mart or Bud is the team’s least-cool player, but I’ll trade cool-guy points for wins anytime.
- Kevin Martin: It seems like the Wolves are more likely to win without him. I haven’t looked at the numb#rs, and they might prove me wrong. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how Pekovic should be dangled for ASSETS! because Gorgui is emerging and people think he’s a better K-Love complement than Pek. I get that argument from a positional logjam perspective, but if I were Flip Saunders, I’d be trying much harder to move Martin and his kahntract despite being thin at the wing. (Eds. Note: This won’t be an easy job, we know.) It’d open up more space for Bazz, Bud, Brew, and, probably, a draft pick from this year’s class on the wing, and it would promote ball movement.
- Bazz: He got hurt last night when it appeared a wrecking ball cleared the paint and sent bodies hurtling (Eds. Note: Is this a real word?) like bowling pins all over the paint and out of bounds area. The Wolves crack sidelines journo team assured us that the injury isn’t serious, so all Punch-Drunk Wolves can say is, “Get well soon, Bazz! We miss you already!”
Oh, a couple other things that fans need to be aware of:
(1) Former Gopher Rodney Williams did this: (!)
(2) Former Timberwolf Gerald Green did this: (!!)
Any parting shots from your side?
Andy G: Just that I think it’s asinine to trade Pek right now. The Wolves are blessed to have two, possibly three UPPER UPPER LEVEL big men. Love is arguably the best post player in the NBA, from an all around production standpoint. Pekovic is on the short list of the league’s best low-post scorers and offensive rebounders, and he’s a competent team defender. Gorgui, if he keeps rounding out his overall game, might be a plus big man that protects the basket and allows a Kevin Love team to be *great* (or at least very good) defensively.
Why give away a team strength?
I’m not big on Martin either. The on/off stuff is pretty good to him, but I can’t help but think some of that is the “blowouts versus bad teams” effect. I hate how slow his shooting motion is. He’s not a floor spacer.
The Wolves need better wing play and better backup point guard play. If they get one of those, they’re a 50ish win team. If they somehow get both, without losing an asset like Pekovic along the way, they could be a contender. This isn’t me saying that this will be easy, just that there’s a lot to build on; particularly if Gorgui is actually… you know, the truth.
Wolves play at Orlando tonight. CONFESSION: I won’t be watching. I’m going out with friends to watch the Final Four instead. Apparently the Wolves feed is only via radio and league pass, so I guess I can catch the Orlando feed online tomorrow morning.
Hey about the Final Four:
Coach Cal or Bo Ryan tonight?
Patrick J: Never bet against Cal. ‘nuff said? (Eds. Note: Yes.)
Enjoy the tilt tonight, for those of you diehards who have League Pass and prefer the Wolves over college basketball’s biggest stage (*cough*, me, *cough*).