At what point on the basketball-playing spectrum does tossing the ball through the rim become “work” ??—
Punch-Drunk Wolves (@PDWolves) April 10, 2014
Category Archives: Timberwolves
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. Continue reading
So I just clicked on the Timberwolves team stats page and was shocked by something I saw:
Shabazz Muhammad is shooting 46.3 percent from the field, this year.
That statistic is not shocking because it is great or unusual in any way. It is shocking because, for such a long stretch of this season, Shabazz had pitiful efficiency numbers. For the season’s first three months, he shot just 26.1 percent from the field. That’s obviously terrible. I tend to be an apologist for Timberwolves rookies, and have often advanced the notion that he would shoot a higher percentage from the field if he were given more consistent minutes.
But I am very unfamiliar with my Timberwolves Rookie Apologist takes being proven correct. In the case of Muhammad (and to some extent, Gorgui Dieng) it seems there may be an exception. He saw his first doses of real playing time in February. In that month, he shot 45.7 percent from the field, while producing 20.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. In March, in even more time, those numbers changed to 53.1 percent, 18.2 points, and 5.2 rebounds. His assist numbers remain extremely low and true to the projections built off of his collegiate stats.
Shabazz’s PER is up to 13.4 and almost at the league average of 15.0.
Three more things about Shabazz:
1. His shot chart: Continue reading
“[Gorgui Dieng] really rebounded the ball. That’s the thing I really like about him. The more he’s played in the last few games, the more calm he is offensively. He’s slowed down a little bit. He made a couple moves tonight where guys came at him, he showed them the ball and then went up and scored afterwards. He’s got a little bit of confidence and he knows what he can do. And he’s really kinda sticking within our parameters of what we want him to do. Every once in a while he goes off like that little spin move he had (media laughs) but he doesn’t wanna do that all the time. But that’s okay. He’s rebounding the heck out of the ball. Every game he’s in, he goes and gets it.”
The Wolves beat the Hawks — the last Eastern Conference playoff seed, if the season ended tonight — by 24 points tonight at Target Center. After a sluggish, difficult-to-watch opening quarter that featured 13 turnovers between the two teams, the focus picked up and the quality of play followed. Despite a relatively modest 14 points and 12 rebounds from Kevin Love, the Wolves steadily built up a lead off of their defensive pressure. Atlanta’s 25 turnovers — 17 of which resulted from Timberwolves steals — were the biggest factor causing such a one-sided final score.
Ricky Rubio (6 steals) and Corey Brewer (3) in particular were aggressively picking away passes and dribbles, before leading fast breaks. Rubio literally took one in the chin in the first half, sustaining a cut that required 15 stitches. No matter. He came back in and dominated the third quarter with thievery and dime dropping.
But it was Gorgui Dieng who once again turned in the headlining Timberwolves performance. The rookie center from Louisville continued his impressive run with the starting unit, compiling a stat line that included 15 efficient points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Perhaps most importantly for the foul-happy rook was that he limited himself to just 3 of those in over 41 minutes of action. Gorgui’s +25 plus/minus was the game’s best by 6 points.
He’s interesting to watch on defense; entirely unlike Nikola Pekovic, who is obviously the typical starting five man next to Kevin Love. Dieng is much quicker and covers a lot more ground after hedging a ball screen, for instance. He occasionally switches onto smaller, quicker players. He contested a Lou Williams three tonight after a switch. He successfully defended Shelvin Mack’s crossover dribble, after a switch. (Maybe he’s been taking lessons from Switch Defender Extraordinaire, Dante Cunningham?)
I apologize for the lack of content over the past few days. Since the double-overtime win over the Mavs, when Ricky Rubio put together a triple double and one of his greatest ever performances, the following has happened:
* The Wolves were blown out by the Rockets at Houston.
* The Wolves played really well for three quarters at home against the Suns. And then were blown off the floor in the fourth quarter.
* The Wolves were destroyed by the Grizzlies at Memphis, last night.
It has not been a fun stretch. The first and last of the three were unpleasant for obvious reasons. The middle game left a certain sting due to how the game unfolded (crunchtime collapse) and also because of how neatly it symbolized this entire season; one that has included first-quarter point barrages followed by late-game stagnancy.
Add these factors to my interest in the ongoing NCAA Tournament, and a busier-than-usual work schedule, and you have my excuse for not posting much, recently.
The big-picture team and fan issues remain the same:
We’re all pretty sure that Rick Adelman is coaching his last career games. Kevin Love is awesome, but worn down from trying to carry his team. Corey Brewer and J.J. Barea are playing outside of their natural (read: smaller) roles. Ricky Rubio is good, but needs to be better. Nikola Pekovic is big, and will always miss some games due to leg injuries. Kevin Martin can score, but he’s almost certainly overpaid. Chase Budinger seems like damaged goods, and needs to have a huge off-season in the weight room. The Western Conference is loaded and the Wolves might struggle to crack its top eight in the foreseeable future.
Gorgui Dieng seems to be the one bright spot of late. Over the past five games (the first five starts of his career) Gorgui is averaging 12.2 points and 13.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, in 32.4 minutes per game. He’s shot 56.1 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the foul line. In these games, the Wolves have performed at their best with Gorgui on the floor and at their worst with him off of it. This is a nice change from earlier in the season, when Gorgui’s sporadic playing time usually coincided with poor team performance. In one of the weaker draft classes in memory, the Timberwolves may have plucked a good player at Number 21. That is your dose of optimism for this Tuesday morning.
Next up are the Hawks, tomorrow night at Target Center.
Season Record: 34-35
But the Knicks, they put the shackles on him, man, you know, on his whole game. They locked him up, like, in a straight jacket or something.
But when he was in the streets of Philly, in the playgrounds, ahh! (laugh)
You know what they called him?
That’s what they called him. Jesus. Cause he was the TRUTH.
It might have been due to Nikola Pekovic’s absence. Without him, the Timberwolves’ typical offense — which is very high-low intensive — does not make as much sense.
It might have been due to a specific matchup the Wolves wanted to exploit, like Jose Calderon’s poor defensive skills.
Or maybe it was because the playoff chances are now gone, and it is time to tinker with new ideas.
Whatever the case, Rick Adelman removed the shackles restraining his point guard, Ricky Rubio, and let him run wild.
Last night, Rubio played one of his finest games ever. He had a triple double with 22 points and 15 assists. He had 4 steals. His energetic, at times ball-dominant, floor leadership showed flashes of prime Steve Nash or Chris Paul. If the Wolves were not running pick and roll, it was because Ricky just took off on his own, reading and reacting the way only he knows how.
The only point in time in which things changed was with a few minutes left in regulation, when the Wolves went to a sticky isolation offense involving Kevins Love and Martin. That also happened to be the worst offense the team played all night. Rubio ended the game having played 49 minutes; 49 minutes in which his team won by 11 points, which is an impressive plus-minus in a game that ended with a 1-point win in overtime.
Dallas wanted that game, too. This wasn’t tanking-season stuff. Rick Carlisle called a pair of timeouts in the opening minutes to chew out his team and make sure they knew that — to borrow Bobby Knight youtube language (nsfw, language) — he wasn’t there to f**k around! But the timeouts did not change things. Because Ricky.
It would be fun to see the last 16 games played this way. It not only seems good for the health of Ricky Rubio’s development, but possibly Gorgui Dieng’s too. The young center had another double double last night; this one in just 25 minutes. Gorgui, and players like him, are more likely to succeed in the style generated by Rubio. Defenses become scrambled, which means more dunks and open shots become available. If Pekovic returns, it’s probably a different story — the Wolves had a very nice thing going (aside from crunchtime) with Love and Pek as the focal point. But if Pek’s ankle needs time to rest and heal, let it heal. Let it heal and let Ricky be Ricky.
If last night was any sort of predictor, we will all gladly watch 16 more games with Unshackled Ricky Rubio running the show.
The Timberwolves aren’t making the playoffs. Let’s put that idea behind us.
The Wolves underachieved this year.
It doesn’t matter how many more games they win or lose. Making the playoffs this season was a benchmark - the benchmark - for that nebulous but real concept known as “success.” And this season, the Wolves were unsuccessful.
I’m not going to get into why the Wolves failed. We’ve talked all about the draft picks, free agent signings, the failings of the second unit, Adelman’s rotations, Barea over Rubio, close losses, and everything else, ad nauseum.
Lots of Wolves fans will check out. It’s no secret that interest in the team waxes and wanes with the team’s highs and lows. When the team is winning, fans take interest. When it isn’t, they don’t. This isn’t an indictment of fair-weather fandom. It’s just human.
The real question is whether the Wolves will also check out as a team.
(Not safe for work, language)
@PDWolves: See, for me, it’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting. You guys have seen that, right?
@GymRatInParis (doing something on phone, not paying attention)
@PDWolves: Ben Affleck’s like, “One day I just wanna pull up to your house to pick you up, and you’re not there. You’re just gone.” And for me, one day I wanna just turn on a Wolves game, and Ricky’s shot just LOOKS DIFFERENT. Rather than that weird sequencing and wind up, he just pops up and fires it. With way more arc. I don’t even care if it goes in, I just want it to look different.
You know what I mean?
@bobs219: (seems a little confused) Yeah.
@brianjacobson: (incredulous look on face) That’s a pretty loose ‘Will Hunting’ tie-in.
@PDWolves: But you got it.
@brianjacobson: I’m not sure that even makes sense.
@PDWolves: Whatever, you’re right with me.
@bobs219: Grimmy, do you have any other super popular movies you wanna force comparisons to? Maybe something from Shawshank?
@PDWolves: Well, let’s see.
I know that hope is a good thing; maybe even the best of things. And with tonight’s loss the Wolves’ playoff hopes are shot. And that really sucks.
The Timberwolves lost to the Raptors on Sunday night.
Kevin Love played a great game, scoring 26 points and almost notching a triple double. Nikola Pekovic was solid, chipping in 17 of his own and fighting hard all night for the deepest, choice real estate possible and cashing in on baby hooks near the rim and off the glass. Corey Brewer played like a slightly-crazier-than-usual Corey Brewer with a surprising level of success. He had 17 points and 6 steals and was a best-among-all-starters +10 in 44 minutes of action. Say what you want about Brewer, but it’s damn impressive that a person can play that hard for almost an entire game.
But the Raptors were just better. DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points despite battling some foul trouble. Steve Novak came off the bench to shoot 6 three-pointers and make 5 of them. Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, and Chuck Hayes set bruising screen after bruising screen for Kyle Lowry, who posted a triple double with 20 points and a pair of steals.
When Shabazz Muhammad scored three times in a short fourth-quarter sequence, and Ricky Rubio was gesturing for the crowd to get excited, the Raptors responded with sweet perimeter shooting and extra hustle on the offensive boards to fend off any possibility of a dramatic finish.
The Wolves’ most blameworthy stretch came at the beginning of the second quarter when a 33-33 first-quarter score quickly became a 13-point Raptors lead. Kevin Love, who ended up playing 41 minutes, had to check back in a little bit early to keep the ship from sinking. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who took back some first-half minutes from Muhammad (who did not play until the second half) was extremely ineffective, dropping the ball for turnovers and doing nothing to limit Raptors points. LRMAM somehow ended the game with a plus/minus of -18, despite only playing 4, middle-of-the-game minutes.
But credit goes to the Raptors and former Timberwolves coaches Dwane Casey and Bill Bayno. They have an impressive team that includes skill and grit at point guard, length, athleticism and shooting strokes on the wings, and punishing size up front. They earned this win.
Next up are the Milwaukee Bucks, who come to Target Center on Tuesday night. Milwaukee has the worst record in the NBA and the Wolves will probably win that game.
Season Record: 31-31
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Wolves lost to New York on Wednesday night 118-106. The Knicks seized the initiative right away, and the game was only really close after an 8-0 run in the third-quarter brought the Wolves to within three, with the ball.
On the ensuing possession, Kevin Love got the ball on the block against Tyson Chandler and shot an ill-advised jump hook airball. It was a look Love has made plenty this season, including against solid defenders who are longer than he is.
But on Wednesday it was emblematic of his struggles to establish himself as the purveyor of the game. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler instead did that.
Neutralizing Kevin Love
You see, Love typically sets his self apart from the competition each and every night, doing things in quantity and quality that have almost never been seen before. Usually when Love steps on the court, “u alreddy kno” who it is, to paraphrase famed Canis Hoopus commenter MAYNHOLUP!, because of Love’s dizzying barrage of three-point shooting, outlet passing, offensive rebounding, high-low feeds, foul draws, and, yes, jump hooks. There might not be a more unique player in the NBA – including LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
If in most games, Love stands out like the unique superstar he is, in the New York game, he blended in – in the wrong way – like the role player his critics expected him to be when he came into the League.
The New York Knickerbockers are in town.
New York’s record of 21-40 only tells part of the story. Mike Woodson’s squad went 2-11 in the month of February, when its playoff hopes in the anemic Eastern Conference were on the line. They’re off to an 0-2 start in March. They’ve lost their last 7 games. Three of their last four were blowouts and the other was a double-digit loss at Detroit.
Oh, and Carmelo Anthony — the ray of sunshine reflecting out of this dumpster fire of a roster — is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Oh, and the Knicks first-round draft pick, which promises to be a high one in a loaded draft, will go to Denver as part consideration for the same trade that brought Melo to Manhattan in the first place.
For the best summation of what it means to be a Knicks fan in 2014, see netw3rk’s, The New York Knicks: It’s the Hope That Kills You in the End, written for Grantland on Monday.
Of course nothing is taken for granted here in Minnesota, where the “longest playoffs drought” title belt proudly sits. Carmelo has torched the Timberwolves many times before and unless Adelman wants to dust off Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for some specialized isolation defense (and he very well might) Melo might just go off once again tonight.
Timberwolves fan expectations are in a funny place. Heading into last night’s game in Sacramento, the team had a win/loss record of 28-29; under .500 and good for tenth place in the Western Conference. They are far removed from playoff contention. Minnesota’s road record was 12-18, which happened to be the exact same number of wins and losses that the Kings had on their home floor. With these facts taken under consideration, one would think that a victory — any victory — would generate some good feelings.
But when the Wolves did win — by 11 points, no less — it just didn’t seem all that impressive.
There are a few possible explanations for this:
One is that the Timberwolves have underachieved compared to expectations. Wins like last night’s over the Kings feel overdue. According to Basketball Reference, the Wolves have an “Expected W-L” of 37-21; a record that would have them in sixth place and in the thick of the playoff picture. Instead, here we are at 29-29 and most likely looking forward to another draft lottery.
The Timberwolves take on the playoff-bound Phoenix Suns tonight in Phoenix. Tip is at 8 P.M. CST. You can see it on FSN or League pass and, as always, hear it on WCCO 830.
I have to drive down to Washington, D.C., later this afternoon, so this will be brief.
A few quick notes, below the fold.
The Wolves lost tonight. The end result isn’t as upsetting to fans as the manner in which it came to be. Since it’s late and tomorrow is Monday morning, I’m doing this rapid-fire style with a few key bullet points:
* The obvious storyline is that Ricky Rubio sat out the entire fourth quarter, despite three major factors suggesting this was a bad idea:
1) He was playing pretty well. He had 11 assists in just 23 minutes of action;
2) A growing body of stats shows that the Wolves play much worse with Barea than with Ricky during fourth quarters; and
3) J.J. Barea, his replacement, lost his cool in a chippy matchup with Blazers reserve guard, Mo Williams. Barea actually won that matchup in the first half, scoring 15 points in the first two periods. But Williams eventually got him fired up (in a bad way — REALLY bad way) and this led to offensive fouls and dumb shots. Long story short: Rick Adelman has fans and analysts perplexed as to why he prefers Barea over Rubio down the stretch of close games. Wolves brilliant color commentator Jim Petersen openly discussed this confusion after the game, and it’s a story that is not going away.
That’s the two-word synopsis of last night’s victory in Salt Lake City. The Wolves power forward continued his even-better-than-usual stretch of dominance against the Jazz. In less than 33 minutes of action, Love put together his first career triple-double stat line. He scored 37 points, rebounded 12 missed shots, and assisted 10 of his teammates baskets. For the third consecutive game, Love attempted at least 10 threes (10). For the third consecutive game, he made at least 5 of them (6). Love connected with Corey Brewer for a few of their patented outlet bombs. He was a game-best +23 and, by far, the biggest reason that the Wolves won easily for the third consecutive game despite the absences of Kevin Martin (thumb) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle).
The Wolves beat the Pacers last night. They didn’t just beat the Pacers, but they handled them from start to finish. They led by 20 at one point in the first half, and ended up winning by 13 points. It probably rivals the victory at Oracle as the season’s most impressive.
My subjective reaction is one I’ve had after many Timberwolves wins during the Ricky Rubio Era:
The Wolves are a better team when Kevin Love shoots a ton of threes.
Love played incredible last night, scoring 42 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. My favorite part of his performance was how he hunted three-point shot attempts, realizing how strong the Pacers defense is in the interior. He ended up shooting 10 of them, making 5. When he does that, it removes him from the high post where he is effective at initiating offense, but also serves as an obstacle to Ricky Rubio’s playmaking. Against the Pacers, a freed-up Rubio dished 17 assists, setting a personal record that matched the franchise’s best in history.
My subjective feeling is barely supported by the numbers, this season. In wins, Love shoots 6.5 threes per 36 minutes versus the 5.9 per 36 that he shoots when the Wolves lose. But, to my eye, this season hasn’t properly tested this hypothesis because of the heavy reliance on high-post sets. Instead of Ricky Rubio wheeling around picks, looking to set up shooters and dunkers, we’ve seen much more emphasis on feeding Love behind the elbow to allow him to make a play. According to nba.com’s player-tracking data, Love touches the ball 86.9 times per game, which is more than Ricky Rubio’s 84.1 and much more than any non-point guard in the league.
That was a bad game. The final score was Houston 107, Minnesota 89.
It had some nice moments, but more bad ones that lasted much longer than the good. Rick Adelman wasn’t there tonight, due to personal reasons. Terry Porter took his place as chief decision maker on the sidelines.
In the opening minutes, the Wolves couldn’t defend. They started Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger at the wing spots. Corey couldn’t defend James Harden without fouling. Chase couldn’t rotate quickly enough to contest Rockets three-point shots. This theme continued all night as Brewer and Budinger posted defensive ratings for the game of 124.9 and 118.7, respectively.
The Houston Rockets (34-17) are in town to play the staggering (Punch-Drunk?) Wolves (24-27) tonight. Tip is at 7 P.M. Central. Views via FSN and NBATV. Sounds via WCCO 830. James Harden’s beard is traveling with the team and will be in the Rockets’ starting lineup.
We discussed some of the issues heading into this game during our first Punch-Drunk Podcast. (Eds. Note: We’re planning on adding podcasts to our repertoire on a semi-regular basis. More details on that to come.)
A few notes on tonight’s game below the fold.
Because we’re not making the playoffs, and we haven’t gotten to see this all season.
Yes, this is Shabazz having his best offensive game of the season, outside of his brief D-League stint.
Methinks Shabazz is a load on the block.
More to come by way of analysis of the game itself.
Last Night’s Game
Andy G: So, last night. The Wolves lost a game they needed to win. The Pelicans have talent (Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon) but they aren’t very good yet (22-27 after the win) and they are without point guard Jrue Holiday and shooter Ryan Anderson. (The Pellies miss Jrue Holiday more than any other player, losing to opponents by 3.6 points per 100 poss. when he’s out.)
If you can believe this, the Wolves got destroyed in the fourth quarter, giving up 37 points and scoring just 20.
Their season in a nutshell, in other words.
With the loss, the Timberwolves fall to 2 games below .500 and 5.5 games outside the playoff picture. And Memphis is between the Wolves and the playoff teams.
In short, the Wolves are not going to make the playoffs, barring something unforeseen in the trade and/or injury scene.
Anything you feel like adding about that game, specifically?
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.