Tag Archives: anthony randolph

Timberwolves vs. Nuggets Preview (The Rocky Mountain High Edition)

Nikola Pekovic has likely traded in his Phoenix poolside garb for a Denver ski jacket.

Nikola Pekovic has likely traded in his Phoenix poolside garb for a Denver ski jacket.

The Wolves are in Denver to close out their West Coast road trip tonight at 8 P.M. CST. The game can be seen on FSN or League Pass, or heard on WCCO 830 AM.

The Wolves have won three of four games on their current road trip, and aim to make it four out of five tonight against the Nuggets. The Wolves should win tonight – they beat Denver by 27 points on February 12 – but it isn’t a gimme, as Denver has demonstrated in two wins over the Wolves this season.

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Some notes on a Wolves win

1st Quarter Notes:

  • Pekovic going right at Greg Monroe in the early going, racks up a handful of quick baskets.  On the other end, Detroit color guy says Monroe will be able to take Pekovic off the dribble.  Not so; Pek cuts him off the only time he tries.  Pek finishes the quarter with 11 points.
  • Tayshawn Prince, who would seemingly be tired of playing for loser Piston teams after playing for SIX consecutive teams that made it to the conference finals or beyond.  He’s schooling Wes right now.
  • Randolph with 5 energy points and 5 rebounds in the 1st.  Missed some wild shots, though — needs to calm down when he’s holding the ball. Continue reading

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What is Anthony Randolph’s Upside?

Derrick Williams sucked Thursday night against the Clippers after looking great against Denver the night before. Williams only managed to muster 4 points against the Clips after thrashing the Nuggets’ front line.

Meanwhile, you have Anthony Randolph. Randolph almost never plays. But he played exceedingly well against Denver (28 pts in 31 mins, 11-16 from the floor) after Kevin Love got concussed, and he followed it up with a nice 16 and 9 night against the Clips.

Randolph’s solid play of late is not a revelation.

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The Anthony Randolph Appreciation Post

With the Clippers coming to town at full strength and with hopes of contending for the Western Conference title, a Wolves victory was not realistic.  As they remain without Love and Rubio (and Ridnour and Wayne and Darko) tonight’s game was watched not with expectations of a good competition, but with an interest in the performance of specific players.  In my case, that player was Anthony Randolph who had just burst out of his (usual) spot on the bench for 28 points and 5 blocks in last night’s near-win over the Denver Nuggets. Continue reading

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Royal Beatdown (KINGS 115, Wolves 99)

With Ricky on the mend (surgery this Wednesday), the season hitting the homestretch, and the Wolves’ playoff hopes looking dimmer by the day (now 2.5 games behind Houston for the 8 seed), there is less and less to add to the discussion with these game wraps.  With that in mind, I’ll share a few brief observations about each Wolves player from this disappointing loss that may not come through in the newspaper: Continue reading

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Millsap’d Again (JAZZ 111, Wolves 105)

When Paul Millsap missed a wide-open layup as the regulation buzzer sounded, it looked like the Wolves might actually steal this one from the Jazz.  They had trailed Utah 92-80 with only 4 minutes to go before pulling off a miraculous comeback to force overtime.  After a Pekovic basket tied the game with 0.7 seconds left, the Jazz ran a brilliant out of bounds play that nearly ended the Wolves hopes with a heroic shot.  Instead, Paul’s heroics would come from steals in overtime (8 total for the game!) that sealed a win that Utah probably deserved all along.

Things were actually looking good for the first part of overtime.  Wes Johnson (after a HORRENDOUS first four quarters of action) hit a pair of jumpers and pulled down a tough rebound, and had the Wolves leading 105-103 with 1:31 to go.  But, the next Wolves possessions were as follows:

* With game tied, Luke Ridnour pass stolen by Paul Millsap.

* With Wolves down by 2, Martell Webster misses wide-f***ing-open corner trey.

* With Wolves down by 4, Paul Millsap steals ball from Kevin Love.

Each blunder was followed by Jazz points.  Each blunder was inexcusable.  So it goes.

A whole bunch of bullets:

* Ridnour, that last turnover notwithstanding, made A LOT of nifty assists in this game.  He seemed to look for Pekovic frequently and found him rolling or sealing at the right times.  Luke finished the game with 13 assists.

* Anthony Randolph Sighting!  AR15 had 5 points and 3 steals in 12 minutes off the bench.  He took the ball hard to the basket twice in the second half, each time not getting a call that could have been made.  His biggest weakness right now is the rotation of big men that lie in front of him on the depth chart.  All things considered, his play isn’t that bad.  Those that incessantly rip on this guy are off base to some extent.  Sure, his decision making will leave you shaking your head at times.  But that happens with every player.  Every other player doesn’t get you 17 & 8 per 36 on 50 percent shooting and hyperactive defense.

* Speaking of AR15 getting minutes, Coach went 10 deep tonight despite Mike Beasley being out with a sore toe.  This cut deep into D-Thrill’s minutes.  The rook played 16 total, while Randolph and Tolliver each played 12.

* This was Kevin Love’s best game of the year against Paul Millsap and the Jazz.  But that isn’t necessary saying much.  He took 23 shots to get his 25 points, numbers not befitting of his renowned efficiency.  In three games versus Utah, he’s shooting just 29 percent from the field.  Still, he did plenty of good things in this game (like pull down 16 rebounds) and can hardly be blamed for the result.

I’ll wrap this up with a brief take on the trade deadline (in)activity.  The rumor mill had me and everyone else convinced that Mike Beasley was headed to Tinseltown in a three-teamer that would bring back two-guard chucker, Jamal Crawford.  Jamal has plenty in common with Beasley as a jumpshooting player.  One notable difference is that while Beasley at times seems conflicted about gunning, Jamal is unapologetic and perhaps unaware.  He just chucks.  And chucks.  Would he have helped this team?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I have no idea.

But the reason that the deal did not happen is that one version had Portland requiring Luke Ridnour to come their way.  If you have watched Luke play this year, you realize that this would not be a good thing.  The other version had us taking on Derek Fisher’s contract, adding over $3 million to next year’s payroll.  No thanks.  There are legitimately-good wing players available in this coming free agency.  Ray Allen, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Nic Batum.  I don’t know which the Wolves prefer most, but I have to believe they’ve got eyes on those guys and want as much dough as possible to toss their way.  With Ricky out for this season, a rash decision to run at the 8-seed–particularly one that might not even be an upgrade over what Beasley provides–would have been a mistake.  No trade was fine with me.

Season Record: 22-22

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INBOX: ’08ers Being Frozen Out? (The Conspiracy Theory Edition)

Andy G: We wrote some about the awesome 2008 Draft class, yesterday. With Michael Beasley losing minutes to Wesley Johnson, and AR15 racking up DNP-CD’s the way J.J. Barea racks up wild turnovers, is it possible that these restricted free agents are being frozen out of bigger pay days?

I mean, there’s more-than-plausible deniability here; each guy has his own weaknesses and hardly COMMANDS big minutes. Beasley gets lost on defense and scores inefficiently more often than not, and AR15 has bouts of losing all control of his emotions and play. But Mike provides needed shot creation and AR15 racks up production in short minutes at reasonable efficiency… next summer, they’ll be taking their talents around the league, looking for long-term contracts. Might it be that Adelman or (more likely) KAHN are scheming to limit those contracts, perhaps planning to re-sign at least one of them at a bargain bin rate?

Patrick J: I like where you’re going with this, but I’ll disagree anyway. These guys are pretty much the basketball equivalent of that hot girl you always see at the bar whenever you go out for a drink: lots of potential on the outside, but deep down you know she wouldn’t be there if she weren’t deeply flawed on the inside. Randolph’s problems show up less in the stats than on the court. He just can’t control his body or emotions. (Sort of like that girl.) Beasley’s unfocused disengagement gets more troubling by the game. Both look like reconcilables, but they’d need the right situation, coaching, teammates, role, etc, and I think we’ll be lucky if either turns it around here. So I’ll give Adelman and Kahn the benefit of the doubt on this one–you know they want to exploit that talent more than anyone.

AG: Okay, I like the analogy, and you are probably right. How about tihs: Let’s assume that ONE of these two guys is getting the Isaiah Thomas Freeze-Out from some combination of Kahn, various Adelmans, and (just for fun) Rob Moor.

Which guy do you think the team would intentionally withhold an opportunity to, in hopes of retaining him at a discount?

PJ: I guess if we think through the implications of the theory, the answer would be Randolph–the reason being that he appears to be permanently benched DESPITE putting up solid numbers and being on the floor during many of the team’s better early-season runs, which often came during 2nd-half comebacks. In contrast, Beasley keeps getting fairly consistent, if limited, minutes. It’s weird to think about this since Randolph doesn’t seem like he’d be that expensive regardless, but he’s got the raw athleticism, length, and basketball IQ of DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan got paid (relatively speaking) after just one decent season, so it isn’t inconceivable that the same could happen to Randolph if he got enough showcase this year.

AG: I would also bet on Randolph, if forced to choose. I’ve been kicking around Derrick Williams trade ideas like it’s my job (even though I still like D-Thrill as a budding power forward prospect) and I’d guess R.J. Adelman spends much of his day doing the same. If the team can get wing value for D-Thrill (like Mayo, or Redick, or Kevin Martin, or Monta Ellis, or…) then all of a sudden AR15 means more to the team as a long-term backup big man. By freezing him out of minutes this year, they’re positioning themselves to be able to match what promises to be a reasonable offer, if he gets one. Problem is, he might just take his qualifying offer (if we extend it) and wait for UFA status. Hard to say, but I enjoy NBA conspiracy theories.

PJ: Here’s a question regarding another ’08er: Would you trade Derrick Williams for O.J. Mayo? Would Kahn? Would Chris Wallace?? With Z-Bo out, Memphis needs a PF and the Wolves need a SG, so the basic logic seems sound. But it hurts my brain to try to work through Kahn’s and Wallace’s potential thought processes. Who says no?

AG: D-Thrill for O.J.? I’m not sure that either team does it. Williams isn’t good enough (yet) to be relied upon by a team that hopes to contend for a championship. O.J. isn’t good enough for the Wolves to trade the most-recent #2 pick in the draft for. The trade would have to be adjusted somehow in our favor. Anyway, that’s probably enough speculation about the ’08ers for now. Until next time.

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INBOX: The Trade Speculation Edition

An impossible dream?

 

Q: How about this: Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic for Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza? The Wolves need a shooting guard. Pek is playing out of his mind. Williams still has the reputation value of a #2 pick. Gordon is pissed about being traded to New Orleans and has only played 2 games this year, with a “knee contusion” that wasn’t really a contusion. He’s probably not even injured. Trade machine says it’d be legal. Why don’t both teams help themselves and do this deal?

- Andy G

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The Kobe System: Minneapolis Edition (Lakers 106, WOLVES 101)

With the Wolves playing again tonight (at Houston, 7:00 CST, FSN North) I’m going to wrap up last night’s loss to the Lakers rather briefly, Clint Eastwood style.

The Good

The end-of-third-quarter lineup of Rubio-Webster-Beasley-Randolph-Love.  After the struggling through two and a half quarters of ugly basketball and trailing by 18 points, Rick Adelman called timeout.  He subbed Webster in for Wes Johnson, Beasley in for Luke Ridnour, and Randolph in for Brad Miller (made his season debut, managed to get T’d up in 8 minutes of action).

This group, arguably the five most talented Timberwolves, ripped off a 19-6 run to end the quarter that FINALLY got the crowd rocking on a cold Sunday Night in Minneapolis.  Ricky pushed the tempo, jumpers started falling, and the ones that missed were tipped in by aggressive crashing of the boards.  This momentum carried into the fourth quarter with the Wolves eventually taking small leads late into the game.  The +/- numbers were kind to Beasley, Randolph and Webster due to this stretch of play.

Also in the “good” column: Kobe Bean Bryant.  He’s become even-more polarizing than ever this year, chucking shots at a higher rate with (slightly) diminished ability on a Laker team that is struggling to meet the championship-level standard to which it is held.  Kobe’s historically-great skill set was on display last night as he put together a 35-point, 14-rebound performance that left Wolves fans shaking their heads and Laker fans (lots of them showed up in their Number 24′s) going wild.

The Bad

Timberwolves shooting.  The Wolves shot 25 more times than the Lakers did from the floor, and the same number of times from the free throw line.  The problem was that LA hit 50.6 percent of shots, and Minnesota hit 38.5 percent (40-104).  The worst offenders were Rubio (2-13) and Webster (4-15).  On a night when the Wolves pulled down 24 offensive rebounds, turned the ball over only 4 times, and shot the same number of free throws as the opposition, a defeat is rather puzzling.  Shots weren’t falling.

The Ugly

The “defense” being played on Andrew Bynum in the last three minutes of the game.  Adelman had the Wolves playing some zone defense in the fourth, and it was successful in part in forcing difficult shots and containing Kobe.  But in a key sequence late in the game, it left the enormous Andrew Bynum open in the paint for easy dunks.  The first one gave the Lakers a 95-94 lead with 3:04 to go.  The second extended a one point lead to three, with 1:49 to go.  In these crucial possessions, it isn’t asking much to prevent uncontested dunks.  Defensive breakdowns were ugly to watch and helped lead to a disappointing loss.

Season Record: 9-11

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Revenge of the Iron Ranger (Rockets 107, WOLVES 92)

Kevin McHale (Photo: The Chronicle, Thomas B. Shea)

For a recap of tonight’s one-sided loss to the Houston Rockets, click here.

For even more detail, click on any number of the excellent blogs in the right column.

For some observations, questions, and ramblings from a frustrated fan who sat through the entire game, see the following.

***

McHale’s Rockets

Kevin McHale’s Rockets are now 10-7. If the season ended as I write this, they’d be the 8th seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

One season ago, the Rockets were not a playoff team under the Wolves’ heralded coach, Rick Adelman.

No knock on Adelman. But Kevin McHale might be a decent coach.

McHale’s squad oozes confidence like his Wolves teams did in that middle part of the 2008-09 season, post-Wittman, pre-Jefferson injury.  For an entire month, Mac led that talentless group to the best record in the NBA–not too shabby.

Kyle Lowry is playing particularly well under McHale. Kyle messed around and got a triple-double against the Wolves, dropping 16, 10, and 10 and giving Ricky Rubio fits in the process. You could say he had a Good Day (NSFW depending on where you W).

Kevin Martin versus Wayne Ellington

Did I ever think I’d miss Wesley Johnson?

No. I’ve spent most of the season wondering how much better the Wolves would be without him.

I’m trying to square that with what happened tonight, when dream became reality.

Wayne had an EMBARRASSING night. Martin ran him off of screens, spun him in circles, drew fouls, and buried jump shots. All. Night. Long.

K-Mart had 21 at the half and made it look oh-so-easy.  Parents with aspiring ballplayer kids should have them watch Martin move without the ball.  Just don’t let them watch him shoot–that unconventional and ugly stroke works for one guy and one guy only.

Kevin Love (the good)

K-Love was 5 for 5 from downtown tonight.  He had 39 points. He shot 13 for 19.  Love should shoot as many threes as he possibly can.

In fact, Love should emulate the one PF in the league who gives him matchup problems–Ryan Anderson.  Anderson is shooting 9.1 3PA’s per 36 minutes (compared to Love’s 4.7), and rocks a 24.9 PER.  Not bad for the 21st Pick in the 2008 Draft.  Love’s foul-drawing and rebounding are huge parts of his game, but he is noticeably-hesitant to pull the trigger on 3s. Not as much in tonight’s game, and 39 points later, I hope he builds on a great scoring night.

Kevin Love (the bad)

I won’t lie: I hate the way Kevin Love tries to draw most of his fouls.  He isn’t making basketball plays. He’s wrestling–sometimes without any hope for a real play–and he gasps in disbelief when refs DARE not to call a foul. Meanwhile, the other team is often running out for a secondary or primary break.

There are good ways to draw fouls.  LeBron James ATTACKS when he draws fouls. If a foul isn’t called, a shot goes up that might actually go in.  He might dunk over somebody.  He might find a shooter for three.

But when Love’s antics don’t work, at best he retains his balance and finds a playmaker like Anthony Tolliver or Wayne Ellington with 4 on the shot clock.

Good luck. With that.

Love is already getting star treatment from the stripes at an early age, and this is good for the team in the broader scheme of things. But this is my subjective pet peeve about how the game should be played.  It isn’t fun to watch and it should be increasingly ineffective if rule changes are enforced.

Derrick Williams Starts! (At the wrong position…)

Wes Johnson was sick, so D-Thrill started.  Thrill got 37 minutes, but went long stretches in the 3rd without touching the ball.  He played outside the three point line for much of the night. His 11-point, 7-rebound, 4-turnover performance (3-9 shooting, 5-8 FT’s) was not a success.  He was fouled at least twice (making real basketball plays while going extremely STRONG to the cup) without a whistle.  Thrill’s a scoring power forward. Where does he fit? (NOT rhetorical.)

A couple other thoughts on Williams:

*His free-throw shooting has been problematic–65 percent is unsatisfactory for a player as skilled as Williams.

*Adelman should work to incorporate Thrill’s interior game with Love’s perimeter game. It’s obvious that this is where each guy has the most to offer offensively.

Auditioning for Centers

Adelman stuck Anthony Randolph out there, after an extended, non-injury-related leave of absence the previous two games.  In 11 minutes, AR15 chipped in 9 points (4-8 FG, 1-1 FT) and 5 rebounds.

For various reasons, most notably that he fits in better with Rubio’s passing skills, I’d like to see Randolph take ALL of the Darko and Pekovic minutes.

Sure, those guys are heavier and will defend certain players better than Randolph.  But Randolph will finish plays that should be finished, he can get his shot against anybody, and he is an aggressive rebounder.

Heading into tonight’s game, he was third on the team in points per 36 minutes (17.2) and second in FG% (52.0) (to be fair, Pek leads at a mighty 60.7).

Randolph will have his moments when he self-combusts and needs a break. But so do Darko and Pek. Randolph is the least-bad option at center right now and the harm in giving the most-talented of the three more minutes is unknown to me.

Let’s hope for a better one on Wednesday at Dallas.  The champs are playing better than they were early in the season when the Wolves thumped them at Target Center.

Season Record: 7-10

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Pistons Preview

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The Wolves should win easily tonight against the Pistons, but Monday’s ugly win over SAC illustrates that you can’t take anything for granted.

What I’m most interested in about tonight’s game is Adelman’s rotations. What adjustments should he make?

Here’s what I think we’ll see:

Wes Johnson: For the first time this season, Adelman was praised Monday for giving Wes extended minutes against SAC, mostly because he did an effective job against Kings hired scorer John Salmons. With Webster still out and the Wolves facing Tayshaun Prince, another long three, look for Wes to get over 30 minutes no matter how bad he shoots.

Darko: The Wolves will need Good Darko to come out tonight, at least on the defensive end of the floor, because Pistons big man Greg Monroe is their best player and is emerging rapidly as a BIG headache for opposing defenses. Monroe’s finesse game and footwork would get Pekovic into foul trouble in a hurry, so look for Darko to play a lot of minutes tonight–closer to 30-35 minutes than 21-22, which he tends to get against smaller teams.

J.J. Barea: J.J. is due back from injury tonight, and it’s a good game to have him return for: Pistons SG Ben Gordon is ridiculously strong and won’t be the easier cover for Ridnour. With Rubio presumably committed to guarding Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, J.J.’s strength could be a huge factor in keeping Gordon from getting the looks he wants.

What else? K-Love should own Jerebko. Love has been logging a lot of long minutes, so if the Wolves get ahead, maybe Adelman can get Anthony Randolph or Derrick Williams some time tonight.

Enjoy the tilt.

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Buzz Kill (Wolves 87, Hornets 80)

An ugly win


The Wolves eked out an 87-80 win Friday night over the Hornets. There were no two ways about this one: it was either going to be a much-needed win or a bad loss against an already sub-par Hornets team whose best player, Eric Gordon, was out with an injury.

The Wolves were shorthanded. J.J. Barea and Michael Beasley stayed in Minneapolis. Martell Webster won’t be available for a few weeks. Or a few months. Or maybe never. Any could be true. Martell might not even know. Adelman leaned heavily on Ridnour at the two (not ideal), Johnson at the three (bad), and Rubio at the point (good). Rubio started (good) and played 44 minutes (good). Johnson played 34 minutes and Tolliver and Williams only 16 apiece (bad)

The victory was ugly. No one could get shots. Rubio served them on a silver platter. Teammates sometimes converted, often didn’t. His 9 assists should’ve been closer to 20. Johnson shot 1-8 from distance. Darko couldn’t catch. The Wolves won’t win many playing like this.

Love got to the line 18 times–the same number of attempts as the entire Nola squad. He made 17. His final line read 34 & 17. Yawn.

Love’s production is appreciated, don’t get me wrong. But against the Hornets, his numb#rs were lower-quality than in his other big games earlier in the season. He looked tired. He wasn’t closing out on D. He won’t get 18 throws every game.

Adelman needs to keep him fresh. Incorporating Williams and Tolliver and Randolph more would be a starting place. They play power forward too.

The takeaway is simple: no Rubio, no win. Love would’ve had about the same line with or without him. But no one else would’ve been able to get buckets. Like last season, after Beasley hurt his ankle. Adelman not only played Ricky a lot, he started him. That’s progress.

Let’s hope he tries to build on that progress tonight in Atlanta. Take baby steps.

Distributing Johnson’s minutes between Tolliver and Williams would be a start.

Or get really wild and crazy. Give 12 or 13 of Darko’s minutes to Randolph. He’s way better.

It’s staggering how much better we are when Randolph and Tolliver are on the floor and how much worse we are when Darko and Johnson are on the floor.

Hit us up in the comments.

Until next time.

Season Record: 4-7

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Two Steps Back (Cavaliers 98, WOLVES 87)

Friday Night’s matchup with Cleveland was a new sort of test for the Adelman Wolves.  After a brutal stretch of title-contending opposition, the Wolves now faced an eminently-beatable opponent in the Cavs.  Of course, as you probably already know, the Cavs came in and took control of this game, almost start-to-finish.  Aside from Kevlar’s 29 & 14, Wolves starters provided little production and many mistakes.  Darko was the only other starter to score in double figures with all 11 of his points coming in the opening quarter.  Michael Beasley pulled down 12 rebounds, but continued his puzzling shooting woes that have plagued the early part of his season.  Supercool Beas added injury to insult by spraining his foot.  He is unlikely to play tomorrow night at Washington; a bummer that he won’t perform in front of his hometown friends and family.

Cleveland leaned on wily veteran Antawn Jamison, who chipped in 22 points, and also the energetic and unselfish Anderson Varejao.  The Brazilian big man looked like his old self, after a serious foot injury cut his 2010-11 season short.  He scored an efficient 13 points, but more importantly grabbed 12 boards, assisted 5 field goals, blocked 2 shots and had 4 steals.  Varejao is an underappreciated talent.

There weren’t many interesting story lines to this one.  The Cavs 7-point halftime lead would never get closer than that, and grew as high as 18-points in the middle of the fourth quarter.  The Wolves continue to struggle at the free throw line (21-31 in this game; 68.6 percent on the season, good for 27th in NBA) and on this night also misfired on three-point attempts shooting 4 for 20.  Cleveland hit 8 of 17 three-pointers, with spark plug Daniel Gibson hitting 3 dagger-treys that essentially buried the Wolves and their chances.

Rather than further relive a pretty miserable game, let’s take a peak at some stats after seven games:

* Everything NUMB#RS begins with Kevin Love.  He’s now scoring 26.1 points/game to go along with 14.9 rebounds.  His scoring bump from last year (20.2 PPG) can be attributed to a few different things.  First, he’s playing more minutes (39.1 versus 35.8 MPG, more on this below); second, he is shooting more often (16.0 FGA/36 min. versus 14.1); third, more of those shots are 3′s, and his percentage on 3′s has gone up slightly (5.4 3PA/game versus 2.9; .421 versus .417); and fourth, he is getting fouled and sent to the line more often (9.3 FTA/game versus 6.8).  The only problematic stat for Love is assist-to-turnover ratio.  Through seven games, he assists 1.6 times per 36 minutes, compared to 3.4 turnovers in the same time frame.  This is mostly speculation, but I think his high turnovers may be in part due to his attempts to draw fouls.  When the refs don’t bite, those can lead to turnovers.  Love’s numbers should earn him his first All-NBA honor, this year.  We all hope that his personal accolades are paired with team success, once and for all.

* Michael Beasley is struggling to hit shots.  Anybody who has watched the Wolves certainly knows this fact.  Beas is hitting 39.4 percent of field goal attempts, this year.  Whatever you think of Beasley’s game, it’s hard to not think that this will improve as more games are played.  His career FG% is 45.5 and he’s never been lower than 45.0 for a season.  Strangely this year, he is hitting 40.0 percent of 3′s–an excellent percentage, albeit on low frequency–and a PITIFUL 44.4 percent of free throws.  Mike has hit 8 free throws and missed 10, this year.

* Things get a little weird with the on-court/off-court numbers.  Well, the worst on the team is not weird.  The Wolves are 22.2 points better per 100 possessions when Wesley Johnson is off the court versus when he is on.  (-11.9 on; +10.3 off).  That makes sense.  But the weirdness comes with the second-worst on/off player, Kevin Love.  Love’s net-difference of on-court/off-court is (-15.7).  Most of this comes from the “off” column, where the Wolves are 13.2 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions, when K-Love sits on the bench.  When Love is on the floor, the Wolves are 2.5 points worse than their opponents per 100 possessions.  Anthony Randolph must be the sub for Love on many nights, because his on/off numbers are a mirror image of Love’s.  In short minutes (18 percent of total, through 7 games) the Wolves are +13.4 per 100 possessions with Randolph on the court.  When he’s off, they are -2.4 per 100.  Ricky Rubio has positive “on” numbers (+4.7 versus “off” of -5.4), with much more playing time than AR15, and all of the 4th Quarter, winning-time minutes.

What can be taken away from these early on/off numbers?  “Nothing” is one answer, perhaps.  These measurements can have as much or more to do with correlation as causation, and certainly in Kevin Love’s case, they do not accurately reflect his value to the team.  However, the second unit with Rubio, Williams and Randolph has been strong at times, even against mighty competition (they saved the Miami game from a blowout with a great first-half effort) and could stand to play a few more minutes.  Kevin Love is currently third in the entire NBA in minutes/game with 39.1.  The Timberwolves may improve if that number is cut to something like 36 or 37, and 2 or 3 extra minutes of high-energy bench play is the substitute.  Rubio, quite clearly, is deserving of more than his 27.7 minutes/game.  I think all fans, and presumably Coach Adelman, expect that figure to increase as the season moves along.

Season Record: 2-5

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Game 3: The Heatles (Heat 103, Wolves 101)

The Wolves lost a 103-101 heartbreaker Friday night against the Heat and Birthday Boy LeBron James.  It was a heartbreaker both because of the promise the Wolves showed and the mistakes they made, as well as because the defeat is the latest tick in a growing tally of losses to start the 2011/12 season.

The Wolves looked like a different team from the group that suffered the lackluster defeat in Milwaukee Tuesday night. Kevin Love dropped a workmanlike (for him) 25/12/3, and Ricky Rubio f*cked around and got his first career double-double with a 12/12/6 line.

Before diving into Wolves takeaways from the game, first thing’s first: the Heat are good. Real good. Bosh, Wade, and James are gelling like the trio everyone expected coming out of the gates in 2010/11. LeBron is the best player in the world. He turned 27 today.

Takeaways

  • Turnovers: Adelman said prior to the game that if the Wolves failed to protect the ball, it would lead to a Heat dunk contest. His concern couldn’t have been more prophetic. Unforced errors and Heat ball-hawking led to 25 Wolves turnovers and what felt like a million transition buckets for Miami. Every Wolves player had at last one turnover. Love and Rubio were the chief offenders, with six and five, respectively, but their turnovers stung less than their teammates’, as aggressive play underlay the bulk of their mistakes, while the rest of the team played the kind of sloppy basketball that James, Wade, and company are only too happy to exploit. Adelman has lamented the Wolves’ sloppiness since the beginning of camp, and while the shortened preseason, the new system, and adjusting to new personnel all point to turnovers continuing to plague the Wolves for the foreseeable future, Adelman’s rotations are puzzling and he could ease the players’ burden by firming them up sooner rather than later.
  • The point guard situation: Rubio-mania has overtaken Minneapolis; Ridnour is no longer trying to mask his consternation with his declining role. Luke played just six minutes in the first half, missing his only field goal attempt. He had a nice stretch early in the third in which he made a quick three and then got a steal that led to a transition opportunity. But he started pressing in the middle of the third, taking an ill-advised three off the dribble that missed very badly, leading the already antsy Target Center crowd to clamor loudly for Rubio, who’d had a hot first half with 8 points, 6 assists, and a +7 in 15 minutes. When Rubio finally reported to the scorer’s table with 4:00 in the third, Ridnour retaliated with two difficult rapid-fire three-point attempts before exiting at the dead ball. Ridnour did not return, and finished the night with 6 points on 2-6 shooting and a -11 in 17 minutes. Rubio played the rest of the way, looking extremely good en route to 12 assists (which could’ve easily been 18+ with some help) and a +9 in 31 minutes. The stats are telling–the Wolves’ offensive sets and overall energy were markedly better when Rubio was in the game. With Rubio’s play exceeding expectations and Ridnour’s ineffectiveness and attitude forcing Adelman’s hand, the Wolves’ point guard situation is coming to a head sooner than expected. Kahn should be shopping the aggravated vet aggressively, but with Barea and Lee battling injuries, trading Ridnour would leave the Wolves thin at the point and so might not happen anytime soon.
  • Close but no cigar: In the three games thus far, the Wolves have been within three points with less than two minutes to go against two potential title contenders. They’ve failed to close each time. This year’s team clearly has more talent and a better culture than last year’s, but the Wolves’ inability to compete down the stretch is reminiscent of some of the ugly things we saw last year. Hopefully Adelman can instill some lessons about #winningtime where Rambis failed.
  • The last shot: A third-string guard seeing his first significant minutes of the season should never be in a position to take a potential game-tying or winning shot against anybody, let alone the Heat. Yet that’s what happened tonight in the game’s closing seconds when Wayne Ellington flung an extremely difficult dribble-jumper from 22 feet that clanked off the iron. Part of the reason the Wolves struggle to win close games is their lack of a go-to player down the stretch. Michael Beasley has the talent to get difficult baskets time-after-time when opposing defenses have hunkered down in the fourth quarter, but can he do it for this team? Beasley played poorly tonight, scoring only 4 points on 2-6 shooting in 22 minutes before getting benched in the fourth quarter. Yet Beasley is the Wolves’ only player who can create a decent shot for himself almost every time he touches the ball, as he showed during stretches of last season. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to second-guess Adelman’s decision to leave Beasley on the bench with four seconds left in a dead-ball situation in which the Timberwolves had possession. The Wolves will start to win close games against playoff-caliber teams when/if Adelman is able to trust Beasley or someone else to take and make big shots down the stretch. Ideally Beasley would need to earn that trust, but given his de facto role as the team’s sole 1-on-1 creator, Adelman should give Beasley a longer leash to earn it as he goes, despite the inevitable lumps that’ll come along the way.
Quick Hits
  • The Wolves sorely missed J.J. Barea at both guard positions. Get well soon J.J.!
  • Anthony Tolliver has so much heart. After getting slapped with a blocking foul on what appeared to be a LeBron charge late in the 4th, AT went hard to the cup and tried to CRAM on the entire Heat interior, drawing a foul. He’s proud and he worked his ass off on both ends.
  • That said, AT needs to work on his free-throws. He made the first shot and missed the second on at least three trips during the second half.
  • AR15 finally showed some signs and was a game high +18 in 25 minutes of action. He still has a long way to go before he’ll gain Adelman’s trust.
  • Randolph looks so much better when his 12-15 face-up is falling like it was tonight. It prevents him from trying to do too much off the dribble, which is when he tends to get out of control.
  • Derrick Williams looked better after a down game against Milwaukee on Tuesday. He mostly let the game come to him, and he hit two of three from downtown and had 10 points in 21 minutes.
  • Wes Johnson apparently didn’t read our letter.

It all starts again on Sunday against Dallas. Until then.

Season Record: 0-3

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