There is a long list of reasons why NBA basketball is The Greatest Game. It has the best athletes and viewing experience, the coolest personalities and fans, the most thoughtful writers, and the funniest Twitter accounts. It is culturally and ethnically diverse. It is relatively safe from bad injuries.
The NBA is also, in my super-biased opinion, the most thought-provoking sport. Its genius rulebook created tensions between core concepts like size and speed, athleticism and skill, aggression and control, and intellect and instincts. Its playing venue allows close observation of the actions and reactions. It’s all pretty fucking brilliant.
But the NBA faces a real threat that it will become uninteresting. Or less interesting, anyway. Data collection and analysis becomes more thorough and sophisticated by the day. We’re learning what works best, what works worst, and everything in between. In today’s rules, the tenets include high ball screen offense, mobile pick-and-roll defenders, four out/one in, three-pointers & layups, two-for-one’s, Hack-A-[Raw Young Center X/Y/Z], and some others.
The Knicks are in town tonight for a 7 PM CST tilt against the Wolves. By way of preview, a few things:
- The psychology of streaking: It’s time to talk about streaking, and the weird effects it can have on people. No, not that kind of streaking. I’m talking about the kind where someone does something many times consecutively. In this case, the Knicks have won 15 of the last 16 against the Wolves. They’ve basically been streaking against the Wolves. I hate streaks like that, because they play into teams’ psychology, even if the players won’t admit it. Continue reading
Let’s get the qualifiers out of the way. Coming into yesterday’s matchup with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Timberwolves had a road record of 5-8. At home, the Knicks were 11-2. Though both teams had the previous day off and were presumably rested, the Wolves were without their top dog, Kevin Love. K-Love was still feeling effects from the eye gouge injury he sustained late in the Thunder game and stayed home from the trip. Taking on the second-best team in the East without the team’s best scorer and rebounder was a tall order and victory was unlikely. But when the final buzzer sounded and the Knicks celebrated what should have been a routine home win against an undermanned squad, Wolves fans had a bitter taste in their mouths. Here’s a rundown that explains why.
The Wolves take on
Rasheed Wallace and the Knicks Sunday afternoon at MSG
Coming off a signature win over the West-leading OKC Thunder, the Wolves take on the East-leading Knicks Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The 13-11 Wolves will be without Kevin Love, who played one of his best one or two games of the season on Thursday, with 28, 11, and, perhaps most indicative of the way the Wolves played against OKC, a season-high 7 assists; the Wolves moved the ball better against the Thunder than in any game this season, and with only a minimal contribution from point guard extraordinaire Ricky Rubio, who’s still on a limited-minutes program as he completes his comeback from a season-ending knee injury.
Love’s minutes will be divided between much-maligned Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham. Just when you think Derrick Williams won’t get any more chances, someone gets hurt, and Derrick Williams gets another chance. So far, he’s never done anything with any of them. Cunningham has exceeded expectations this season, and should give the Wolves the kind of steady but unspectacular performance Wolves fans have become accustomed to. The Wolves offense tends to flow better when Love isn’t on the floor, but there’s still no replacing his 20 & 13.
The Knicks are more than a worthy opponent, Love or no Love. A few things to watch for:
A few years back, Harrison Barnes was supposed to be The Next Kobe. Expectations have since dropped, but his NBA career is off to a solid start.
I knew I wasn’t [completely] overreacting to that bad loss on Wednesday night. Despite the injuries that have overhauled the Wolves starting unit, the team still has enough talent and grit to play competitive basketball. “Competitive basketball” would have prevailed against the Bobcats that night. Last night’s game was fun to watch because expectations were low and the game remained in doubt into the closing possessions. Unfortunately, the comeback was incomplete and the Warriors prevailed. The “Good Job. Good Effort.” feel to this loss was on clearest display on the game’s pivotal possessions. Dante Cunningham had just pulled down one of the most impressive offensive rebounds I have ever seen. He FLEW through the air from the top of the key and collected Luke’s missed trey at a ridiculously high point. Cunningham was then fouled and, after a Warriors timeout, hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 3 points with under 3 minutes to play. Golden State ran a high ball screen for Jarrett Jack (Steph Curry had fouled out of the game) with David Lee being the screen and roller. Cunningham defended the entire play perfectly, even anticipating Lee’s spin move to a lefty turnaround. Lee somehow managed to make the shot. Tip the hat to Lee, because he played a great game against a slightly-overmatched team.
image from aol.sportingnews.com
In case ya hadn’t heard, Dwight Howard is headed to Tinseltown. He joins Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal on the list of superstar centers acquired by the Lakers in the middle of their prime. A player as dominant as Dwight Howard, in a league devoid of great centers, certainly has a high trade value. (Sixth highest in the NBA according to Bill Simmons, back in March.) Orlando must’ve gotten a haul in return for Dwight… Right? Continue reading
photo from nba.com
The great Howard Beck wrote an interesting column in today’s New York Times, analyzing the struggles of Carmelo Anthony versus the Heat and in his entire postseason career. He points out Melo’s crappy shooting percentage in this series and his dismissive postgame remarks that suggest a lack of awareness. Beck drives everything home with this bullet:
In nine postseasons, Anthony is 16-36 — the worst record among active players with at least 50 playoff games. He has won a first-round series only once, in 2009. Since then, he has lost 11 of 13 playoff games. If the Knicks lose Sunday, it will be Anthony’s third time getting swept in five years.
The score was 32-16 in the Spurs favor after one quarter. After a half-hearted comeback in the 2nd by the Wolves, the game was lopsided for the entire half. Nobody seemed to play well. The box score shows decent work done by Love, Tolliver, Barea and Ellington. But it didn’t really seem like it.
So what else to discuss in the world of hoops? Continue reading
As you probably know, the Wolves have twice defeated the defending-champion Mavericks in this short season, each game by a decided margin of victory. Although I joined the excitement of other Wolves fans about last year’s worst dominating last year’s best, it was impossible not to notice two things about those games:
1) In the first game, Dirk wasn’t Dirk (as Bill Simmons explained yesterday, Dirk showed up for training camp way out of shape, not yet recovering from the championship hangover).
2) In the second game, Dirk wasn’t playing. (His legs were broken down from playing his way into shape, for the above reason.)
Last night’s game would include neither of those beneficial factors. After beginning the season 3-5, Dallas had won 12 of its last 18 games, returning to contender form. After his worst start to a season in over a decade, Dirk had finally caught fire. In the three games leading up to last night’s, Dirk was averaging over 26 points per game on 61.5 percent shooting. It appeared as though he’d be the matchup nightmare that fans have grown accustomed to watching.