After five days off that included a Mexican vacation and postponement of a Spurs matchup, the Timberwolves return to action tonight at Target Center. They face the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. The Wolves will be without Kevin Love, who is home with family mourning the loss of his grandmother. (Eds note: Best wishes to Love and family.)
The Heat has lost two consecutive games; the latter being a 20-point drumming by the Roseless Bulls on TNT. They’ve been without Dwyane Wade, but the reports on Twitter indicate he’s shooting around and might play tonight. That’s not good news for a Wolves team trying to get back to .500 without its own best player. In any event, it will be a fun game to watch because… well, LeBron James.
But we’re less interested in the MVP or his All-Star teammates than we are a former Timberwolf returning to Target Center with career-best numbers and a renewed sense of basketball purpose. That’s right, we’re talking about the one and only Supercool Mike Beasley, a longtime PDW favorite.
Beasley is only playing 17.6 minutes per game, but that’s 17.6 more than just about anybody expected after his famous regression from prized draft prospect and promising young talent to inefficient chucker who didn’t play defense but did get himself into off-court troubles. Beas isn’t just playing in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation. He’s playing REALLY well. His 23.2 points per 36 minutes is a career high. So is his 54.6 field goal percentage, which is downright ridiculous for a combo forward like himself.
Beas has always had obvious talent and it appears he’s finally begun to tap into it in a way that helps an NBA team win games. The Heat are playing 12.9 points better than opponents, per 100 possessions, with Beasley on the floor. Suffice it to say this is a sharp change from his recent seasons in Phoenix and Minnesota. It’s also way better than LeBron and the other Heat starters, which is probably unsustainable but nevertheless a reflection of how well he’s been playing.
For more on Supercool Mike’s improvement, check out Tom Haberstroh’s espn.com feature (Insider, sorry).
We thought it appropriate to preview tonight’s matchup by recalling our favorite Beasley stories.
Without further ado…
#10 – The Kevin Love 30/30 Game…in which Beas dropped 35 (Andy G)
The Heat welcome back the affable-but-troubled Mike Beasley. Does this pickup, along with the Greg Oden signing, flip the script on whether to cheer for the Heat?
Andy G: In I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman devotes a chapter to hating rock bands. He runs through a list of every band he’s ever hated, explains the specific point in his life, and why that particular group evoked irrationally negative feelings from him. The chapter is largely focused on The Eagles. In the end, Klosterman forms the discomfiting conclusion that he now no longer possesses the capacity to hate rock bands. Even The Eagles. (He included the band three different times on his list.)
He explains why this is problematic:
Being emotionally fragile is an important part of being a successful critic; it’s an integral element to being engaged with mainstream art, assuming you aspire to write about it in public. If you hate everything, you’re a banal asshole . . . but if you don’t hate anything, you’re boring. You’re useless. And you end up writing about why you can no longer generate fake feelings that other people digest as real.
Klosterman goes on to explain his “brain’s unwillingness to hold an unexplained opinion,” and articulates a general feeling that I’ve struggled with on this blog. Caring about sports — or art — is not a rational exercise. Hating a professional athlete or sports team is as dumb as hating a rock band. Hating a professional athlete is as irrational as loving one. Those are emotions far too strong to hold for people that don’t even know that you exist.
Reading that chapter reminded me of the Miami Heat and its best player, LeBron James.
I hated The Decision. I hated LeBron’s *decision* itself to overlap his talents with Dwyane Wade’s, I hated the primetime stomach-punch to Cleveland, and I hated the Kobe rip-off, “taking my talents” delivery pitch. I hated everything about LeBron exercising his rights as a free agent.
Four things about Heat Hatred:
“For the series, the Heat have scored 131.7 points per 100 possessions when James is on the floor without Wade, and just 100.8 when the two have shared the floor, per NBA.com. The Heat are minus-12 for the series, but the James–Mike Miller–Ray Allen super-shooting trio is a crazy plus-50 in just 68 minutes, per NBA.com. The James-Miller-Chalmers trio is plus-43 in just 80 minutes, and the combination of those four players is a stunning plus-49 in just 29 total minutes together, per NBA.com.”
–Zach Lowe, on the Heat’s success during the Finals with LeBron on the floor next to three-point shooters (rather than with D-Wade). As we continue the search for tip-the-scale factors, this one looms large heading into the season finale. Game 6 was [barely] saved by the Wade-less lineup in the middle of the fourth, and nearly lost when Wade went back in. He’s not healthy and he’s a poor enough fit with James that a great coach like Popovich will exploit it for all its worth. The rest of Lowe’s fantastic piece here: (http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/66008/10-key-thoughts-on-the-greatest-most-insane-nba-finals-game-in-years)
LBJ and Dre: Two things good in the world. Still. (Photo courtesy of ESPN The Magazine.)
Heat @ Wolves. 7 PM CST. NBA-TV/CH. 29/830-AM. Yep.
Streaking to the Finish
The Heat (43-14) have won 14 straight and are on the cusp of the longest winning streak in franchise history. Miami has beaten the Wolves five consecutive times. If the Heat win tonight, it will have its third straight season sweep of the Wolves. I’ve written before on streaking. Much of that applies here.
The Wolves? Continue reading
“I try to stay away from that, and the reason is: I would never ask a player to play against a ghost; past, present, or future. We could only play against the guy that showed up while we were playing.”
That was Bill Russell’s response to Chris Webber asking him for input in the
never-ending recent debate about individual legacies and how championship rings factor in. It was an especially hot-button issue over All-Star Weekend because Michael Jordan — whose 50th Birthday was being celebrated by the media — said he’d pick Kobe Bryant over LeBron James because, “five beats one every time I look at it.”
A difficult but essential responsibility of any basketball coach is to get his or her players to “buy in.”
By whatever psychological tactics necessary (with some famous coaches showing little-to-no bounds in their exploration), a coach needs to teach and convince players to make floor decisions that prioritize team ahead of individual.
Basketball fans have a better opportunity to psychoanalyze players than their counterparts in football do. The players are exposed without helmets or masks to cover their reactions to plays of the game. Modern HD television rarely fails to capture a Kobe Bryant sneer or Ricky Rubio smile. Also, the game has fewer players, and most offensive plays are trimmed down to 1 or 2 man action. Most basketball plays boil down to a player’s distinct choice to either shoot, dribble or pass; as fans, we watch for trends and form opinions about what they were thinking on a given play.
When I saw that the Wolves were a 8.5-point dogs, my naive optimism dwindled pretty significantly. Vegas usually knows what’s up. In this case, Ricky Rubio was sitting out. The Wolves were on the tail end of a road back-to-back. Miami was rested. Miami has LeBron James. The Heat are the world champs. After dropping a winnable one last night, this would be a challenge. How’d it play out? Check it out below the fold.
Former Wolves guard Mike Miller and those other guys host the Wolves tonight in Miami
The Wolves take their talents to Miami tonight to play the incumbent Finals champions, after losing a winnable game against the Magic Monday night in Orlando. Well, maybe not all their talents: Ricky Rubio is not expected to play in tonight’s game, as part of a program that will have him avoiding back-to-backs until he’s cleared by team medical staff. Rubio, who struggled last night, will never say never, however, suggesting there’s a chance that he will play tonight if his knee isn’t too sore.
The Wolves could certainly use Rubio, even with Ricky coming off a subpar performance against the Magic where the rust clearly showed. Rubio ended the night with 0 points, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers in 16 minutes of action last night after having a nice Ricky-like 8/9/4/3 line in Saturday’s win over Dallas.
Against the Heat, the Wolves need Rubio far more than they did against Dallas or Orlando, and not just because the Heat are (by far) the best of the three teams. Why? Continue reading
The Wolves offense was heavily reliant on Ricky Rubio’s dribble game last year.
“We’re the Miami Heat, and he’s Jeremy Lin.” – President Barack Obama, referring to his campaign versus Mitt Romney’s
Story time, kids. Continue reading
Chris Bosh will be suiting up the rest of the playoffs
Andy G: It’s been announced that Chris Bosh will be out indefinitely with an abdominal strain. While “indefinitely” is ambiguous and Spoelstra says the MRI results were a pleasant surprise (no tear, apparently) it sounds like there’s a good chance that Bosh will miss multiple games and possibly even the rest of the Pacers series. We know how good the Pacers are.
What does this injury mean for the already-injury-riddled Playoffs?