Tag Archives: michael beasley

A Check-In at Basketball Reference

Having played 28 games (13-15) our Wolves are now exactly 42.42424242… percent complete with this shortened regular season.  What better time to visit the Basketball Reference team page and see where we’re at with numbers?

The first (and second and third and fourth…) thing that jumps out is Kevin Love.  Without even checking, I’m sure that his 25.6 points per game is a franchise record, if continued for the rest of the season.  To pair that with 13.8 rebounds per game is pretty amazing.  When compared to the best scorer-rebounder power forwards of the past (as these numbers require) the one statistic that seems lacking is the assists per game (1.7).  Last year, Love had a career-high 2.5 apg, which still isn’t all that high, compared to other power forwards who generate so many points and rebounds with consistency.  Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett were usually over 4 assists per game, and Blake Griffin currently assists over 3 times a night, despite playing with Chris Paul who would seemingly handle the creating for the Clips.  Love’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.63/1.00 (1.7 to 2.7) is one area for him to improve on.  Should he focus on getting more assists, or fewer turnovers?  I think that’s a fair question.  Some of his high-turnover games (like Friday’s versus Dallas) coincide with ugly Wolves offense, geared away from Rubio passing and Pekovic/Beasley post ups and more toward Love trying to draw fouls that aren’t there.  But this is a small point in the grand scheme of the great year he is having.  Based on season performance to date, Love was deserving of a starting spot on the All-Star Team.

Scanning down the roster, the low shooting percentages stick out.  Seven players are currently shooting under 40 percent from the field.  Two of those players (Rubio & Johnson) are starters.  The team is shooting 42.9 percent, good for 24th in the NBA.  If Pekovic and his whopping 63 percent are removed from the equation, the rest of the team shoots 41.6 percent, which would be good for 28th in the league.  Speaking of Pek, should he be getting the ball more?  The natural response is “obviously” except that the way he gets those buckets at high efficiency is not an easy scenario to create.  He seals his man directly under the basket, commencing the three-second timer that has been his offensive kryptonite in the early part of his career.  With such a wide lane, the opportunities to find Pek in his money zone are not as easy as it sounds.  Still, the team should look as much as possible to exploit what is becoming a matchup problem for opponents, with Pek’s interior scoring.

Staying with Pek for a moment, check out his per-36 numbers (18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds) and consider that he could become an All-Star center with enough playing time.  Crazy, huh?  The obvious area for improvement is turnovers.  Pek turns it over 3.5 times per 36, despite only dishing out 0.5 assists in that same time.  An assist-to-turnover ratio of 1 to 7 is horrendous.  He’s improved greatly from last season at limiting the 3 seconds calls, and offensive fouls, but both remain big areas for learning and adjusting to NBA rules.

As far as regressing to the mean goes, Michael Beasley and Ricky Rubio seem to be doing exactly that, in opposite directions.  Much was made about Rubio’s imroved shooting when he started the year hot.  That has changed for the worse, as he is currently hitting 37.1 percent of field goals, and 31.7 percent of 3′s.  Apparently he’s working hard with Terry Porter and Shawn Respert on his jumper.  I don’t doubt that, but for now I’d rather see him limit the jumper attempts in games.  Beasley was shooting under 40 percent before his foot injury.  That has climbed up to 42.7, and will probably continue to rise some at least into the mid-40′s.  His three-point shooting is hot right now, hitting 45.7 percent from downtown.  He would be wise to do as he did on Friday versus Dallas, and set up shop in that corner.  Ricky will find him there plenty.

What numbers stick out to you?  What do you expect to change?

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The Return of Dirk (Mavericks 104, WOLVES 97)

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.

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Supporting Casts (GRIZZLIES 85, Wolves 80)

RANT-STYLE GAME WRAP

Zach Randolph’s supporting cast outplayed Kevin Love’s supporting cast at Memphis, tonight, winning by 5 after a meaningless Beasley three beat the buzzer.  The game was never close, yet never a blowout.  It was the worst kind of hoops watching where the action is ugly and disjointed, but the game always in enough doubt to keep you there in front of the tv.

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A Loveless Victory (WOLVES 86, Kings 84)

Nobody quite knew what to predict for Minny’s first game of the season without its best player.  In fact, PJ published two separate posts in anticipation and speculation on exactly how this should shake out.  While the Kings are pretty lousy, they were coming off three consecutive wins and had big man DeMarcus Cousins playing the best basketball of his short career.  To eek out a win, even if ugly and way-too-close for comfort, is impressive in Love’s absence.

No Love

First things first: How did they do at replacing Kevin Love?

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Replacing Kevin Love, Part II: Derrick Williams vs Michael Beasley

Derrick Williams

Yesterday we asked who should replace Kevin Love in the starting lineup during Love’s suspension. Your response: Derrick Williams. And it wasn’t even close.

Williams and Michael Beasley are the most likely candidates to replace Love. Love’s suspension is an interesting if brief experiment to see what they might look like if Love weren’t locking down the four. Both have tantalizing talent, but neither has realized his full potential. Some have claimed that Love’s incumbency as the Wolves PF has hindered the development and performance of both Beasley and Williams by limiting their playing time and forcing them to play out of position.

It’s an intriguing experiment regardless of who gets the bulk of Love’s minutes. Before it begins, I wanted to take a close look at Williams and Beasley’s numbers this season to see if they suggest any interesting hypotheses.

The stats reveal some interesting trends.

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Stomping the Rockets (WOLVES 100, Rockets 91)

I wasn’t going to post a game wrap, but with the Wolves off tomorrow night (next game Tuesday at home versus Sacramento) I thought we should have something up to acknowledge some events of Saturday Night, and to continue the ongoing discussion of all things Wolves as the season moves into its second trimester.

.500

Minnesota has, finally, reached the elusive distinction of having won exactly one half of its games.  At 12-12, the Wolves have hit .500 for the first time since Kevin Garnett donned the blue and green, in 2007.  In case you forgot, Dwayne Casey had Ricky Buckets and Company at 20-20 before being fired.  Randy Wittman replaced him, closing out that season by going 12-30.  Yikes.  Decidedly-average pro basketball never felt so good.  The road of improvement continues ahead.

The Stomp

As I’m sure you’ve already seen or read about, Kevin Love stomped on Luis Scola’s face, last night.  Footage here.  Although no announcement (that I read, at least) was made today, I’d guess he’ll be suspended.  Love was apologetic after the game, without admitting any ill intent.  Scola was classy in his interview, deflecting all stomp questions away as if it was no big deal.  These kinds of things happen, and the Wolves are usually on the receiving end (Wally kicked in face by Bowen, Jaric slapped in face by Kobe, Beasley jacked up by Bynum, list goes on…) rather than dishing out cheap shots.  My griping at the time had more to do with how he was playing immediately before the stomp.  It was more of the begging for a bailout stuff that irks me as a fan.  He actually got away with at least two obvious fouls (both against Scola, one offensive, one defensive) but seemed to be getting really upset that calls weren’t actually being made in his favor.  Love can play a really clean game of great basketball when he wants (and did so for large parts of this one–he was great in this win) but sometimes resorts to this bush league crap that is annoying to watch.

Miller Looking Back Door

Brad Miller threw 4 backdoor passes in 6 minutes of action.  He was whipping them off the catch without regard for anything.  Think this guy has played for Carrill Adelman before?  Coach has spoken recently about wanting to get his offense installed to lessen the burden on Rubio’s pick-and-roll sets.  Perhaps Miller has been assigned to expedite this process.  On one backdoor attempt that ended in a turnover, Beasley cut out instead of toward the hoop.  Miller looked upset, letting him know that an easy scoring opportunity was wasted.  If this team can add Princeton halfcourt offense to Everything Else Rubio… whoa.

The Rotation

If you remove Brad Miller and his six minutes of tick, Adelman’s Saturday rotation was of nine players; the number he has pointed out as being ideal.  The heavy lifters appear to be Rubio, Ridnour, Love and Pekovic.  Middle guys are Barea, Beasley, Webster, and Wes.  D-Thrill is a limited reserve.  Randolph is in street clothes, and Ellington and Tolliver don’t take off their sweats.

Bullets:

* J.J. was pretty awesome in this game with his one-man circus routine of buzzing around the halfcourt and eventually fooling five defenders into allowing him an open layup.

* Patrick Patterson will play many years in the league with that mid-range jumper he’s already mastered.

* Luke bounced back quickly from an ugly performance at New Jersey.  4-6 from downtown and 22 points. There are 10 or so minutes in each game that he and Barea will always fight for.

* Big Pek followed up his career night with an efficient 11 points and 9 rebounds with only 1 turnover.  If he becomes as consistent as he already is powerful, popular and cool, we’ve got ourselves a legitimate starter of an NBA center.

* Kevin Martin shot the ball horribly in this game.  He was 1 for 10 with 2 points in 31 minutes.  Basically, the exact opposite of his last Target Center performance.  Perhaps the non-Ellington defense (I can’t recall if it was Luke or Wes) was a factor.  This, as much as anything, explains the victory.

Season Record: 12-12

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An Adelman Hook: What went wrong for Beasley in the 2nd Half

The following is a bulleted outline, breaking down Beasley’s second-half meltdown last night that led to a quick yank and less than four minutes of playing time for the entire half.  My initial reaction was that Adelman pulled the hook too early, and let Beasley get cold on the bench for way too long to start the half.

  • 78-71 Wolves: 1:27 to go in 3rd Quarter, Beasley checks into game for first time in the period.
  • Nets
    • Farmar hits jumpshot
      • Beasley is guarding Keith Bogans, isn’t involved in this play.
  • Wolves
    • Beasley catches pass, passes back.  It’s returned to him in a bad spot in the corner, he’s doubled, ball is knocked out of bounds by defense.
    • Ridnour turns ball over when he jumps to pass and pass isn’t there.
  • Nets
    • Beasley guarding Bogans on wing, Farmar drives Beasley shades to middle.  Farmar kicks out to Bogans who shoots three.  Beasley leaps toward Bogans on close-out, Bogans misses shot, Wolves rebound.
  • Wolves
    • Beasley is in corner.  Barea drives, forces shot.  Misses shot, Love rebounds and converts shot.
  • Nets
    • Farmar drives, Ridnour commits blocking foul.
    • Beasley defends Bogans in corner, when guard penetrates toward Beasley’s side, Bogans cuts backdoor.  Beasley loses sight of his man, Bogans catches pass, misses contested layup.  Scrum ensues, Nets eventually score on basket in the paint.
  • Wolves
    • On final possession of quarter, Luke and Love unsuccessfully attempt a post up.  Quarter ends with desperation miss by Love at buzzer.
  • 4th Quarter
  • Wolves
    • Love has ball above high post, Beasley comes off of screen to catch and shoot from 16 feet.  He changes his mind in mid air (appears to see an open Wolf, but it isn’t there) and turns ball over.  The shot would have been there, had he just taken it.
  • Nets
    • Morrow is defended by Beasley.  Sets him up for a good down screen, Beasley doesn’t do a great job of being ready for this.  By the time he comes around the screen, Morrow is shooting.  Beasley leaps at him and hits his arm, Morrow makes the shot, falls to the ground and Beasley is whistled for the foul.  Three-point play.
  • Wolves
    • Beasley positioned in corner.  Rubio dangles around and eventually sets up Pekovic for a close shot.  Pek is fouled and goes to the line.
  • Nets
    • Beasley defending Shawne Williams.  Farmar has the ball on the wing and Williams sets a ball screen.  Beasley gives a half-show and floats back toward Williams, who popped to the corner.  Farmar flips the ball back to Williams who shoots the three in rhythm.  Beasley is not all the way out to contest the shot well.  Williams makes the shot.  Williams is shooting 26.5 percent from 3 this season, but 34.2 percent for his career.
  • Wolves
    • Love posts up, Beasley is in the way at first.  Beasley clears out to the corner, Love is passed the ball and converts a nice jump hook.
  • Nets
    • Beasley defending Williams who is in the corner, opposite the ball.  Beasley is in proper help position, just outside the paint on the weak side.  Shot goes up and Beasley waits for it.  Williams rushes in from the three line as Beasley is reaching up for the rebound.  Williams slaps at the ball and knocks it loose.  Basket is converted.
  • Wolves
    • Beasley posts up on the mid post.  Rubio passes it to him, and Beasley is immediately fouled by Williams on the pass.
  • 9:57 remaining in the 4th Quarter.  Wolves lead 84-83.  Wesley Johnson substitutes Michael Beasley.

CONCLUSIONS

  • Playing Time: 3:30
  • Stats: 0 points or shots, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 turnover
  • Defense: 1 missed blockout, 1 time burned backdoor, 1 stupid foul and mediocre defense on Morrow shot, 1 time surrendered a pick-and-pop three to a 26.5 percent shooter, 1 time contested three attempt by Bogans with shot missed.
  • My Opinions: Watching it again, he had a string of successful plays against him, some with more culpability than others.  I’m fine with the decision to yank him if that’s Adelman’s way.  I guess I am more puzzled by him sitting out 10:33 after halftime when he had such a productive first half.  The lead was already slipping some with Mike on the bench (from 11 down to 7) and he probably sat too long.  Also, the player who came in for Mike (Wes) made many mistakes, most notably fouling a three-point shooter when his team was up by 5.  Of course, that shot went in.  I hope things go better for Mike tonight, and he learns to be more focused defensively.  So it goes.

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A Serbian Nightmare (Wolves 108, NETS 105)

The Godfather

6:48, Andy G: So, Darko and Wes start again.  Both playing like crap again.  Wolves fall behind early. What gives?
7:08, Patrick J: One quarter in the books. Wolves up 23-19. ANOTHER bad start. Coincidence? This is hard to watch. Quick, does anyone have a good Kris Humphries joke?
7:15, Andy G: Barea and Beasley give a huge spark off the bench, just like last game.  I hope each gets more tick tonight than they did versus Indiana.
7:20, Patrick J: (Eds. note: Derrick Williams with a huge tomahawk with 5:58 in the 2nd). How much more athletic is the Derrick Williams we have than the Derrick Williams we thought we were getting when we drafted him? God this guy can cram.
7:28, Andy G: This Rubio-Ridnour backcourt is looking pretty horrific, tonight.  Now Webster joins them and body slams D-Will for a turnover.  The bench is way-outplaying the starting lineup so far.
7:32, Andy G: If K-Hump & Shelden become a PROBLEM, I’m going to be pissed.  It’s looking like a real possibility in first half.
7:36, Andy G: Rubio finishing half well, assists a Webster trey, finds Tolliver for dunk attempt/fouled.
7:38, Patrick J: The Wolves consistently get DESTROYED by shooters like ANTHONY MORROW. 20 pts in the first half and it looked like a breeze. Wayne Ellington is already salivating about the NUMB#RS he’ll have against the Wolves with his next team. 50-49 Nets at the half.
7:43, Andy G: I’m going to (slightly) disagree.  Morrow hit at least two 3′s with a hand RIGHT in his face (once Luke, once Martell).  But 20 points is a ton.  The dish from D-Will (between legs, backwards) was also pretty much set up by an elite point guard.
7:47, Patrick J: As long as you’re not disagreeing with my point about Wayne…
7:49, Patrick J: (Eds. note: Still halftime) I’m going to burn a Kurt Rambis doll in effigy if Adelman doesn’t give the Barea/Beasley/Pekovic group more time in the second half. They  gave a HUGE spark off the bench in the first half.
7:53, Andy G: By the way, what’s up with Kevlar?  6 points on 1-6 shooting, and a (-8)?  He should be able to beat up on this Jersey Shore front line.

7:57, Patrick J: Pekovic starts the 2nd half. My Rambis doll is safe for now.

8:01, Andy G: In a short sequence, Rubio picked Deron’s pocket and assisted Wes TWICE (no small feat).  What a baller.
8:02, Patrick J: Nets announcer: “They might lead the NBA in beards” (referring to the Wolves). Shows side-by-side mug shot pics of Love and Brad Miller while Pekovic is busy scoring inside. Doesn’t seem amused. 59-58 Nets with 7:15 in the 3rd.
8:06, Patrick J: Rubio with the sickest handling trick I’ve seen this season. You’ll want to watch SportsCenter, like, now.
8:09, Patrick J: Okay, Pekovic is outclassing Love. (Insert “Apocalypse” cliche here.) Pek has 17/8 and Love 10/5 with 3:26 left in the 3rd.
8:14, Andy G: Nets with an UNSPEAKABLY-BAD second unit leading comeback charge.  Where the fuck is Michael Beasley?  (See first half line of 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in 12 minutes of action.)  Has been sitting almost entire 3rd Quarter, now…
8:24, Patrick J: The Godfather has 21/10. Wolves up 84-83 with 10:02 in 4th. (Eds. note: Beasley’s FINALLY back on the floor after a painfully long absence. Thanks Rick!)
8:27, Patrick J: Nine minutes to go. Morrow’s 31 beat Pek’s 21. NOT a moral victory.
8:33, Andy G: After a couple of mistakes that followed a RIDICULOUSLY-long stretch on the pine, Beasley is quickly yanked.  I GUARANTEE that this has something to do with an unknown, off-game court event.  Mike outplayed all of his teammates, save Pek, in the first half, and gets this treatment?  I hope it’s nothing too serious with the coaching staff and higher ups.
9:32, Patrick J: Wes flails awkwardly on a contested miss from just inside the foul line. Having to write about Wes like this every day makes think I’m having a really long, nerdy, nightmare. ‘Cause in real life Wes would be over with Anthony Randolph, right? Right?
8:38, Patrick J: Tied at 89 with 5:39 to go. About to enter #winningtime.
8:41, Andy G: Rubio & Love exchanging clutch baskets with Morrow (!!!)… close game.  Should be exciting finish.  (Seriously, Morrow has 35 points and might hit 40 soon… was he one of those Rambis Targets that killed us last year or the year before?)
8:42, Patrick J: Nets announcer: “Anthony Morrow can do no wrong.” Nightmare hypothesis confirmed. 95-95 with 2:38 in 4th.
8:45, Patrick J: Morrow’s in a “Shitty Player, Wolves Killer” category that includes C.J. WATSON, REGGIE WILLIAMS, RYAN ANDERSON (okay, Anderson’s actually really good).
8:46, Patrick J: Nets announcer: “ANTHONY MORROW IS UNCONSCIOUS!” (I’m starting to worry I’ll never wake up.) Back to the announcer: this guy clearly came up listening to Kevin Harlan.
8:57, Andy G: A barrage of Rubio-Love-Pekovic led action has the Wolves winning this game.
8:57, Andy G: Okay, ANTHONY MORROW just hit a 3… AND GOT FOULED!!!!!!  41 Points!!!!! WTF?!?! Wolves lead by 1 with 23 seconds left.  A victory was in hand, now very much in doubt.
9:00, Patrick J: My League Pass Broadband cut out for a minute. When it came back to life, Morrow was finishing a 4-point play. Yeah.
9:02, Patrick J: Barea makes two throw with 18.2 left. Wolves 106, Nets 103.
9:05, Andy G: Game over, Rubio seals the win with a steal and Seve-like wedge shot just passed mid court with some backspin.  A few parting thoughts:
* The Beasley benching was a little weird.  Then again, once Rubio-Love-Pek got it going, perhaps Adelman thought Beasley wasn’t needed.  But why then play Luke at the 2, who isn’t so good on defense?  Strange stuff.
* If a guy like Anthony Morrow is going off, should the Wolves abandon defensive principles and stick to him (the way, say, Ray Allen is guarded) or assume the HOT HAND THEORY doesn’t exist and defend as usual?  Good question.  I don’t know the answer.
* Rubio and Love played extremely hard, and extremely in sync in the 4th Quarter of this game.  Big Pek dominated quarters 1 through 3, but Rubio-Love took this home.  That late possession when Morrow put them up 3 (with another 3) and Rubio quickly answered it with a driving basket… that was a sign that Ricky was not letting this one go easy.
* A road win is a good win.
PARTING SHOTS, REDUX (Patrick J)
* Weird, weird win.  Love was off most of the night; Pek and Morrow were the stories. This permutation of events is unlikely ever to occur again. Those who tuned in witnessed history.
* That said, it was largely difficult to watch. The Pek sideshow is funny but I don’t like that fans are beginning to think he’s a solution at the 5. Dude’s a backup.
* Can we get some more Mike Beasley? Or some Derrick Williams? I won’t say anything else because it’s already in every other post we put up.
* Darko sat, and so did Wayne. If I’m going to criticize Adelman’s playing time allocations, he also gets credit where credit’s due.
Season Record: 11-12

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Pacing the Competition (Pacers 109, WOLVES 99)

So, the Wolves lost last night to the Pacers 109-99 (box score). What did we learn? For one thing, the Pacers are good. Really good. Maybe the 3rd best team in the East, depending on what you think about the Sixers, Hawks, and Magic. A lot of words have been typed about the Sixers resurgence, and while they’re playing great, I like Indiana better from top to bottom. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses, they play hard, and their pieces fit together nicely. They were 14-6 coming into last night’s game, but the buzz around the game made it feel like the Wolves should be the favorite. The bad loss was a painful reality check that should  remind the Wolves that progress does not a good team make.

A few bullets:

* The Wolves throw away minutes when they start Wes and Darko. Both started; each played 18 minutes.  Wes went 2-6 with 2 turnovers and a (-12). Darko was 2-9 with 2 turnovers and a (-15).  Yes, +/- is a slippery metric for single-game performance. But look at their season stats. They’re entirely consistent with both the horrendous efforts we saw last night and what we’ve seen with our own eyes all season. Adelman must see it too, right? A combined 4 for 15 with 4 turnovers and (-27) is hardly an uncommon line for these two. Playing either of them, let alone both, is really hurting the team.

* More Wes/Darko: It’s even more frustrating and confounding that they got those minutes last night since Adelman had a fuller squad at his disposal. I get that Hibbert and Granger/George look like matchup problems for Pek/AR and Beasley/Williams, respectively. But all three of those Pacers pretty much did what they want against Darko and Wes. Why not counter with Williams and Beasley and initiate matchup problems for IND? Last night was a tactical #fail for Adelman, his first and hopefully last of the season.

* Speaking of Paul George: He MIGHT be better than Wes. PG ended up in foul trouble, but when he was out there… whoa. He did it all. For starters, he defended Rubio as well as anyone this season; he also hit an impressive variety of shots, going 4-6 on fadeaways, threes, drives, etc. You name it, it’s in George’s arsenal. But that’s not all: George rebounds and can block shots too. For the night, he was +14 in just 19 minutes of action.

* The Pacers: I don’t want this to turn into a “__________ are so good” sort of discussion that was so common the last few seasons, when every Wolves drumming left us feeling like our opponent was just THAT GOOD… but as I said at the top of the post, the Pacers are pretty damn good. Granger won’t always light it up on this scale–he went for 36–but his 9-19 shooting wasn’t way outside his norm either.  Granger made some perimeter shots, carved up the Wolves D, and drew all kinds of fouls in the process.

* The Pacers got momentum after Granger picked up a tech in the third for a pushing match with Love.  The two took it outside, 21st century style–which of course involves Twitter. Love dissed Indy in the post-game interviews, and Danny took it to Twitter. They may be questioning each other’s MASCULINITY through SMS as I write this.

* Roy Hibbert: He’s really good. Hibbert scored easily on Darko (6-9 for 15 points) and showed off a variety of nice moves with his back to the basket. For a 7’2″ player, Hibbert has good footwork and surprising athleticism.  In a league largely devoid of star post players, Hibbert could make an All-Star team before he’s done.

What were your takeaways from this one?

Wolves record: 10-12

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by | February 2, 2012 · 11:56 AM

The Big 3 (Wolves 120, ROCKETS 108)

The early season narrative for the TWolves has been that Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are amazing players who need some help.  Other starting players, most notably Wesley Johnson and Darko Milicic, have failed to provide meaningful production or consistent play that breeds any confidence in the two stars’ supporting cast.

Michael Beasley led last year’s team in scoring per minute (21.4 per 36; 19.2 per game) but didn’t make himself many fans after ankle sprains on each leg derailed what looked like a promising season.  In 73 games, he surpassed 30 points 8 times, and 40 points once.  But the way he scored those points, often isolation sets with some ball-stoppage, isn’t popular or always fun to watch.  Also, and much more significantly if we’re being fair, his defense was often times lazy and always incoherent.  A plausible retort to this would be that he was simply “joining the club” of Rambis-coached wings who had no idea how to rotate defensively.  Beasley had serious flaws to be addressed if he were going to be an impact player on an up-and-coming team led by Rubio and Love.

This season, some fans and analysts expected a breakout year from Supercool Mike, both because of Rubio’s playmaking but more so because Rick Adelman would devise schemes to get him the ball closer to the hoop.  A problem with the Rambis triangle was that it often resorted to clearing out for Mike 24 feet from the basket for everyone else to stand and watch.  This wasn’t good for Mike’s efficiency or the Timberwolves win/loss record.  In the early going this year, he showed flashes of improved play.  His defense was been better.  Night and day.  He’s played respectable defense on LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and even Kobe Bryant.  If you watched Wellington try to guard Kevin Martin (or if you remember the days of Shaddy McCants trying to defend Baron Davis or LBJ) you’ve seen an outmatched defender in a Wolves uniform. This is not Michael Beasley.  If he’s focused and coached, he’s an adequate-or-better defensive wing.  His shot was colder than we’ve ever seen it in the early going.  He put together stinkers of 11-27, 2-6, 5-16, and 4-12 before spraining his foot and missing the next 11 games.  It should be noted that the Wolves were probably playing their best basketball in that early going against a brutal schedule.  They trounced the Spurs and Mavs (with Dirk, unlike the second time they beat them without Mike) and held late-game leads on title-favorites OKC and Miami.  But Mike needed his shot to fall like it used to before things could really take off for he and the team.

Of course, the schedule weakened right around the time of the injury and the team ripped off an 11-game stretch of over-.500 basketball, going 6-5.  THEY’RE BETTER WITHOUT BEASLEY!  LOOK AT THE BALL MOVEMENT!  Only, if you watched the Toronto or Atlanta games, you saw what happened against a respectable foe when the game slowed down and shot creating became a necessity.  The Wolves have exactly one shot creator on the team, and he was sidelined for those games.  You might also look at those 6 wins and notice that they came against either garbage competition (Wizards, Hornets, Kings, Pistons) or good teams that were without future Hall of Famers (Clippers without Chris Paul, Mavericks without Dirk Nowitzki).  The record was inflated by an easy schedule.  Despite what some desperately wanted to believe, the team was NOT better without its best scorer.

Fast forward to tonight’s game at Houston.  The Rockets (who recently spanked the Mike-less Wolves at Target Center) held a mighty 9-2 home record heading into this game.  Minnesota had no rest, traveling overnight into Houston after a hard-fought loss against LA.  Houston rested last night in their beds at home.  This was not a game the Wolves should have won.

Oh, but they did win, and they pummeled the Rockets behind Mike Beasley’s 34 points on 14 shots.  Mike had his jumper going, his dribble penetration game going, and he was getting to the line where he hit all 12 attempts.  His monster scoring performance led the way in this one, increasing the lead throughout the second half.  The Ricky & Love show became a Minnesota Big 3, as Rubio damn-near f’d around and got a triple double (18 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds) and Love added 29 & 7 of his own.

Is Mike going to score like this every night?  Of course not.  But he will some nights, and on those nights Minnesota will be almost unbeatable.  When he’s clanking shot after shot?  Sit him down, or watch Kevin Love collect rebounds.  Beasley draws extra defenders, a skill that doesn’t show up in a box score but is essential to consistently-successful offense in the NBA.  He also complements the team’s best players by adding a skill that neither possesses: a dominant one-on-one game that will foul out opponents, allow teammates to get some rest on offense, and challenge opposing coaches into lineup decisions they might not prefer.

I hope this isn’t a one-game fluke, and an amazing coach like Adelman can draw as much of Beasley’s natural talent as is possible.  He’s a restricted free agent this off-season and the forward duo lauded by John Hollinger last year could be really something, especially with the Spanish floor general leading the way.

Some additional thoughts:

* Martell Webster’s feisty defense in the second quarter turned the game.  He plays D on a slightly-different level than his teammates.  Watch a Memphis Grizzlies game for comparable effort and approach.  This is an asset, for sure, especially from a guy that the team can afford to get in foul trouble (because he will, if he plays this way).  Webster should be the starting shooting guard very soon.  Let’s all hope his back stays healthy.  No more of these.

* Derrick Williams is frozen out of the rotation.  TRADE DERRICK WILLIAMS will become a common meme.  That could be wise, depending on the deal, but let’s not lose sight of the talent here, and how similarly-awesome college players with talent took their licks en route to NBA improvement.  James Harden and Evan Turner took time to adjust, as Williams will.  Biggest reasons for NOT trading him:  (1) He’s on the rookie scale; and (2) He’s insurance against Love getting injured or Love bolting after 3 years.  If he continues to improve as a power forward, and he will, those are not insignificant factors.  A shooting guard can be signed in free agency this off-season, if need be.

* Kyle Lowry versus Ricky Rubio could be an All-Star debate in the next few years.  Lowry bested him at Target Center, and Ricky took this match.  Very different players.  Very good players.

Season Record: 10-11

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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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Spurred to Victory (WOLVES 87, Spurs 79)

The Wolves continued their strong play against Texas this season (*ahem*, Houston–I know) with an 87-79 victory over the San Antonio at Target Center. Love had a workman-like 18 & 16, while Rubio put up 18 & 10 on 7-12 from the floor.

The Wolves were the better team tonight. It showed. They owned it. It was the first game this season against against an upper-tier team where the players knew it was theirs to lose. And they won.

Andy G captured it best in a POST-GAME TWEET.

Yes, there was sloppy play, unforced errors, and plenty of potentially costly mistakes, but the Wolves finally looked and played like they were vets who had been there before, like they knew they had the situation handled. Their calm, cool, confidence, combined with execution when they needed it, that put Duncan & co. away and sealed the deal for the Pups.

***

A few quick thoughts:

  • CORRELATION OR CAUSATION: Darko was out, Pek played like the legit NBA big we were expecting when we drafted him, and the Love/Pek duo gave Duncan/Splitter/Blair fits on the glass. Seriously, Pek has been showing signs recently–signs of doing things we’d all written off. Small sample, for sure, but is this guy finally coming around? What should the rotations look like if he is?
  • It was great to see Mike Beasley back on the court. I’m an unapologetic Beasley fan who really believes Mike will help this team once he settles into Adelman’s system. That wasn’t happening from the bench. Beasley only shot 3-11 and definitely showed some rust, but he looked healthy and attacked the basket hard. We can’t get enough of that from him and Derrick Williams, both of whom will start getting more calls as the team wins more and begins to earn respect around the league.
  • It was great to see Martell Webster back on the court. I wish I could be as optimistic about Webster as I am about Beasley, but he just doesn’t look healthy. Back injuries tend to linger, and they really hinder lateral mobility. Case in point, Martell’s gimpy jog around the perimeter didn’t inspire confidence. He has, er, unique hair and he stuck a nice trey with a hand in his face during his brief run tonight, but I’ll be surprised if he’ll be healthy enough to take Wes Johnson’s minutes at any point this season. Here’s hoping I’m wrong on this one.

That’s all for now folks. It’s Friday night and I’m gonna go get my fun on.

Season Record: 9-10

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Jazz Hands (JAZZ 108, Wolves 98)

Ricky and Big Al (Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Andy G and I LIVE BLOGGED last night’s game against the Jazz. Except IT’S NOT live, technically, because we’re posting our immediate reactions now–over 12-hours later.

Sort of like the game itself, it is what it is. Candid reactions below.

***

Andy G, 9:13 PM: First possession, Darko swishes a hook. Guy’s a star!

Patrick J, 9:18 PM: Tuning in with 9:02 in the 1st. Rubio clanks another one. Must be waiting for #winningtime.

Andy G, 9:19 PM: Wolves relying on their stars early. Wes and Darko carrying the load.

Patrick J, 9:24 PM: Is it just me, or is there EXACTLY one-third of the overall intensity of the last night’s 1st quarter. (I get that it’s the second night of a back-to-back and there’s potential for a letdown after last night. But still.)

Patrick J, 9:27 PM: Is Utah’s play-by-play guy calling the color guy “Booner” or “Boner”?

Andy G, 9:31 PM: Not sure — Big Al kicking some ass early, eh? What did we get for him again?

Andy G, 9:33 PM: Better Derrick: Williams or Favors? In three years?

Patrick J, 9:36 PM: Williams will be the better Derrick. Both currently look worse than they would on MOST other teams.

Andy G, 9:40 PM: How many Rubio assists can Pekovic fuck up?

Patrick J, 9:41 PM: Probably fewer than 8, but only because he plays limited minutes. What’s up with the FORM on Millsap’s fadeaway? Uh-oh. Anus Kanter’s getting warm!

Andy G, 9:44 PM: Not sure re: MILLSAP, but he’s a pretty damn nice player. C.J. Miles hit some bombs there in Williams’ grill. Hope that doesn’t discourage the rook.

Patrick J, 9:49 PM: Nah, that’s just what C.J. Miles does. FOR THE RECORD: Has David Stern ever verified that C.J. Miles and Lou Williams AREN’T the same person?

Andy G, 9:57 PM: Derrick Williams needs to play AT LEAST 25 minutes in every game. Leaving him on the bench is leaving PRODUCTION on the bench. And highlight dunks.

Patrick J, 10:01 PM: Couldn’t agree more. I’m glad Adelman is staying with him.

Eds: Derrick Williams goes *really* high for an alley-oop dunk from Rubio.

Jazz announcer: “That’s JEREMY EVANS height right there.”

Patrick J, 10:01 PM: “Who the fuck is Jeremy Evans?

Andy G, 10:07 PM: He’s this guy.

Andy G, 10:07 PM: What do you think of that first half? Jazz hit a lot of jump shots. Wolves played better basketball. Refs are calling lots of fouls. Wes Johnson (gasp) played well. Rubio was awesome. Your thoughts?

Patrick J, 10:14 PM: Williams needs to play more minutes. He’s made adjustments after struggling for a few games and is now filling key needs. He looks confident and that the most important thing.

Patrick J, 10:14 PM: Rubio was awesome.

Patrick J, 10:14 PM:Interior defense is difficult with Darko out and Pek being Pek against a STACKED Jazz front line.

Patrick J, 10:14 PM: Earl Watson is wily, but he shouldn’t be able to control the flow like he did in the first half.

Andy G, 10:29 PM: Love can’t take Millsap one-on-one, but he refuses to stop trying and then flails his arms in the air and asks for a foul. It’s annoying, ineffective, and it’s ruining any offensive flow. He also just got T’d up.

Andy G, 10: 30 PM: Why don’t they pair Rubio with D-Thrill or Randolph? His awesome passes are largely wasted by the other bigs when they get their shit stuffed time after time.

Patrick J, 10:32 PM: Millsap is deceptive in a lot of ways. Love seems to think he can beat him one-on-one, but this is incorrect. And Millsap looks like he shouldn’t be able to score at will, but he can.
Utah is leading 70-62 with 6:38 left in the 3rd. It’s time to start something or we’re going to be in trouble.

Andy G, 10:36 PM: I’m SHOCKED that Derrick Williams came in and turned the momentum. (SARCASM!)

Patrick J, 10:42 PM: Me too. We’ve only been calling for him to play a bigger role since, oh, when–the Hawks game?! Wtf? He’s our best offensive player when Mike Beasley is out…

Patrick J, 10:42 PM: Dude, Corey Brewer was meant to be a Jazz-man. He WILL play for Utah before he’s finished.

Andy G, 10:45 PM: Lots of fouling (still). Really killing the flow for both teams. Not a pretty game.

Patrick J, 10:47 PM: Yep, #turrible. I thought KEN MAUER JR officiated LAST NIGHT’S game…

Patrick J, 10:48 PM: Who’s going to take this game over during #winningtime?

Andy G, 10:48 PM: Should be Rubio. I expect it to be Jefferson or Millsap.

Eds note: Derrick Williams is again scoring EFFICIENTLY when Adelman plays him.

Andy G, 10:48 PM: I’ll ask again: How good is D. Williams? Only player on the team in the plus column. (+6)

Patrick J, 10:54 PM: Thrill has been a difference-maker ALL NIGHT. Just like he should be. What happened to this guy before the Clips game? Was it R. ADELMAN, J. SIKMA, or R.J. ADELMAN? Or did Thrill figure it out all by himself?

Andy G, 11:00 PM: None of the above: BILLY BAYNO!!!

Andy G, 11:01 PM: It feels like work, watching this game.

Andy G: 11:02: Can Adelman PLEASE get Rubio back in so there’s a CHANCE we come back and win? (Utah 93, Wolves 87, 8:03 remaining)

Andy G, 11:03 PM: Love just tried to take Millsap one-on-one. Again. It ended in disaster. Again. Is this new scoring thing getting to his head? He’s not playing intelligently.

Patrick J, 11:06 PM: When he started popping off those 30+ games at the beginning of the year, I was worried it would. Maybe it is. K-Love needs to shoot off kicks, not off the dribble.

Eds.: The Jazz just won 108-98.

Andy G, 11:11 PM: Re Love: Hopefully it will work itself out. Millsap and Jefferson just killed him tonight. The Wolves played better when Williams was on the floor. I wouldn’t have guessed he’d be the reason we lost this game, but you could argue that’s exactly right.

Patrick J, 11:15 PM: Re Love: All I know is that 5/16 (Clippers game) and 5/21 (Utah game) is NOT SATISFACTORY for a player whose reputation is built around EFFICIENCY. Here’s hoping this is just a SAMPLE SIZE BLIP.

Andy G, 11:22 PM: Love probably spoiled us a bit by playing OVER HIS HEAD for a couple weeks early on. I’d like to see this team get back to the offense it was playing then. Beasley’s return will help, as will more tick for D-Thrill. Love is at his best when he’s a second or third option jump shooter and rebounding specialist. His NUMB#RS are better and his impact is more significant.

Positive takeaway from tonight: BOTH rookies looked pretty awesome in a tough environment for youngsters.

Houston on Monday Night. McHale’s Revenge! Adelman’s Revenge! Should be fun, looking forward to seeing that one.

Until then.

Season Record: 7-9

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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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An Open Letter to Wesley Johnson

Dear Wes,

With the announcement that J.J. Barea will not play (pulled hamstring, likely to return on Sunday versus Dallas) in tonight’s game versus the Miami Heat (7:00 CST, Target Center), I wanted to take this bit of time to write a letter, in (deluded) hopes that you’ll read it and apply three basic tactics to tonight’s game and every other performance in the future.  You may already know this, but Timberwolves fans have largely written you off as a draft-day bust. Despite being drafted fourth overall, you’ve set yourself on a performance track that will send you to Europe (if you’re lucky) within a year or two.

I held strong as an APOLOGIST of yours for over sixty games last season. But your lack of improvement and inability to do anything with the ball in your hands eventually wore even me out. J.J. Barea now looks like the team’s best backcourt player. He has a resume’ that includes impacting the NBA Finals from the shooting guard position.  BUT– J.J. isn’t playing tonight, so there’s no better team for you to showcase talents (that you were supposed to have when you were drafted) than the Miami Heat.

The three keys:

1) Focus on defense.  Entirely.  Many, perhaps most, NBA players are heavily-geared toward one side of the floor.  What made Michael and Scottie special was that they were the best at both ends.  That isn’t you, and it never will be.  Join the masses of NBA rotation players who specialize in things.  It just so happens that you find yourself on a team in desperate need of help on this end of the floor, particularly a player with the (potential) versatility that your LONG AND ATHLETIC frame allows.  Think about tonight’s game: the Heat have the best shooting guard and small forward/player in the world.  You may very-well defend both of them, at different moments.  If you focus 90 percent of your mental and physical energy on defensive tasks, you just might help your team and show your fans and coaches something they’ve been waiting to see: upper-level perimeter defense.

2) Run the floor.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that you’re now surrounded by teammates that can create easy baskets for others.  When a shot goes up, and you see that Kevin Love has or will soon have the rebound, take off running.  Fans can all agree that you’re a wonderful dunker of the basketball, and K-Love outlets are a great way to get one or two of these easy buckets.  ALSO– you may have noticed the Spanish point guard on your team who seems nothing short of obsessed with creating dunks for his ‘mates.  Take advantage of this!  Everyone else is doing it, and if you don’t join in soon you’ll get left behind or traded to Detroit.

3) Use a triple-threat position.  Now we’re getting technical, but no worries: this is something many are taught in the junior-high ranks.  I have no doubt that you can master the art of holding the basketball in a way that threatens the defense with a pass, shot, or dribble.  Let’s begin with what you usually do when you catch a pass on the wing.  Many times, you’ve got a move made up in your mind before you catch a pass.  Depending on the player and the level of competition, that can be okay.  But for your purposes, let’s not do that.  To adopt a cool quote from one of the coolest ballers in history, let’s instead mimick Earl the Pearl Monroe: “The thing is, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the ball, and if I don’t know, I’m quite sure the guy guarding me doesn’t know either.”  Just catch the ball with a freed mind, and use your instincts.  If there’s a defender in the viscinity, spread your feet and use a jab step.  DO NOT do what you often do, which is stand tall with your feet close together and your weight on your toes.  This leads to you leaning (the top half of your body, anyway) to one side, losing your balance, and either traveling, dribbling off your foot, or heaving up an errant shot.  I can’t tell you how easy it would be to defend these plays when you show your hand the instant you catch the pass.  Ask Rob Pelinka to send over as many Kobe tapes as he has in his archives.  Kobe’s the best in the world at the triple-threat.  You need the ball either swinging through in a way that threatens a shot or drive, or held lower (like Michael Beasley often does–he’s good at this) in a way that seriously threatens the dribble.  A rocker-step move would do wonders for your game, but just holding the ball correctly would set you on the right path.  Maybe one day you’ll bust out some moves like The Pearl and wonder how any of it happened.

Good luck out there tonight,

Andy

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