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.
First things first: How did they do at replacing Kevin Love?
Well, rookie Derrick Williams started the game at the 4, logging 26 minutes of playing time. The self-described “caged lion” was unleashed in moderation. With those minutes the rook put up a respectable 14 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 blocks and 0 turnovers. He had the crowd roaring with a three-pointer that broke a tie with a minute to go. The only blemish on his stat line is the 3-8 performance at the charity stripe. His free-throw shooting (64.4 percent) absolutely needs to improve. As the refs begin to give him the respect that his game deserves, he’ll spend a lot of time at the line.
Second things second: How did they replace the rebounding? Well, as a team they outrebounded the Kings 49-48. Mike Beasley had 14 rebounds of his own, and Big Pek pulled down 10, 3 on the offensive glass. (Pek was great throughout, by the way, with an uber-efficient 23 points to go along with the boards.) For one game against a bad team, they managed to survive on the glass. It didn’t hurt that DMC was in foul trouble throughout (more on this immediately below) and only played 25 minutes on this night.
Cousins & Refs
I am the furthest thing from a DeMarcus Cousins Apologist. BUT– he gets fouled all the time and rarely gets a whistle. Wolves fans this year have (finally) seen what it’s like to have their star post player get whistles every time that there’s contact near the basket and the ball goes flying. This happens frequently to Cousins, due to his physical style and athletic moves. Refs choke on their whistles, DMC gets pissed off, and the cycle repeats itself. ALSO– Cousins gets called for little touch fouls that he would never get if the situations were reversed.
One thing that really bothers me (and many fans) about the NBA is the inconsistent officiating. Derrick Williams doesn’t seem to get the calls that he should, but some of that is probably due to being a rookie. (Why should rookies not get the same calls others get, though?) But with Cousins, it’s really egregious and one can’t help but think refs have it out for the guy due to his (well-earned) reputation as a pouty, complaining, hothead. I feel for him, because his problems are only exacerbated by crappy and unfair calls.
Here’s something I can say with absolute certainty: A majority of Wolves fans dislike Michael Beasley’s offensive game. It’s obvious sitting in the crowd. It’s obvious talking to fans. It’s obvious following Wolves blogs.
But don’t blame Mike Beasley for the team going to him down the stretch of this game. Coming out of a timeout, they immediately set him up on the block on consecutive possessions. There is no way that this WASN’T a set play coming out of the huddle. This was Coach Adelman’s preferred strategy. Mike got decent looks and missed them. If you saw some of the other shots being attempted (when the ball wasn’t being turned over) in the 4th Quarter, you might have been like me in thinking that this was an okay option. If you were preoccupied with his shooting percentage, perhaps you were yelling at your TV screen. I can agree that the Wolves offense was frustrating to watch after the magical first quarter, but I won’t pin any inordinate blame on Beasley.
Not Luke’s Night
Luke is a solid player, but he’s really not two things: 1) a natural shooting guard, especially on defense; and 2) consistent. He was abused for stretches of this game by Marcus Thornton (team-high 22 points) and struggled to make shots and avoid bad turnovers on offense. His (-6) is indicative of his struggles in this game. He was awesome against the Rockets the other night–things can really change from game to game for Luke.
Wolves hop on the plane and head to Memphis for what promises to be a struggle tomorrow night against a solid Grizzlies team. Memphis is still without Z-Bo and has lost 7 of its last 10 games. But they hound the hell out of the basketball on defense, and will have extra energy, not having played tonight. The efficiency of Beasley (on field goals) and Williams (on free throws) will need to improve overnight for the Wolves to take this game.
If you’re an all-around hoops fan, you might prefer to watch Duke-Carolina on ESPN at 8:00 CST. It’s one of the few college games–particularly with Vitale calling the action–that is better entertainment than the pro game. I plan to flip back and forth between this and Wolves-Grizz.
Season Record: 13-12