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
13 responses to “A Loveless Victory (WOLVES 86, Kings 84)”
@Andy G: Good rundown. My only quibble is a sin of omission, not of commission: what’s up with Martell Webster’s minutes? This picks up on our earlier discussion today with EiM. I had the volume off during part of the telecast so I might have missed some commentary on this, but one thing most Wolves fans could probably agree on is that Martell should be playing some/all of Johnson’s minutes if he’s healthy…
Good call — I was at the game, also away from any color commentary, so I never heard if this was injury-related or whether Adelman just prefers Johnson.
Also on the omission front, I probably should have made mention of Ricky and his 5 steals. His defense is a pretty unbelievable strength.
Random Post Game Thoughts
1. I’m not sure what to make of Derrick Williams’ game. The Athleticism, Defensive Potential and ability to take the ball to the Hole. The shooting just seems broken. I’m thinking in three years from now he’s either an All-Star or another in the long line of Wolves Related Enigmas (Beasley, Randolph) that you’re not sure what to make of them.
2. As far as Wes goes. My thought is Adelman believes some sort of upside is still there. Although you can survive with Wes in a limited enough offensive role on a team somewhat like Darko.
3. The total game didn’t impress me a ton. The .40/.28/.64 Shooting Line against a Kings Team that is a far from a Defensive Stalwart isn’t too impressive. I realize this things can be quite streaky. But this team seems really inconsistent on the Offensive End looking at times (1st Quarter-last night, 1st Half against Houston at Home, 3rd Quarter against Houston on the Road) like an elite-ball movement where as at other times descending into the mess we saw the last three quarters especially in the fourth last night.
The unit with Luke, JJ, Beasley, Tolliver, and Miller seemed to REALLY struggle to get good shots. The best options were JJ trying to draw fouls by dribbling all over and eventually going in the paint, or Beasley isolations. Tolliver is in some kind of funk on offense, and Miller is just pretty limited at his game. Luke is what he is–doesn’t create for others but can get very hot jumpshooting.
The lineups with Rubio and Pekovic seemed to generate better scoring opportunities. Ricky could have had more like 16 or 17 assists had some easy shots been converted.
I know with the shortened season and limited training camp that Adelman has had to mix and match lineups to see what he has, but he confuses me sometimes. If Beas of Wes of D-Will aren’t getting it going, where’s Martell or Randolph for 8-10 minutes. It has worked in a couple other games when the offense is as stagnant as it was in the 2nd half last night to put some of these other guys in there for a spark. As long as you keep Ricky on the floor with them to control the offense you can get some nice production. I just wonder if Adelman really doesn’t see this team making the playoffs and is really just trying to mesh things for the future. With the crazy mix of lineups from night to night, it sometimes seems like the role players are constantly auditioning for a spot on next years roster.
On a side note, if we do want to make the playoffs, we need a scorer from the 2 guard position, a trade is needed.
I agree that Randolph has seemed to spark the team in some big moments off the bench. What I would guess is that Adelman places a consistent and tight rotation ahead of tinkering within each game. I can’t say I have a huge problem with that, even if he has been playing certain guys (Wes) over others that I would choose based on what I know from watching only the games.
As far a shooting guard, there have been rumblings about J.R. Smith as a target, once he escapes from China. I hate some things about Smith, most notably how he carries himself on the court, but he would be a nice backcourt mate for Rubio in some ways (can catch and shoot–from approximately 40 feet out–and is as athletic of a wing as there is in the NBA).
I heard about J.R. as a possibility as well. And too be honest with the solid core group of guys that we have, I think the team could handle his personality issues given his talent level. The problem I see is our supposed strength of having depth on this team leads to issues with some guys just not getting enough minutes. I understand that with the injuries the lineup gets out of whack, but you’d like to see a tighter rotation night in and night out so guys get comfortable with their roles.
I guess that’s where I see moving a few parts to allow others to flourish. Similar approach to what Kahn did when he moved Big Al a few years back to allow K-Love to grow. Didn’t get a lot in return for Al, but got a pick and it was almost addition by subtraction. Same could be said for the Beasley’s and Johnson’s on this team. Get some needed value back and open up some spots for others to grow.
I’m really liking this team and this is honestly what I expected going into the year, a chance at sniffing .500 for a record. But we need to get a third option on offense, especially since Rubio isn’t a Derrick Rose or Westbrook type who can get you quick points by himself. Need a solid jump shooter taller than 6-2 that can handle the ball.
I think Webster is having some physical problems.
On the whole, i was pleased with Williams’ play. He’s a rookie, and thus has things to learn, but he did some things to help, scored a bit, defended the rim pretty well at times. There were things to like. I’m completely baffled by the terrible free throw shooting, but I assume he’ll start making them. If he continues to get to the line, I’ll be happy.
It was a pretty ugly game after the first quarter, but from a certain standpoint, there are things to like about tilts like this. Shooting is always going to vary from game to game. Winning when you aren’t hot is a good sign, and something they have done several times recently.
Pekovic won’t go for 20 every night, but what’s great about him is that he never takes a bad shot. As a result, even his quieter nights are like the Rockets game; 4-7 for 11 points. You aren’t going to suffer through many Darko-esque 2-11 nights it wouldn’t appear.
I do think that Adelman would like to limit his rotation to 9 guys. It seems to me that he’s best served by making it the 3 point guards, Love, Pekovic, Webster, Beasley, Williams and, I guess, AT. (Or AR, but Adelman doesn’t seem interested in that).
Good point about William’ interior D — he did a nice job of moving his feet and not biting for up fakes. The Kings as a whole were forced into a lot of bad shots (to be fair, so were the Wolves) and some of that had to do with the solid defense of both Wolves rookies.
I think I mentioned this in the CH game thread, but I am completely gobsmacked by how good Rubio is defensively. I watched a ton of Barca the past couple of seasons, so I knew he had pretty good defensive instincts, but this has been way beyond anything I expected.
The steals, the ability to draw offensive fouls, the intelligence, it’s all there almost every night. He just disrupts. Also, he’s remarkably good at staying in front of his guy, or at least staying in the play. I’ve made this point before, but nobody can consistently stay in front of most point guards in the NBA; the rules don’t permit it, the laws of physics don’t permit it. But Rubio does it as good as almost anyone. Everyone gets beat, but it seems like he really is capable of limiting it.
@Eric in Madison: I hadn’t seen Rubio much before this season, but I’d read a lot of reports about how great a defender he was. I figured he was probably a decent defender, but was receiving these raves as a type of compensation because other parts of his game looked less impressive than expected and his D was the only thing that stood out in positive way.
I’ve perhaps never been so glad I was wrong. Rubio’s been an incredible defender this year, and last night he took the defensive intensity to another level. It was nothing short of remarkable, and I hope the rest of the league doesn’t lose sight of this due to being distracted by his eye-candy passing game.
Well put. I put this game wrap together with some pretty haphazard thoughts that came to mind and meant to include a chunk about Rubio’s incredible defense. You describe it better than I could. I haven’t watched a lot of Kyrie Irving, but I get the sense that his scoring efficiency will prove to be a tipping point in Rookie of the Year voting even though Ricky’s off-the-charts impact on games (in my opinion) should be.
@Eric in Madison: Regarding Webster, the physical problems are always the story. I’m really surprised they brought him back when they did if there were any doubts. Clearly we needed an upgrade at his position, but if he’s not ready to go and is not going to be playing, I wish they’d shelve him and look around for a replacement. I’ll go on the record as saying that signing J.R. Smith would be a very bad move for this team, but at least he’d give us a legit basketball alternative to Wes.