HOW BOUT THEM
Alexey Shved! What a comeback! I was at my wits’ end in that 3rd Quarter when the barrage of Brooklyn bombs rained down from three-point land and the Wolves couldn’t get a stop to save their life. This bit of resignation sums it up best:
Let’s take it from the top…
The opening minutes were a shootout between Nikola Pekovic and the Nets backcourt. Pek had 10 points when he charged Kris Humphries with 4:52 remaining in the 1st Quarter, sending him to the bench with two fouls. With Pek on the bench, the Nets went on an 18-11 run, extending a 3-point lead to double digits. Making the struggle extra frustrating to watch was that much of it came at the hands of MarShon Brooks, an inexperienced and inefficient chucker, and Andray Blatche, a… well, just read this if you don’t already know about Blatche. Suffice it to say, when Brooks and Blatche are lighting up your “smart, veteran team” things are going awry.
Pek re-entered the game and continued to own the paint. He finished the half with 17 points on 7-9 shooting. Unfortunately, his frontcourt partner, Derrick Williams, continued his career-long struggles by connecting on just 2 of 9 1st Half shots. But offense was only half of the problem. While Wolves guards clanked away (1-8 from downtown in 1st Half) Brooklyn was red hot. Poor Wolves defense–poor effort, lack of foot speed and questionable decision-making–allowed the Nets to hit 8 of 13 from 3 in the 1st Half, building a 15-point halftime advantage.
Things didn’t get any better coming out of halftime. Deron Williams put on a clinic for a few minutes, hitting a pair of treys and a runner in the lane to extend Brooklyn’s lead to 20, at 73-53. When D-Will was tired of shooting it himself, he found others equally willing and able to make it rain. C.J. Watson and Joe Johnson hit back-to-back threes in the 3rd. But when hope was almost lost, two things kept the deficit under 20 and the TV set to FSN instead of Monday Night Football: Andrei Kirilenko doing a little bit of everything, for the third consecutive game (16 points on 7-11 shooting, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks) and improved Wolves shooting. The lid finally came off the basket, and the Wolves went on a run to cut the deficit to 11 at the end of 3.
Oh, but the 4th Quarter was when the real fun started. And it started with coaching.
If the past few paragraphs didn’t make this clear enough, I’ll repeat: The Wolves were getting eaten alive by Nets guards. So Rick Adelman went small. J.J. Barea at point. Alexey Shved at the two. Chase Budinger at small forward. Andrei Kirilenko and Dante Cunningham down low. More speed + better shooting = better results in Brooklyn. Defensive intensity picked up. Rotations were tight. And any time the ball was in sight, Dante Cunningham seemed to grab it. And did I mention Alexey Shved? The Olympic sensation busted out of his two-game funk. Rocking a new hairdo, Shved showed off the aggressiveness we grew accustomed to in the London Games. He combined drive-and-kick setups with three-point bombs. A highlight came when Shved pushed it up in transition and flipped it behind his back to Budinger who immediately found a streaking Kirilenko for a dunk. Speaking of Air Bud, he was also huge in this 4th Quarter that the Wolves eventually won by 22 points. (!!!) Budinger had a backdoor cut layup. He curled off a downscreen and buried a jumper. He made defensive plays. Finally, he put the game on ice with a three-point dagger with under a minute to play, extending the lead to 7 and sending Timberwolves Twitter into bedlam:
(You get the idea.)
Anyway, the box score and play-by-play is down right now with technical difficulties (hopefully not an omen for tomorrow’s election) so I’ll wrap this one up with some general bullet points, SANS NUMB#RS:
* What is the shelf life on this Luke & Roy Backcourt as a starting pair? It’s not quick or imposing in any way and tonight they were getting lit up on defense too. Roy seems most comfortable in the post right now, and that might help on certain nights in certain matchups. But right now, more Barea, Shved and Chase seems like the better route until Ricky gets back.
* If there is one loser in all of this happiness, it is Derrick Williams. His replacement, Dante Cunningham, is just a better player. It’s obvious. Cunningham is quicker, more basketball intelligent, has a better nose for the ball and, importantly, does not have a hitch in his jumper. I expect one of two things to happen soon, possibly on Wednesday Night versus Orlando: Kirilenko slides down to the 4 and Chase starts at the 3; or Cunningham starts at the 4 for Williams.
* Gritty performance from Barea, 24 hours removed from a concussion. He was barking in Deron’s ear in crunchtime, never thinking of backing down from one of the best. Despite a few bad turnovers (the Nets successfully trapped him with long defenders in the corner more than once) J.J. had a positive effect on a third consecutive game.
Great win. Fun game. Let’s get another on Wednesday at Target Center.
Season Record: 2-1