Half & Half: A 2-Part Game Wrap (Wolves 90, MAVERICKS 82)

In the interest of getting some much-needed, early-in-the-week sleep, I’m doing this wrap in two parts–first and second half splits.  So the first half is being written at halftime.

1st Half Notes

The first half–and especially the first quarter–was dominated by the Wolves two best healthy players: Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic. [Eds note: In hindsight, I should not have phrased that sentence that way. More on that in the 2nd Half.]  Pek showed off a move that he’s clearly been working on with Coach Billy Bayno, the standard jump hook.  He buried three of these with his right hand in the opening quarter and finished the half with an impressive 13 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.  It’s hard to understate the importance of this new skill, because as defenders become forced to defend it honestly it will open up his go-to favorite, the drop step.  We’ve seen Pek taking a hard right-hand dribble into the paint when defenders cheat to his right (baseline side/left block) shoulder and try jump hooks.  He makes them sometimes.  What we saw in the first half tonight was on the right block–more of a standard post hook.  Pek improves at things.  That’s mostly a credit to him but also to Rick Adelman’s coaching staff.

About Kirilenko… He did something in the Olympics that worked frequently.  He was doing it again tonight in the 1st Half.  It’s a thing that, if his player allowed it to happen on defense, Bob Knight would Lose. His. Shit. over.  That is, AK flashes into the lane when his teammate is driving or wheeling around a ball screen.  He crosses his defender’s face.  Sometimes, his defender has left to help out somewhere else.  His timing is impeccable, usually waiting for the instant his defender turns his head and there’s a gap to shoot.  When the dribbler ends up stuck, looking for a bailout, Kirilenko is waiting under or around the basket with his hands ready.  AK47 had 12 points and 5 boards of his own in the 1st Half.

And last but not least, Alexey Shved brought out his usual tricks in the 2nd Quarter, after a slow start in the first.  Shved jumps before he knows what he’s doing with the ball.  This isn’t recommended by coaches at any level, but he knows how to do it and it almost always ends with a positive result.

2nd Half Notes

We won!  That’s the good news.  Of course, we had to lose another good player to injury.  With 2:46 remaining in the third quarter Pekovic appeared to step on Vince Carter’s foot and seriously roll his ankle.  He went down in a heap and was helped to the locker room.  At that point in the game the Wolves were on an 11-4 run that extended their lead to 13.  Pekovic had 20 points on 8-13 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and just 1 turnover.  He was a game-best +21.  Now, he joins the other best players on the team in street clothes with an injury.  I don’t know the extent of the ankle sprain but I doubt very much he plays Wednesday Night against Charlotte.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he missed a couple of weeks.

After Pek went down the game was very, very ugly.  The Wolves offense sputtered and turnovers ramped up.  Thankfully, Dallas could not buy a basket, especially on jumpers.  The Mavs shot 29-80 for the game, a measly 36.3 percent.  Some of that might be the Wolves playing good defense–Shved and Kirilenko were able to tip or block some of those jumpers–but much of it was just Dallas being off.  O.J. Mayo, who has had a fantastic start to the year, had a rough night.  He had just 18 points on 7-18 shooting.  Vince Carter was even worse with a 1 for 7 stinker and a technical foul and generally-bitchy attitude that added insult to injury.  Rookie Jae Crowder, who has generated some buzz by virtue of being a rookie second rounder that gets playing time, shot just 1 for 5 and missed some wide open shots.  Dallas played bad.

I can’t wrap this up without mentioning Alexey Shved again though.  And his buddy Kirilenko.  In the 2nd Half they teamed up on more of those “Shved drives, Andrei cuts” plays that were made famous in London.  Shved gets into the lane and does not want to shoot.  His fellow countryman knows this and dives down the baseline and finds a seam.  Shved jumps, Andrei flashes his hands, the pass is made, two points.  Those two have a chemistry.  They made up some of the rare pretty plays of the stretch run.

A win against a potential playoff-birth rival is a great thing, but it would feel better had we not lost another integral piece.  Hopefully Pek is back soon.  If we’re getting greedy, a Friday return versus the Warriors would be great.

Season Record: 5-2

[Corrections: I just realized that I must’ve been working off of an incomplete box score when I put this together after the game.  Final score, Mavericks’ team FG% and O.J. Mayo’s line are corrected.]



Filed under Timberwolves

10 responses to “Half & Half: A 2-Part Game Wrap (Wolves 90, MAVERICKS 82)

  1. jrd

    Andy G you’re on fire, thanks for the writeup. Good game again by the remaining wolves (russians) but face it Dallas be bad. It is hilarious to see the difference between Good Possession (Shved touches it early in the shot clock) v. Bad Possession (Luke Dribbleabout). If they really do get everybody back I think Ricky gets his minutes mostly at Ridnour’s expense.

    Dante Cunningham says “Where’s Everbody”?

    • Despite the attention it has been paid already, the Derrick Williams debacle deserves attention now too. D-Will started out rebounding some, but was overall horrible and fumbled a perfectly-placed pass last night, down the stretch, when it looked like the Mavs might threaten a comeback. D-Will is the opposite of Cunningham right now, who is the essence of “playing within himself,” which is a cliche, but in this case a refreshing one. One has to wonder what goes through Williams’ mind when he’s sitting on the bench watching Williams performing, thinking about his 10th man role when K-Love gets back. I think he’s still got some psychological barriers, in addition to a broken jumper, keeping him from playing to his ability in the Wolves lineup right now.

      But Cunningham – that guy has been a nice surprise.

      • PJ-
        I basically passed on the Williams bashing for a night because of “the attention it has been paid already.” He was bad though, again. That pass you mentioned may have been deflected (barely) but he still should have caught it and that he didn’t is another sign of his discomfort on the basketball court. He still commits dumb traveling violations. I bet he looks great in pickup games when he’s not worrying so much (or as he might say, when he’s UNCAGED) and Blake Griffin suggested this on the BS Report last year.

        Making things worse for Williams and better for the Wolves is the remarkably-solid play from Dante Cunningham.

        Oh and while we’re filling in the blanks, I should mention that Shved had 2 assists lost by AK47 fumbling easy alley-oops and a couple more lost by guys missing open shots. Dude could’ve had a double-double last night with better luck.

        • I was counting Shved’s Missed Assists (that sounds like the name of an indie band, or a dirty Craigslist sub-directory) and saw those, too. There were also at least two or three wide-open jumpers he created, which professional ballplayers should make, but were missed last night. 9 or 10 assists, instead of the 5 he had, according to ESPN (http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400277820) seem like a solid representation of what the box might’ve looked like had Love and Budinger been healthy.

    • jrd- Thanks for the kind words. And I agree about the good vs. bad possessions. I think they’ll have use for Luke this season, even when Ricky comes back, but that’s a limited-minutes reserve point guard and maybe some time out there with Shved playing off the ball.

  2. Richard Bentley

    True Grit. I can’t say enough about how they have hung in there. Now we have #6 down! And they STILL win. I think Kahn is going to have to get an injury waiver so they can sign somebody to a 10-day contract without having to take someone off the roster. It’s too bad Steamer is so foul-prone. And his productivity has really dropped. Maybe the guard situation will hold up if Barea or Roy can get back. But without Pek, they have no big who can play consistently at center. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I think they have adequate backup at the three with Derrick and Cunningham. But unless they have someone big enough in the middle, they are going to get killed on the boards.

    • @Richard Bentley: Do you think Williams can “get it” enough–and soon enough–to help? I did, but now I don’t. He just looks clueless. Here’s hoping he can provide some rebounding, at the very least, while Pek does his crutch-less rehab of his ankle sprain.

  3. Eric in Madison

    Good wrap. Couple of thoughts:

    On the Williams thing. It’s sort of playing out how I envisioned, in that it seemed before the season that Cunningham was more conducive to winning. (Aside: Dante Cunningham is about as friendly for nicknames as it gets. You have the whole “Ham” thing, there’s a Happy Days reference in there, a Dante’s Inferno direction. It’s an embarrassment of riches).

    I didn’t expect it to be quite this abject, though. Williams seems to have neither touch nor instincts on the court. Plenty of high draft picks don’t become stars, and plenty turn out below average. But man…Flynn, out of the league. Wes Johnson can’t get in the rotation in Phoenix. And Williams.

    Shved’s defense is so much better then advertised. That’s been excellent, and representative of how they are winning: defense. They are holding opponents to a very low percentage on 2 point FGs. That’s been their calling card so far.

    • Good call on Dante — between that and the endless list of “Shved” puns they’re all set for internet meme fun.

      Also, good point about Shved’s defense. One of the many things he has in common with Ricky Rubio is exceeding expectations, immediately, as an NBA defender. I don’t know yet if he’s a “plus” defender, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem on that end. At times, he makes plays like blocks and steals without gambling too much.

      Oh, and I just realized all my numbers were botched in the post. I’ve had trouble getting accurate box scores from ESPN.com right after games. Hopefully that gets worked out because I usually crank these out the second the final horn sounds…