For the second consecutive game the Wolves allowed a double-digit lead to slip away against a divisional foe. They’ve now lost 4 games in a row and have fallen below .500. Things were looking good when LaMarcus Aldridge picked up his third foul before halftime, frustrated after receiving a technical foul for angrily approaching Kevin Love after a whistle. Minnesota led 48-38 and had momentum on its side. That’s as good as things got on Friday night. From that point on, like the other night, the offense sputtered, mostly a result of poor guard play that simply does not create high-percentage shots. Not for themselves. Not for teammates. Adelman continues to give the starting nod to Malcolm Lee, and it continues to hurt the offense. It isn’t a noticeable help on defense either. It’s a mistake. He then trots out the two dribble-drive guards, Barea and Shved, as a tandem. Tonight, Shved struggled to score, but provided 3 assists in 16 minutes. Barea was a train wreck in all respects. I’ll keep beating this dead horse.
There were two huge factors working in Minnesota’s favor tonight: First, the Aldridge foul trouble. It continued in the 2nd Half and he only played 28 minutes, about 9 below his average. Aldridge continues to be a matchup problem for the Wolves (they play Pekovic on him–they used to do this with Darko at center) and his absence for 20 game minutes should have helped spur a Wolves win. Second, the Blazers shot 8-18 from the foul line. That combination of factors should have been enough for a Wolves win. But…
Damian Lillard was a beast. He had a career-high 28 points on 11-17 shooting. He also had 8 assists and 0 turnovers. Lillard was bombing off the dribble and carving up the Wolves interior on pick and rolls. He’s going to be a handful in the Northwest Division for the next decade. Also…
Wes Matthews shot the lights out. We’ve seen that before–he had about 30 in the 1st Half at Target Center a couple years back. I think I might’ve even seen a three goggle go up at one point. Matthews shot 5-6 from 3, 12-17 overall for 30 points. Jim Peterson and much of Twitter lamented the undersized backcourt, citing it as a contributing factor to Matthews’ success. That may be part of it, but I saw him hit a lot of open corner treys coming off of busted rotations on the pick-and-roll. Pekovic and Love were not particularly helpful tonight in defending the Lillard action up top. Matthews was left open in the corners. Once he heated up, he hit some tough ones off the catch and a long fadeaway in the closing minutes.
The Blazers won the 3rd Quarter 31-23. They took firm control in the early 4th and never really looked back. The Wolves shot 3-18 from downtown. The starting backcourt combined for 3 assists. Josh Howard provided some energy off the bench, chipping in 10 points and 7 rebounds. Barea made a lot of terrible decisions and plays. Louis Amundson has rocks for hands but plays hard. Derrick Williams doesn’t get to play. With very few exceptions–usually a Kirilenko steal or Love long outlet–the Wolves do nothing in transition.
The Wolves backcourt is a problem. Ricky Rubio will help out a ton. Chase Budinger, when healthy and paired with Ricky’s playmaking, will help too. But in the meantime, Adelman is hurting the team by shackling Alexey Shved. Tonight, Shved was limited to 16 minutes. Those few minutes were almost entirely aligned with the increasingly-awful and always ball-dominant Barea. Shved is the best option in a bad situation, but we’ll keep on losing winnable games with the worse options that Adelman prefers. Dead horse beaten.
Season Record: 5-6
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