I feel bad for the fans that only tuned in for the second half. After a couple competitive quarters of basketball that left the Wolves leading by 4 points, everything came unraveled for Rick Adelman’s team. Boston turned the halftime deficit into a 7-point lead after three. The third quarter was largely dominated by large Celtic power forward, Brandon Bass, who scored 10 points on 5-5 shooting in the period. The Wolves second unit, that played quite well in the first half, continued the struggles in the early fourth, seeing the Celtic lead extend to 9 points when Love and Pekovic came back in. Those subs didn’t help and the bleeding continued. Profusely. Boston’s lead ballooned to 15. In the first 6:08 of the final period the Wolves managed just 3 points, blending a toxic mix of bricked jumpers, botched layups, offensive fouls and turnovers, and above all else, missed free throws. Despite getting enough defensive stops to hold out a shred of hope through the 6-minute mark, the game was never again a close one.
Rather than harp on everything negative, I’ll start with some praise:
* Kevin Garnett played a beautiful Kevin Garnett game. If you add 10 or 11 minutes of playing time and 10 or 11 inches to his vertical jump, it looked like Minnesota KG out there. He came out hot, scoring at will on Kevin Love or anyone who tried to stop him. When his shot cooled, he did what he always does, turning up the pressure on defense while playing hub passer on offense. In 27 minutes, KG had 18 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal in a +14 effort.
* Jet Terry. Love that guy. Wish he wasn’t a Celtic. Kinda wish he were a Timberwolf. (He was a free agent last summer.) Terry was running Malcolm Lee in circles, firing the instant the leather hit his blazing-hot right hand. Terry was an obscene +24 tonight, hitting 7 of 10 shots, almost all of them moving jumpers. There are standing shooters and there are moving shooters. Rajon Rondo’s all-important assist totals are smoothly transitioning from his career with one legendary moving shooter, Ray Allen, to another great one in Jason Terry. Jet killed it tonight.
* The 1st Half was good for the Timberwolves. After weathering the storm of Garnett’s hot start the game was back and forth until halftime. The key guys, Love/Pekovic/Shved, all made contributions and the offense had a pretty nice flow to it against a good team playing on a lot of rest. Cunningham and Barea provided good energy off the bench.
Unfortunately, there was way more than enough bad to offset the solid start. Some of those things:
* Free Throws — The Wolves could not make them. They finished 14-30, with a whole lot of the misses coming in the early quarters. Had the Wolves hit 75 or greater percent from the charity stripe the game would’ve been close heading into Winning Time. They didn’t, and it wasn’t. Love was the biggest culprit, missing 6 of 12. He can’t seem to shake his shooting funk just yet. Everything looks flat, and sometimes it looks bad just coming off of his hand. Love is the reigning three-point shooting champion whose technique is usually close to flawless. I wonder if he’s having trouble with his hand-fractures recovery. Or could it be…
* Kevin Love looks to be a little bit out of shape. Playing on the tail end of an East Coast back-to-back, Love was dragging tonight. Two times in the miserable third quarter he was isolated, defending Brandon Bass, who just BLEW by him for easy buckets. Brandon Bass is bulky. Bulkier than Kevin Love. Brandon Bass is slow. Slower than Kevin Love. This was a sign of conditioning problems that could, maybe, help explain the in-game shooting woes that he is experiencing. Love did plenty of work on the glass (13 rebounds) and in drawing fouls (if only he would’ve made the free throws) and his passing is improving (4 assists). But basic conditioning affects everything and he needs to get in shape. Like last night in the blowout win at Philly, it might be best to limit Love’s minutes to 30 or less until he is where he needs to be.
* Adelman ran the first unit too long in the 3rd Quarter. The Luke & Lee Show was getting housed in the early going and probably should’ve been yanked before so much Timberwolves blood was on the Garden Parquet. The 4-point halftime lead was a 6-point deficit when Alexey Shved, who played a good first half, finally checked in shortly before the fourth quarter.
I said a few nights ago that I hoped the Wolves could win 3 out of 4 in the all-winnable stretch of Milwaukee/Philly/Boston/Cleveland. That can be accomplished on Friday night when the Wolves host the Kyrie Irving-less (hand injury) Cavs. Before we move on to “until then” make sure to check out Britt Robson’s stellar two-part interview with Jim Petersen over at MinnPost. While we’re sharing links, I also highly recommend the latest from Chuck Klosterman, searching for the meaning of why we actually watch sports.
Season Record: 8-9
Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune has Kevin Love’s own take on his shooting struggles. Is it the hand injury, or a lack of conditioning?
Sounds like…a little of both:
“A lot of this is me getting my legs back, getting in the weight room. But when I shoot, it feels like the ball is coming off the outside of my hand, rather than these two fingers like I like it,” Love said, pointing to the index and middle fingers on his right hand.
“It’s something that will give eventually,” he continued. “I still feel confident shooting it. I’ll still shoot those shots. Eventually it will get there, it will just take time.”