Monthly Archives: December 2013

Can a defender slap a shooter on the hand? (Mavs 100, WOLVES 98)

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There’s a blurry screenshot of the play.

Down by two with three seconds left, Ricky Rubio inbounded the ball to Kevin Love. Love took a dribble to his left and set himself for the game-winning (or tying? I can’t quite tell) shot. Shawn Marion then reached across Love’s arm and hand to tip the ball away. Replays confirmed that The Matrix caught at least Love’s hand, if not part of his arm. He must’ve bent the laws of physics too, because neither referee with clear sight of the play blew his whistle.

The Wolves-fan outrage was predictable, but justified. Any NBA player deserves that call. But an MVP candidate playing on his home floor, on the last play of the game?

As Adelman questioned after the game, what would happen if that were Dirk or LeBron taking that shot? The rhetorical question doesn’t even require an answer.

After the game, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann took to defending the refs’ interpretation of a rule:

For convenience, I’ll just paste in the rule page linked by Schuhmann, with the pertinent sections circled: Continue reading

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Weekend Sweep

The Timberwolves are back to five hundred. On Friday night at Target Center, they beat the Wizards by 22. On Saturday night in Milwaukee, they beat the Bucks by the same lopsided margin. With these wins, their record is now 15-15; good for ninth place in the West.

Taken together, the games’ eight quarters were like a sandwich made of stale bread, but with the finest meats and cheeses. The first quarter against Washington was rough. Well, the opening few minutes were rough, as John Wall came out hot and the Wizards led 9-0 on the Wolves home floor. The crowd started to groan. But the Wolves, led by Kevin Love, chipped away and cut the deficit to one at the quarter break.

The Wolves next six quarters, second through fourth against Washington and first through third against Milwaukee, were a walk in the park. Shots went in. Turnovers were forced but not committed. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic were the best players on the floor. Corey Brewer scored on his fast-forward-button throws at the backboard square. Ricky Rubio organized an effective offense and bothered his opponent on defense. Against the Wizards, JJ and Shved played well above their norm. Against the Bucks, Kevin Martin was red hot.

Quarter scores in this six-period stretch were all in Minnesota’s favor, save one tie: 39-24, 27-27, 32-24, 34-28, 30-27, 39-21.

The fourth quarter in Milwaukee was that other slice of bread; the one with the mold on it. Rather than continue the focused offense and aggressive defense, the Wolves second unit let up. What was a 31-point lead with 51 seconds left in the third dropped to just 17, halfway through the fourth. Instead of subbing in rookies Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad for some needed reps, Rick Adelman instead barked at his starters — Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Kevin Love — to get back in there.

They won the game easily enough and upped the lead by five points before the final buzzer. But ending such a nice weekend of blowout-winning basketball with such a crappy final period was enough to upset Adelman. I’m sure he’ll use it as teaching point in prepping the team for its upcoming stretch of eminently winnable games. The Wolves will be favored to win their next six games, five of which will be played at Target Center. The effort and focus they put forth in the middle six periods this weekend will get it done. The performance bookending that excellence will not.

A few bullets:

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Ricky Rubio and John Wall: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

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The Timberwolves take on the Washington Wizards tonight at 7 P.M. CST at Target Center. The game can be seen on NBATV or heard on WCCO 830.

The marquee matchup tonight is at the point guard position, where Ricky Rubio and John Wall will square off.

Rubio has been predictably enigmatic (OXYMORON!) this season. He does so many things well, but the unanswerable question is whether Ricky’s kryptonite–the jump shot–will forever banish him to second-tier status among NBA point guards and compromise his team’s chances to keep opposing defenses honest in half-court sets. Similar questions have been raised about Wall.

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Carlisle, Holzman, and Productive Pep Talks

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Howard Beck wrote a great piece about Monta Ellis. “The Evolution of Monta Ellis: Mercurial Former ‘Chucker’ Is Thriving In Dallas” examines the ways Ellis has improved this season — his first as a Dallas Maverick — and includes quotes from coach Rick Carlisle, owner Mark Cuban, and the player himself, explaining the process by which Ellis is transforming his image from ballhogging loser to efficient winner.

I found one part of the story especially interesting. Beck described a meeting that took place between Ellis and Carlisle last summer, after he signed with Dallas. In it, Carlisle pulled no punches in explaining to Monta how he was perceived, why he was perceived that way, and how things would be different with the Mavericks.

Beck writes:

Over eight NBA seasons, Ellis had assumed the aura of a prototypical gunner—his shot count high, his accuracy low, his judgment questionable, his conscience undetectable. Selfish. A bad teammate.

That was how fans had come to view Ellis, and that was the stinging image painted by Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle last summer, shortly after Ellis signed a three-year, $25 million free-agent contract.

“He gave me a rundown of what was said about me,” Ellis said in an interview with Bleacher Report last week. “Me being all about offense. Didn’t want to practice. Really wasn’t a vocal leader. Didn’t want to buy into systems.”

There was more.

“And then,” Ellis said, “he told me what he sees for me with this team.”

A partnership with Dirk Nowitzki. A devastating two-man game. Open lanes to attack the basket. A cast of savvy veterans: Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Jose Calderon. The chance to be a playmaker. The chance to win, to change perceptions, to change habits. To evolve.

This year, through 28 games, Monta is playing smarter and scoring more efficiently than he has in years. He is the second leading scorer on a winning team. It seems likely, if not obvious, that Carlisle and environment he has helped create in Dallas deserves some credit for the improvement in Monta Ellis.

* * *

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The Wolves Year in Review, 2013 (The Punch-Drunk Edition)

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Here we go. A month-by-month rundown of our best and worst Wolves moments of 2013.

January (AG)

Best: Gelabale & Johnson Beat the Rockets

Remember all of the injuries last season?

What’s that? You’re hoping to never think about them again? Okay fine.

Let’s talk about who *was* healthy during the middle of the 2012-13 campaign. Signed to 10-day Kahntracts were Mickael Gelabale from France and Chris Johnson from Louisiana State and the D-League.

On January 19, 2013, riding a five-game losing streak and playing in James Harden’s house, a Timberwolves win was not expected. DNPs would be registered for Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved (pre stock plunge), and Brandon Roy.

Worries of a sixth consecutive loss were put to rest in the fourth quarter thanks to the dominant play of the 10-Day Wonders, Johnson & Gelabale. The Wolves won by 13, largely on the backs of the two newbies. Johnson had 15 points and 6 boards. He made all of his field goal attempts. Gelabale scored 11 points, 10 of which came in a hot stretch of the fourth quarter. He also contained Harden on the other end.

For one night, amid a miserable season of bad news and medical updates, the Wolves provided a feel-good story about two young guys trying to carve out NBA careers for themselves.

Worst: Everything else

Aside from that win over Houston, the Wolves were 2-10 in January. In the month’s first game, at Denver, Kevin Love reinjured his hand; this time shelving him for the rest of the season. In our season retrospective post, I named the January freefall as the lowpoint. I stand by that. They were getting blown out repeatedly. The injuries were such a real excuse that fans couldn’t really even get mad. What’s the opposite of cathartic?

I hated last January.

February (PJ)

Best: Timberwolves Destroy the Hornets in a Laugher on February 2

On February 2, the Wolves beat the New Orleans Hornets 115-86 in a laugher (boxscore here). The 29-point win was the only lopsided win the Wolves got in February, and it’s nice for Wolves fans to get to sit back and enjoy a dominant performance every once in a while.

Kevin Love was already out for the season by this point, but everyone contributed, making the lopsided win even more satisfying.

Indeed, the bench did most of the damage: Dante had 18 points on a perfect 9-9 from the floor; Shved had 12 points, 8 assists, and 4 boards and looked like a real prospect; Gelabale had 11 and 5, shooting 4-5 in 21 minutes.

Worst: The Games Didn’t Mean Much Anymore…and Alexey Shved Started to Disappoint

February was another bad month for the Wolves. After going 3-12 in January, they went 3-10 in February. Apart from the lopsided win over NOLA on February 2, their only wins in February were over Cleveland and Philly–not exactly powerhouse teams.

The NOLA game was one of the last times Good Alexey has been seen in an NBA game. Starting in mid-February, his game took a precipitous decline. The Alexey of late 2012 and early 2013 hasn’t been seen again.

March (AG)

Best: Ricky Rubio’s Triple Double

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Happy Holidays from Punch-Drunk Wolves

Holiday Cheers

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all our readers and friends out there. Thanks for supporting the blog, and for following the Wolves with us the past couple of years.

Now go eat, drink, and be merry. (Eds. Note: All can be done whilst watching as many as five NBA games today. Just sayin’.)

In the meantime, here’s some more Christmas goodness from Kurtis Blow.

– Patrick J and Andy G

 

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LOWE: Wolves 8th-Best in West

This should turn around, and the Wolves have played the league’s second-toughest schedule — and one heavy on road games. In a group of flawed teams, Minnesota has the most potential to stabilize as an above-average two-way club.

–Zach Lowe, in today’s Tuesday column at Grantland.

Link here.

Lowe runs through his Western Conference Power Rankings and slots the Timberwolves 8th in the conference; just ahead of the Mavs and just behind the Suns.

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by | December 24, 2013 · 10:03 AM