Exhibit A: Wilt Chamberlain could still give a team more quality minutes than Darko Milicic.
The Wolves play the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at Target Center at 7 P.M. CST. The game will be shown on FSN (Minnesota) and League Pass (everywhere else). It can be heard on WCCO 830.
This is the second game of a back-to-back for the Timberwolves (10-11), who bounced back from a 103-82 by Miami on Saturday to annihilate Detroit on the road last night, beating the Pistons 121-94. Having a rested Kevin Love helps (obvi): Love had 26, 16, and 7 after missing the Heat game because of his grandmother’s funeral and having additional rest because of the Mexico City “Up In Smoke” non-game.
The 76ers (7-15) are not a good team right now. And they’re especially bad on the road, having lost eight in a row on the road heading into Wednesday.
Making matters worse for the Sixers, it looks like they will again have to play without injured super rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who was recently released from the hospital after being hospitalized for three nights whilst waiting for an arthritic skin infection in his right knee to clear up. Carter-Williams is listed as day-to-day, but appears unlikely to play in tonight’s tilt.
It’s hard to overstate how much MCW’s absence hurts the Sixers. The dynamic rookie is averaging 17.7 points, 7.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and (an NBA-leading) 3.1 steals. More important, Philly is 1-6 when Carter-Williams hasn’t played, and 6-9 when he has played. In his absence, they’ll rely on large doses of Evan Turner, with Thad Young and Spencer Hawes their other main options.
The Wolves should win this game. The 76ers are miserably bad and are perhaps the worst team in the NBA.
“But wait,” you might be thinking. “Your headline says ‘How the 76ers are the *Best* Team in the NBA.’ Wtf are you talking about”?
Below the fold, I explain how the 76ers can be considered the best team in the NBA .
Tonight’s game was the opposite of Saturday’s versus Miami at Target Center. Rather than miss tons of shots, the Wolves made tons of shots (11-24 from three). Rather than face a great team, they faced a bad one. (Though to be fair, Detroit is now 10-12 compared to Minnesota’s 10-11.) Rather than play without Kevin Love, they played with him. And he was awesome. Love returned from an extended hiatus (Mexico smoke-out combined with his grandmother’s passing meant Love had 8 straight days off between games) and was easily the player of the game. His 26 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists all came during the game’s first three quarters and allowed him some beneficial rest with another game tomorrow at Target Center vs. Philly.
After five days off that included a Mexican vacation and postponement of a Spurs matchup, the Timberwolves return to action tonight at Target Center. They face the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. The Wolves will be without Kevin Love, who is home with family mourning the loss of his grandmother. (Eds note: Best wishes to Love and family.)
The Heat has lost two consecutive games; the latter being a 20-point drumming by the Roseless Bulls on TNT. They’ve been without Dwyane Wade, but the reports on Twitter indicate he’s shooting around and might play tonight. That’s not good news for a Wolves team trying to get back to .500 without its own best player. In any event, it will be a fun game to watch because… well, LeBron James.
But we’re less interested in the MVP or his All-Star teammates than we are a former Timberwolf returning to Target Center with career-best numbers and a renewed sense of basketball purpose. That’s right, we’re talking about the one and only Supercool Mike Beasley, a longtime PDW favorite.
Beasley is only playing 17.6 minutes per game, but that’s 17.6 more than just about anybody expected after his famous regression from prized draft prospect and promising young talent to inefficient chucker who didn’t play defense but did get himself into off-court troubles. Beas isn’t just playing in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation. He’s playing REALLY well. His 23.2 points per 36 minutes is a career high. So is his 54.6 field goal percentage, which is downright ridiculous for a combo forward like himself.
Beas has always had obvious talent and it appears he’s finally begun to tap into it in a way that helps an NBA team win games. The Heat are playing 12.9 points better than opponents, per 100 possessions, with Beasley on the floor. Suffice it to say this is a sharp change from his recent seasons in Phoenix and Minnesota. It’s also way better than LeBron and the other Heat starters, which is probably unsustainable but nevertheless a reflection of how well he’s been playing.
For more on Supercool Mike’s improvement, check out Tom Haberstroh’s espn.com feature (Insider, sorry).
We thought it appropriate to preview tonight’s matchup by recalling our favorite Beasley stories.
Without further ado…
#10 – The Kevin Love 30/30 Game…in which Beas dropped 35 (Andy G)
A very weird night for the Timberwolves and Spurs who traveled to Mexico City for a basketball game, but couldn’t play it because the arena got so smoky that it had to be evacuated. The game will be rescheduled and played at Target Center. (This was a “home game” in Mexico for the Wolves from Minnesota.)
What happened after the game in Mexico is anyone’s best guess. I offer the above Photoshop as one possibility.
Next one is at home on Saturday against LeBron James (and Michael Beasley!) and the Miami Heat.
In Case You Missed It: Check out our State Of The Wolves post at timberwolves.com.
We’ll check in later this week with more.
State of the Wolves
Mark Remme and the folks at timberwolves.com are running a monthly series called “State Of The Wolves.” They were kind enough to invite us to contribute this month. Go check it out.
The Wolves were not supposed to win this game, and like most other games the Wolves are not supposed to win, they did not win it. In the first half, Minnesota was cruising on offense behind the hot shooting of Kevin Martin. However, continued struggles defending the paint led to their first-half lead — which grew as high as 11 late in the second quarter — dropping to just 3 at the half.
The best defense of the night came when rookie Gorgui Dieng shared the floor with Dante Cunningham and Luc Mbah a Moute. They blew up ball screens with hard hedges and rotated fast enough to force turnovers. The pesky defense carried over into some transition offense. It was fun to watch. Obviously, this is a pure bench unit that can’t play high minutes, but it was somewhat interesting that Coach Adelman didn’t play Gorgui again in the second half, when stops were so difficult to come by. In two consecutive games, Gorgui has proven helpful in short bursts of defense-focused play.
The Wolves snapped their three-game losing streak last night in Dallas. Nikola Pekovic dominated early, posting up Samuel Dalembert. He also made a great slip cut on a play that also had Love cutting before him. Ricky, of course, delivered that pass. The offense was great for most of the game, thanks to the Wolves shooting 11-26 (42.3 percent) from downtown. I don’t know how much later success stemmed from establishing Pek inside, early and often, but that recipe makes logical sense to me. Rubio struggled with his jumper, as he often does.
Team defense was better than against Denver on Wednesday (hardly a high hurdle to clear) but not necessarily good. Dallas scored 106 points in a relatively slow paced game. Some of these points resulted from the elite skills of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis more than the lethargy we saw versus the ordinary Nuggets players. But there were more than a few basic breakdowns defending pick-and-roll, where the second helper wasn’t there and Dalembert was fed for an open dunk.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made his Timberwolves debut and logged a surprisingly-high 26 minutes. In that time he registered 4 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks. His defensive skills are evident on one viewing. Luc could probably defend all five positions and defend three of them really well. Whether out of jitters or poor hands, he made 3 turnovers that were pretty ugly. He also botched a layup when he rammed the ball way too hard off the backboard. As he sometimes could also be seen out of place in Adelman’s offensive sets, I’m guessing the turnovers stemmed from nervousness and/or excessive thinking. The guy’s barely been to practice yet. Given his playing time — without any practice — it seems likely that Adelman views him as a much-needed viable bench option.
This game was close. I should emphasize that. Kevin Martin was huge down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 27 points in the final six minutes. When he has his jumper going, the Wolves offense can be pretty damn good.
Final note: Gorgui Dieng played 4 minutes and 37 seconds of first-half action. He grabbed two rebounds, but missed his two field goal attempts. (He might’ve been fouled on the second one.) Gorgui’s stint coincided with — statistically, anyway — the Wolves best defense of the night. He turned his head away from his man (DeJuan Blair) on one play, allowing Blair to cross his face and score. Other than that, he was in good position and looked the part of an active goaltender.