That second half was boring, but for a good reason. The Timberwolves lead grew to 30 when Kevin Love buried a trey for an 87-57 advantage with 4:51 to play in the third quarter. After that, the game was equal parts sloppy and chippy. At one point Anthony Davis barked at Dante Cunningham and got himself T’d up. At another, Corey Brewer was whistled for a tech while he sat on the bench. The Wolves allowed many quick — immediate, even — Pelicans baskets after their own scores in the fourth quarter.
But the work was done in the middle quarters of the game, which Minnesota won by a combined 19 points. Alexey Shved checked in late in the first quarter and played some of his best ball of the year (not a high hurdle to clear, I realize). Shved was active on defense, deflecting passes and even blocking a shot. On offense, he made the clever passes we grew accustomed to last year, and also made a pair of corner treys. (See his 2012-13 shot chart for convincing evidence that Alexey should ONLY shoot threes from the corners.) Shved’s final plus-minus of (-8) looks bad because he was on the floor during the aforementioned garbage-time slop. His first stint of the game was key, when the Wolves late-first-quarter deficit of 1 was erased and turned into a 5-point lead by the time Shved checked out.
But it wasn’t like Shved was THE reason the Wolves won. No, I just had to lead with him because of subjective/bias reasons and also because he played the most above his average level. But no, Shved was not the player of the game or anything. Ricky Rubio found open driving lines and converted layups. He also made a three. He also nearly got his self a triple double. (14 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals). Kevin Love had a measly-by-his standards 21 and 6, but played a nice floor game against a terrifying defender in Anthony Davis. Nikola Pekovic had 22 and 7. Kevin Martin scored 20 points. J.J. Barea scored 17. A lot of guys played well and — for much of the game — just about everything was working. Love completed outlet bombs for assists. Brewer’s gambles usually paid off.
From a team stats perspective, the Wolves shot 35 free throws and made 28 of them. Drawing fouls against the physical Pelicans backcourt was an early key to the game. Jrue Holiday played less than 23 minutes due to foul trouble. The Pelicans are really bad when he sits out. Later, during second-unit stretches, drawing fouls against former Wolf and hack-happy center, Greg Stiemsma, also helped generate free throw opportunities. But it wasn’t just free throws this time. The Wolves also shot 55.7 percent from the field, which is WAY above their season average of 43.3. Part of that was getting out in transition, but it was also due to the improved shooting from Barea and Shved. The Pelicans were careless with the basketball and committed offensive fouls.
It just wasn’t a close game. The Wolves played well against a good team that played poorly. They’re back to .500 with a 16-16 record. Next up is the division-leading, but Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder. That game is at Target Center on Saturday night. A win over Kevin Durant that also serves to push the team back over .500 would be a nice little Saturday, indeed.
Eds. Note: After a couple tough home losses this week, we decided to change things up a bit. The game is, each of us singled out a few players who’ll be rockin’ it in tonight’s tilt. We then assigned the guys we selected to the other guy, who then offered some Kahnjecture about how those players will fare tonight. Whoever’s closest to the mark (however defined) wins. It’s sort of like no-stakes gambling, unless, of course, you consider things like trash talk in future posts or pride as currency. We consider trash talk in future posts and pride as currency. Let the games begin.
Patrick J: Your first assignment is MASTER PANTHONY DAVIS. What kind of NUMB#RS should we expect from Davis’s eyebrow tonight? Can the Wolves’ stop it, and if so, how? Does Adelman have Pek go mano e brow-oh with Davis, or are Wolves fans in for the kick-in-the-crotch consolation prize: a reminder of how much worse Derrick Williams is than another one of his contemporaries (i.e., a recent high lotto pick)?
What does an NBA age minimum and Allen Iverson’s unemployment have to do with one another? Potentially make for some interesting basketball played outside the NBA. This is more a #hoopidea than a likely reality, but it seems like it could solve two problems at once. Continue reading →
Jay Bilas had a nice piece (Insider) yesterday on NBA Draft prospects who have star potential. Bilas isn’t perfect, but (1) he has a good feel for the draft by virtue of actually having seen most players play multiple times, and (2) he sees the forest for the trees on this issue–the draft is all about identifying potential impact players – stars – which is correlated, but not synonymous, with college advanced stats.
It’s a deep draft, but beyond Anthony Davis it isn’t clear who will break out as the kind of player teams later regret passing on.
Bilas sees five potential stars in the draft–maybe more.
Tom Benson and David Stern (Photo by The Sporting News)
The New Orleans Hornets have claimed victory in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, winning the NBA Draft Lottery on Wednesday night despite having only a 13.7% chance of getting the first pick. Is anyone really surprised?
The NBA–run by larger than life commissioner David Stern, who presides over the lottery and announces the selection order after its determined in private–still owns the Hornets. Stern trotted out Tom Benson, who has agreed to buy the team and keep it in NOLA, to be the franchise’s face for the nationally televised lottery show, but Benson doesn’t own the team yet and probably shouldn’t have been there. The whole thing would’ve felt more genuine if Adam Silver had been there representing the Hornets. Continue reading →
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Royce White burst onto the national scene last night with an eye-opening performance against the NCAA Tournament-favorite Kentucky Wildcats. White and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who matched up against each other for much of the game, were the two best players of the floor. White ended the night with 23 pts on 9-12 shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block. He did have 3 turnovers, but had the ball in his hands almost constantly during the 34 minutes he played.
On Iowa State’s first possession of the game, White showed what kind of night it was going to be, taking Davis to the left block, receiving the entry, and making a strong hop move into the middle of the lane and curling in a lefty flip beyond Davis’ outstretched arms. White outmuscled UK’s entire front line several times, using a variety of drop steps and nifty moves to create space and score the ball. Davis was no slouch either, putting up 15, 12, and 5 blocks, but Royce White was the story.
The question is, why hasn’t Royce White been the story– or, at least, a story–all season long?
For the first time since 2004 in several years, Timberwolves fans are not watching games with an unblinking eye on the NBA Draft. The team is in the hunt for a playoff spot, and even if they fail, the lottery pick is owned by the Hornets (REVERSE MORAL HAZARD!).
We used to spend equal time on the ESPN Lottery Machine as we did reading box scores and watching games. And you couldn’t blame us. Striking gold in the lottery is the fastest way – and sometimes the only way – to add top-shelf talent. And you need elite talent to win in the NBA. And so we obsessed over the Lottery Machine. It wasn’t exactly harmless, but you could take a type of sick pleasure from dreams of the future that weren’t available in the realities of the present.
The problem with all of this was, and still is, that fans aren’t the only ones who look ahead. Teams look ahead too. And the teams that have reason to look ahead are the same teams that have an incentive to TANK.
Teams unload veteran talent via personnel transactions or simply shut down their best players down the stretch with phantom “injuries.” We in Minnesota haven’t been immune. Remember when Marc Madsen was sent out to bomb three-pointers in the season’s last game? A win would have jeopardized a bottom-ten finish, and the Wolves would have forfeited the lottery pick that it will send to New Orleans this coming summer. If I were David Stern, I wouldn’t have let Minnesota win the lottery either. So we must ask ourselves: Was Corey Brewer really worth it?