Musings on Minnesota vs Portland (11/4/06)

Snake bitten.

That’s how I feel.  Luckily it wasn’t a venomous snake.  It’s not going to kill me.  I will survive and come back stronger than before. It’s like looking for water in an unknown land and turning over a rock to find a snake, rather than an oasis.  Disappointing and a little annoyance followed by a brief flash of pain. Don’t worry, it won’t slow me down too much.

[image] Kevin Garnett dunks against Portland
Kevin Garnett’s double-double wasn’t enough in Portland. [image2]

I liken that analogy to the Wolves loss to Portland late last night.  True, it was a game we should have won on paper… but that’s why they play the games, right?  The Wolves (as were Portland) coming off a back to back game situation, which explains why we may have had some tired legs.  Also, we were playing in a (surprisingly) hostile packed house at the Rose Garden in Portland.  I won’t blame the loss entirely on these facts, as our bench disappeared this game as well.  These things will happen, and the greater question is: How do you bounce back?  Because you can’t win every game and the bounce back is a vital necessity to limiting losing streaks and keeping confidence high.  Confidence instills confidence.

Before I go into greater detail of the game, I just want to say, I wasn’t this stoked for the Wolves at any point during the entire last year as I am now.  Something about this year’s team and KG’s new found youthful exuberance.  I get giddy watching the game introductions with the Timberwolves prowling through the forest.  Just pure exhilaration.  Maybe it was the cast of characters last year, or the new coach, but whatever it was I just couldn’t bring myself to let myself go and cheer for the team like I did in the past.  Perhaps I was just trying to guard myself against further disappointment?  Well, if this year is like last year (it won’t be) I am going to be incredibly disappointed because I am throwing myself behind this team 110%

Homer-ism aside, I can still be critical of aspects that deserve the blame.  The wolves built an early 16 point first quarter lead off the strong play of our starting lineup.  The bench came in and did their best Red Cross impersonation by giving the lead right back to Portland.  The truth is, other than Craig Smith our bench played horrendous last night.  I believe they had zero second half points.  That’s unacceptable.  Craig Smith, again, provided valuable rest for KG by playing 22 minutes and going 5-8 for 10 points.  Kevin Garnett still played 36 minutes last night, but already this season his minutes played situation is infinitely better than it has been the last few seasons.  If Smith can keep providing this invaluable rest for KG he is going to be fresh for the fourth quarter of many more games this season than in years past, which should translate to less fourth quarter leads blown and more wins.  Can’t complain about that can ya?

One bright spot was that KG notched another double double (barely) last night.  Could he honestly record a DD for 82 straight games this year?  I think he could.  I honestly believe that.  I’d wager good cash on that.  Anyone know any bookies that would give me odds for a bet like that?  Mike James played very well for the second straight game.  He also had 7 assists and hit some key shots down the stretch. (How about that lay-up where he exploded toward the hole and put it off the backboard with his left hand)  Some collateral damage of Mike James playing well is that Troy Hudson doesn’t play, and that is some very sweet medicine indeed.  As I said before, Craig Smith looks like he could be the real deal… have any second round rookies ever dropped 20 points in their second game played before… ever? Someone look that up. 

Hudson came in for only 8 minutes this game and still gave his best effort to lose us the game by dishing out two turnovers, shooting an air ball, and two instances of “Matador” defense, letting his guy blow right past him.   We only had 15 turnovers this game.  That number is more manageable.  I’d be ecstatic if we were under 15 turnovers every game for the rest of the season.  The only thing is that in a game like last nights each possession was so key that each turnover hurt that much more.  One last sore point of note is our three point shooting.  I know it’s early, but geez, it’s still awful. 33% (4-12) simply won’t get it done.  And the most bothersome thing is that we’ve got the three point shooters on our lineup.  They just aren’t hitting their shots.  It’s ok though, we’ll regroup. I know we will.  If you don’t believe me, just ask DeROK.  He’ll tell you.

And I have to give it to Portland.  They played scrappy and battled back the entire game.  They didn’t let an early 16 point lead demoralize them and keep them down.  A great comeback by a young team.  I’m not going to talk about it as “Roy vs. Foye” because I think that’s stupid and just because of the draft day “Trade” they should be linked for eternity according to every sports writer in the country???  No.  Roy played great, and despite shooting 4-17 (!) from the field he still got to the line and had 16 points. I’m not going to say we should have drafted him over Foye yet, I just hope it doesn’t turn into “Marbury-R. Allen Part II”   

And Travis Outlaw, where did this 22-yr-old phenom come from?  What energy on display last night.  And that guy has got some major ups, let me tell you.  He can sky.  In my opinion they reason Portland won was because of his 18 points and 15 boards off the bench.  He had some key shots and drives to the hoop.  He is skinny and doesn’t look like much, but boy he sure played well. *Note to self: see if anyone has him in fantasy basketball. 

Martell Webster had a nice game for himself last night as well.  16 points while going 4-5 from three point land.  Some timely scoring off the bench that the Wolves sorely lacked last night.  Portland has a great young nucleus in the makings (all three of these guys are 22 or under)   It will be interesting to follow them over the season and the next couple years to see how these guys develop.  

 Despite our squad playing down to the level of the opposition (or up to their level? Portland did win…) Our starters were almost able to pull out the win themselves, but fell just a KG shot short.  We were one KG shot at the buzzer away from tying up the game and heading to OT.  And it’s ok to need help.  Our bench will come through.  It was just one bad game playing on weary legs in a hostile environment coming off no rest.  I’m too excited for this team this season to lose any faith.     


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