Wolves stumble on recent Back-to-Back stretch…

I wish I could blame the new ball.  I really do.

Perhaps we could blame the officiating?  But it wasn’t overly bad.  Or, at least not noticeably so. 

[image] Kevin Garnett faces the Lakers
KG & company’s scrappy play was not enough against Kobe and the Lakers [image2] 

There is no one to blame but ourselves for the early stumble on our recent west coast road trip.  We came out sluggish and uninspired Monday night against the Brad Miller-less Sacramento Kings en route to a 93-81 loss.  We were just flat.  That’s it.  End of story.  We didn’t play up to our potential.  And you know what, that’s ok.  The naysayers will of course disagree, but face the facts: we are 2-3 after playing four of our first five games on the road.  Honestly, that’s not bad.  Especially considering that we played above average teams in Denver, Sacramento, and the Lakers.  Heck, even Portland is off to a hot start this season. (Granted, during that game we blew a 16 point first quarter lead, but that’s another story altogether.)

I was so stoked for the game Monday night, I literally could not wait to watch it!  As it turns out, the Wolves didn’t provide me with a very good birthday present.  It was my first sober birthday in a long time, although towards the end of the game it made me wish I wasn’t.  I had such high expectations after we nearly started 3-0.  On top of that, we were playing another game against a team we had already beaten.  I’ll admit, it was a pretty disappointing loss.  Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not even remotely close to writing these guys off.  It’s only been five games, we’ve got to continue to keep the faith and continue to cheer these guys on.  Only five games.  That’s only six percent of the season. 

Did I expect us to start off 5-0?  Heck no.  But I did expect us to come out with more desire and intensity than we did Monday night.  I think the most disappointing thing is that we are capable of playing so much better than we did for the first half of the game.  I think that is what bothers me about the loss the most.  But, you have to give Sacramento credit, they are tough at home.  Also, they have won 8 of their last 9 home openers… and guess what, Monday was their home opener.  It didn’t matter that we had beaten them the last five consecutive times at Arco Arena.  What matters is how each team plays each and every game.  That’s what counts.  The here and now. 

Coach Casey described it as a “Stinker” going on to say that “ We didn’t attack their intensity…we just sleepwalked” and that “Sacramento brought their ‘A’ game and we brought our ‘B’ game.”  I can’t say I disagree with him.

Mike James is really stepping up his game and played great once again, scoring 23 points while going 3-4 from downtown.  Unfortunately, he is the only guy on our team hitting threes with any consistency whatsoever.  Right now, our lack of three point shooting is absolutely killing us, as we went 4-18 against Sac-Town.  I just don’t get it.  We’ve got the shooters.  Give them time I guess.  I don’t know how to say it any other way, but Ricky Davis played a bad game.  You can’t debate that.  2-11 FG’s for five points in 31 minutes of play.  Sorry Ricky boy, but that’s not gonna get it done.  We might as well be starting Foye to get him valuable experience with the starters.  Speaking of Foye, he finally shook the rust off and notched his first points of the season with some impressive moves to the basket.  He only played ten and a half minutes but he is starting to come around.  He just needs some more time.  No need to rush him or chastise him.  Let him play and the results will speak for themselves.  Our other rookie, the indelible Craig Smith played ok.  Ok for his recent standards, but absolutely awesome for that of any other mere mortal rookie second round draft pick.  He had 8 points in 15 minutes but he always hustles and rebounds.  Can’t discount that.

KG was his usually and consistent self, notching his third straight double double of the season.   Surprisingly, Mark Blount also managed to record a double double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 boards.  This coming from a guy that I didn’t think could get 7 boards in a lumberyard!

Hudson played awful.  I love the Wolves, don’t get me wrong…well, let me clarify: I love everyone on the Wolves except Troy Hudson.  Can’t we just trade/deactivate/cut/do anything him? That would make me happy.  Plus then Foye and Jaric would get more minutes and would help to alleviate the logjam at the 1,2,and 3 at least somewhat.  Hassell didn’t provide too much this game either, but he’s a hardworking “Glue” guy with good character.  That’s an important piece of any team.

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The Wolves had a back-to-back game against the LA Fakers Tuesday night, which did not bode well for tired legs.  Admittedly, we did look a lot more inspired and active for this game, despite the fact that we had to play a game in Sacramento just the night before.  On the downside, the result was the same, as the Wolves fell 95-88. 

I think this game was an even tougher loss to stomach, as the Wolves valiantly battled back from 20 points down to nearly take over the lead.  If not for two key, unreasonably lucky three point shots by Odom and Smush Parker as shot clocks were winding down, the result could have been a totally different story.  On a night that the Wolves struggle from downtown by going 2-12, Odom made a ridiculous 30+ foot turnaround prayer and Smush Parker hit a dagger from about 25 feet with the buzzer sounding.  I guess it just wasn’t our night(s). 

A bright side for the Lakers was that the youngest player ever (and that ever will be) drafted in the history of the NBA, Andrew Bynum, had the best game of his young career.  He filled out the stat sheet with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and ZERO fouls in 30 minutes of play.  I’ll admit, I was in awe of two of his blocks last night.  The tutelage from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar must really be paying off.  At least it sure looked like it last night.  He was almost like a young Shaq out there.  (I know I know, don’t ostracize me, no one will EVER be the unique and immensely talent physical and offensive specimen that O’Neal was in his prime.)  I’m just saying that young Andrew looked very good out there and Lakers fans have something to look forward to.  He’s only 19, so give it a few years and he could be a truly dominant big man with his array of low post moves, turnarounds, and sky hooks.

I hate to always be harping on our turnovers and three point shooting, but 17 turnovers is still too many and 2-12 from three point land is simply atrocious.  It’s just unacceptable.  That’s the fact of the matter.  If we can improve in these two areas we will win many more games than we lose this year.  That’s all I ask for. 

KG carried the scoring load (again) with 26 points but missed his 37th consecutive double double by one rebound.  That saddened me.  I really thought he could record a double double every game this season.  Oh well, he can still go on a 77 consecutive game double double streak starting Saturday night.  BWA HA HA….

Mike James and Davis didn’t play particularly well, while shooting poorly from the field, going a combined 6-21.  Ugh…

On the extremely bright side, Foye really came alive tonight with his 22 minutes of play.  That seems about right to me.  I think Casey would be doing wonders to get Foye a guaranteed 15-20 minutes per game.  Is that too much to ask?  I don’t think it is.  Plus, he’s showing us glimpses of why we drafted him. (err… traded for him and money. Whatever.  You know what I’m talking about.)  He had 12 points during our comeback effort in the fourth quarter along with a three steals and a nice throw down.

KG fouled out and other than that our 20 point comeback fell just short, thanks to the before mentioned lucky three point shots by the Lakers.  Otherwise, I really think we could have pulled it out.  We wouldn’t have had to foul at the end of the game and… ah, who knows.  It’s all a moot point.  Saturday is another day and another game.  We just gotta get it done.  Scratch that, I know we will get it done!

When it boils down to the nitty gritty, our three point shooting (lack thereof) and the turnovers killed us, along with our sluggish and uninspired play.   These are the key things we really need to be working on.  If we can turn these aspects around, we’ll be in great shape in no time. 

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for the Wolves to take no mercy on Orlando Saturday night at the Target Center.  The place will be electric.  Maybe I’ll see some of you there. 

 

Around the NBA:

  • -  Paul Pierce had 12 (!) turnovers in the Celtics first win of the season Tuesday night, which came in overtime against the Charlotte Bobcats.
  • -  Ben Gordon notched the same amount of points as Ben Wallace (2 points) while shooting 1-10 in 24 minutes of play in the 94-113 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
  • -  Dirk goes off for over 35 points in Dallas’s first win of the season tonight against the punchless Phoenix Suns, 119-112.  I told ya’ll the Suns weren’t going to be very good this year.
  • -  The NOK Hornets lost their first game of the season tonight against the Golden State Warriors 121-116, despite Chris Paul’s 34 points and 10 assists.
  • -  Jack MacCallum lists some “Under the Radar”  players this season.
  • -  Kenyon Martin is out again.
  • -  Did Lebron quit on his team?
  • -  Larry Brown gets 18.5 million to do nothing. What a lucky…

Hey, at least Denver is still 0-3.

 CW

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