An Outstanding First Half; A Brutal Second Half

Unless you attended tonight’s game, you didn’t see it (it
wasn’t even shown on NBA
League Pass).  And for those of you who missed the
game…well, consider yourselves lucky. 
There’s no doubt about it- this was the ugliest game of the season.

It all started well. 
The Wolves were red hot in the first half- McCants’ jumper was
dropping once again, Big Al was dominating the low block, and Antoine Walker
continued to drain the triples while also penetrating and getting some easy
baskets.  For much of the first half, the
Wolves’ field goal percentage hovered in the 65%-70% range…so needless to say,
it was a dominant opening 24 minutes for our squad. 

And I was definitely impressed.  On the latter part of a back-to-back, it’s
unusual to see a team display the intensity that the Wolves did in the first
half.  Atlanta looked flat on defense, and the
Wolves responded by thoroughly dominating the interior.  Big Al was nasty…his usual plethora of post
moves was on full display for the Target
Center crowd, and he was
even showing some confidence in his jumper (and a consistent jumper, I think,
is one of his last remaining hurdles for becoming a truly unstoppable force in
the paint).

Also, gotta say that there was great ball movement in the
opening two quarters.  Too often, as of
late, the half court sets have gotten sluggish, and the offense has devolved
into isolating McCants, Jaric, or whoever. 
And that’s usually resulted in missed jumper after missed jumper.  In
the first half, though, there was a lack of "black holes" on offense, and the
Wolves entered the locker room with 63 points largely because of that. 

The Wolves came at the Hawks with a plethora
of weapons, and Atlanta
had no answer.  From Jaric to McCants to
Jefferson to Walker,
our squad couldn’t have played much better in the first half.

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Then, halftime came. 
The Wolves led by a healthy 18 points. 
And I don’t know what happened during the 15 minute break at the half…but something must have completely messed this team up.  Rarely do you see two
halves that are absolute polar opposites of each other…but tonight, that’s
what happened.  Whatever went right for
the Wolves in the first half stopped working in the second, and things got
increasingly embarrassing as the final two quarters mercilessly dragged on.

McCants vanished. 
With the exception of a three he nailed in the latter parts of the
fourth quarter, I honestly can’t recall a single play he made in the second
half.  I have no idea how much or little
he played in the final two quarters.  So,
either I blacked out sometime in the second half, or he became a complete
nonfactor at a time when the Wolves desperately needed a run-stopping jumper
from Shaddy.

What a shame.  During
the past week, Rashad has gone from putting up a ridiculous amount of off-target
jumpers at an unbelievable rate, to disappearing when the Hawks
were making their run.  I’m not the least
bit impressed with his recent play.

If you’ve been reading my stuff, you know that I’m a huge Al
Jefferson rube.  But Big Al disappointed
in the second half, and especially in the fourth quarter.  That’s partly due to a lack of touches…as far
as I’m concerned, when an opposing team is climbing back into the game,
Jefferson should be the focal point of the offense (in fact, I can’t think of
too many situations where he shouldn’t
be the main focus of the offense).  But that
simply wasn’t the case in tonight’s game, as Big Al went through several
stretches where he just didn’t get the ball. 
I talked about those "black holes" earlier…well, they reappeared in the
second half and took many touches away from Al.

That said, Jefferson didn’t
take advantage of the opportunities he did get. 
He couldn’t buy a basket.  He
missed several key shots in crunch time, and this certainly isn’t the first time
he’s struggled in game-deciding situations.

The Hawks continued to climb back into the game, and the
Wolves went into a full-fledged collapse in the fourth quarter.  No one stepped up, and that’s what’s most
disheartening about this game.  We have
guys that can, and should, be stepping up when opposing teams are making runs,
but for the most part, a crunch time leader has yet to emerge.  We have no one to make the big shots; no one
to take control of the game in the final minutes (get well soon, Foye).

Nothing illustrates tonight’s second half meltdown better
than a play by Antoine Walker…on a key possession late in the fourth quarter,
the ball was passed to Walker.  Unfortunately, he tripped and fell right
before the ball reached him. 

Turnover.  Hawks ball. 

At an important point in the game, Antoine could
only watch as the ball flew over his head, while he lay by Atlanta’s bench.  That, my friends, is a perfect metaphor for
what happened to this team in tonight’s game. 
The inspired play of the first half quickly succumbed to an uninspired
second half performance.  This squad fell
flat.  Period.

At least to me, the 1-10 record alone isn’t quite as troubling
as the ways in which the Wolves have been losing.  Blowing big leads.  Missing opportunities in the final 2:45 (in Denver) and the final 6:00 (against Cleveland). 
Seeing guys like Shaddy and Big Al become nonfactors in crunch
time.  It’s all very concerning, to say the least.

TWolves Blog Staff

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