Musings of a Wolves Fan… (2/21/08)

T-Wolves -vs- San Antonio Spurs (2.08.08)

BOXSCORE: http://www.nba.com/games/20080221/SASMIN/boxscore.html


FORUM THREAD (Click Me)


POSTGAME PODCAST:

http://www.TimberwolvesToday.com

 

Well… it was a very fun game tonight.  Definitely an exciting one to be at, as the Wolves played with a lot of energy for the most part.  Coincidentally, tonight’s game was also the game that us lucky Bloggers got to attend on the Wolves Organization’s dime, due to our participation in the “Battle of the Bloggers” contest this past pre-season.  If you click the link and check out the results, you’ll see that I finished fifth out of seven people.  I had my reasons that I could pinpoint for not winning, but there’s no point in rehashing them.  Complaining is for losers anyways, and it was a very cool experience to be able to participate in.  On behalf of my fellow Bloggers, I’d like to thank Mike Trudell and the Wolves Organization for a fun experience tonight. 

As part of our participation, the original plan was to attend a game as a group with free “Club Cambria” tickets from the Wolves.  Stephen Litel was not covering the game tonight, and Alex Halsted did not show up either. Our very own DeRok lives in New Jersey, so it’s understandable as to why he wasn’t there.  I got to meet another TWolvesBlog columnist, Anthony Hall, for the first time.  It was a pleasure… and it was good to finally meet.  Anyhow, the remaining four of us met up with Mike Trudell at about 6:30 and went up to the Club.  While the view itself is not spectacular, let me vouch for the pre-game buffet.  I now understand why my boy Jack McCloskey has Club Cambria season tickets.  Good for him.  They had a nice spread of Barbeque chicken, au gratin cauliflower (I think that’s what it was), home fry potatoes, roast beef, some crappy vegetable stuff, and simply magnifico cornbread.  Ahhh, the cornbread.  Delicious.  I could go for more of that cornbread right now in fact.  I wish they sold it in the concession stands.  The view wasn’t the greatest because the seats in Club Cambria are actually “assigned”, like any other season tickets.  To right a wrong, Trudell graciously procured us much better tickets.  We ended up sitting in the middle of a section at midcourt.  I think everyone was happy with the very kind gesture and appreciated the hospitality. 
 

(Click "Read More…" for thoughts and analysis.) 

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As you all probably already know, the Wolves fell short 100-99.  On the game’s last play, Telfair had an open look; missing a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have given the home team the victory.  Manu “Jesus Christ Superstar” Ginobili exploded for 44 points, 7 of 9 from range, and 13 complaints to the officials.  He also hit what ended up being the game winning shot with 6.2 seconds remaining.  Foye was guarding him, so it’s no surprise that he was able to get a clean shot off over our "Shoint Guard."  Being that Foye was inexplicably guarding him for most of the game (thanks Wittman!); Manu had 19 points in the second quarter, including hitting 6 threes in a row.  Tony Parker made his return and played only 18 minutes, while the newly acquired Kurt Thomas did not make the trip. 

Theo Ratliff also made his return to the team tonight, after playing only 6 games previously this season.  He played 14 minutes and was 3 of 4 from the field.  Good to see him back, but it wasn’t enough for the victory (as if I actually need to tell anyone that.)

-  We did NOT have a different starting lineup tonight, which slightly saddens me.   For unknown reasons, The Toine was not active.  Why not?  Was it because Theo’s Corpse was back in action?  I mean, it’s not like it’s a huge loss that The Toine is not playing, but it’s shocking because he’s actually been logging substantial minutes for us this season (For the most part.)  Was it because The Toine is being punished for eating Gerald’s cupcake from his “Birthday Cake” dunk?

-  Damon Stoudamire:  I guess he played alright. He didn’t do anything impressive that I remember, taking only 4 shots.  Somehow he lead the Spurs in the “+/-“ ranking.  Weird.

-  Bruce Bowen:  Man, is he done or what?  You can tell he’s getting slow and his defense is slipping.  Contributed no offense and missed all 5 shots.  He’s turning into a dirtier version of Mark Madsen.

-  Speaking of whom, Mark Madsen registered another DNP-CD (although he was dressed this time.)  His cheering is still second to none, for which he is to be applauded. During one timeout he actually walked out to nearly half-court to give all the guys coming off the court high fives and pounds.  Good for the dogg, that’s some good character.  Then again, I’d do all that and more for $3 million per season, but that is beside the point.

The Wolves were down 22 to 21 after the first quarter.  Telfair started off hitting his first four jump shots in a row, before finally missing an 18 footer with 2 minutes left in the first.  He also missed a lay-up somewhere in there, but that’s to be expected.

-  Telfair:  Let’s talk more about him.  He played 35 minutes and was a superb (for him) 7 of 14 from the field for 15 points.  He only had 4 assists and 2 turnovers, but I really think he could be our answer at point guard for the future.  At halftime, SlamOnline’s Myles Brown aptly described him to me as “looking more like Tony Parker than Tony Parker.”  I couldn’t agree more.  At least, that was the case tonight with Parker coming back from his injury.  Telfair is always pushing the ball up the court and probing.  He doesn’t kill his dribble and keeps the ball moving.  He (usually) makes smart passes and helps set up his teammates for good scoring chances.  I think it will be a mistake to not do everything we can to bring him back.  I think people forget that he’s only 22 years old, probably because he’s been in the league for a while now.  Remember, it takes time for point guards to develop in this league, especially the young ones.  He has exceeded my expectations this season beyond belief.  It is apparent that his defense is improving, which was labeled as a major weakness in the past. He’s doing better at keeping his man in front of him for the most part, and appears to be “getting it.”  If he could just learn to finish his lay-ups and add a solid 7-10% onto his field goal percentage, he’d honestly be one of the better point guards in the league.

-  Mr. Eva Longoria:  Like I mentioned before, it was his first game back from his injury.  He looked pretty good out there and seemed to move well.  He only played 18 minutes and went 2 of 7 from the field for 8 points.  However, his passing was crisp as usual while racking up a bunch of “hockey assists”, a.k.a. the pass that leads to the assist.  He’ll be fine in due time.

-  Brian Scalabrine’s Doppelganger a.k.a. Matt Bonner:  He played six minutes… which is six minutes too many.

Its 53 all at the half, and it’s really shaping up to possibly be a very good ending.

-  Gerald Green:  He played big minutes was traded today, which means he didn’t have the opportunity to sit at the end of the bench like he usually does.

- Theo’s Walking No Longer Tradable Expiring Contract:  He looked ok out there in his 14 minutes.  He did throw down a nasty dunk with 9 minutes to go in the second quarter, which somewhat reminded me of a Tyrannosaurus Rex devouring an old wounded antelope.  I don’t care if the antelope species wasn’t alive during the Jurassic Period, you get my point.  One thing, Wittman said today that they wanted to play Ratliff with Big Al and see what he brings and blah blah blah.  Well, why didn’t they play him and Jefferson at the same time then?  Gomes and Al started the game.  I think they played a few minutes together in the fourth quarter, but that was it.  Trudell and I couldn’t figure it out for the life of us (why they weren’t playing together), but we finally surmised it was because Popovich was playing a relatively “small” lineup.  He didn’t have Duncan and Oberto on the court together much at all.  It was usually one of those two along with Finley, Horry, and/or Udoka.  As much as I want Big Al to play PF alongside a true Center, it wouldn’t make sense to play Al and Ratliff together against a lineup like that.  Those guys would be raining threes down uncontested all game long if Al or Theo’s Skeleton had to guard them on the perimeter.  At least, all that was our hypothesis.  It’s as good an explanation as any.  Hopefully we can see Al and Theo playing together soon.  At least it will would allow Al to move back to the 4 for a while.  Hopefully, the team eventually brings in a true Center to complement Jefferson for the future.

-  Michael Finley:  He looks horrible on the court, as his age is catching up with him.  Somehow he goes 6 of 11 from the field and drops 13 points. 

- The rest of the Spurs Bench:  Yawn.  Good thing they got Kurt Thomas, and Mr. Longoria is working his way back.

-  Gomes:  Another one of the “quiet” games where he doesn’t do much, but doesn’t do anything bad either.  Finished with 7 points, 5 boards, 5 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 foul, and solid defense.  I will take that.

-  Corey Brewer:  He didn’t play much (only 12 minutes) so it’s hard to say he had a bad game.  Looking at the boxscore alone, he did… but again, he didn’t get to play much.  His shooting (1 of 5) looked horrible, and he was way off on most of his shots.  However, would it have not been worth it to put him in for defense against Manu, rather than Foye? 

The Wolves trail 74 to 72 after the third quarter.  It looked like the rout was on as the Spurs jumped out to a 71-61 lead.  Somehow the Wolves managed to fight back and closed the gap before the fourth.

-  The Astounding Argentinean:  He’s definitely the leader of the “Lords of the Rings”, as the Spurs have been so aptly called.  At least, in terms of scoring and on court heroics.  Duncan is probably still their “vocal” leader, and can definitely score when needed… but is anyone playing better than Ginobili the past few weeks?   Probably Lebron and Kobe, but that’s about it.  Someone please tell me again how he didn’t make the All-Star game?  Don’t get me wrong, I love Brandon Roy, but he only made it because the Blazers were the “feel-good” story of the year.  David West is above average to very good, but he only made it because New Orleans was hosting the event. Let’s not kid ourselves.  His numbers would be more than slightly reduced if he didn’t have Chris Paul leading the offense.

Manu was amazing tonight.  He went 13 of 18 from the field, including 7 of 9 from deep.  He also dropped in 11 of 12 free throws for a total of 44 points.  Yeah, he’s a whiner and a flop artist, but damn he’s good.

-  Tim Duncan:  He had a quiet 24 points, 14 boards, 7 assists, and 4 blocks.  I didn’t even really notice him until he had dropped 20 points or so.  Steady and strong wins the race, I guess.  He did have a pretty bad turnover which almost cost them the game with 1 minute left and the Spurs up 98-96.

-  Randy Foye played 40 and a half freakin minutes.  My goodness.  So much for him having to “earn his minutes”, seeing as how he got the start for two straight games now.  I guess if they are going to play him at shooting guard they might as well start him and see what he’s got.  Perhaps it will help save face from the fact that we traded away a better SG (Brandon Roy), because Foye was supposed to be our PG of the future.  He shot better tonight going 50% from the field (5 of 10) and 75% from deep (3 of 4) for 13 points.  That helps his cause somewhat.  He also had 7 assists to 3 turnovers, which isn’t great… but isn’t bad either.  I guess I just don’t see it with him.  His ball movement is bad and he doesn’t play much defense (cough cough 44 for Manu cough cough.) 

Also, isn’t he supposed to be generally known as a pretty “smart” player?  If so, what the @*&! was with him taking that contested shot (against Duncan!) at the end of the game, and leaving the Spurs with 11 seconds?!?!   Did he truly not know to run down the remaining six or so seconds off the shot clock?  That boggles my mind.  The Wolves committing a 24 second violation in that situation would have been infinitely better.  Live and learn… I hope. 

-  McCants:  As much as I hate to admit it, he’s probably the best wing player most capable of getting his own shot off at any time.  He can create, I will give him that.  It’s just that he doesn’t always make good decisions, or “create” within the flow of the offense.  He was 6 of 12 from the field tonight, which was good for 15 points.  He also chipped in 5 boards and his typical 4 fouls.  Anthony and I joked around about how long it would take him to get his first foul of the game.  I said “over/under a minute and a half.”  The answer:  It took 7 seconds.

-  Jaric and Smith:  The Rhino looked pretty good out there, scoring a few buckets down low.  Jaric didn’t look too good.  My guess is that his confidence is dipping (rightfully), after the inexplicable reason(s) for losing his starting job to Foye.  What a disgrace.

-  Big Al:  He’s the man, what else can you say?  Well, if you are Jim Peterson you could call him a “future Hall of Famer” on a live broadcast, but what do I know?  Hold on there Pete… he must have forgotten that we only have 11 wins.  Jefferson was 11 of 19 from the field for 28 points, but only had a disappointing 5 rebounds.  That’s unacceptable, even going up against Duncan.  He was blocked three times, but only had 2 fouls.  He had some very nifty moves in the low post, and to his credit, was taking it hard (against Duncan) to the rim on multiple occasions.  Wolves fans have got to love what they are seeing out of him… on offense.  If he could just improve his defense, he could become a real star in this league.

-  Wittman’s Presser:  He was outraged about that Flagrant Foul on Telfair with 1:39 to go in the game, basically blaming the entire loss on it.  That’s very weak in my opinion.  There are many other things that cost us the game, and as you will see soon enough, that call was not one of them.  I couldn’t see what happened from my seats, but I could tell it was a foul at the minimum (Wittman admitted as much too during his Press Conference.)  We were in the bonus anyways, so they would have gotten two free-throws regardless.  Yes, they got the ball back after the FT’s, but Finley MISSED a three pointer and the Wolves got the rebound.  Therefore, the Flagrant Foul cost us NO extra points.  Wittman, get a freakin clue and stop making lame excuses!

-  Lastly, the Fans:  WHY do fans leave before the game is over when it is still close?  This has always boggled my mind.  Yeah, I understand the "mass exodus" when the Wolves are down 15+ points in the fourth quarter… but fans were leaving throughout the fourth quarter tonight!  The game was close the entire quarter!  I mean, WTF?  The Wolves called a timeout before their last play (with 6 seconds left) and people were leaving, with the Wolves down only 1!  I mean yeah, typically it’s safe to assume that we’ll miss any given shot… but you stayed for 47 minutes and 54 seconds of the game.  WHY would you skip the last SIX measly seconds and possible Wolves game winner!?!?  Even if they were Spurs fans, wouldn’t they want to stay and see if their team held on for the victory???  What the hell is wrong with some people?!?!  I will never understand leaving with under a minute left in a game that is within 3 points.  My freakin goodness.

We lost a close one, but it was pretty dang exciting, I’ll give the Wolves that.  The Spurs almost blew it with two costly turnovers with less than a minute left, but they are still clutch.  As forum member “Roundhouse” said, coaching incompetence and Foye’s terrible decision making on the second to last play cost us the game.  I do agree.

A few vital stats before we end this:

-  Wolves lost the turnover battle 12 to 11, which was much better than I had anticipated going in.

-  We dominated them in the paint to the tune of 50 points to 30 AND won the fast break battle 12 points to 4.  Typically that does not add up to a “loss”, but then again there are reasons as to why we are 11-42.

-  We out shot the Spurs 50.6% to 47.3% from the field, as well as edging them 55.6% (5 of 9) to 32% (8 of 25) from downtown.  It doesn’t make sense as to how we lost, except that it must have been at the line.  The Spurs went 22 for 26 (84.6%) compared to our relatively paltry 12 for 17 (70.6%)

-  For the most part, I think using “plus/minus” from individual games is pointless.  There are just far too many variables involved.  So, I always take the ratings from any one game with a grain of salt.  With that said, the winners and losers:  San Antonio – Damon Stoudamire at +12 and Tony Parker at -9.  Minnesota – Rashad McCants at +4 and Marko Jaric at -4.  For the record, Matt Bonner is a much bigger loser than his “+/-“of 0 indicates.

-  The attendance was listed at 13,920.  I’d guess that it was more around 12,000 or so people actually there.  Nothing new on that front.  On a side note, the Wolves are 23rd in overall attendance this season with a 14,328 per game average.

Thanks again to Mike Trudell and the Minnesota Timberwolves for taking their time and hooking us Blogger folks up with the free stuff and great tickets tonight.
 

CW

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