T-Wolves -vs- Cleveland Cavaliers (2.29.08)
It was a close game for the most part, but the Wolves just ran out of gas in the end. Well, either that or some guy by the name of LeBron James took over. Truth be told, it was a combination of both. The Wolves trailed by as much as 15 points in the fourth quarter, but the first three were actually much closer on the scoreboard. In fact, with a tad under five minutes to go in the game, the Wolves were only trailing 79-75. Of course LeBron was always in control, never willing to let this game slip away to a sorry squad they haven’t lost to in quite some time. ‘Bron is only amazingly 23 years old, but plays with the maturity of a 10 year vet. I was wondering if he was even going to play at all, seeing that he was a “game-time decision” after he sprained his ankle in Wednesday’s loss to the Celtics. He showed no ill effects, just barely missing his 7th triple double of the season with 30 points, 13 dimes, and 8 boards. How’s that for returning from injury?
The Wolves couldn’t buy a bucket to save their lives, missing 53 shots while shooting 39% from the field. There was a particularly brutal stretch in the second quarter when it took the Wolves nearly five full minutes to score 4 points. The missed shots, free-throw attempts discrepancy, and inability to contain LeBron James were the hits that sunk the Wolvies battleship tonight.
(Click "Read More…" for thoughts and analysis.)
- Delonte West/Joe Smith/Wally S/Big Bad Ben the Bully Wallace: Tonight it was The Triumvirate plus 1, since Wally Szczerbiak missed the game to attend to the birth of his third child. Not that the Cavs needed him anyways. Sadly, the 13 female television viewers back in Minnesota let out a collective sigh of despair when they were informed that he would not be playing tonight. Ben Wallace started off slowly, with only 1 shot attempt in the entire first half. I was ready to write off his career as finished, but he picked it up a bit as the game went on. He also finished with 9 boards and two monster blocked shots. Bonk and I christened Foye’s running bank shot from the right side of the lane his “Pet Move” last season. Think Ben saw that one coming? He launched that shot into orbit. Foye might want to develop some… oh, I dunno variety to his game? You’ll know Foye’s Pet Move when you see it. It’s all he does when driving within 7 feet of the hoop. Joe Smith was a non-factor tonight, but Delonte “Fried Chicken” West played well. It is looking like he may perhaps be the best player of the four that Cleveland received back in the big deadline trade last week. He had 12 points on 50% FG shooting, with 5 assists. More importantly, he was able to play PG competently and superb defense. He had 2 more blocked shots again tonight. He’s young, and I think he’ll turn out to be a very good player alongside LeBron. It will be interesting to see what they do when Boobs Gibson comes back from injury.
- Telfair had a pretty quiet game, and sitting back trying to reminisce is not flooding my conscience with memories of his play. He’s been playing pretty well this season, so it’s not uncommon for a 22 year old PG to have an off-night every now and then. An uneventful 11 points (4 of 11), along with only 2 assists and 2 turnovers.
- Poor Marko: He’s obviously the guy whose minutes are being squeezed with the return of Foye. It’s honestly too bad. Marko and Telfair had a great run playing together earlier this season. What was the reasoning behind starting Foye over Marko? Just because he’s healthy? He certainly has done nothing to earn the starting job. On top of that, for right or wrong, Marko becomes disgruntled when his minutes are inconsistent and he gets jerked around. I almost gotta say I can’t completely blame him. His contract is almost untradeable, so why don’t we at least utilize him since he’s going to be sticking around? When he’s getting consistent minutes and happy, you can tell that he enjoys playing with our youngsters. Lastly, he’s probably one of our best perimeter defenders, and is excellent at cutting off passing lanes. I think he’s a decent asset when utilized correctly. So what happened tonight? He plays 6 minutes. No use analyzing those stats.
It was tied at 20 all after the first quarter. Other than McCants and Foye dropping a combined O-fer from the field, it was a pretty decent quarter.
The Second quarter started off horrendously, taking the Wolves nearly five full minutes (until 7:07 remaining) to score a mere four points. The drought was pretty bad, but shots would simply not drop. Big Al took a fall with a couple minutes left in the second quarter, and looked pretty hurt. Was it serious? Would he get back up? What’s wrong? He turned out to be ok, but my heart was in the ground regardless. Not only because the Wolves would never win a game without Big Al, but because I’ve also got him on my Western Conference Only Auction Keeper Fantasy Basketball Team. It’s the stretch run and if he’s out I’ve got no chance. Good to see that you were “A-OK” there Big Al. Whew, that was close.
- Gomes: A decent outing. Shot only 6 of 16 from the field for 13 points, but pulled down 7 boards. I also thought that he played decent defense when on LeBron. At least, he was able to guard him better than Brewer could. While it could be said that he’s probably the second best player on our team at this point in time, I think that establishes too high of expectations. It’s not so much that he can’t carry a team on his own, because he can for short periods of time. He’s a Shane Battier type, and on a better team I think he would truly shine, with less pressure and expectation placed upon him. One could argue that it is the duty of good players to elevate their teammates around them and help improve the team… I can’t argue with that. But I just think we need to bring in some more talent which will allow Gomes to be best utilized. Even though he hasn’t been filling the stat sheet lately, he still plays very solid defense and doesn’t make many costly mistakes. On a team such as ours, those types of contributions are extremely important.
- Zeedruhnussh Ilgulskases and Anderson Varejao: The other two Cleveland big men I have not yet mentioned. “Z” underperformed tonight, contributing only 10 points and 6 boards, which is well off his season averages. Varejao was even more invisible, contributing 4 points and 7 boards. Then again, the Cavs don’t need much help when LeBron is on top of his game.
The Wolves trailed by 4 at the half, 40-36. A spirited little mini-run got them back into the game before halftime, because it could have been a blowout the way the second quarter started. The Wolves scored only 16 points in the second, their lowest output in any quarter this evening.
- Did anyone watch the Halftime Show with Glen Taylor? It was aptly (?) titled: “Let’s Build It.” I’m not going to lie to you fine citizens, but I couldn’t even watch it all. I couldn’t take it. I had to fast forward. It was a sick joke. Let’s just say the line of questioning was… “soft” at best. Did they plan on airing this during the Cleveland game because they figured that perhaps more casual Wolves fans would be tuning in to watch LeBron? If so, I’ll at least give them props for that. I am confidant that any knowledgeable fans could see through this gong show for what it really was…letting the friendly ol’ Owner Man come in and spew propaganda to the increasingly disgruntled Wolves fans. I personally liked when he compared us to the New Orleans Hornets, in terms of our “rebuilding.” Ha! Nice try Glen…
- Cleveland’s Poo-Poo Platter of D-Leaguers: Who are these guys? Billy Thomas? Dwayne Jones (I actually know who he is lol… former Wolf woot!), and Kaniel Dickens? Does anything more need to be said? What’s the over/under on number of jersey’s that will be purchased for these three players combined this season? 0.5?
- Craig Smith: A somewhat uneventful 8 points and 8 boards. He went 4 of 5 from the field, but also had 3 fouls and 2 turnovers… with no other mentionable positive stats. It’s interesting he only played 17 minutes, especially considering Theo is gone and all.
- Doleac/Madsen/Snyder/Walker/Buckner: Man, the end of our bench really blows. I wouldn’t play them either… except maybe Madsen. He deserves some minutes every now and then. Plus, he’s always so damn positive it’s contagious. I can’t help but smile at his cheering, handshakes, and generally happy displays of emotion. Good for him.
- Foye: He choked like a child stuffing legos into its mouth. I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt after two consecutive good to pretty good games. So then what happens? He goes out and lays an egg, having possibly his worst game yet (back from injury.) There’s really no way to sugarcoat 1 of 9 shooting from the field for 4 points, along with 2 assists, 3 turnovers, and 3 fouls in 34 minutes of action. I’m not going to rip on him any further, but even the most adamant Foye supporters would have to admit he played awful. Even worse, precisely 50% of his points came from 3 second violation free-throws. At least he made them.
I do not understand why he continues to start. I have no problem working him back into the rotation from his injury. Heck, play him big minutes off the bench, I really don’t care. But start? No, that’s a travesty… especially when this organization tries to sell its players and fans on the notion of “earning ones minutes” and playing “guys that deserve it.” Foye is neither of those right now, in terms of starting. Why not start Marko and Telfair before they kill what’s remaining of Marko’s confidence and render him totally useless? Bring Foye and McCants off the bench to anchor the second unit. Let them play and gel together as the 6th and 7th men. What is wrong with this? Does anyone else see this logic or have I gone completely mad?
The Wolves trailed 66-59 after three quarters. The way we were shooting didn’t look good for the outcome. However, they were able to pull within 4 points with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
- McCants: Another painful night of “Bad McCants.” I guess it was time for his “Born To Be Hated” tattoo to show its colors… as it tends to do more often than not. He ended up going 4 of 11 from the field for 11 points. Although it should be noted that he hit 2 of his three pointers with a minute remaining to pad his stats, as he typically does. Take those away and he’s 2 for 9 from the field for 5 points, with 3 fouls and 2 turnovers. I knew his recent string of great shooting was perhaps too good to be true. Let’s hope he can rebound against Seattle.
- LeBron: I could write one sentence or six pages about him, and the result would be the same: This dude is a man among children. It’s obvious that he is simply one of the three best players in the NBA, if not the best player. He almost notched yet another Triple-Double with 30 points, 13 assists, and 8 boards. As superduperstars tend to do, he took over the game and refused to lose. His forays into the lane were simply unstoppable. What I wouldn’t give to have him on the Wolves. I’d trade our entire lineup and surround him with D-Leaguers if I had to. We’d still probably have more than 12 wins under that scenario.
- Big Al: He played pretty good, but I can’t understand why he was refusing to post up more often. Was it because he was giving up about 6 inches to Biiiig Z? There were times when other players were guarding him, and that’s when he should have asserted himself down low. I think he settled for too many jumpers, rather than taking it hard to the hole. He finished with 22 points and 10 boards in 41 minutes, which is ok. It should be noted that it was his career high 40th Double-Double of the season. He will be a star in this league… provided he can improve his defense. There were far too many occasions where he would let his man go right past him to the hole. He’s got a lot to learn on the defensive end, but I think it’s correctable. At least, I really hope so.
- Corey Brewer: In typical Jim Peterson fashion, he was praising Corey’s defense on LeBron James throughout the entire game and afterwards. Yeah, good job allowing only 30 points and 13 assists. I guess that was below his average of 36 points per game that he had been previously dropping on the Wolves. He did alright guarding LeBron in close to the hoop, but he was giving LeBron far too much space out on the perimeter and allowing him to do pretty much as he pleased. He had that nice steal where he picked James pocket clean, which I guess should be noted. Other than that, his defense was painfully over-hyped by our resident spinsters. Offensively he had a good game going 5 of 10 for 15 points, with 4 boards and 4 steals. However, he missed some easy dunks/lay-ins that he simply has got to convert. He’ll learn, don’t worry.
- Chris Richard: Where art thou? The masses continue to wonder…
A few vital stats before we end this:
- The Wolves lost the turnover battle 14 to 10, which isn’t bad all things considered. 14 is below our “per game average”, which is all you can really ask for, I guess.
- The Cavs are a great rebounding team, and also very good at scoring in the paint. We got outscored in the painted area 50 to 38, and out "fast breaked" by a miserable 15 to 5.
- We layed bricks to the tune of 39.1%, compared to 48.6% for the Cavs. However, we did get them on treys, going 36.8% (7 of 19) compared to 26.7% (4 of 15) for the Cavs. As usual, we got worked over at the free-throw line, which is to be expected I guess. The Cavs hit 16 of 22 attempts, compared to our paltry 9 of 11. The silver lining is that we had a decent percentage. Whoopdedo, we had the best smelling turd sandwich.
- 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: Cleveland – Zeedruneasas Ilgulskskaas at +15 and their two D-Leaguers at -7. Those two guys are so insignificant I’m not even going to mention their names. To be fair, they both only played 1:04. See why the “plus/minus” can be misleading sometimes? The only other player on the Cavs that played more than 1 minute was Anderson Verajao with a -4. Haha, sucks to be him tonight. Minnesota – Chris Richard at +1 (in four minutes of action) and Craig Smith at -10. Corey Brewer had a “+/-“ of 0, which is actually noteworthy tonight. Everyone else besides him and Smith was in the red.
- The attendance was listed at 20,562. See, if you win games fans will show up… although, I guess it helps when Lebron is leading your team.
The Wolves take on the Seattle Supersonics Sunday night at Target Center. Peace~