Musings of a Wolves Fan… (1.20.09)

Minnesota Timberwolves (1.20.09)

vs. Utah Jazz

Season Record: 13-27

Click HERE for our TWB Forum Discussion Thread

The Wolves fell tonight to a better team.  Let’s not get anything twisted.  They were on the road, playing in a brutal arena that is unforgiving, and it was the second night of a back-to-back.  With that said, the Wolves could have won this game.  They certainly had their chances, despite coming out flat and spotting the Jazz a twelve-oh cushion.  From the tip, this game had all the makings of a typical Wolves blowout.  Yet, they managed to fight back from the early deficit, as well as a thirteen point gap in the third quarter.  With four minutes left in the fourth, and thanks to some inspired play by Gomes and Telfair, the Puppies battled back to within one point.  Alas, the good guys were not able to pull it out, and lost their first road game of 2009.  That alone is almost impossible hard to believe.  At least tonight it wasn’t the situation that had been plauging this team at the beginning of the year; namely, building a lead only to piss it away during the fourth quarter in which their offense grinds to a halt.  It was refreshing to be battling back against a superior team, to make things close, for once.  All things considered, it was an “acceptable” loss.  The Wolves are clearly playing better and winning some games.  As fans of this club, what more can we really ask for right now? 

I think the victory in Phoenix and tonight against the Jazz has gone to some lengths (but not completely, mind you) to prove that the Wolves are indeed playing better, and not just benefiting from the easiest 15 game stretch of a schedule known to man a favorable schedule.  We’re coming up on the half-way point of the season, and the next 10 or so games should give us all a peek as to where this squad is truly at.  Can they continue to beat the teams that they should (used loosely) beat?  Can we sneak out some wins against superior competition?  Stay tuned, as this team is far more enjoyable to watch than they were a month ago.

Please click “Read More” for some bullet points/analysis/musings/whatevertheheckyouwanttocallthem…

We might as well get to it; as I don’t have all night and don’t get paid peanuts to do this.  Literally, I don’t even get peanuts.  Heck, some nights I would LOVE some delicious, fresh, crunchy peanuts when I am typing one of these recaps. 

  • Considering that we are pretty much a jump shooting, slow paced team, it’s disheartening to lose a game in which we shot better from the field, as well as had a better eFG%.  The Wolves had a FG% of 51.2% with an eFG% of 46.5%.  Compare that to 45.5% and 42.6% for the Jazz, and more often than not the better shooting team should win.
  • Both teams had exactly 40 rebounds, with Utah only having 2 more offensive boards than the Wolves.  So, no advantage there.
  • The Jazz took much better care of the ball than the Puppies did, dishing 27 assists with only 12 turnovers, compared to 21 and 18 for the Wolves.  Still, this was not what cost the Wolves the game
  • The Wolves lost because of free throw disparity, fouling, and atrocious interior defense.  The fouling and free throws were problems that plauged the Wolves last season, as well as the beginning of this season.  The Jazz only committed 15 fouls to our 25, and went 27 of 29(!!!) from the free throw line.  That’s an absurd 93%.  The Wolves, on the other hand, were only 11 of 16 from the line, for 69%.  Pwned.
  • For any casual fans that may or may not have watched the game:  In case you didn’t know, Big Al’s defense and court awareness is atrocious (as forum member DaddyFatSax is equally loathe to point out.)  It looks like he’s wading through concrete, for as fast as he tries to defend against any cutters coming into the lane, or for as well as he can play help defense.  Which, as I am getting at, he can’t.  I don’t know about any of you, but I thought Al meant it this off-season when he said he was going to “really work on his defense” and “lead his teammates by playing better defensively” and blah blah blah.  Well, hmmm.  At this point I hope no one plays defense like him, because he’s been one of our worst defenders this season.  Yeah, he can score.  No one is disputing that. But is defense is so far from franchise cornerstone it’s not even funny.  He’d be considered a bad defender even if he was playing at the Y.
  • The Wolves and Jazz are clearly the two whitest teams in the NBA.  At one point there were 7 white guys on the court.  You just don’t see that anymore.  Those few minutes were a throwback to a scarier, (much) less athletic era.  Some of those guys out there were so white I had thought I spilt milk over my glasses.
  • We all know McHale loves the Rhino.  But WHY is Craig Smith guarding Okur?  I still don’t get McHale and not matching up favorably when certain teams warrant it.  Yes, I get it, Smith is a decent player in spurts.  But wouldn’t be he more effective coming in against a smaller or less athletic backup bigman?  Why is he starting and trying but failing miserably guarding guys like Amar’e and Okur?  These are gigantic match-up problems for him.  It took all of about 17 seconds to realize he was not going to have a chance against Okur tonight.
  • The Interior defense of our team is (and has been) a serious problem.  Is anyone even trying out there?  Hello?  It looks like some of these guys (cough cough Jefferson cough cough) have never defended a pick and roll in their lives.
  • You gotta love Jim Pete’s “Chrysler Scouting Report” for Matt Harpring when he first entered the game in the second quarter.  Are you ready for it?  Wait.  Wait… Ok, here it is: “Plays Well Against Wolves.” Oh really.  Thanks for the insight. That should help the common fan understand his game while he’s on the court, and why he does the things he does.  That also helped me personally to understand what it is exactly that makes Harpring such an effective player.  Excellant analysis Jimbo.
  • Gomes was awesome tonight.  He and Telfair were our Co-MVP’s of the game.  Unfortunately, Millsap and Okur were even better Co-MVP’s for the Jazz tonight.
  • But really, Gomes was great tonight.  Without his 19 points, 50% FG shooting (including 50% from deep), and excellent defense, there is no way the the Wolves fight back.  Also, he missed a layup, in the interest of full-disclosure Telfair was good too tonight.
  • But really, Telfair had himself an excellent game.  If he keeps playing like this, and I think he’s capable, he’ll be moving up the short list of the better “true PG’s” in the NBA.  No really, I’m serious.  Stop laughing.  The keys are that he needs to knock down the open shot, make his lay-ups, and not turn the ball over.  P.S. 9 assists against only 1 TO tonight.  That will work.
  • Mike Miller:  Hmmm.  He hasn’t been traded yet?  Moving on…
  • Sometimes I think Kevin Love needs to play more, and sometimes I really, really think he sucks.  Like colossal bust sucks.  The annoying thing is that these thoughts often occur in the same game, due to Love’s propensity to be a bit… erratic, let’s say.  He’s a great rebounder and seems able to hit the open shot.  However, he’s not athletic (ZOMG HE LOST A JUMP BALL TO KYLE KORVER!!!?!?! EGADS!!!), and can’t convert within 5 feet of the hoop if his life depends on it.  Still, he’s only 20.  I would say he should probably be playing 25-28 minutes per night, depending on the match-ups.  The extra minutes can easily come from Rhino or Cardinal, it doesn’t matter.  Heck, give him Mike Miller’s minutes. Now that would be irony.
  • I always get done recapping the game and all the Wolves, and then I’m too tired to continue on with the other team.  Sorry readers, I’m losing my edge in my advancing years lazy.  Here comes the epitome of the “bullet point recap”:
  • Deron Williams: Underrated and struggling due to his injuries ealier this year.  I still think he’s a top 5 PG in the Association.
  • Paul Millsap: BEAST.  Carlos Boozer who? 
  • Carlos Boozer: MIA.  He said he was going to opt out of his contract after this season.  If I were the owner, I’d say “see ya later.”  For further analysis please see Millsap’s boxscores this season in his absence.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget to compare their contracts.
  • C.J. Miles:  Ehhh…
  • Mehmet Okur:  One of the best shooting big men in the game.
  • Ronnie Brewer: Double ehhh…
  • Kosta Koufos:  One of the ugliest mofo’s I’ve seen in a while.  I wonder if he shares beauty tips with Booth?
  • The rest of the Jazz bench:  Negligible contributions.  Korver was decent, I guess.  In his defense he did out jump KLove for a jump ball. 
  • Friday’s game against New Orleans will mark the half-way point of the season.  The Wolves are on pace for 26 wins, which is a far cry from the “20 game improvement” McHale predicted this off-season.  In his defense, the Wolves have been playing exponentially better since their 4-23 start; so it would behoove me to think we can win more than 26 games this season.  Perhaps my initial off-season “best case scenario” prediction of 34 wins will end up being not too far off.  Disclaimer: In the TWolvesBlog forums, I had since cancelled my original prediction, then re-instated it a week later, and then again re-cancelled it at some point.  I am not truly sure if I even have bragging rights over that prediction anymore, even if the Wolves were to go on and win exactly 34 games.
  • Obama4MVP!


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