The Wolves played the Suns last night. It was a pretty typical game for us. We were down by only 1 point, 26-25, after a 1st quarter in which the Suns played some really sloppy basketball. During the break before the 2nd quarter, I imagine Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said something along the lines of, “we’re a playoff team, and they’re the Timberwolves. Now go handle your business so we can get the hell out of here.” The Suns then proceeded to go on a 20-2 run early in the 2nd quarter. We had 8 turnovers in this quarter alone and trailed by 22 points at halftime.
If for some crazy reason you watch a lot of Wolves games like I do, halftime is the point in Wolves games when good teams are mentally already on the flight back to the city from which they came. The alternative is that these teams will go through the motions for 3 quarters and then show up just in time in the 4th quarter to put the game away. Often times we still get blown out by these teams. The Suns went with the 1st choice on this night. The Suns let us back in the game in the 3rd quarter, in which we outscored them 31-17. Big Alcoholic had 8 of his 19 points in the 3rd. Kevin Love had 8 rebounds in this quarter alone. Most importantly, Amare looked completely uninterested in playing the game of basketball at this time. You see, when Amare felt like trying, we had no answer for him to the tune of 30 points and 17 rebounds. He was able to abuse anyone in his path. He dunked on Darko, he dunked on Love, he dunked on Al, Hollins, you name it. Hell I think he even dunked on some guy sitting in the 3rd row. But like the rest of the Suns, he mentally checked out at halftime thinking he could coast the rest of the game. Uncharacteristically, we still had some fight left in us on this given night. So early in the 4th quarter, with all of the Suns starters sitting on the bench, the Wolves pulled within 1 point of the Suns led by Al and Gomes. This seemed like a pretty monumental achievement at the time, but Alvin Gentry checked his starters back into the game, Amare bent us over, and the rest is history.
With all of this out of the way, let me get to the real point of this article.
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In the game against the Suns, Kevin Love had his best game of the season. 23 points on 8-17 shooting and a career high 22 rebounds. His 8 offensive rebounds were more than everyone on the Suns combined. He was flying around snatching rebounds from the air left and right. The Suns were lacking effort at times and Love was equally at fault as anyone else for Amare and Channing Frye looking unstoppable, but even considering these points, Love had a fine performance any way you look at it.
Anyone that knows me or reads the stuff I write knows that I’m not the biggest fan of Love. I thought the Mayo-Love swap was a mistake and still do. I think Love is too short, unathletic, and defensively challenged to be a starter in this league. He’s best suited to coming off the bench and taking advantage of other teams’ less talented (and often smaller) big men. I think there is somewhere between a zero and none percent chance that Al Jefferson and Kevin Love can be the starting frontcourt on a winning team and am hoping one of them is traded this offseason so we can move on with a more balanced team. A more balanced team that will someday hopefully bring us a championship. With all that said, I’m willing to give him credit where credit is due. He had a great game tonight. Excellent. Playing like that on a consistent basis will get you into the All-Star game, and I mean that.
There is another Timberwolves website on the internet called Canishoopus. They don’t like giving credit where credit is due. They really like 2 things above all else: advanced statistics and acting like their shit doesn’t stink.
Now I need to backtrack a little bit to tonight’s game. What I have failed to mention up until this point is that Al Jefferson also had a good game tonight. He had 19 points, 16 rebounds, and a team-best +9 plus-minus rating. His plus-minus would have been much higher, except he was in the game for a good portion of the Suns 20-2 run in the 2nd quarter. On the court with him was the elite unit of Ramon Sessions, Wayne Ellington, Sasha Pavlovic, and Ryan Hollins. Hey, one guy can only do so much.
Stop-n-pop, the main writer at Canishoopus doesn’t like Al very much. He didn’t have much to say about Al in his game recap. Actually he didn’t have much to say about anything except straw-colored fruit bats. This is what he did say about Al:
This was a game that was there for the taking, regardless of the awful 2nd quarter. They missed 10 free throws and shot .423 from 2 and .250 from beyond the arc. 3 more free throws and 2 more made 2s and they win…with percentages that fall in line with what they typically put up. Darko and Big Al were the worst offenders, shooting a combined .310 from the floor.
Did Big Al really shoot 31% from the floor? That’s terrible! I thought you said Al had a good game, not a bad game? In actuality, Al shot 37.5% from the floor. Stop-n-pop lumped him in with Darko, who had an absolutely horrendous shooting performance, going 3-13, or 23% . 37.5% is still pretty bad, especially for a post player who is supposedly the best player on his team. But you see, this is where actually watching games and knowing the slightest bit about basketball comes in handy. Al is a very gifted offensive player on a very bad basketball team. So much so, that whenever he gets the ball in the post he is almost always double-teamed and sometimes even triple-teamed. Al works very hard to get his points and as the Timberwolves don’t have anyone else on the team who can consistently create points for themselves, he is relied heavily on to do so. When you consider the team as a whole shot 39% and of players who made more than 3 field goals, only Love and Gomes shot better than him, 37.5% doesn’t look so bad.
Over at Canishoopus, they don’t care about things like these. They care about what stats say. The stats say Al isn’t all he’s cracked up to be and that Love is awesome. Like really, really awesome. Because of this, they are in love with Love (hehe). Like in an unhealthy way. If you say anything negative about Love at their site, you will be attacked by many of the people who comment there. Likewise, if you say anything too positive about Al Jefferson, you’re likely to get many replies explaining why you are wrong.
Do you remember earlier this month when Al had his best game of the season against the Mavericks? Al was ballin’ to the tune of 36 points and 14 rebounds against one of the best teams in the league. It really was a great game. He looked like pre-injury Al again. He did major work down low. Do you know what stop-n-pop had to say about Al’s performance in his game wrap? Nothing! Apparently this wasn’t even worthy of a mention in his recap of the game. What he did write about was how perplexing it was that Love only played 12 minutes (I’m sure that the fact that Al was having his best game of the season and they play the same position had nothing to do with it) in a game in which he shot 1-7 from the field.
Last night the Wolves gave their two worst players (Pavs and Hollins) more minutes than their best player, Kevin Love. Granted, Love did not have his best game, but a) he’s still a young player and should be afforded at least as much leeway as someone like Jonny Flynn, and b) it should be obvious by this point that Love affects the game above and beyond what can be found in a basic box score.
Whether it’s adjusted +/-, PER, or a Roland Rating, Love comes out near the top of his team’s performance ratings because of the way he affects the team’s 5 man rotations. His upper echelon rebounding allows his fellow teammates to run out in transition on the defensive glass; his ability to run the pick and roll opens up perimeter players in the 1/2 court; his hustle on the offensive glass extends numerous possessions; and so on and so forth.
You can read the rest of this amazing and informative article about Kevin Love’s awesomeness here. Let’s take another example. Remember in January when the Wolves played in their first ever triple overtime game against the Rockets thanks to Corey Brewer’s halfcourt heave? Al had 26 points and carried the team on his back when we needed him down the stretch. He also had a franchise record 26 rebounds. Granted, he did it with 3 overtimes, but 26 rebounds is 26 rebounds. Well stop-n-pop was taking some time off when this game happened as his wife just had the mailman’s baby or something like that so the other half of the canishoopus braintrust, wyn, was filling in. Wyn starts off by saying he’s not much for game analysis, but makes a few points to talk about in the comments. I think you can guess what the talking points are about:
Kevin Love’s playing time. Is 31 minutes enough in a triple-overtime game? Was Love a bad matchup with the Rockets? Were the Wolves’ other 4s just playing better?
Umm, so Al Jefferson carried the team during the 4th quarter and the overtimes, had a franchise record for rebounds in a game, and this was probably the first glimpse we had of pre-injury Al up to this point in the season, but that’s not a talking point? Hmm, strange. Over at canishoopus, it is hip to make excuses for Love. When he has a bad game, it’s because it was just a bad matchup (which happens to be the majority of the frontcourts in the league, but their selective amnesia allows them to block this out). When Al has a good game, it’s in vogue to talk about how bad his defense is. Coincidentally, the fact that Love’s lack of defensive prowess matches Al’s awfulness on the defensive end is never brought up.
Well how does all this concern me? It concerns me because the people at canishoopus think they are smart. Like smarter than everyone else. They are apparently never wrong about anything. Not even wrong the time stop-n-pop claimed that Al & Love were going to form an unstoppable offensive duo that would lead us to the promised land. This masterpiece of basketball intelligence can be read here. As the title implies, he states that everything we know about the Wolve is wrong and that Al will be just fine playing center with Love next to him at power forward. He goes on to say how we don’t need a long, athletic, defensive anchor at center (like us here at TWB have been clamoring for for ages). Read all the comments for the full effect of how little most of the people there know about basketball. It makes for good comedy. Now that we have a poor man’s defensive anchor in Darko and the results have been largely positive, they are pretending they were saying all along we needed to move Al to power forward and pair him and Love with a defensive center.
These sorts of things happen a lot of there. But they quickly forget about them, They are just as quick to excessively point out when they are actually right about something. Do you know somebody like that? I think everyone knows someone like that, and they’re annoying as hell. Here at TWB we are wrong a lot as well. But that doesn’t stop us from pointing out when we are wrong. Here at TWB, we are just a bunch of guys that like the Timberwolves and like to talk about whatever else we want to talk about. Sometimes we are immature, sometimes we don’t like putting lipstick on the pig that is the Timberwolves and just vent our frustration with the team. My sentence structure is poor when I write. I misspell words a lot of the time too. But really, who gives a shit? At canishoopus, things like these are very important. They will probably even come up with (what they perceive to be) a witty comment that demeans you if you do something like this.
Here at TWB, there was chaos in the forums when Kevin Mchale traded OJ Mayo for Kevin Love. We understood that Kevin Love and Al Jefferson are largely redundant players who would never fit together well. OJ Mayo is just the type of shooting guard that can make things happen that the Wolves have needed for a long, long time. We understand that Al gets double-teamed a lot and that as talented as Love is, he isn’t able to create his own offense. We understand that teams gameplan to stop Al, making sure the defensive rotations will be there to double team him when he gets the ball. Also, that an opposing team’s game plan against Love is probably something along the lines of make sure to box him out and not give him open looks from 3-point land and he won’t hurt you too badly. We’re just a bunch of dudes that watch the Wolves and like to talking to each other about anything and everything else. We’re just biding our time until the Wolves give us something to be excited about again.
Over at canishoopus, the blog who thumbed their noses at us for no apparent reason, we get our comments deleted for disagreeing with what they think or defending ourselves. I’ve been banned from commenting there anymore for defending myself from attacks by the canishoopus faithful. I don’t fit in very well there because having a superiority complex is a must and Roland Ratings and Win Scores and whatever the hell else stats reign supreme.
Most importantly, over at canishoopus you’d never know that Al had a decent game last night, or that he had a season best game against the Mavericks, or that he set a franchise record for rebounds against the Rockets. All you’d know is that Kevin Love is ridiculously awesome and that he should play more.
I’m not writing this to get you, the reader, to think, “woah canishoopus is a terrible place and TWB rocks!”. I’m just asking you to please form your own opinion and not take everything they say to be facts. I’m just hoping that people who aren’t Wolves fans that stumble upon their website don’t think all Wolves fans are as arrogant as they are. There are knowledgable Wolves fans, it’s just easy to become dormant and unenthusiastic about a franchise that has let us down so many times.
So the stats say that if Jesus were to cut his hair, put on a basketball jersey, and trade in his sandals for Nikes, the result would be Kevin Love. The stats are always right, right?