Things are in disarray. How long they will stay that way is the question weighing on everyone's mind. After Saturday's loss to Golden State multiple Timberwolf players stated that one win is all they needed. One win to begin a positive streak and one win to steady the ship. In the NBA it's all about one game at a time but as fans were often concerned more with future than present and take each sign of failure to be systematic instead of isolated. For the sake of this preview and to the benefit of our sanity let's take tonight's matchup as just one game. One game, that doesn’t speak to our playoff chances, but instead one game of 82 for an evolving team.
Backcourt woes: A lot is being said about the dismal play of the Wolves' backcourt and for good reason. Consider this stat- Ridnour has been shooting 17% in the 4th quarter, Barea 27%. Both of them average a mere .8 assists in the final quarter and last game they were outscored 44 to 2 by Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. If you aren't startled enough by those numbers feel free to dive deeper into the terrific article from which they came, written by Britt Robson and located here. The fact that isn't mentioned in this article is that not only are our point guards getting torched on the defensive end but they are also entirely unable to produce their own offense against poor defenders like themselves. Tonight they will go up against another group of defensive liabilities in Aaron Brooks, Isiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette. Rubio's return will have a great impact on both Barea and Ridnour's offensive output but unfortunately with a 5 game losing streak there's simply no more time to waste. In our first game of the season Barea scored 21 ponts against the Kings and Ridnour was respectable in his play as well. While neither is likely to match their previous performance I still expect a bounce back from what we've been seeing. Over the past two days the team has stressed communication on the floor, both JJ and Luke will need to start raising their voices.
Where has your Love gone?: When Love threw his hand brace angrily to the sidelines the other night it was clear he’s as frustrated physically as he is with his leader status. Love’s high volume shooting lately exemplifies his willingness to get back into game shape but it also demonstrates a kind of desperation to ‘be the man.’ Mind you, he should be. Problem is, right now he is not at his best . Love spoke to his rehab postgame on Saturday: “(The hand brace) is very restricting…I have no feel for the ball…It has a lot to do with it. It’s tough having no feel for the basketball.”
I don’t doubt that Love feels he isn’t playing to his full capability but whether that is a consequence of his brace or his conditioning is irrelevant to how he can affect the game through his leadership. Love needs to accept that coming back weeks early from rehab places him in a position where he won’t be able to be the player he wants to be instantaneously. The sooner Love takes advantage of his ability to draw double teams and find the open man, the better off this team will be. His best 3 games he assisted on 2, 1 and 2 shots, this number needs to increase while he’s ailing. Still, I expect to see more of his visible confusion and agitation tonight. Love needs to heal but with that may also new to develop a new brand of leadership and one that does not come naturally.
Shved you be interested?: Yes. Shved is energy. Not without flaws, the crafty Russian produces more good than bad. His ability to drive to the line and produce high percentage shots and assists can at times be Rubio beautiful. This team, depending on the lineup, can quickly develop a bad habit of going scoreless for long periods of time- minutes at a time. At these moments, Shved provides a kind of spark (at times a fire) that develops a new pace on the floor. With the struggle of his fellow guards lately, Shved more than ever deserves more minutes on the floor, he currently averages 22.6 MP according to basketball-references. His ability to shift the attitude of his teammates and create a more dynamic offense is worth his sometimes questionable three point shooting and occasional defensive lapses. Adelman seems to acknowledge his talents but still be experimenting. With hope we can begin to see more activity from Shved until Rubio returns.
Prediction: This team watched 40 minutes of film today on defensive breakdowns. They know the need the change they need starts tonight. I think they’re due for a win. What can I say I’m an optimist? I expect this team to play well enough, if only for three quarters to pull this one out.
Final: Wolves 96 Kings 86
MVP: Kevin Love, 26 PTS, 15 REBS, 3 AST