As the Wolves await the tip late this evening with the L.A. Lakers, it's baffling to look at the league standings and see that Toronto holds the eighth seed in the east with a winning percentage under 40%, while these struggling LA Lakers, coming in with a winning percentage of .480 would be slotted in fourth in the east.
How does that even happen? Some body explain it to me….
Anyway, let the musing begin! Recently, the Wolves have gone through a stretch of plat that further illustrates their inconsistency. Wolves fans saw it first hand when they let Philadelphia and their (affectionately named) roster of rejects, spring out to a nineteen point lead, only to rally the troops, hit some shots, and come out with a victory. A victory that was made way more difficult that it needed to be.
They then battled the Spurs, giving it everything they had. Kevin Love looking like an MVP, putting up a dazzling display of long distance shot making. That game was truly a joy to watch. It makes me so much more happy with the fact that we get to play San Antonio again at home because of that ridiculous Mexican arena fire. Truth is, the leadership, coaching and execution San Antonio have been blessed with for a decade and a half is unprecedented. The longevity of Tim Duncan, the expert craftiness of Tony Parker, and the cold blooded ability of Manu Ginobili to hit clutch shots, is a perfect recipe for a franchise to contend, as they have, for a decade and a half. It is also a recipe for what a small market, like San Antonio and Minneapolis have to be gifted in order to become contenders in the NBA. A team may luck into players like Tim Duncan, Kevin Love, and Ricky Rubio by simply playing badly enough to get high draft picks, but the scouting it takes to see the potential of Manu (a57th pick in '99) and Tony (a 28th pick in '01) is builds these kind of teams. Have the wolves, or could the wolves find a core like this to surround Kevin Love? Because the truth is, Timmy, Manu and Tony killed the wolves in the forth quarter. This wolves defense simply can't handle that kind of execution (and *cough* *cough* *lack* of officiating) late.
Against Memphis we saw a wolves squad that battled. K-Love displayed some stellar shooting, and the wolves came a way with a nice little victory, beating a team that they should beat.
Against Boston they shot the ball poorly, but stayed in the game with a rare solid bench effort and a huge free throw shooting edge (because of which the Boston TV guys claimed the Wolves had made a deal with the officials … if only they knew.) (Plus aren’t TV guys supposed to be a bit more candid than that?). The effort was decent against Boston but it was clear the Wolves legs were not completely under them. Something that was notable that Wolves fans should be looking to continue on in the future, was the minutes played by Gorgui Dieng. To be the good bench play was greatly rooted in the fact that his length and rim protecting slowed the Celtics down enough that Dante Cunningham, J.J. Barea and free throw shooting could keep them in it. (Honestly the complaints by the Boston TV guys were ridiculous … anyway I have more musings on officiating to be voiced at a later date.)
After the disappointment in Boston, the Wolves came out better that we’ve seen them since the shalacking of the LA Lakers. Just about everything went well in that first half. Something notable about all of these games was the effort on defense by players not known to be defenders. Kevin Love played great on Zach Randolph, battled all game with Jared Sullenger and never seriously let Lamarcus Aldrige get exactly what he wanted (even though LMA was uncharacteristically bad at what he’s usually excellent at). Even Alexey Shved played with good defensive energy. Adelman’s quotes in the star tribune seems to suggest that Shved could be turning a corner. Looking at the effort and athleticism he’s shown of late, I’d have to agree.
Also connecting on all cylinders were two wolves who have started the year off inconsistently. JJ Barea and Nikola Pekovic really came to play against the Blazers. Pek was hitting everything, lay ups, hook shots, jumpers. Wolves fans haven’t seen a game like that out of Pek in a while. All this while JJ hit some three’s and took the ball to the rack in the key moments when Damien Lillard and Portlandia came storming back.
All being said, is the last few games, we’ve seen a bit of the same. This wolves team has some inconsistencies and it has a lot of learning to do about closing games in crunch time. It was encouraging to see them come from behind against Philly, Battle against San Antonio, and close out some games against Memphis and Portland, but somethings came tougher then they would have liked.
I did however really like the teams attitude. In a half time interview, after his ridiculously productive half Kevin Love sounded greedy in a good way. He talked about how they really didn’t finish off the half like they wanted to. A half where they played about as good as the ever have this season. This is encouraging. They didn’t back down, the kept the peddle to the medal and responded to Portland’s runs.
As for the Lakers, we can only hope the Wolves come into this one with as much mojo and energy as they did when the dropped forty-seven in the first quarter a while back. Of course that cannot be expected, especially with Ricky Rubio reportedly sitting, or at least limited due to illness. Look for Shved, and potentially even Shabazz Mohammed to get a bit of an extended look. Unfortunately Kobe’s down with injury tonight, this game would be more fun with the Mamba dressed and in the house. But the wolves cannot come into this one lightly. While the lake show doesn’t quite look like the lake show (with Wes Johnson and all), they are professionals too, and if the Philly game taught our pups anything, they better not be looking past this LA squad for the artists formally known as "lob city".
Here go wolves! HOOOOOWWWLLLLLL!!!!!!