GH And Petey's Timberwolves Blog

Saturday, January 08, 2005

So Close

It seems only appropriate that the first game Mark Madson misses, somebody on the Wolves misses a lay up that would have won the game.

With a few minutes left, it looked like the Wolves would pull it off, and it would one of the biggest wins of the season. Despite not having Cassell or Maddog, the Wolves were up by 6 with just 1:49 to go when the shooting went cold and they were unable to close it out.

I was rummaging through the web before the game today when I found an article (unfortunately, I can't re-find it so that I can link to it) where Troy said that his ankle generally felt good, but sometimes would get stiff when he had been sitting for a while. This gave me some degree of optimism, as I thought that maybe starting the game and getting more minutes would help keep him looser and playing better. Plus, just getting more minutes and having added responsibility might help propel him back to old form.

When the game started I had mixed feelings. Troy went out after about 9 minutes and the Wolves were down 24-15. Despite this, I didn't think Troy had done a particularly bad job out there. In fact, it was hard for me to figure out who exactly to blame for this. I sort of felt like we had done an ok job (except for missing a bunch of easy shots on offense) and that the Wizards were just playing quite well.

What I saw next was something I haven't seen in weeks. Our second unit was actually playing well. We had 4 reserves score in double figures and our bench outscored theirs by a total of 56-7. It's difficult to say whether this is a direct result of Anthony Carter running our second unit or not since it's just one game, but with Cassell out, I'll definitely be looking at our other two point guards and comparing them. If there's one thing that comes out of Cassell's injury, it is that the Wolves will probably end up with a competent back up point guard--one way or the other.

Here's a brief comparison of the two from tonight's game:

AC 231360+4

AC clearly wins round 1.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Wolves/Sixers Quarter by Quarter


Just minutes before tipoff, I find out that Iverson is out. I've got mixed feelings about this. It's good for the Wolves because it should make the game easier to win. On the other hand, I'm sort of disappointed by it. First of all, I really enjoy watching Iverson play. I think he's one of the most exciting players in the NBA to watch, and he's shorter than me! In addition, I start to wonder what would happen to the Wolves actually managed to lose this game. This is a 76ers team that we beat by 35 points earlier this season, and this time we're playing them at home without their superstar. We couldn't lose this game, could we?

First Quarter

Both teams come out sloppy, and Kandi comes out smackin' stuff. In less than 3 minutes, he's forced to go to the bench with 2 fouls. To replace him, we bring in perennial all-star Mark Madson. Madson's in for several minutes when he injures his hand and leaves for the game and is replaced by future hall-of-famer Irvin "Horse Face" Johnson. I had to wonder why Flip didn't use either of these opportunities to bring in Eddie. I know he's dropped off a bit lately, but do you really want to bring in either of those other guys when your offense is stagnant? My only guess is that Flip wants Eddie playing with the second unit (a unit that was absolutely terrible tonight), and that he was just using Maddog and Horse Face to fill in the gaps.

The quarter ends with Sam (5-7 FG, 10 pts, 2 assists) the only Wolf who played well on the offensive end. KG had an interesting quarter, shooting 0-6 but with all the missed shots out there, he was at least able to grab 7 rebounds. This has to be one of the sloppiest quarters I can ever remember watching.

Second Quarter

This quarter, the game actually started to look like it was a real NBA game. The Wolves came out strong and looked determined not to lose to this hapless team. We could have really done it too, had it not been for the offensive rebounding of the 76ers. At one point, they scored on 6 straight possessions, and not because they were making every shot they took. Still, the Wolves managed to grow the lead to 12 points. Then Screamin' A came on and said that the game was still close. I'm not really sure what he was looking for, but a 12 point lead in the second quarter is pretty big. Then--as if I was being punished for my internal mocking of Mr. A--the Wolves proceeded to not score for the rest of the quarter, taking a slim 6 point lead to the locker room.

Third Quarter

After blowing our chance to put hurt on during the second quarter, I was hoping to see the Wolves come out strong. They did just that. Lead by Wally, who at one point scored 10 points in a row for the Wolves, they were able to bump the lead up to as many as 16. One area where Wally has really been able to improve this year is his ability to move without the ball. There were several times during this run where he would just get himself open right underneath the basket. This is a great way for Wally to get points, since it doesn't involve him dribbling. Wally's recent success has been largely due to his ability to stay within himself. He's been taking open jump shots, making strong moves toward the hoop, and moving without the ball.

The Wolves kept a large lead for a long time, but couldn't get to the point where they had just put the game away.

Then, with 2:41 left in the quarter, Flip decided to take out KG. I was skeptical of this move, because Sam was already out and it left us with Kandi, Eddie, Wally, Troy, and Hasell on the floor. It just seemed like Flip had decided too early that we had the game won, and was trying to give Garnett some extra rest. However, the way things have been going for the Wolves, I would have liked to have seen KG stay in until we could get that 20 point lead, then with 7 minutes left (or so) in the 4th, we could have taken him out and sat him for the remainder of the game. As it was, the Wolves (again) didn't score for the remainder of the quarter and the lead was cut to 7. The run continued into the beginning of the fourth quarter, when they scored the first 4 and cut the lead to 3.

Fourth Quarter

I was pleased to see Garnett back in the game at the beginning of the quarter. I know Flip was really hoping to rest him quite a bit longer, but we could no longer risk it. Less than a minute later, Sam came back in. During the times Troy was in there during the second half, the Wolves were outscored 15-2. Against the Bobcats, he played 15 minutes and had 5 turnovers. I know Hudson feels like he's been unfairly singled out, but with performances like this, how can you not look at him and hold him at least partially responsible?

Shouldn't this be a fould on somebody?
Shouldn't this be a foul on somebody?

Then, as if he knew the game depended entirely on him, Sam came back and scored the first 14 points of the quarter. The Wolves managed to hold on to win by 5, but with 25 seconds left, Sam went down with a strained hamstring.


We may have won, but it's hard to get to excited about it. We were playing a terrible team at home without it's superstar. Nobody on their team shot higher than 50% from the field. Yet, we barely eked out a win. In addition, two of our players went down to injury. I get the feeling that we won the battle, but made no major progress in winning the war.

The Wolves will be able to survive without Maddog, but the thought of losing Cassell is damn scary. It looks like there's a good chance he'll still play, but hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger. If the Wolves are going to avoid complete collapse without Cassell, Hudson is going to have to find a way to return to form in a hurry.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I Quit

I'm sick (and not just because of the Wolves loss tonight), so I'm not going to write much. Here's my four sentence summary of the game.

KG was amazing again. Hudson was absolutely terrible. The Wolves fatigue was obvious, getting outscored 25-4 in the last 6 minutes of the game. They lost badly to a team they should have beaten by 70 points.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Although we lost for the thirds straight time, there were some optimistic things that came out of the game. First was Garnett's amazing performance, setting a franchise high with 47 points. Right from the start, he looked ready to go right from the start and never let up.

This is going to sound a bit crazy, but despite giving up a season-high 122 points, the Wolves defense actually looked pretty decent. The score had a lot more to do with the Suns amazing offense than lackadaisical defense. Several times, Amare drove to the hole and looked like he just hit a brick wall. Despite this, the ball would emerge a second later and find its way into the basket. Other times, the Wolves seemed to stifle the Suns for about 20 seconds, only to have the Suns hit a long range jumper just in time.

I'm a big fan of the Steve Nash, fast-break style offense that the Suns employ, and I'd like to see the Wolves try and do more of it. On almost every single possession, the Suns would try and push the ball up the court. It is something that you can do if you have a fast and intelligent point guard. Just push the ball quickly up the court and probe the defense before it gets set up. If there's nothing there, just pull the ball out and set up your half court offense. It is a perfect way to get high percentage shots that will net you more points than an average possession.

Finally, the Wolves were able to end on a positive note. The Suns had gotten up by 21 points, and I had all but given up on the game. Then, they came storming back. All of a sudden we were down by only 6, and this was due in large part to the Wolves employing an offensive style like I describe above. Also, KG turned into a monster and started eating everybody on the court.

The Suns helped the Wolves out quite a bit by shooting a ton of threes down the stretch. One of the problems with relying on threes to account for a lot of your scoring is that it's a horribly inconsistent shot. When you're in a game and you're up by a fairly significant margin, you should be looking for a shot as close to the basket as possible, in order to maximize consistency. When you're already up by quite a bit, who cares if you win by 10 or by 20? What happened tonight to the Suns was almost disastrous, because they became content to run the shot clock down and huck up a three. Had their shots been going in, they would have won by 20. As it was, they almost blew it. This is a big part of the reason it's important to have a dominant big man in the NBA. Being able to be consistent at the end of games is like having a good closer in baseball. It allows you to win the games you're supposed to win.

In other good news, the Wolves next two games are against Charlotte and Philly.

The Bad

Of course, despite some of the positive signs I saw from the Wolves tonight, they still lost--dropping their record to a mediocre 16-13. They still have lots of work to do.

Also, if you take away the performances of KG and Sam, the Wolves shot a pathetic .395 (17-43) from the field. Take away Wally's numbers and this drops to .303 (10-33). One of the strengths of this year's Wolves team is it's depth, and if we're going to win a championship, we need our guys to do a little better than 30%.

The Ugly

Eddie G had another sub-par night shooting. He missed his first 3 3-pointers of the night that he attempted. Not only did he miss them, they weren't even close. I've noticed this a lot lately about his shots. It just seems like he's forcing the ball a little bit right now. We need him to relax a little and just let the ball flow out of his hand. Maybe we should introduce him to Lamar Odom, who could hook him up with some ganja.

After missing his first three, Eddie completely redeemed himself by making his next two. Then he completely un-redeemed himself by air-balling an 18-footer, missing the rim by at least a foot. Then, he got blocked 3 times in a row on the same possession.

Also, I'm not exactly sure what transpired near the end of the game, but Amare was on a fast break and Spree fouled him but he still made the basket. Then, for some reason, he bounced the ball at Spree, and Spree retaliated by throwing the ball back at him. They both got technicals, and for Stoudemire, it was his second, so he got ejected.