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The Wolves go back-to-back games this weekend with losing efforts. Anything new? Didn’t think so.
Starting with the Miami contest, Dwayne Wade and the Heat took it to the mouths of the Timberwolves. Literally. A Jamaal Magloire elbow to the jaw of Darko Milicic knocked out the only standing chance the Wolves’ defense had at stopping a smokin’-hot Dwayne Wade. Wade finished with 39 points and took the game over in the second half, which really put this one out of reach of the Wolves’ grasp.
Other than a great start for Darko, there is nothing positive to say about the Wolves’ performance. Players looked frustrated, especially Kevin Love. Some players excel when playing with anger and raw aggression but not Love. He forces shots and then gets lazy after things don’t end in his favor. The worst part of it all is that he being upset upsets me as a fan. Seeing our best player give up on their team is one of the more depressing sights in the NBA. It has happened often this season, mostly during the long 16-game losing streak. Love just needs an attitude check; he needs to realize that this team has no real talent and is not competitive and won’t be for the rest of the year and possibly longer. As fans, we’ve accepted that and so, it’s time for him to as well.
Back to Darko. Before leaving for the hospital in the second quarter, Darko was playing magnificent. The Heat had severe difficulty getting the ball inside on him. Three terrifying blocks from the big guy was frightening enough for the Heat to start forcing jump shots. From this, the Wolves were given multiple credible opportunities to take advantage but couldn’t quite do so. On the offensive end, things were going great for Darko as well. He went 5-7 from the field and left with 10 points. An injured Jermaine O’Neal opened the lane up for Darko to go to work in and so he did. But when Darko was bopped in the jaw and left the game, the lane was more open than a 24-hour Holiday on defense. And you would think that Al Jefferson and Love would make up for Darko’s absence on the offensive end at least but they couldn’t overcome their own struggles.
In the end, it was another pitiful effort from the Wolves. A bare Target Center didn’t care and neither did the players. Wade was practically out there embarrassing the Wolves while posing for pictures and I guess the Wolves felt that it was un-needed to step in and put an end to the glamorous photo shoot. So much for caring.
Sunday’s contest against the Thunder started out similar to that of the Phoenix beat down. I’m sure most of you still remember that; giving up 79 points to the Suns in the first half. Does that ring a bell?
The Thunder literally shot out of the gun and scored 43 points shooting 71% in the first quarter led by Kevin Durant’s 20 points. They were draining three’s and were buzzing like bees on defense giving no margin of error whatsoever for the Wolves to capitalize on.
As the first half came to a conclusion, a 73-50 deficit was enough for me to kick back and catch up on some Z’s before my blood pressure rose high enough to the point where a heart attack was a probability if I continued to watch the game.
To my surprise, I woke up mid-third quarter to the Wolves cutting the mammoth Thunder lead to only nine points with a few minutes left. Ryan Gomes displayed some range and helped lead the charge back into the game — He finished with 22. Dwelling on whether this was a dream or not, I pinched myself to assure it’s credibility. With the reassurance of reality, the fourth quarter began. The quarter started off positively and things were still looking good. Al Jefferson looked back to form, utilizing his quick post moves and making Nenad Kristic and Jeff Green look like children. A big key though was that he was getting to the line; something the Wolves weren’t used to in the first half. The quarter stayed tight and the lead eventually dwindled down to six but in came “Durantula”.
Quiet in the second and third quarters after his eruption in the first, Durant blew up yet again in the fourth with 10 points while pushing the Thunder lead back into double-digits. It was too late for a final push on the Wolves’ behalf and they fell in defeat in Oklahoma City.
The Wolves truly missed Darko’s inside presence tonight. He sat with a “minor concussion” in fear of getting another blow to the head. In the first quarter, the Thunder kept flying in from every which way for some thunderous dunks because no one on the inside were willing to stop them. That trend continued all game long thus proving that Big Al, Love and Hollins will never be defensive maestros. Too often did guys like Russell Westbrook and Durant slice their way into the lane capping it off with a slam or an easy, uncontested lay-up. This kind of thing is getting very old, very fast and will be one of the top needs to address this offseason.
The offense played well down the stretch. Jonny Flynn conducted most of this game and did a very good job at it. He shot just over 70% and finished with 22 points. Ever since given the freedom to be more creative and play his own style of game, Flynn has produced better numbers. The past five games he’s posted an average of 14.4 points and 4.2 assists per game. He’s turning the ball over less which is very surprising considering he’s attacking the hoop more often but what comes along with attacking the hoop is a better chance of getting fouled. Flynn got to the line seven times tonight and is cashing in when he gets there — 15-17 in the past five games.
With nothing good left to say about the Wolves, let’s turn our attention to the Thunder. Being a Wolves fan, I do not let myself cave into rooting for another Western Conference team. Occasionally, I root for an Eastern Conference team like my pick this year, the Bucks, just because the Wolves don’t see them very often in the season. But devoting my attention to another Western Conference team would be like a cardinal sin. Well, count me a sinner because Kevin Durant has turned me into a believer of this Thunder squad. I enjoy watching their games; they make me feel as if I’m watching the NCAA tournament and rooting for the underdog in every single game. Only difference is that they aren’t the underdogs anymore. They are legitimately a top eight team in the NBA this year, in my solid opinion, and it’s all owed to Durant.
The way Durant takes over a game gives you that feeling. You know, like you throw your head back and close your eyes saying “Oh my god” or “You’ve got to be kidding me!” but in a good, entertaining way. Durant is so silky-smooth in all aspects of his game, not just his jump shot, which is absolutely lethal by the way. You can tell he’s starting to put more emphasis on his individual defense, which then in turn improves the Thunder’s team defense. If I had a dollar for every time Durant steals a ball then makes a basket or a fantastic play in transition, I’d have, well, I don’t know, but a lot of damn money! But what probably makes him more enjoyable to watch besides his fluent style of play and game-changing abilities is the fact that Durant seems like just a good, genuine guy. He appears nice and is cool-headed on the court while keeping to himself as he does his thing. Watching Lebron jaw back-and-forth with Kevin Garnett earlier today in the Celtics-Cavaliers match-up made me feel dirty inside. It’s surprising how many cuss words you can read off a person’s lips while watching television. But see, Durant doesn’t do that. He is a stern guy who takes his job seriously but still knows the appropriate time to crack a smile and think, “Man, I’m having a good time.” And that is why I will be rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder in this year’s NBA Playoffs. Also, I hope K.D. knows that if I were to have an MVP vote, it would be going straight to him.
Cheers to you Heat and Thunder. You beat probably the worst team in the NBA this weekend, but don’t think of this as a momentum booster in much of any way. More difficult challenges lie ahead as you continue your journeys to the NBA Playoffs. As for the Wolves, things are already as difficult as they can be but with the not-so-good Golden State Warriors coming to town this Wednesday, things could possibly be looking up…Or not.