You have to admit: the Wolves had been playing some entertaining basketball since the All-Star break. A cohesive unit, sharing the ball, playing passable team defense; the games grew intriguing and fun. We knew we’d have to sit through growing pains of a such a young squad’s bonding period, and, for a while there, I truly felt they were finally on the rise; the up-and-up we’ve so patiently awaited for.
If I’ve realized anything from the past two games, I was incorrect. Severely.
For two games straight the Wolves magically forgot how to play that so-called “defense.” Granted they are on the road and that’s never been our forte, but both were winnable games that turned to blowouts, fast. They’ve struggled bringing any intensity or hustle to either game (Somebody’s not eating their Wheaties). All of the aspects we’ve seen in recent weeks have been painfully absent in the past two, and all of a sudden it looks like we’re back to square one.
Many of our losses before the break came at the hands of under-skilled, less important wing players. Unfortunately that was again the case tonight. C.J. Miles went bonkers and put up 40 on the Wolves. He made 14 of his 18 shots from the field, six of seven from beyond the arc. He was even physical enough to get to the line seven times, converting on six of those. It’s difficult to point fingers when players of Miles’ caliber goes off. Surely Miles has the talent and the tools to put up 40 on a given night, but when you’re granted the opportunity to play one of the league’s laziest, most lacksidasical team defense’s I’ve ever seen, your chances of scoring that much rise exponentially. Somehow, given a few extra feet of room on the perimeter to unleash your repertoire of moves, it makes the rim look as big as Lake Superior, no matter where you are on the court.
The lack of energy and intensity also translated to the offense as well. Michael Beasley started off extremely slow and never got it going until it was too late. If the Wolves want any real chance of winning, they need Beasley to regain his early season form of nailing all sorts of shots from mid-range and being cautiously selective with his drives to the hoop. Lately, we’ve seen the opposite; him forcing up shots from literally anywhere at any time, leaving the Wolves with zero chance to set up an offense and run within the flow of the game. Beasley’s boneheaded heaves desperately strain the Wolves’ chances of regaining some sort of flow within the game on the offense. That and turnovers are our #1 enemies on offense.
Another reason we’ve been failing on our small road trip thus far is our production from the center position. Quickly, let’s review Darko and Nikola’s outputs last night. In a combined 32 minutes of work, (Think of that as standard for any normal starting center in the league) the Serbian tandem managed to score 10 points (All from Darko), thankfully only one turnover but eight personal fouls. Darko was in foul trouble for most of the game, so Pekovic came in to do the dirty work and that he did. He managed to pick up three personal fouls, turn the ball over once and post a putrid -16 in just five minutes of service. That’s redonkulous. Rambis has to soon see that Anthony Randolph needs to be the go-to center off the bench. He did last night, and Randolph produced (10 points, eight rebounds, one block and steal). Very soon here, we should start seeing Randolph getting around 15 minutes per game. We need to see what this kid is capable with, and the only way he’s going to learn the offense is playing it, not staring at it from the bench. It’ll be interesting to watch this story as it comes to fruition because, as we all know, Rambis’ rotations are nothing less than sketchy, and granting the proper minutes to the best players has never been his specialty. (Maybe those new coaching change rumors could be a good thing.)
Any who, the Wolves played terribly again. Kevin Love’s new double-double streak has commenced, and you bet your ass I’m excited to root it on again! Especially if the Wolves decide this is the type of basketball they want to play to close out the season.
Next up is the Lakers on Friday night. A little more difficult of a matchup than the Utah Jazz, the Wolves don’t have a prayer of a win if they show up the way they did in Utah. Could be interesting.