It’s hard to imagine this not being the lowest point of the season. The Sacramento Kings came into this game with a worse record than the Wolves and were without superstar Tyreke Evans to lead them. But that didn’t matter, no, sir. Not when you have Marcus Thornton, Beno Udrih and, of course, Samuel Dalembert to make up the spread in Evans’ wake.
Without Kevin Love due to a groin injury, the Wolves played possibly the flattest version of basketball I’ve witnessed from them all season long. Considering the Four Factors, which any game can be properly analyzed by, the Wolves miserably failed to do a damn thing against a pitiful Kings squad.
Let’s start with factor one: Shooting. Basketball Reference says that shooting makes up 40-percent of a winning formula for any game. The Wolves actually shot well today at 44-percent. Given anything in the mid-forty’s should at least keep you competitive, so something else must’ve went wrong.
The second factor is free throw shooting. We all know the importance of getting to the line and cashing in on these opportune looks. The Wolves are currently ranked 15th in the league in free throw percentage, which isn’t half bad (Also consider the timing of FTM, which isn’t very good for the Wolves). Today, they actually outshot the Kings, 75-percent to 61-percent. But free throws only do so much in a game, so let us continue in reviewing the Four Factors.
Factor three is your turnover rate (Uh-oh). This is a young squad; you’re going to turn the ball over and it will more than likely be at a high rate, but the Wolves turned over the ball 25 times today against what I didn’t believe was too stifling of a defense — Just wait until Boston, Chicago and Miami come to town next week. And they were all mental mistakes. A bad pass in the pros isn’t the same as a bad pass in high school; all of these guys are physically mature enough to thrust an accurate ball to a teammate without much hassle involved. You know it’s a mental issue when they’re unable to complete these plays. For instance, Luke Ridnour, arguably the most intelligent player on the team, had three horrible possessions in a row. One started with him flying across the lane into traffic and fumbling the ball into a sea of purple jerseys. The next possession was awfully similar, instead this time he essentially just threw the ball away. And the third possession ended with him heaving a contested shot from the very corner of the floor without so much as a prayer of it going in. These possessions led to points going the other way while we sat idly throwing the our possessions away. So, despite having a decent shooting percentage on the board, the Wolves only had 79 attempts compared to the Kings’ 91. That’s a difference of 12 possessions and possibly 24 points on the board. That’s the price you have to pay for turning the ball over.
The last factor, and maybe the most important in this game, was rebounding. The Wolves, jockeyed by the rebounding mogul that is Love, are, statistically speaking, the best in the biz when it comes to crashing the boards. But without Love’s physicality inside, rebounding becomes a game of length and determination. The Kings’ frontcourt does not lack in the length department. Both Jason Thompson and Dalembert are nearly 7-feet tall and have abnormally long limbs. With those lengthy arms, those two bolstered Sac-Town’s rebounding with a combined 25 boards, as the Kings went on and grabbed 47 as a team. The Wolves? Darko Milicic, an average rebounder, led the way with six and gave the team a total of 27. A 20 rebound difference won’t get you a win, and thus we realize the importance of Love’s intensity and hustle on the boards. Because without it, this team could very well lose by 20 every night.
The only positive I could take from this game was how well Darko did on Demarcus Cousins on the defensive end. The big Kahn man has been notorious for his awful drafts but if this game said anything, it was that he got it right when he didn’t draft Cousins with the fourth overall pick last Summer. Not saying that Wes has done any better, but having to deal with Cousins’ baggage would not have been a picture-perfect situation for Rambis and co. Anyways, the ego-manaical hot-head was ejected after a scuffle with the feisty Ridnour. Then as Martell Webster and Nikola Pekovic stepped in to regulate — a shout out goes to the homey Nate Dogg, RIP — he abruptly shoved ‘em both and stir even a bigger scene. As the story went on, technical fouls were dished out and Cousins hit the showers prematurely. The Wolves did go on a mini run afterwards, cutting the lead to five, but were thwarted by hot shooting and physicality under the hoop.
That just about does this one. The Wolves were never really close in this one thanks to turnovers and no rebounds. Next up the Puppies head to Dallas on Thursday. Hopefully a nice break will heal some guys up and do this team some good. Only time will tell on that one.