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Let’s be clear about one thing: it is encouraging that the Timberwolves, despite their best efforts, eventually won. 4-7 is clearly better than 3-8. (ANALYSIS!)
Kevin Love was a juggernaut down low, crashing around and drawing contact incessantly, forcing the overmatched, whistle-happy officials to make a decision. Eventually, the officials seemed to decide that they couldn’t very well NOT continue to call fouls, since the same contact was happening on every single play. The result? Love himself took as many free throws (18) as the entire Hornets team, and made all but one. Love’s final line, 35 points and 14 rebounds, is so Dwight Howard-y (minus the FT percentage, of course) that the box score itself has an enormous pair of shoulders.
Rubio started his first game as a Timberwolf and played well, dishing out 9 assists (10 if you ask ESPN’s Zach Harper, and he’s 100% correct). Two of the ones that counted were notably beautiful, one up high to Wes Johnson for a slam (more on that later), one sneaky and behind the back to Wayne Ellington for a three. Both are conveniently captured here.
And of course, once again, the Wolves won, eventually securing an 87-80 victory against a pesky New Orleans team that refused to go down easily.
So why am I feeling so negative at the moment?
Let’s start with this: New Orleans is not a good basketball team. Worse, they were without their best offensive threat (Eric Gordon, out with a sore knee). And yet, the game was very much up for grabs until the final 1:30, after Jarret Jack hesitated a fraction of a second too long and clanked a three. Love grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and the Wolves began to pull out of reach with the only weapon they were able to capitalize on all night: free throws.
But the Wolves once again failed to demonstrate any kind of killer instinct, after leading by 14 in the third quarter and failing to push the game out of reach.
New Orlean’s go-to player was Emeka Okafor, who had Anthony Randolph figured out on the block the way Stephen Hawking has figured out basic algebra. When Adelman got sick of it and put in Love, Okafor kept several possessions alive by simply swatting the ball back out to the perimeter where his guards were stationed. When Kevin Love plays for your team, you begin to forget what it’s like when the other team gets too many offensive rebounds, but Minnesota fans remembered last night, as the Hornets came away with 19 total.
Let’s get to some bullet points before I start bleeding from the eyes.
- Speaking of bodily harm, the Hornets’ League Pass announcers had me grinding my teeth into bits by the third quarter. They are the worst I’ve ever heard, which is saying something, because I watch entirely too much League Pass. They can’t even be bothered to pretend to be objective, and listening to them attempt to sell each other’s jokes is like listening to a bad sitcom with an overenthusiastic laugh track. Example: “The real double-double record is 227 by Wilt Chamberlain, but I don’t think Kevin Love will quite get there.” “No, I hear what you are saying, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.”
- In my 4th quarter notes: “Don’t forget: refs aren’t deciding this game for either team. But they are disrupting the flow.” This was one of those weird games where fans of both teams would leave angry at the refs, and both groups would have a valid case. The Hornets could complain that the refs were calling picky fouls, which vastly benefited Minnesota’s offensive strategy (which, after a brief third quarter run of hot shooting, amounted to give Kevin Love the ball and hope he gets hacked). The Timberwolves could complain that the Hornets got several very fishy foul calls down low, and that the refs missed a bad goaltending no-call that almost swung the momentum completely in New Orleans favor. Again, the refs didn’t decide the game in either direction, and wouldn’t have if the Hornets had won (that would have been Minnesota’s shooting percentage), but they helped make this game hard to watch.
- More from my notes: “WHY IS THIS TEAM SO STREAKY?!”
- Remember this summer, when David Kahn claimed he wanted this team to run even more? Not happening against New Orleans. The Wolves managed a paltry 5 points on the break, relying almost entirely on their half court sets for offense. Which of course, leads us to…
- The Wolves were terrible from the field. Just…awful. The Timberwolves PR team on Twitter (@Timberwolves_PR) pointed out that Minnesota’s 34.3% shooting from the field was the worst percentage in a win in T-Wolves history. It doesn’t get any prettier from three point range, 6-25 for 24%.
- Hang on, I’m not done complaining about Nawlinz’ announcers. As Okafor was destroying Minnesota, one of the announcers, who were inexplicably obsessed with the fact that it was Friday the 13th, kicked it to commercial with this beauty: “The only player in double digits…(clearly thinking hard)…doesn’t need a mask! (realizes that this makes no sense) Maybe the defenders do!” Ugh.
- Keep going? Alright, twist my arm. After Rubio nails a jumper: “You know, I think he’s much more dangerous as a guy getting ASSISTS rather than a guy shooting jumpers.” Really? Where are you getting this insider information? It couldn’t be from every scouting report on Rubio since he was 14 years old, could it? Furthermore, why are you discussing this after Rubio just nailed a mid-range jumper over one of your best defensive players? Then, a little later, as Rubio almost went flying into the scorer’s table after a loose ball: “I wasn’t going to let him get hurt. Or MAYBE I’ll let him get hurt, I don’t know, I’m thinking about it.” Classy, bro.
- Minnesota’s ball movement was another reason they struggled. Apart from Rubio’s 10 9 assists, the Wolves had just 2 from other players.
That should roughly cover things. Once again, the Wolves started off cold and had to dig their way back, which will be more difficult tonight against the Hawks, who are much, much better than New Orleans, even without Al Horford. But Jonah will be along later to give you every thing you need to know about that game.
For now? The Wolves are 4-7. At least they beat a team they should beat. Progress!