You didn’t expect Utah to give us roses and hugs after our big victory last night, did you?
A three game winning streak and a huge win over the NBA’s new golden child, the L.A. Clippers, on national television puts a target on your back. And, when you’re as young as the Wolves are, being targeted is uncharted territory and feels plain, old awkward.
The Utah Jazz knew that. They didn’t let any of that momentum from the Wolves’ win last night be harnessed in any way whatsoever. One ongoing theme the Wolves have shown this year is a special scrappiness, especially late in games. But tonight that scrappiness just turned into desperation in the fourth quarter. The Wolves failed to play scrappy defense, which was the downfall in the end, and then it turned into desperation on the offensive side.
As for the individual performances, Ricky Rubio can only do so much. Without the help of a true supporting cast — especially in areas where your opposition is strong — Rubio was severely limited all night long. He did have 11 assists but should’ve had 15+ if others were playing at the same level of competitiveness as him.
The number one culprit: Kevin Love. It hurts to say it, especially after last night’s big shot that captivated SportsCenter from an entire day. What makes that statement even worse is that he didn’t even get a double-double (He ended with 15 points and only eight boards). He was out-muscled and over-finessed underneath the hoop all night long. And it was a mirage of opponents doing the damage. Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap and even Enes Kanter all had field days in the paint, hitting shots and grabbing offensive boards all night long.
With Love on this team, the Wolves are one of the strongest rebounding teams in the NBA. But having an off night against a strong frontline like the Jazz is never a good idea, and that’s ultimately what decided this outcome.
On to the bullets:
- Not to belabor Love’s rough night anymore, but he went 5-21 from the field — 1-7 from three-point land — and was visibly frustrated all night long. I noticed that the Wolves, as a whole, started to lose their cool in the third quarter. A string of iffy calls and poor officiating overall got under Love’s skin, which led to his second technical of the season. To me, Love doesn’t play well angry and tonight was the best example of that.
- Rubio shot poor early on tonight, just like last night. The only difference is that he didn’t let it get to him and he started attacking instead. We’ve learned this from Wes Johnson the past few games but the best cure of poor outside shooting is to attack the rim and draw fouls. Rubio did that tonight, and just seeing those few lay-ups and free throws go down gives you enough confidence to shoot another from outside.
- Speaking of Johnson, this dude is starting to figure things out. I joked with my father last week that Johnson just used his rookie season and the first 10 games of this year to fake others into thinking he’ll always shoot from outside. Dude was just hustlin’ everybody. It was a lengthy ploy but it’s starting to work. Whenever he gets the ball on the perimeter, a simple pump fake gives him enough space to drive to the hoop where he’s starting to hit some shots. He had an And-1 in the first quarter tonight. Enough said.
- Darko Milicic followed his gaudy performance last night with another 10 points but only played 16 minutes due to a sore hip.
- You had to be impressed with Derrick Williams tonight. He came out aggressive, which usually doesn’t go his way, but tonight it worked out for the better. He’ll continue to learn and develop and these performances will only aide that growth.
- Everyone is so surprised by the Utah Jazz but why? Their bench is rather impressive. I love the way Earl Watson plays and CJ Miles gives them a special scoring option off the bench. And that frontline rotation, if they keep them together, is going to be something special.
- You’ve read this far and you still have no clue what I mean by the title, do you? Before tonight’s tilt, the Wolves had a chance to go to .500 and have eight wins already this season. That’d be one hell of a win in all aspects. But even though they lost, that gives the Jazz one more win and pushes them that much closer to a playoff spot. The Wolves own the Jazz’s lottery protected first rounder this year, so if they make the playoffs, the Wolves will have a first rounder after all. Sure, it’s not much of a win but in a draft as deep as this upcoming win, any pick in the first round is going to help.
Next game is Monday night against the Houston Rockets at the Target Center. Rick Adelman faces off against is old team and Kevin McHale comes home — can’t wait to hear the crowd reaction to his announcement.