Before we get started discussing the monstrosity that occurred in the Target Center tonight, here’s a video from a couple of months ago. You may have already seen it, but don’t try to act like it doesn’t make you smile.
Feeling better? At least a little bit? Alright, here we go.
Have you ever played in one of those pickup games where everyone is a little tired and the play starts to get sloppy? The games mean a little bit less. One team will miss a layup, and the player who missed will hang out on one end of the floor, hoping his teammates pick up his slack, because dammit, he just doesn’t have the energy to get back up the floor and play defense again.
The Wolves are that guy right now. They just don’t have the energy anymore. They don’t have a shot at the playoffs, they don’t get a draft pick, and the rest of the season just doesn’t feel meaningful. And it is blatantly obvious.
I’m not sure where Minnesota lost the spark. The obvious answer is that the spark faded when Rubio went down. But at that point, they were still in the thick of the playoff hunt. It would be tempting to point to the Oklahoma City game, where a Herculean effort by Kevin Love wasn’t enough to get a signature win, but two nights later Minnesota stomped all over the Nuggets, likely a playoff bound team. Perhaps when the Celtics reminded Minnesota that Garnett is still in a better place now? But Minnesota had just won against the Bobcats (Ok, now I’m stretching for positivity. I’ll stop).
It’s difficult to watch this team, these zombie Timberwolves. They may look like the same players, but they aren’t alive and inspired the way they were as recently as early March. They aren’t playing with any kind of flair, with any passion. They are just existing, a momentarily purposeless team, with no reason to win, but no reason to lose. Just a date on the schedule of eight more teams before fading into the background as the playoffs begin.
But. I’m supposed to be writing about the game. The defense has gotten atrocious. Offensively, the Wolves have several players who can still create for themselves. Love can score. Barea can score. Beasley can score. Pekovic can make himself readily available to score. So even though the beautiful team play has essentially evaporated, Minnesota can still put some points on the board.
But the defense has fallen to pieces. In their last 17 games, the Wolves have given up an average of 106.6 points, a mark that, if sustained for the entire season, would place them better than just the New Jersey Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats. Yikes.
A few bullet points…I’ll try to keep some positivity.
- Malcolm Lee can ball. He is a fun defender to watch. His feet move very quickly, and he always seems to be one step ahead of the defender. And his confidence seems to be growing as he drives to the hoop. Lee was just 1-4 from the field (he attempted one notable three that barely grazed the front iron), but he went to the free throw line four times, meaning he was decently aggressive.
- Lee was certainly more aggressive, for example, than Wes Johnson. Wes hasn’t attempted a free throw since March 19 against the Warriors (he was 1-2). Since February 29 (keep in mind, when you are reading this, that it is now mid-April), Johnson has attempted just six free throws. How is that even possible?
- The Suns shot a healthy 57.3% from the floor, while the Timberwolves were a meager 38.6%. Not many games will be won with numbers like that. Feet, meet limb.
- Kevin Love is shooting just 42% from the floor in his last seven games. Clearly the man is getting tired, and he is probably developing a rather severe case of scoliosis from carrying this team on his back. But, real question: why is he even playing road games at this point? Minnesota’s season is over. Why risk Love’s health at this point?
- Ok, you’re right. That last bullet was entirely too negative. Um. How about Derrick Williams knocking down a couple jumpers? Eh?!
The most discouraging thing about this homestand is the fact that the next winnable game (Detroit) is nine days and five fairly unwinnable games (Denver, OKC, LAC, Indiana, and Memphis) away. Because MAN it would be nice to see the Wolves get another win this season.