After every regular season game (and, ideally, after the regular season as well), Howlin’ T-Wolf will provide you with three positives, three negatives, and three observations about the night’s events. Enjoy!
- Greg Stiemsma’s shot-blocking.You may recall one “Darko Milicic,” a very large body that did not seem to be connected to a living organism. This “Darko” stood in the middle of the paint on defense with its crazy long arms stretched skyward as high as possible. Once or twice per game, an unlucky defender would throw the ball off one of the “Darko’s” arms, giving the “Darko” a blocked shot.Stiemsma represents a rather significant change from Darko in that he is, as nearly as we can tell, alive and mobile. Stiemsma recorded four blocked shots in 16 minutes of action last night, but more importantly, he showed that he is both willing and able to play help defense. One of his most emphatic blocks was in the second quarter, rotating down to swat away Isaiah Thomas’ layup attempt.
- The Wolves shot terribly and still won comfortably. Sure, Minnesota won’t be able to rely on a mediocre team like Sacramento to beat up on every night, and as Jonah pointed out in last night’s recap, the Wolves won’t be able to rely on JJ Barea to score 21 efficient points every night either. But it’s also hard to imagine that they will continue to shoot 11% from 3-point range, or that Chase Budinger will have many more 3-12 games from the field, or that Pek will shoot 2-8 every game. Barea may not continue to shoot 6-11 from the field, but Minnesota might not need him to do so.
- Brandon Roy (and other players who aren’t point guards) distributing the ball. Roy missed a LOT of shots (4-14 on the evening), but so did the rest of the team. Fortunately, Roy helped the offense get going with his passing, especially early. The Wolves offense was humming along comfortably in the first quarter in part because Roy found several teammates for easy buckets. Roy finished the game with a team-high six assists. closely followed by fellow not-PG Andrei Kirilenko with five. Minnesota’s point guards (Ridnour/Barea/Shved kinda sorta) combined for six assists. Until Rubio returns, Minnesota will need the shooting guards and small forwards who are great passers to share the ball well, and they did that Friday night.
- Rebounding, especially against talented centers, could be an issue. Kirilenko is a decent rebounder and Cunningham is as well. But when Pekovic is forced to guard someone like DeMarcus Cousins, who is both talented on the block and from mid-range, Pek is pulled out of rebounding position, and that hurt the Wolves on Friday.
- When the offense goes stagnant, Minnesota will have a hard time generating offense. Barea was a spark-plug against Sacramento, but any team with A) decent help defense or B) a point guard who isn’t inept defensively (the Clippers, for example) will be able to stop Barea pretty easily. At that point, Minnesota might be in trouble.
- Alexey Shved, um, isn’t a very comfortable shooter yet. Shved airballed his first attempt from the field, then airballed another attempt in the second half. He could easily have just been nervous in his NBA debut, so we’ll give him some time before we make a sweeping judgment, but it wasn’t a very successful opening night for the rookie.
- NBA fans are dumb. The guys behind me kept yelling at Chase Budinger to “stop shooting threes, you can’t make them.” I don’t feel like I need to dignify this with a response full of statistics. Please just silently judge them with me.
- I was highly amused watching Shved’s reaction to Crunch’s bid for re-election as Minnesota’s mascot vs. The King. It was a corny, topical shtick that failed to get the crowd very interested, but Shved’s reaction was enough to make it all worth it to me. “Politely bemused” is as close as I can describe it.
- Rubio looks DAMN good in a suit. Holy crap.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.