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Jonah: I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The Wolves win if they hit their free throws. They go to the line at such a great rate, it’s a shame to see them throw the opportunities away, something they’ve done regularly before. But tonight, and in wins past, they hit those free throws — at an 81-percent clip on 37 attempts — and it meant all the difference in the end.
Tom: Think back to last year with me for a minute. Remember that team. Got them in your head? Sweet. Now imagine that team playing a game against a decent Western Conference opponent, and imagine that Kevin Love only scored eight points on 17 shots. Also imagine that the Wolves were 2-14 from 3-point range. Yipes. No way the Timberwolves win that game, right?
Well, the Timberwolves won Wednesday night with both of those factors in play. It wasn’t pretty. It really wasn’t that fun at the end, watching Minnesota shoot themselves repeatedly in the foot, but they pulled out a win riding on strong performances from Nikola Pekovic (22 points, 7-10 shooting) and Luke Ridnour (15 points, 2-3 from 3-point range) and some clutch defense by (who else?) Andrei Kirilenko. This ain’t last year’s Timberwolves. This is a much more complete team. But you probably knew that already.
Jonah: It’s pretty obvious that Kevin Love had a bad game. 3-17 just ain’t gonna cut it from our so-called “superstar.” You know, maybe Glen Taylor was right…
Tom: Tough to point to anything besides 3-point shooting as the most glaring negative. It would be one thing if the Wolves weren’t dead last in 3-point percentage, averaging 30.4% going into the Denver game. But 2-14 nights just don’t seem that uncommon at this point. Minnesota isn’t taking bad shots from 3-point range. The vast majority of their attempts last night came in spot-up opportunities, and with the exception of one Alexei Shved offering, they were all good looks; no contested, end of the shot clock prayers and no end of the quarter heaves bringing the percentage down. Just enough bricks to build something cliche involving bricks. This has badly surpassed the point of “funny small sample size theater” and bounded into “this team is in their own heads” territory.
Jonah: Derrick Williams got some comforting burn tonight. And all of it happened playing the 3. He was aggressive with the ball, didn’t take ill-advised shots and ran the court really well. I was certainly impressed with his brief but productive time on the hardwood tonight. How about you?
Tom: According to Synergy Sports, Minnesota is the 2nd best team in the NBA at defending P&R Roll Man plays. Against Denver, the Wolves allowed 1.44 points per possession and 71.4% shooting from the field. Danilo Gallinari did the most damage, knocking down two jumpers and making a really nice pass to Kosta Koufos for an easy two.
It certainly isn’t something to be worried about after one game. It’s just strange to see the Timberwolves allow such efficiency in the opponent’s P&R plays.
Notes: Malcolm Lee left the game with a hyperextended right knee. As if the Wolves already weren’t low on 2-guards, the depth is all but depleted now with Alexey Shved the only real option there for now.
Next up: The Wolves head to Nawlins to take on the Hornets Friday night. Maybe Derek will get the preview right this time.