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Jonah: A positive, huh? Can it be a positive for the Rockets? Because, in that case, the Timberwolves completely stepped aside and allowed the Rockets to come back into this one. They attacked the Wolves beginning in the middle of the third quarter — when they’re most vulnerable, always — and never let up until the final buzzer. It was James Harden who tipped the final decision but the Rockets collectively never quit and abused the Wolves on both ends of the court in the second half of the second half. Just brutal to watch because of how eerily familiar this style of loss is; losing a game you owned the whole way because of poor shooting in the second half and an impressive, backbreaking effort from the other team’s star is just heartbreaking.
Tom: Well, Alexey Shved played pretty okay. He had some nice drives to the basket, especially in the first half, and a couple of his assists were really pretty. He hit a few 3-pointers as well, which really invites the question “WHY THE HELL WASN’T THE FINAL PLAY DRAWN UP FOR HIM?! OR WAS IT FOR HIM AND WE JUST COULDN’T TELL BECAUSE KEVIN LOVE AND JJ BAREA BLEW THE WHOLE THING INTO SMITHEREENS?”
Derek: I guess if you’re going to get beat you should get beat by a team’s best player (James Harden), and not someone like Toney Douglas. No one other than Harden and Omer Asik really had much going for them. Look: Chandler Parsons: 12 points, 12 shots; Jeremy Lin: 8 points, 9 shots; Marcus Morris: 8 points, 9 shots; Carlos Delfino 11 points, 13 shots. This is a game they probably win most other nights.
Jonah: Superstars earn their respective title because they perform at a very high level consistently on a night-by-night basis. They have poor shooting nights just like every other player in the league but what separates them from the others in the league is that they find other things to do well to give their team the best chance to win. That can include late-game heroics, just the ultimate “clutch” player. Or amping up their defensive effort. Or maybe just utilizing their focal point in the offense to create opportunities for others. Kevin Love fails to do those things. His body language and behavior on poor shooting nights greatly hurts the Wolves’ chances of winning, and tonight was the perfect example. So I ask this: Why leave him on the court? In that final 11.7 seconds of the game, where a three is needed, why draw up a play for the guy who’s gone 0-for-7 from deep and had looked like he’d completely detached himself — both mentally and physically — from the game way before that? For what it’s worth, Derrick Williams, who hit two threes in the game and actually looked hungry when he was on the court, should’ve been on the court for that play. Or find a way to screen Alexey Shved open for a better look than he got. The inconsistent performances and the bizarre body language has me questioning Love’s determination and ultimately his stardom in the NBA.
Tom: Jonah covered Kevin Love, so I’ll cover JJ Barea. Here’s the thing: I don’t really like Barea, so I have to be careful to be fair to him in these recaps. And to be fair, he hit some big shots and kept the Wolves afloat several times, which was great. But it was his ball-dominance that cost Minnesota a clean look at a three on the final play, and that really takes away from any of his positive contributions. With 11 seconds left on the game clock, the Wolves just didn’t have time for Barea to stand at the top of the key waiving off teammates, and it really bit them in the ass.
Derek: Me having to close out my Twitter tab postgame due to yet another Loveageddon. Do we talk about this as much if the Wolves make their shots? Like, any of them– they couldn’t hit from anywhere. Do we pass this off as, “Love is in a slump” or “Love’s hand isn’t right and he’s frustrated…” if they do win? I don’t feel like the conversation is necessarily wrong tonight, but furthered by the result of the game, and Love obviously hesitating on whether to shoot or pass on the final play. That’s not the Kevin Love we saw last season, and I think we all know it. Anyway, here’s what .381/.250/.756 shooting looks like:
Jonah: The Timberwolves are at the top of the league when it comes to drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. Tonight they only managed to shoot 17 of them, proving that they were getting beat in the paint and struggled to beat Rockets on the perimeter. That led to 28 three-pointers taken in the game, which is just not their strength by any means. Nikola Pekovic struggled tonight, and a lot of that alarming statistic tonight is due to his void but the Wolves need to do a better job of bypassing threes to get to the paint.
Tom: Ricky Rubio is way less fun when he doesn’t have teammates running in transition. He’s still struggling with his mobility, understandably, but it doesn’t help that the rest of his team is walking up the court. Remember when every time Rubio had the ball last year, you wondered if he was about to toss an alley-oop to Wes Johnson or Derrick Williams? Now you wonder if he’s going to pass the ball around the perimeter to JJ Barea or Alexey Shved. I am teh sadz.
Derek: Is it just me or has Andrei Kirilenko been off lately? You could say our AK47 is in need of re-calibration. Or not, depending on if that statement is funny to you.
Notes: Pekovic left for a brief period with an illness. He returned to the bench in the third quarter and got some playing time down the stretch. Didn’t make too much of a difference against the wall of a man that is Omer Asik.
Next up: Wolves get a little break and take on the Phoenix Suns Saturday night in Michael Beasley’s return to the Target Center.