Jonah: You can take this game two ways, 1) You’re lucky to miss out on what may have been the worst NBA game all season; and 2) You missed one of the most gut-wrenching yet wildly entertaining games the Wolves have played all season. Comcast did us all a favor and failed to telecast the game to the public in Minneapolis. And the Wolves did one hell of a job coming back in a game they had no business remaining in. How this is a positive, don’t ask me. I guess I just have nothing better to go with after witnessing my Gophers knock off #1 Indiana tonight as well. Talk about a roller coaster of basketball emotions.
Tom: Derrick Williams was solid once again, despite missing an absurd amount of free throws and a few layups that he really needed to be able to finish. Williams really seems to struggle when he tries to finish near the basket, which is unfortunate because he has surprisingly good handles and a ton of athleticism. Once he gets to the hoop, he often seems off-balance.
That may have sounded a little bit too negative for a “positive” post, but frankly, that game sucked.
Derek: This isn’t hyperbole when I say this, but coming away from this game with one positive is pretty tough to do. I can’t even say, “At least nobody got hurt!” because Andrei Kirilenko strained his calf ten minutes into this atrocity, and never returned. What am I supposed to say– at least they didn’t quit? Not saying that they should have packed it in when they were down by eighteen, but this Suns team is terrible, and attempting to play up the moral victory angle just feels like I would be commending an AAU team for playing hard and having fun. The Timberwolves are a better team top-to-bottom, but clearly they did not play like it tonight. As a team they’re mostly healthy aside from Kevin Love and Chase Budinger, both of whom they were without (in addition to Ricky Rubio) early in the season when they were able to scrap to a .500 record.
Believe me, I’ve understood the injury situation all season long and tempered my expectations accordingly, and have continued to do so. Regardless of the circumstances, we’ve seen better, so we should expect better. That’s a fair way to view their situation since we’re basing that off of what we’ve already seen in nearly identical circumstances (Well, nearly except for Rubio is back, which almost makes last night more aggravating.) That is unless you mean to tell me that the absences of minimal impact players like Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee have negated the return of a player of Rubio’s caliber. Remember how the Timberwolves came out against the Warriors — a much better team — on Sunday three days ago? They scored 32 points en route to a fourteen point lead after the first before letting it slip away, so we know they can come out with energy, and while that’s not always easy to do on the road, not scoring over twenty points in a quarter until the 4th is unacceptable. Heck, they scored just one more point tonight in entire the first half (33) than they did in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.
I guess it’s a positive that they only lost by one instead of eighteen. This may be just one game, but slightly concerning after how they gave Sunday’s game away, and hope they put this one behind them and move past this in time for, ugh, the Lakers on Thursday night.
Tom: This really shouldn’t be something that needs to be said: Minnesota absolutely cannot force Ricky Rubio to try to create his own shot at the end of the fourth quarter with the game tied. Even a JJ Barea iso would be preferable (at least Barea has irrational amounts of confidence). If you want the ball in Rubio’s hands to begin the play, that’s fine, but the Wolves need to run a set so that he isn’t utterly handcuffed and forced into a shot that every single person (including his defender) knows isn’t going in. To recap: Rubio dribbled the ball up the floor slowly, and his teammates spread the floor (WHY DEAR GOD WHY?!!) besides Pek, who came up to set a screen for a pick-and-roll. Rubio dribbled to his right and hoisted up a jumper. In his SLIGHT defense, he may have thought that Pek would be able to get a rebound/tip-in to win the game if the ball came off the rim right, which is plausible…except the ball missed the rim entirely. Just awful late-game playcalling.
Derek: With so many worthy candidates of mention here, I’m going to go with the turnover battle. The Timberwolves may have committed just 16 turnovers to the Suns’ 20, but Phoenix was able to negate the disparity by outscoring Minnesota 25-11 in points off of turnovers. Yeah, they shot poorly from the field, beyond the arc, and the foul line, but they could have still gotten away with all of that if they managed to not allow the Suns to maximize their extra possessions (turnovers). Trust me, I’m no math major but even I know that having less than a fourteen point difference in PoTO could have made a difference in a one point game.
Tom: The Suns shot 5-13 from the free throw line and still managed to beat the Wolves. I have nothing more to say on the matter.
Derek: Wes Johnson’s 14-9-3-2 in 36 minutes tonight against the team that drafted him was such a troll move, even on 6-16 shooting. This is even more Trolltastic than Mike Beasley having 4 points and 4 assists in 13 minutes.
Also: let us never speak of this game again.
Next up: The Timberwolves travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers Thursday night on TNT.