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It was a valiant effort. Or was it?
You could consider that final three minutes gut-check time for the Wolves. They played tough defense, made big time shots and kept this thing as close as they possibly could without taking a lead. But that “without taking a lead” thing is awfully important when it comes to winning games, and that was the difference tonight.
What we saw, though, was the same Wolves we’re accustomed to this season. Although a little slow out of the gates, the Wolves used a big 34-21 difference in the second quarter to claim their stake in this one. But the Nuggets were just too physical — and I mean a bit too physical. The Wolves just couldn’t match that intensity for 48 straight minutes.
Allow me to cover the positives before I begin to nag. Kevin Love continued his MVP-like performances with a 28 point, nine rebound effort, which included a big time three-pointer in the waning seconds as part of the comeback bid. Nikola Pekovic, when Timofey Mozgov wasn’t on the floor, pretty much had his way in the paint on the way to 14 points for himself. And Ricky Rubio, despite not recording a single point, still registered 12 assists and three steals.
Now, double-check that last paragraph and tell me if you see a pattern. It’s too easy, I’ll just give it to you. It’s all offense. Sure, getting buckets wins you games but there’s a whole other aspect of preventing the other team from getting buckets that is equally as important. The Wolves, from the get-go, allowed the Nuggies to do just about whatever they damn pleased. To start it was Ty Lawson getting into the paint at will. Nate Robinson joined that fun later in the half. Then it was failure to box out and fight for boards. They allowed 14 offensive rebounds tonight, five went to Kenneth Faried. And then, things got so bad, that they even turned Wilson Chandler, playing only his second game of the season, to play like an all-star. I won’t even mention what they allowed Andre Miller to do at the end of the game.
It’s no secret that this team’s overall defense is a glaring weakness. But when they don’t match the intensity of the opposing team, like they failed to do tonight, it’s never going to be all that close for the duration of the game. Entering this game the Wolves actually rated seventh in the league in defensive efficiency. Clearly they’ve had at least some success on that side of the court, but your overall defense is largely made of the energy and effort you exert. Stepping aside for wide open layups and not rotating over to help is not going to help your defense. Because of that, I can safely say that this was the worst defensive outing of the season, and it was scary bad.
Despite all of that, the Wolves should be able to bounce back against the lowly Boston Celtics on Saturday night and hopefully wipe their hands clean of tonight’s filthy effort.