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There’s the theme for this weekend’s games. P.S. I went with the upbeat version of it to sorta brighten your mood while reading on. Because that’s about as satisfying and happy as I can get.
We’ll start with Friday night’s bout against the Raptors. I’m not sure what it is about Toronto that the Timberwolves just don’t like but they’ve historically never played well north of the U.S. border. And that’s really saying something. The Raptors haven’t been a real competitive team since a few years with Bosh and then the McGrady/Vinsanity years. But this team has developed into a tough squad this year, and that’s saying something after trading away their “best player” in Rudy Gay earlier this season.
Kyle Lowry is legit. Demar Derozan could very well be a bonafide all-star. And Jonas Valanciunas is a pretty big hassle to handle down low on both ends of the court. Even with those three, though, the Raptors are more than beatable on any given night. But that’s just not in the cards for the Wolves. Like ever.
Dating back to the end of the KG era, the Wolves are just 1-17 against the Raptors, including some of the biggest deficits in Toronto itself. All I have to say is history saw this loss coming from a mile away and I think the Wolves themselves did too.
Before this loss, the Wolves were on a 1-3 streak and playing some of the most unenthused, depressing basketball we’ve seen them play all season long. Take that attitude into Toronto and you get what you deserved, a 94-89 loss to a team that, well plays like they actually like each other.
As for last night’s win back home over the Utah Jazz, I’m not so sure how to analyze it, honestly. Watching the game and checking the numbers afterward speak for itself; it was an old-fashioned ass-whooping in every sense of the term. But for a team that should be doing this to bad teams pretty much nine out of ten games all season long, it wasn’t all that impressive.
The Wolves rode Nikola Pekovic’s (the most stable, consistent player on the roster this entire month) hot hand to a big 98-72 win in Minneapolis. Contributing greatly was Kevin Martin, who’s greatly struggled the past few games. He added 20 points, despite still stumbling to put up point from the perimeter. He was just 1-6 from three-point land. Then there was Kevin Love, who 18-13-5 in a good night. Also worth mentioning was Alexey Shved, who added 10 points off the bench.
Other than the starters and Shved, the Wolves didn’t do anything. In fact, if you add up the minutes as well as the plus/minus numbers, the starters combined for plus-157 in 136 minutes played. As for the bench, they posted a minus-27 in 105 minutes of court time. Now I know how to explain the bench players: they just downright suck and have almost all season long. They never play as a unit, rather just rogue chickens with their heads cut off. Other than the occasional one bright spot (Last night being Shved), they continually fail to produce. As for the starters, well, this is close to what they should accomplish on any given night. I mean, they’re that good. There’s no denying Love and Pekovic’s talent, and then Martin’s ability to supplement their game with points from the perimeter. But was last night’s impressive numbers a result of that unit playing well together for once or the lack of balance and power the Jazz, without Gordon Hayward, could sustain?
Given where the Wolves are at mentally right now, these kinds of blowout wins are helpful for their psyche. But I can’t be the only one seeing how lame and limp the Wolves are playing ball as of late. It’s a contagious attitude that’s sprinkled down to all the players and most of the fans to boot. But if you really think about it, if you really think winning can cure all, is beating one of the NBA’s absolute worst teams, playing without their best player, mind you, really a part of the remedy? It shouldn’t. It’s pretty much false hope in my mind.
The only way to get off the schneid is to string together a few of these games in a row. That could be a trying task, considering the next few games include trips to Golden State, Portland and then Chicago. But taking two out of three on that road trip would certainly build a foundation for how to win — and ultimately play — like a playoff-caliber team.