Every competition ends with a winner and a loser heading back to their respective locker rooms. As a fan, joy of competitive sports is not knowing before the game even starts who could win. There are always factors that could lead one to believe that one side has an advantage — albeit slight or commanding. Often times, and general Minnesota sports fans are all too familiar with this feeling, the Wolves head into games on the opposite end of having that advantage. It shouldn’t be like that given we have a top scorer in Kevin Love, a big time assist-man and stifling defender in Ricky Rubio, as well as a slew of supporting characters, all paid handsomely for their past contributions to prior teams (I’m looking at you, Chase Budinger, J.J. Barea and Corey Brewer).
But the story is becoming all too familiar from the treacherous past that has haunted the organization year in and year out. Luck is no longer on our side, rather the injury bug continues to perch on the walls of the Target Center. The future looks bleak with the looming demise of superstars hitchhiking out of town and a less-than-friendly cap situation. Bottom-line: It can’t get much worse rooting for a team trying to claw out from a seemingly bottomless pit of pure darkness and jaw-clenching damp air.
Oops, sorry. Accidentally published my season-end censure for when the Wolves miss out on the playoffs by losing the final game of the season. My bad.
Actually, tonight’s loss wasn’t that big of a deal at all. If you go back to that first depressing paragraph and think about how team’s go into games with specific factors that tip the scale in their favor, well, that was easily the Rockets tonight. Look, they’re way freaking better than the Wolves. Pure and simple.
But there are other factors that go into this matchup and its result that negatively affected the Wolves’ stock, including injuries to both Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin. The Wolves have been flat-out bad without Pek and Martin has always provided that second-scoring punch behind Love for the entire season. Without those two guys, a lot of pressure leans heavily onto the shoulders of inexperienced players (inexperienced within that role, that is) such as Budinger, Brewer, Barea and even Rubio, who’s not used to scoring as much as he can on any given night.
The Rockets’ starters kicked the pants off the Wolves entire team tonight. After all, they combined for 85 points and the highest scorer (Chandler Parsons) only posted 20 himself. Otherwise, it was a collective ass-kicking up and down the whole lineup. A barrage of three-pointers and a healthy dose of Dwight Howard and even Terrence Jones inside will give any defense the heebee-jeebies. That is why they’re built like the monster they are now to make a serious run at a title, and they undoubtedly have a shot if they’re playing their best ball towards the end of the season.
As for the Wolves, they’re just not good right now. Love is doing all he can to muster up enough production and leadership to get the cart back on track but it’s just not a one-man job. Time will help the Wolves greatly; to get Pek and Martin back healthy will boost the offense and the starting lineup will once again be whole. But until then, the grind must continue. Guys like Alexey Shved, who showed up at least in the first half with 11 points, and/or Luc Richard Mbah A Moute have to prove their minutes and fill voids. Depth has never been this team’s strong suit, and we certainly saw that tonight, but it’ll be of the utmost importance that that second unit steps up to the plate with more confidence that they can get the job done right. Because 29 points on just 37 percent shooting ain’t gonna cut it, folks.
Again, this win isn’t conducive to what I first wrote above but it very well could be if things aren’t straightened out in the next month or two. If the team of currently healthy lads can muster up some confidence, win a few games before the break and then regather once they’re second and third mates come back, I don’t see why this team, behind Love’s magic, can’t resurge back into the playoff picture. It really can happen. And, well, we sorta need it to.
Otherwise I’m copying in pasting those first couple paragraphs into a piece titled, “The Dump That Was 2013-2014.”
Next up: Wolves stay at home for a bout against the Nuggets on Wednesday. Mr. Derek James will have your coverage as well as a carefully thought-out recap following the game! Until then…