You are now responsible for 1/2 of the Wolves' victories. Well done. A zombie dance for you.
Game wrap in a bit.
UPDATE: Game wrap below the fold.
The Jazz are an interesting team. On one hand, they have some thoroughly non-enjoyable/unlikable talent. Carlos Boozer is a Dookie in preparation for leaving a 2nd team in his wake, Kyle Korver is a silly Iowegan, and Jerry Sloan will continue to coach as if the league were still in the midst of a coked-out pre-80s haze. On the other hand, they have the player I consider to be the best and most entertaining point guard in the game: Deron Williams. As much as I cannot stand to watch a backstabbing Dookie, Coach Cleaver, and the most annoying fellow Creighton Jayhawk in the world, there is no player I enjoy watching more when he is "on" than the former Illini point.
A couple of games ago the Wolves' TV crew ran a poll about who they thought was the best point guard in the game. I can't remember who they ended up picking, but for my money's worth, if I'm putting together a squad to win it all, here are my top 3 picks at the point: Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Tony Parker. Williams, to me, is the greatest surgeon in the game. He's not as flashy as Chris Paul or Steve Nash but he's physically dominant for his position with a balanced game that picks apart his opponent with precision and consistency. From the line, from mid-range, from beyond the arc, in transition, in 1/2 court...the guy does it all. He was playing out of the post of several key possessions in the 4th quarter and it baffles me that Sloan didn't ride that horse hard. Plus, when the game is on the line and time is running off the clock in a must-win playoff game, he can get his shot off in traffic, which is an amazingly important trait that some possess while others do not. Sorry CP3, I want D-Will for that possession.
Anywho, the first thing that should be pointed out about last night's tilt was that Williams was the best player on the court and it wasn't even close. He shot the lights out from the floor, got to the line a ton, dished out 13 assists, and...well, (robot voice on) Jerry Sloan is a fantastic coach and he knows exactly how to use Mr. Williams (robot voice off).
OK, now that we've talked about Utah's point guard, let's take a few minutes to gab about Jonny Flynn. Flynn undoubtedly shows flashes of brilliance. His quickness is world class and while he still needs to learn a thing or two about running a pro offense, his court vision is top shelf. His outside shot is surprisingly serviceable and should he ever develop an ability to dish off of the drive, he'll be damn near unguardable. That being said, the flashes of brilliance are accompanied by stretches of outright boobery. The CP3 inbounds boner in the NOLA game stands out over anything else but he is also guilty of overdribbling, going too much to his right, and inexcusably holding the ball when it is rotated his way on a nightly basis. Adding to our T-Wolves dictionary (first addition: Brewsist) is the Jonny Stop: The way in which a freely moving ball is stopped by an ultra-quick lead guard who uses the opportunity to survey the court and negate his greatest strength, his speed.
Watching Flynn play the point you can practically see his High School/AAU/Syracuse coaching play out in a motion picture thought bubble above his head. This kid has been the dominant lead guard for so long, and he has played for so long against such relatively inferior competition, that his first instinct in close games and/or highly leveraged situations is to do what he has always done: Be the be-all/end-all of ball movement and end the damn possession for his team. At Niagra Falls High, NY AAU, and Syracuse, his speed alone was enough to get the job done. No need for setting up teammates. No need for creating angles. No need for worrying about the shot clock. When the heat was on, it was Jonny, the ball, and his defender. This kind of nonsense will not fly in the NBA for a player like Flynn. He's not that quick. Maybe it will have its time and place in a few years when he gets the benefit of the whistle and learns how to better incorporate his teammates, but not now. While Flynn ended the contest with a career high in points while shooting the lights out from beyond the arc, he stunted several key possessions with the Jonny Stop. Also, while I'm very, very happy that he made the game winning shot, I think I suffered a Randy Foye flashback with the kamikaze drive down the right side of the lane. At least he didn't try and bank it off the shot clock.
Let's wrap this up with some bullet points.
- Should the Wolves have lost, Kevin Love and Damien Wilkins would have been my choices for goats of the game. There is no dumber shot in all of basketballdom than the foot-on-the-line 3. There is no excuse for it. It has all the risk of a 3 pointer with none of the reward. Dumb, dumb, dumb, and more dumb. Love and Wilkins both made toe-on-the-line 2 pointers.
- While Flynn took some heat earlier this season for an ill-conceived behind-the-back pass attempt, he and Love ran the behind-the-back pick-and-roll twice in the last two minutes of the game and it netted them two wide open three point attempts. It's really not a flashy play and it has the potential to be a nice addition to the offense. I want to see a lot more of the middle pick and roll with Love and Flynn.
- The star of the game has to go to Corey Brewer. There were a few points in the game where Brewer reverted to the holy-crap-he's-everywhere kind of player that we got kind of excited about a few weeks ago. He was dunking, sticking shots, rebounding, and holding people up on defense all night long. It really is amazing how different this team looks with competent wing play. Imagine if they had some outside shooting to go along with the competent wing play. Paging Rudy Gay.
- If the flash went to Flynn and the star went to Brewer, the workhorse award goes to Big Al Jefferson. The guy is really starting to return to form and he played the role of the bruising running back, grinding out short yardage situation after short yardage situation in order to keep drives alive and his team in the game. This site has been home to a long standing debate over the relative worth of Jefferson and Kevin Love for about 2 years now and my current thoughts on the duo are this: The problem with the Wolves is not Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Neither has the advantage of playing with a consistently competent wing player or an outside shooter worth his salt. Neither has the advantage of playing with a group of properly-sized perimeter players. There is nothing wrong with having 1 or 2 undersized players in your rotation provided that you surround them with athleticism and length. Al and Love have complimentary skills and they are obscenely skilled on the offensive end of the court. My take on the pairing is that they are still in need of a Joakim Noah/Jason Thompson 3rd wheel and a pair of athletic slashers on the wing. I have been saying this since before Love came aboard. In the front court I want the aforementioned Noah/Thompson type and on the wing I have opined for, in order, Josh Smith, Trevor Ariza, and Rudy Gay. This team can put it together with some competent wing play and for either Flynn or Ricky Rubio to work out at the point...or for John Wall to land at the doorstep of 600 First Avenue. Wings, an athletic backup big, and hashing out the point guard situation, these are the things that need to be worried about before talking about whether or not Love and Jefferson can play together. Rudy Gay, Rudy Gay, Rudy Gay. Please, get 'r done. It has been obvious for over 2 years.
OK, that does it for tonight's wrap. We'll have a very cool announcement on the site tomorrow and then I'll follow that up with a post on the Lynx's choice in the supplemental draft, Rebekkah Brunson.
PS: If you really want to know why the Wolves won, it was because they collected a very large number of their misses:
When you have an eFG of over 50% and you are collecting a 1/3 of your misses, life is good. This is another reason why you don't want to monkey with the Love/Jefferson duo. If you surround them with competent perimeter players, they will destroy the boards. BTW: We need to come up with a Wolves Dictionary term for when Love grabs an offensive rebound in between 3-4 defenders.