Warts and all

From the comments of last night's game thread:

Seconds later Mr. Brewer would turn the ball over on an attempted pick and roll where the Hornets doubled Brewer away from Big Al (surprise).  Shortly after that Brewer would make up for this error with a sensational hustle block on a Darren Collison layup.  He would follow this up with a defensive brain fart on the last play of the game: leaving James Posey (the man with the ball) to double the decoy...in this case, Chris Paul...leaving a wide open lane to the rim with no big man in the way to disrupt the winning shot. 

It's not often we here at Hoopus give a shout out to an opposing team's assistant coach, but hats off to Hornets assistant Tim Floyd.  This is the second time this season the Hornets have burned the Wolves on a last second Floyd-designed in bounds play.   The first time around Jonny Flynn made a rookie mistake allowing Chris Paul an open look on a backdoor cut with time running down.  This time around the Hornets gave the Wovles a similar look but instead of handing the ball back to Paul, they deeked the Wolves into jumping early into a double team that left Posey with a clear path to the bucket.  It was a brilliant play and some top-notch coaching.  It, along with the double-team decision, was also an example of in-game adjustments made by the bad guys. 

Speaking of coaching, last night's tilt featured yet another set of baffling rotations from Head Puppy Kurt Rambis.  Here at Hoopus we have gone on and on and on and on about the need for the Wolves to run out a rotation with, at the very least, Kevin Love or Al Jefferson on the court.  These two gents are the team's best players by a country mile and the last time I checked (Jan 9) the Love/Jefferson 4/5 duo was a mere -1.6 points/100 possessions in over 450 minutes of action on a team with the 2nd worst point differential in the league (considering both players are dealing with having to come off of an injury, this is a pretty mind-blowing stat).  Short of illness or broken bones, there are very few reasons why one of these guys shouldn't be on the court at all times (to say nothing of trying to make sure Ryan Gomes sees as much time next to them as possible...although this kills the bench; perhaps we should simply chalk this up to the overall personnel deficiency on the roster...perhaps I should move on). 

Against the Hornets, Love and Jefferson played a combined total of 56:29 out of 96 available minutes at the 4 and 5.  The pair averages 65.2 mpg.  Where did these missing 9 minutes go?  Brian Cardinal (12:08) and Ryan Hollins (14:53).  These minutes included a nearly 5 minute stretch at the end of the 3rd quarter with neither Love nor Jefferson in the game.  The Wolves were lucky to walk away with only a -3 during this stint.  There was another 2 minute no Love/Jefferson stretch in the heart of the 4th quarter (-1).  This is in addition to the 7+ minutes Brian Cardinal took from Love down the stretch in the 4th. Love and Jefferson were a combined +11 in their 56+ minutes last night to include a +1 in shared stints. 

Did you notice that Ryan Gomes didn't see the court in the 4th and went scoreless for the game?  Really?  He couldn't have been stuck on Peja? 

Seeing that this is a young and rebuilding team my hope is that the coaching staff is doing what they are doing with the rotations with some very specific long term goals in mind.  They have to be, right?  If they aren't, or if they aren't leveling some accountability and/or discipline with their weird rotational decisions (which didn't begin tonight), then I'm a bit more worried, as there are some bone-headed things going on that you can see with your naked eye...never mind armed with an excel spread sheet and some spare time. 

This was yet another game where the Wolves played well, showed some solid improvement (especially on the defensive end...ignoring the last possession), ran some very nice 1/2 court sets with the triangle, and were in it from the start to finish.  A few more games like this and I think they will be at the point where casual fans can see broad improvement.  They won't run off a winning month like they did last January but this year's squad seems to be much improved over last year's January collection of a hot-shooting Randy Foye and a bad schedule.  At the end of the month we'll look into the two Januarys and see if this hypothesis holds true. 

In terms of the Four Factors, this was a pretty simple example of how a game can be lost at the free throw line:

Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
New Orleans 90.0 106.7 46.6% 38.4 23.8 13.3
Minnesota 104.4 50.0% 17.5 31.4 21.1

 

The Wolves were 14-16 from the line while the Hornets were 28-34.  Game, set, and match.  This included 9 FTA from my 2nd Least Favorite Player David West (including 5 FTAs in just over 2 minutes in the 2nd). Former Wolf-for-a-Moment Darius Songaila took up West's efforts at the 4, getting 7 FTAs of his own.  Maybe this has a little bit to do with all of the Love/Jefferson bench sitting. Still...it's tough to watch a team lose by 2 points when its 2 best players spent a lot of time on the bench. 

Well folks, that about does it for this 3:38 AM edition of the Hoopus game wrap.  Baby is now back to sleep and it's time for yours truly to catch some shut eye. 

Until later.

One last thing about Brewer: He's still a warts-and-all type of player and it should not be forgotten that last night's game was only his 86th start.  We've started to see some of the flashes of what made him effective at Florida and I think the hope with Brew is that he matures as a similar player in the NBA: the type of guy who will never be your best player but whose talents will rise and fall with the talent level surrounding him.  He's a blast to watch and he, along with Love, are the types of players that you want to watch for a full game...and not just the last 5 minutes. 

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