Wes Johnson and the Timberwolves scored an impressive win over the Hornets.
The Timberwolves have played 15 games in the month of December and they will play one more before the month is over. 12 out of those 15 games have either been wins or single-digit losses. They've lost three times by double digits - all of them on the road - to Dallas, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Not in any of those games, even the blowouts, did I believe that our level of talent had anything to do with the outcomes. We have some talented players on this ball club. Unfortunately, a few bad decisions, a few missed defensive assignments and a few bad shots can turn a win into a loss and can cause even the best fans to question whether the team has what it takes to win in the NBA.
Michael Beasley has an off game or makes a turnover at the end of a game? Suddenly, he's no better than a marginal rotation player for the Cleveland Cavaliers and should never be relied upon again in clutch situations. Darko doesn't always make his left-handed hook shot? Now he's worse than nearly every starting center in the league and most of the backups, too. Corey Brewer makes poor decisions sometimes and looks out of control on his drives? That means he's a worthless player who no other NBA team would want.
Its natural for fans to jump to conclusions. Unfortunately, as much as people - including myself - like to push advanced stats, scouting, observation or whatever method of analytics that are available, the basics of winning and losing go a long way towards shaping how we feel about our team. Imagine if we had held on against San Antonio for those two wins. Imagine if we could've finished the comeback against Denver or held Big Al down against Utah. Suddenly, we're 12-20 and we've got a better record than 10 other teams in the league.
Look, I'm not trying to say that fans don't have the right to be negative. Shoot, we're all die-hards here and most of us have suffered through year after year of losing, so its not natural to expect us all to look at our glasses as half-full. But as a die-hard, I'm seeing signs that these guys are coming together. When we're patient, when we look for the extra pass and when we make the tough plays on defense, we can play with anybody.
In this game, we started off poorly. But after giving up 35 points in the first quarter, we clamped down on defense and held New Orleans to 22, 20 and 21 points over the next three quarters. Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley weren't making tough, contested jumpers. They were getting open shots in the offense. Wesley even pulled out the jab step move on the perimeter, showing that he's adding dimensions to his game already. Pek showed improvement, Corey - other than free throws - played well, and even Jonny Flynn added something to this game.
New Orleans had no major injuries and about a month ago, they were near the top of the Western Conference. Let's not kids ourselves and say "we only won because of this or that". We won because we have a talented ball club full of, yes, young players who are getting better. I think, as we get more home games and our schedule lightens a bit, we're going to start winning more and more games. It's been frustrating when we lose, but its going to make it that much sweeter once we finally put it together.
I'm happy to be a part of it.