Flash back in time to November 3rd vs. the Celtics. Corey Brewer drives to the bucket with time winding down and is "wrapped up" by Kevin Garnett for a jump ball. Lesson learned: You are not a star and no matter how much contact there may be, your crazy drives to the rim will not be rewarded when it matters.
Head back to January 20th vs the Thunder. Following a superb performance against Kevin Durrant down the stretch, Corey Brewer finds himself with a path to the front of the rim with very little time remaining in a close game. Instead of taking it up hard with two hands, Brewer extends one of his toothpick digits towards the sky and is blocked by Jeff Green, leaving the Wolves with an empty possession on what should have been, at least, a trip to the line. Lesson learned: You are skinny and you need to take it hard to the rim with two hands near the end of the game, preferably with as little herky-jerky movement as possible.
Last night vs. the Bobcats Corey Brewer learned a new lesson: Do not save basketballs under the opponent's own bucket. This can lead to inverted Brewsists. With less than 10 seconds remaining, the Wolves played solid situational defense and forced up a bad shot by Boris Diaw, which caromed off of the rim, off Al Jefferson, and towards out-of-bounds. In this situation there are three correct choices for a Wolves player going for the ball:
- Grab on to the ball and hold it for as long as you can before falling out of bounds or calling a time out under control.
- Throw the ball up in the air towards the other end of the court.
- Let the ball fall out of bounds and force the other team to run another set with very little time on the clock.
There was one incorrect choice:
- Throw the ball towards the rim/lane.
Corey Brewer is probably my favorite player on this team. His motor is always running, he seems to be enjoying what he is doing, and I find it entertaining to watch a 185 lbs toothpick who is all arms and legs sprint around the court with the giants. What is especially frustrating about Brewer is that there is something fundamental missing from nearly every aspect of his game. On defense he often helps too far away from his man and is unable to d-up large 3s. On offense he lacks a solid handle and the jump shot is a work in progress. In the game awareness department, he throws the ball under the opposing basket in a close game with under 10 seconds remaining. I really want him to succeed, and I think that he has made tremendous strides this year, but sometimes I wonder if his game is just so fundamentally flawed at the seams that no matter how good his jumper gets, or no matter how well the Wolves hide him against opposing players that he doesn't get shoved around against, we'll be treated to a never-ending string of situational FUBARs like we witnessed last night.
Oh, Brewer saved the ball to Nazr Mohammed, who promptly dunked it through for the victory.
As for the rest of the tilt...
...as a team, the Wolves are every bit as frustrating as Corey Brewer. What is the last thing a young, thin team with a short, D-League bench can do against a legitimate opponent? Come out slow? Spot them a 21 point lead?
I don't know what the coaching staff is doing over at 600 First Avenue but perhaps it's time to move everyone's alarm clock up 24 minutes because a slow start has become the trademark of this team, and this is not an outfit that can afford to spot folks large leads. Check out these splits for 1st and 2nd half numbers:
That first quarter was one of the most brutal things I have seen in a long time. It was much worse than what happened in the 2nd vs. Philly just one night ago. It was a complete and total domination from a club that shot 50% from 2, over 50% from 3, perfect from the line, grabbed nearly every rebound in sight, and didn't turn it over a ton.
Overall, and turning something of a blind eye to the horrific start by the Wolves, the game was lost not because Charlotte went nuts from beyond the arc or because Stephen Jackson played out of his mind. The Wolves lost the game because the two things they have been doing relatively well disappeared during last night's contest:
I have gone over this basic fact until I was blue in the face, but the two most important things that a poor-shooting club can do is a) rebound and b) get to the line. Zero free throws in the 1st and 4th quarters is much, much, much more offensive than a general lack of effort at the start of a game. How does that happen, especially in the 4th? 0 free throws in the 4th, really? A 5.9 FT/FG rate for the game? That's bush league and I don't care if players simply have to put their head down and run into traffic, this team will never win a game with less than 10 FTA. I cannot stress to you just how big of a miracle it would have been if Corey Brewer had thrown the ball way up in the air towards his own basket instead of throwing it under the Cats' rim; this would have been a mind-and-space-bending miracle win. 10 offensive rebounds and 9 FTAs while being down by 21 and still pulling out the win...I think that would have qualified for miracle status.
Wrapping this thing up, last night's tilt was yet another example of the good things that Ramon Sessions can do for this squad. We've gone over it a few times: Where Flynn dribbles around, Sessions takes it at direct angles towards the rim; where Flynn starts things off by sizing up his man, Sessions punches it to the floor and goes...you get the picture and you've heard it before. Ramon Sessions is not an old player. If Ricky Rubio is eventually going to be the starting point guard for this franchise I fail to see how Sessions would be any less of a backup than Flynn. I don't understand what "upside" means when people talk about Jonny. Does Flynn have a chance to become a very good player? Yes, but so does Ramon and it's not like he doesn't have as much "potential" (again, whatever that means) as Flynn. Players are what they are. Sessions holds the Bucks' record for assists in a game. He has had some huge scoring nights. The Wolves play better as a team when he is in the game. He's still young. Start Sessions.
Quick final note: The Wolves were 17-26 at the rim for 65.4% while the Cats were 18-23 for 78.3%. Protect the paint, I suppose.
BTW: Not to pick on Jonah Ballow over at the team site, but this is a good example of precisely what is wrong with the way people view Flynn (highlights are mine):
Off the bench, Ellington and Sessions played a bulk of the second half to combine for 26 points in the defeat. Rookie point guard Jonny Flynn was regulated to only 21 minutes after starting strong with seven first quarter points.
The Wolves had one of their worst quarters of the year in the 1st and ended up down by 13. Their point guard did not start strong. He, and the team he leads, was blown off the court. It's not all his fault but how many different efficiency/player ratings do we need to see to know that Sessions is bringing more to the team than Flynn? Yes, Flynn is a rookie but Sessions is every bit as young and talented as the guard from Syracuse. He also gives his team a significantly better chance at doing what everyone who pays money for those tickets came to see: winning.