We're almost there

11 games to go. 

First of all, that was the first home game since the 21st of February against OKC where the Wolves have been in it down the stretch.  I suppose this could be either a negative or a positive depending on how you look at things.  I'm going to roll with a...ugh, has it really been over a month since the team has had a competitive home tilt? I really want to say that it was a positive.  I enjoyed watching the game but now that it's over it's pretty hard to view it as a stand-alone event that, unfortunately, was still a loss.  

Have I mentioned that there are only 11 games to go?  

Last night's loss can be explained away in fairly easy fashion: rebounding, rebounding, and more rebounding.  Against the Raps the Wolves managed only 35 total rebounds, which tied for their 5th worst output of the year.  Their 8 offensive rebounds were tied for their 4th worst output of the year.  On a night where both teams topped the 50% eFG mark, there were a relatively smaller amount of available grabs, but this was still a night where the team was unable to control the boards.  

On the other end of the court, the Raptors grabbed 30.8% of the available misses, while shooting an eFG of 53%.  The Wolves won the battle at the line, they made fewer turnovers, and they shot well from the field.  Ultimately, they were done in by being -4 on the offensive glass and in the FGA column.  

Of course, there was also the shoddy transition defense, the missed easy shots, and the never-ending parade of guys in black jerseys headed straight towards the rim, but beyond that...it was the rebounding. 

I decided to perform an experiment during last night's game.  After the game against the Lakers where I complained about the team's lack of interior defense I received a few emails from people who reminded me that the Wolves' real deficiency was on the wing and that if guys like Jonny Flynn, Ryan Gomes, and...cough...Corey Brewer could keep people in front of them, the pairing of Kevin Love and Al Jefferson and their defensive efforts might be viewed in a more favorable light.  

Which is it?  Are both simply very bad?  Is there a chicken/egg aspect here?  In order to get an unbiased set of eyes on the situation I asked Mrs. Stop-n-Pop to watch the game and pay attention to a single question: Are the Wolves big guys or little guys the ones responsible for all of the black jerseys getting to the rim? Here are a few of her more notable comments:

 

  • "Oooh, they don't really stop anybody, do they?" 
  • "Do you think they get depressed by all of those empty seats?" 
  • "That little guy with the headband [Flynn] looks like a chicken with his head cut off.  He can't stay close to his enemy [the guy he is guarding]." 
  • "The big goofy guy from Toronto [Turkoglu] is so slow.  Is he really hard to stay in front of?  By who?" 
  • "Why is it the job of the big guys to clean up for the little guys? That's all they'd be doing if that were the case." 
  • "Do I really need to watch the whole game?" 
  • "What happened to the big Australian you talked about?" 
At the end of the experiment, I asked Mrs. Stop-n-Pop to give an up-or-down answer about which group of Wolves players she thought was more responsible for the ease in which the guys in the black jerseys were able to put the little orange ball in the bucket.  "The little guys."  Why? "Whenever one of the black guys [and she's talking about the jerseys, not the players] was running at only one of the little Timberwolves, the other Timberwolves needed to go out of their way to help him.  Whenever one of the black guys was running at one of the big Timberwolves, they were able to do something [guard them] on their own."  

Does Mrs. Stop-n-Pop have a point?  Is the Love/Jefferson/(Darko/3rd big to be named later) pairing deserving of a more competent perimeter before we start making proclamations about their defensive suckitude?  At the very least, should we hold off on going hog wild on their short-comings because of the team's overall short-comings?  What about transition and help defense?  How do you find (relative) diamonds in the dung heap? 

Whatever the case, I suppose it's something of a relative moral victory to not give up over 120 points to one of the league's leading offenses with a top-tier player (Chris Bosh) and a nightmare match up for the Love/Jefferson duo (Andrea Bargnani).  

Have I mentioned that there are only 11 games to go? 

Other items of note:

  • Jonny Flynn showed some nice flashes of being able to attack the interior of the Raptors "defense" (quotation marks provided in the sense that the Wolves play "defense").  He was able to make some nice kick outs and he got to the line 10 times.  This was as close to the summer league Flynn we have seen all year long.  Unfortunately, he went 3-10 from the floor.  
  • I have no idea what Kurt Rambis designed for the Wolves' last play, but it did draw the following comment from Mrs. Stop-n-Pop: "Oooh, that's what they wanted?" 
  • Wayne Ellington was able to get to the line for 6 FTAs.  He also had 3 assists and 0 turnovers while shooting 5-10 from the field. 
  • Hoop Data hasn't updated their box score category in a while so I don't have an exact number to put with the following claim, but it seems like the Wolves missed about 10 shots at point blank range.  Kevin Love FUBAR'd two early gimmies and there were a few missed layups later on in the game.  
  • At least it wasn't the Wolves' transition defense that failed them down the stretch.  Toronto bullied them down the stretch in the 1/2 court, scoring on several straight possessions down the wire after the Wolves pulled within 2 with about 4 minutes to go.  This is where Hedo went for 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists and seemed to be able to get whatever he wanted off of the pick-and-roll.  
  • For the wings-are-the-big-issue crowd, the Wolves' perimeter was bested by the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, and Antoine Wright.  
Well folks, that about does it.  What say you?  Read about the game from the Raptors perspective here: Raptors HQ

While you're at it, check out Hoopus commenter Casperkid23's draft blog.  

BTW: For those Alondo Tucker fans out there, we present to you an AT retrospective:

  • 1-26-2010 vs the Knicks: 8:12 with 2 points and 1 rebound. 
  • 3-6-2010 vs Houston: 3:22 with 0 points and 1 rebound. 
  • 3-16-2010 vs Phoenix: 9:19 with 4 points and 1 rebound. 
  • 3-17-2010 vs the Jazz: 3:45 with 2 points and no rebounds. 
We wish him the best. 
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