A run for the ages

With 7:20 remaining in the 2nd corner, Wayne Ellington drained a 24-foot three pointer to give the Wolves a 43-34 lead. What happened next was simply too good to pass up for a Korean recipe.

Over the course of the next 6 minutes and 31 seconds, the Charlotte Bobcats went on a 20-0 run that saw the Wolves put up the following totals: 

 

  • Blocked attempts: 5
  • Fouls: 4
  • Missed shots (not including blocks): 6
  • Defensive rebounds: 5
  • Offensive rebounds: 2
  • Made Shots: 0
  • Turnovers: 8
This may be the worst stretch of basketball that I have ever seen a professional team play.  The only possible good thing I can say about their play during this 6+ minute run is that they had a really nice offensive rebound rate on shots that actually made it to the rim and were not swatted away by a Bobcat defender.  33% , hooray!!!

No matter how far they are into the rebuilding process, no matter what the roster looks like, no matter who is coaching or putting the team together, this 6+ minute stretch was unforgivable.  It featured the worst 2 minute stretches of ball you will ever see (via Jonny Flynn), Corey Brewer's worst stint of the year (career, really; he was there for almost the whole thing with a -18),  and a sinking feeling for each and every single Wolves fan watching the action that their perimeter players were not playing the same game as the guys in the white uniforms.  

Did you know that the Bobcats had a 36% block rate during their 20-0 run?  They almost had more blocks than the Wolves had non-blocked missed shots.  

What is especially remarkable about the 2nd quarter run is that it occurred almost entirely without any of the little guys in blue trying to get the ball to the big guys in blue.  Al Jefferson had one of his better quarters of the year in the 1st quarter and he was being single-teamed until he started to make his move towards the basket.  What was nice to see from Al in the 1st quarter was that he was quick with the ball and the double team couldn't come quickly enough.  As many of you will remember from the last game against the Bobcats (and against many other opponents this season, as it seems to be "the book" on Jefferson), Charlotte would let Big Al take a slow back-step or two (sometimes waiting for him to put his head down) before sending Boris Diaw, Wallace, or Captain Jack at him from up top, knowing full-well that he wasn't going to be able to make the right pass with his mind already made up to take it to the hoop.   

Last night in the first quarter, Al was decisive with the ball.  He went quickly and he even did away with some of his old-man rec-league moves for some season-best displays of quickness and power.  When was the last time we saw the guy snap the rim with a two-handed power dunk?  

During the 6+ minute run, Big Al left the action for a breather with the score 43-36 in the Wolves' favor.  He re-entered the game with the Cats up by one at 43-44.  For the remainder of the run, the none of the little guys in blue saw fit to dump the damn ball down to the one guy who had it going.  Corey Brewer was the worst offender, posting an amazing one minute stretch of 3 straight offensive possessions that went like this: turnover, bad pass, blocked lay up.  After that last blocked lay up, the score was 43-52 without a single Big Al shot since he left the game with a 7 point lead.  

There are some pretty basic concepts in life, business, the NBA, whatever.  One of them is that when things go bad, you go back to the basics--you do what you do best; you do what has worked until you can figure out how to adapt. Your Minnesota Timberwolves  apparently haven't read this memo.  With Stephen Jackson, Ty Thomas, Gerald Wallace, and Boris Diaw running all over the damn place, the Wolves tried to match the energy and chaos of the athletes and ballers they simply didn't have the horses to run with and they went away from the only grouping that can keep it close with a team like Charlotte: Big Al, pinch post with Love, and Darko.  Big guys.  Big guys who don't screw up the transition defense by making kamikaze drives to the hoop leaving 3/4 of the court wide open for upper-level athletes like Jackson, Thomas, Wallace, and Diaw to go hog wild towards the other rim. 

During the run, Charlotte made an amazing 7 layups (missing 3 more).  They shot 2-3 from inside of 10 feet.  Raymond Felton absolutely shredded Jonny Flynn.  Larry Hughes got into the action.  Jackson, Thomas, Wallace, and Diaw got in their sprints for the night.  

I'm sure there are plenty of other terrible run-related items that I'm missing here.  It was a simply stunning run.  

Random thoughts:

  • My first game note of the night: "Flynn is actually making quick decisions in the 1/2 court; he's not pounding the ball into the floor."  Flynn had a really nice 1st quarter.  He was bringing the ball up quickly and making a pass within 2-4 seconds of bringing it past 1/2 court.  The offense didn't have the (relative) "click" that it sometimes does with Ramon Sessions out there, but it was noticeably better than what he was doing earlier in the year.  
  • Favorite play of the game/capsule of the problems with this team: On a 3-on-3 transition opportunity (in, I believe, the 2nd quarter run) with (I think) Flynn on (or near the ball),  Darko marking the streaking Cats headed down the center of the lane, and Damien Wilkins on the wing, a Bobcat came through Wilkins' area of responsibility and darted directly to the left block.  Somewhere along the line, Wilkins appeared to have simply stopped running, thinking that Darko (who was rightfully interested in protecting the rim/paint) would pick up a guy that Wilkins should have stuck with.  The pass went directly to the open Bobcat for the layup.  Thankfully, Wilkins didn't have to leave his area of the court so the Wolves could set up in their 1/2 court defe...wait a minute.  No communication, no smarts, no effort, no win....and no fans if they continue this type of ridiculous play that has nothing to do with the talent level on the squad.  You can get junior high players to communicate better in transition defense than what the Wolves do.  
  • The Wolves had an eFG of .625 in the 1st, .25 in the 2nd, .579 in the 3rd, and .441 in the 4th.  
  • Speaking of part of the Four Factors, I'm not so sure FTAs mean what we think they mean for the Wolves.  Charlotte only attempted 16 FTAs last night, mostly because their attempts in situations that normally draw fouls were nothing other than open runs at the rim.  Sure, this padded Charlotte's eFG, but even if the Wolves matched their effort from the field (say, 42-82 with one more 3), they still would have come up short. Of course, there's always offensive rebounding, but it is interesting to see how FTAs for bad defenses might be devalued just by a tiny bit compared to other franchises who can play things straight up.  Just a hunch.  It probably doesn't work itself out over a large sample size.  I just continue to be amazed by the ways in which the Wolves can make me rethink the philosophy of suckitude in the NBA.  
  • Is Corey Brewer's reputation as a defender deserved?  
  • Has Ryan Gomes punched his ticket out of town? 
I have to say that this was the most disappointing game of the year, at least for me.  I'm not so sure we can pin the blame on Kurt Rambis and the coaching staff.  The TV broadcast had an interesting angle last night that often showed some of the in between play action with an up close shot of Rambis' face.  Often, it was either buried in his hands or with a look of absolute desperation.  I know that look.  It's the same look I have on my face when I tell my oldest daughter to go feed the dogs only to watch her run outside.  I've shown her how to feed the dogs.  I've even printed out a little helpful reminder that hangs over the food bucket: 

  • Winston gets 3 full scoops 2 times a day
  • Kirby gets 1 full scoop 1 time a day
  • Please do not "eyeball pour" or "bowl scoop" the food into the dogs' bowls
  • Please remember to firmly close the lid on the food bin when you are finished
For all of that, I continue to have a 12 year old daughter who will do things like use the bowl to scoop up the food or leave the food bin wide open when she goes to the basement to feed the dogs.  I know the face.  I made it this morning when I went downstairs to find a wide open bucket of food with about a 6 inch muzzle-sized divot in it right next to a mountainous pile of liquid dog crap and a guilty looking dog.  

Unfortunately for the Wolves, they cannot chalk up their misfortune to raging pre-teen female hormones that reduce attention spans, destroy reading comprehension, and clog up ear canals.  I get that the team is filled with young players but there are some pretty ridiculous things going on with this team that I have a hard time believing they have never encountered before in practice.  

Again, I know the face. 

Until later. 

PS: Please take the time to welcome Sonia to our site.  We are very happy to have her.  I would like to hear from all of you about how we can best integrate her daily updates into the site.  Would it work best if we made all of the updates above the fold and simply edited the game wraps below the fold on a night after a game?  Do you like all of the updates above the fold or most of them below it?  What say you? 
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