FanPost

Here's a thought: Play Harder

If Kevin Love hadn't made the All-Star team, I think my main message to his teammates would've been this: It's your fault. It's not your fault that you lack a certain level of talent; it's your fault that you haven't played disciplined enough to win winnable games. While many focus on the team's inability to win close games, I think the more-important factor is below the fold.

Basically, it seems like this team plays disciplined/energetic/functional enough basketball to be competitive in 1 of 2 scenarios: 1) When they're up against an elite team; 2) When they're down 1 or more rotation players and know they need their best effort to win. Personally, the games that piss me off most haven't been the close losses to the Spurs (although they do piss me off because I hate the Spurs' gamesmanship and the shit they get away with - I mean with the comments over the Garnett/Frye incident, it's extremely aggravating that no one brought up how Tim Duncan did the exact same move to an already-injured Michael Beasley a month ago) or other teams; they've been the winnable games against their peers. Sacramento at home. Charlotte twice (especially at home). Golden State twice. At New York. At Phoenix. Portland 3 times. Utah twice. Denver at home when 'Melo and Nene were out. Houston at home (a team they haven't beaten since Mike James was the starting PG). Home vs. Memphis. At Toronto.

So what are the reasons for this? 2 stick out in my mind:

1. When the team is making shots, they decrease their intensity level at both ends. The Wolves are only 6-5 when they've made 10 or more 3s in a game. Compare that to the rest of the league, who is 166-61 in the same scenario. If the Wolves played at league average in that situation, they'd have 2 more wins. Also, they're only 5-5 when they shoot over 50% (all FGs) in a game. The rest of the league? 293-77 (79%). Part of this probably has to do with losing close games and bad defense, but even the team with the worst defensive rating in the league (Phoenix) is 10-4 when shooting over 50% and 12-5 when making 10 or more 3s. Observationally, it looks like when the shots are going down, the team is less likely to move the ball and find a good shot and more likely to lose their defensive intensity. In short, success doesn't feed their energy; it makes them think they can get away with less energy.

2. They're less intense in games against bad teams. After the early-season clusterfucks against Memphis, Miami, Orlando, and Houston, the Wolves haven't been blown out much against good teams. They were competitive with the Spurs 3 times, the Lakers in LA, the Jazz twice, the Nuggets in Denver, the Celtics, the Thunder 3 times, the Blazers twice, the Knicks in NY, and the Magic at home. They've just had way too many double-digit losses against bad teams. Some might think that opponents let their guard down against the Wolves, but I think the team is also more focused and more disciplined against those teams because they know their margin of error is much smaller.

This second one pisses me off more than any of them. There's nothing wrong with losing games if there's a personnel issue. There's everything wrong with not showing up to play against teams that aren't that much or any better than them. Still, it happens constantly. Most of these guys have proven shit in this league and still give way too many half-assed efforts.

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