Game 5: MN 106 San Antonio 94
The San Antonio game was wonderful to watch. There are a lot of high grades to hand out today as many players played their best game of the season today. Without further ado:
Michael Beasley: 43 minutes, FG 8-15, 3PM 2-2, FT 1-2, +10, Reb 5, Ast 3, PFs 3, St 0, TOs 3, BS 1, BA 0, Pts 19
It is readily apparent that Michael's offensive tendencies are changing. Between last game and this game he has drastically altered his offensive strategy. Today he drove to the basket frequently and refrained from taking long, contested, 2 point shots. Indeed, in the first half alone he attacked the basket 7 times. In doing so, he generated several high percentage shots for himself. He shot the ball efficiently. However, what was most impressive about his offensive game today was his decision making. He took very few contested shots and created several offensive opportunities for his teammates. He readily passed the ball and he protected the ball (don't be fooled by his 3 TOs as 2 of them occurred late in the fourth quarter with the game already decided). The only reason he doesn't get an A today is because he still has numerous lapses on defense. He is still peeking too much and coming off his man when it isn't warranted. His intentions are good, but his defensive decisions are not. Regardless, this was his best game of the season. To this end, contrary to the consensus opinion on this site, I have long believed he can become an allstar player and I have been reluctant to trade him until he has enough time with RA. Here's to hoping he can continue to play like he did today and that his aggression on offense isn't solely attributable to his hand injury making him reluctant to shoot.
Kevin Love: 43 minutes, FG 8-15, 3 PM 4-, FT 4-5, +10, +15, Ast 1, PFs 2, St 3, TOs 6, BS 2, BAs 2, Pts 24
I was so tempted to give Kevin his second A in a row, but I couldn't due to the fact he had 6 turnovers, a few of which were outright foolish (his full court pass at the end of the first half immediately comes to mind). Regardless, he continues to impress with his extraordinary play, particularly on offense. His ability to play the PnR on offense is amazing largely because he has the ability to play the Pick and Pop as well. His rebounding prowess is mind boggling as he should write a book on how to rebound the ball. He played extremely solid team defense as evident in his 2 blocked shots and 3 steals. He shot the ball exquisitely, particularly in the first half when it seemed as though he couldn't miss. His defensive deficiencies were not readily apparent today largely because he defended D. Blair who isn't the type of athletic, fast player that gives Love problems. I am very glad Kevin plays for us and the sky really does seem to be the limit for him as his weight loss has added several new dimensions to his offensive repertoire and has contributed to him being a more able defender.
Darko Milicic: 21 minutes, FG 5-9, 3 PM 0-0, FT 0-0, +19, Reb 6, Ast 1, PFs 2, St 0, TOs 0, BS 1, BA 1, Pts 10
I am a little torn about Darko today which is likely related to my basketball avarice. I felt he didn't play within himself offensively which manifest in a hook shot, a drive on Tim Duncan from the free throw line, etc. However, and here is where my greed comes in, I would love for him to be able to routinely make the shots he thinks he can. To this end, the basket he scored when he drove from the free throw line with Tim Duncan guarding him was awesome. If only he had the skill to reliably do this without all of us holding our breath when he tries to do so basketball life would be perfect and Darko would be a perennial allstar. Alas, Darko is likely not as good as he thinks he is or we wish he was, but here's to hoping some miraculous change allows him to be. Regardless, he was generally successful in his offensive approach as he was 5-9 from the floor with 10 points in 21 minutes. Indeed, I love the lack of timidity we have seen from him this year on both ends of the ball. Speaking of defense Darko continues to impress. His team defense today was exquisite. He did have difficulty guarding Tim Duncan away from the basket who was shooting the lights out today, but he played Tim well within 10 feet of the basket. Say what you want about Darko, but he has been an above average center this year. He has been well worth his contract this year, and I think it's unfair of people to say that Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have done it alone this year because it is simply untrue. Who knows what Darko will give us the rest of the year, but he deserves credit for his play thus far. Through 4 games his WS/48 was .107, DRtg 96 and ORtg was 98, and today's game will only improve those numbers.
Wes Johnson: 29 min, FG 6-6, 3 PM 2-2, FT 0-0, +7, Reb 2, Ast 1, PFs 1, St 1, TOs 2, BS 1, BA 0, Pts 14
Today we witnessed the formula for Wes Johnson's success. He made excellent decision offensively as he didn't dribble the ball excessively, he didn't have any stupid traveling violations, he made several nice passes which are not reflected in his assist total, he moved without the ball well and his shooting was awesome. He played well defensively both in guarding his man and in his team defense. I was very proud of Wes today and I hope he continues to play this well. I want him to prove all of us wrong. If he plays like he did today he will.
Luke Ridnour: 36 minutes, FG 7-10, 3 PM 2-3, FT 3-4, +6, Reb 1, Ast 9, PFs 3, St 0, TOs 3, BS 1, BA 0, Pts 19
Luke, like Wes, completely surprised me today. In fact, I wrote yesterday that I didn't feel Luke would ever earn more than a B from me due to his lack of defensive effort. However, today he did well in this regard as he fought through screens more than he has previously this season and he defended Tony Parker relatively well in the first half. The only reason he doesn't get an outright A from me today is because he had substantial difficulty staying with TJ Ford throughout this game. Regardless, Luke was awesome offensively. His decision making and passing was outstanding as evident in his 9 Assists. His PnR offense today was truly exquisite, and I was really proud of Luke today. One could certainly argue he was the best point guard on the floor tonight.
Ricky Rubio: 23 minutes, FG 3-8, 3 PM 0-2, FT 0-0, +1, Reb 2, Ast 3, PFs 1, TOs 2, BS 1, BA 0, Pts 6
Ricky definitely did not have his best game of the season today. However, he did control the pace of the game, protect the ball and create numerous opportunities for his teammates on offense. His shooting came back down to Earth today which was to be expected. Unfortunately, he didn't play well defensively which is why he receives a B today. For the first time this season he was outplayed by Luke which is evident in his playing only 23 minutes. Regardless, Ricky was still essential in the win today, and his alleyoop to DWill was the play of the season to date in my opinion.
Wayne Ellington: 6 minutes, FG 0-2, 3 PM 0-0, FT 2-2, +6, Reb 0, Ast 0, PFs 2, St 0, TO 1, BS 0, BA 0, Pts 2
There are several reasons Wayne only played 6 minutes today; the biggest being the play of Wes. Today he gets a C simply because there isn't a lot for me to use to grade him. Kind of a blah game for Wayne from my perspective.
Derrick Williams: 11 minutes, FG 3-3, 3 PM 1-1, FT 0-0, -2, Reb 1, Ast 0, PF 3, St 0, TO 1, BS 0, BA 0, Pts 7
Derrick had several nice plays in the first half including a spectacular alleyoop courtesy of Ricky and a nice shake and bake that resulted in an open look and basket. However, his defense remains average at best which is likely one of the reasons he only had 11 minutes today. I hope he continues to improve and that he doesn't get frustrated with his lack of playing time.
Anthony Tolliver: 23 minutes, FG 1-3, 3 PM 1-2, FT 2-2, -7, Reb 6, Ast 0, PF 1, St 0, TO 1, BS 0, BA 0, Pts 5
AT continues to do things that just don't show up in the stat sheet. His team defense and rebounding today were superlative. In addition, his high basketball IQ is evident in every game he plays as he moves without the ball extremely well on offense. He always seems to be available to Ricky or Luke when they need him and he is to be credited with that. I really like AT. To this end, it was brought up by TO12 I believe in the last thread that this is ATs last year under contract with us. In my opinion his contract needs to be extended sooner than later.
Alright guys, that is the report card for today. When I began these report cards I was hoping it would be a nice fanpost feature that CHers could refer to after games. I essentially stole this idea from ESPN.com where the Miami Heat and US soccer teams routinely receive player grades. The CH response to these report cards as gauged by the number of comments per post has been good thus far and I am hopeful it will continue to improve. However, the only reason I am writing these report cards still is because I feel obligated to do so in trying to bring this idea to CH and get it off the ground. With that said I am not a basketball guru, aspiring sportswriter, etc. I very much would like to have someone else take the mantle in this context or at least share the responsibility of writing these report cards with the entire CH community. I think it would be great to have everyone who wants to write a report card once in a while because it would be fun to see the Wolves though the eyes of as many people as possible. Running without scissors has volunteered to write the report card for the upcoming Memphis game. Would anyone be willing to write the report card for the Cleveland game? In fact, if you feel so inclined, please volunteer to write report cards for any of the games below as I will try to act as a coordinator of sorts simply to ensure report cards are consistently available after each Wolves game. If nobody wishes to write a report card I will try and do it, but my schedule will be prohibitive as my vacation ends today.
1/4: Memphis - Running with scissors
1/6: Cleveland - TO12
1/10: Chicago - last of the irish wolves
1/13: New Orleans
1/20: LA Clippers - Michael Boosalis II
My last thought on tonight is that nobody appreciates a regular season win like Wolves fans because we have been so awful for so long. I suppose it's like the age old adage, "you can't know of true happiness unless you've tasted of utter sadness." Here's to hoping we find continued happiness in being Wolves fans. Take care...