What on earth?!

The Minnesota Timberwolves entered last night's game against the Clips with two starters in negative WP48 territory: Darko Milicic (-0.75) and Wes Johnson (-0.57).

Darko, a 7-foot center with athleticism and coordination, currently holds a 42.2% TS mark and produces below average production at the 5 spot in fg%, 2fg%, ft%, efg%, pts/48, oreb, to, and fouls. Darko shoots .452 from the line, .455 from the floor, .429 at the rim (AT THE RIM!!!), and .370 from 3-9 feet. Jose Canseco belonged to fewer 40/40 clubs.

Last night the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Los Angeles Clippers with their three best players shooting a combined 9-38 from the floor and their horrible shooting center going...well, take a look-see at the box score:

(more below the fold)

Advanced Box Score Statistics
Starters MP TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg
Luke Ridnour 37:44 .434 .273 0.0 10.6 4.8 23.7 0.0 0.0 6.3 19.1 103 111
Kevin Love 36:21 .456 .375 6.0 44.0 23.1 13.5 1.4 0.0 0.0 23.1 109 102
Darko Milicic 34:21 .640 .667 15.9 7.8 12.2 12.7 0.0 5.6 14.9 26.5 115 107
Ricky Rubio 32:22 .310 .136 0.0 24.7 11.1 25.8 4.8 3.0 17.1 24.4 72 95
Wesley Johnson 23:57 .478 .417 4.6 0.0 2.5 6.3 2.1 0.0 0.0 13.8 112 109
Reserves MP TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg
Wayne Ellington 30:31 .722 .722 0.0 4.4 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 13.3 140 113
Anthony Tolliver 18:51 1.042 1.500 0.0 7.1 3.2 7.6 5.5 0.0 67.6 10.6 49 100
Derrick Williams 14:24 .533 .500 7.6 27.8 16.7 29.4 0.0 0.0 10.6 29.5 107 108
Nikola Pekovic 11:29 1.000 1.000 9.5 11.6 10.4 0.0 4.5 0.0 0.0 15.7 202 100
Team Totals 240 .529 .481 22.7 80.6 48.8 58.3 8.6 4.5 10.3 100.0 108.3 105.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/21/2012.

DARKO!!!!!

From TS% to (holy crap) oreb% to block% to having the highest usage among the starters, Darko killed this game. Just killed it. Soak it in. For one night, this doesn't ring true:

Dontlookatmynumbers_medium_medium

And we're back to this:

Wearewitnessesdarko_medium

For one awesome night.

Nothing about this game made a lick of sense.

Scoring
1 2 3 4 T
MIN 22 26 24 29 101
LAC 31 28 20 19 98
Four Factors
Pace eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA ORtg
MIN 93.3 .481 10.3 22.7 .284 108.3
LAC 93.3 .542 17.8 19.4 .296 105.1

Mo Williams pretty much guaranteed the Clips a win in the shooting category, going 10-15 from the field before being ejected for complaining about being in the wrong place at the wrong time near a slipping unicorn.

The Wolves currently sport the 2nd highest TO% in the league, at 15.81 just behind Detroit. They are 20th in the league in causing turnovers, at 13.85. They have the 5th worst TO% differential in the league, at 1.96. Last night they won the game because they only turned the ball over 11 times compared to the Clips 18. They collected 3 more offensive rebounds. These +7 tos and +3 oreb led to an additional 10 shots (81 to 71) and 5 extra FTAs that erased the Clippers' hefty shooting percentage advantage. It's pretty hard to find a better example of the importance of rebounds and hanging on to the ball.

I think something was wrong with the gravity at Staples Center last night. The Wolves' three best players play like poo, Darko plays like a Kareem/Bill Russell combo, they kill the turnover battle, their bench shoots 15-22 from the floor...it was like a surrealist painting in motion.

Darko didn't just shoot well. He was a masterpiece all over the court. With the exception of a short stint where he tried to flop against Blake Griffin he controlled the All Star PF on both ends of the court. He wouldn't be shoved around (with the exception of the weird flop), he challenged shots, and he overcame his huffing and puffing to anchor the team on a night where his average production would have likely meant a crushing 20 point loss on national TV with Love and Rubio falling flat on their faces. Darko saved that from happening. He saved you from all your friends laughing/texting at you about how the Wolves really aren't for real. He set up the scenario for a 0-10 shooter to make a huge 3 and a defensive stop. He set up the mix for Rick Adelman to hand Vinny Del Negro his shorts in the form of a Kevin Love three pointer. Darko did that. Somewhere, there is a Mayan calendar with a picture of a tall Serbian.

In the Ricky Rubio department, he had his worst night as a pro but he still contributed in pretty amazing ways.

Advanced Box Score Statistics
Starters MP TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg
Luke Ridnour 37:44 .434 .273 0.0 10.6 4.8 23.7 0.0 0.0 6.3 19.1 103 111
Kevin Love 36:21 .456 .375 6.0 44.0 23.1 13.5 1.4 0.0 0.0 23.1 109 102
Darko Milicic 34:21 .640 .667 15.9 7.8 12.2 12.7 0.0 5.6 14.9 26.5 115 107
Ricky Rubio 32:22 .310 .136 0.0 24.7 11.1 25.8 4.8 3.0 17.1 24.4 72 95
Wesley Johnson 23:57 .478 .417 4.6 0.0 2.5 6.3 2.1 0.0 0.0 13.8 112 109
Reserves MP TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg
Wayne Ellington 30:31 .722 .722 0.0 4.4 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 13.3 140 113
Anthony Tolliver 18:51 1.042 1.500 0.0 7.1 3.2 7.6 5.5 0.0 67.6 10.6 49 100
Derrick Williams 14:24 .533 .500 7.6 27.8 16.7 29.4 0.0 0.0 10.6 29.5 107 108
Nikola Pekovic 11:29 1.000 1.000 9.5 11.6 10.4 0.0 4.5 0.0 0.0 15.7 202 100
Team Totals 240 .529 .481 22.7 80.6 48.8 58.3 8.6 4.5 10.3 100.0 108.3 105.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/21/2012.

Take a look at the Ortg/Drtg numbers. Ricky really didn't have it going on offense last night. He picked up 2 quick fouls, had 2 terrible airballs, and was generally flummoxed. However, he remained active on defense (picking up 3 steals), on the defensive glass (6 dreb), and his block on Chauncey Billups was the best late game stop I've seen from this team since...well, I can't think of the last time a perimeter Wolf did something like that. Ricky didn't have it going on offense last night but he played hard, didn't turn it over a ton, hit the glass, and played light's out defense when it mattered. All of this put him in a spot to make his 1 made shot really, really, really count. Hopefully, this example won't be lost on anyone in the locker room.

Random thoughts:

  • If you missed the game, check out the wrap up video on NBA.com. There is no good way to explain Darko's line drive bank push/hook shot or Luke's floater over Deandre Jordan. They have to be seen to be believed.
  • VDN is an awful, awful coach. Just awful. At least he didn't seem to yell "miss it" at Rubio. That would have really made his last second defensive strategy look ridiculous.
  • Speaking of the last play, Rubio and Wayne Ellington set the picks to make it work. Again, check out the game wrap vid. This has been quite the week for good picks. While you're over at NBA.com check out the video for the Dallas/Clipper matchup. Blake Griffin set a pick on Jason Kidd for the ages that opened up Mr. Big Shot for the big shot.
  • Pek pulled down his first Dreb last night. The big fella now has 1 dreb in 72 minutes. He is losing the battle to Wes' FTAs (9).
  • Wayne Ellington is putting up quite a nice stretch of ball. He now carries a .133 WP48 and has joined Love, Rubio, Ridnour, and Derrick Williams as the team's only above average WP48 performers. He provides a nice spark at the bench, but when you click here you should see a bunch of reasons why he should be taking more of a certain someone's minutes.
  • Ken Mauer is still a joke of a ref. Let's take a stroll down memory lane


(Although, that was pretty much the biggest applause Kurt Rambis ever received at Target Center.)

Well folks, that was quite the contest. Hopefully, this singular oddball of a game can be the start of something big. They need to win tonight in Utah. The Jazz are one of their closest peers. They are in the same stage of rebuilding, they are focusing on many of the same things as the Wolves, and they are both very young. The Clips win was awesome and weird, but in terms of long happiness about the team, tonight's game is one where their big dogs need to show up and bite, as Darko probably doesn't have too many more of those games left in him.

UPDATE: This was the 13th time the Wolves have won a game with :00.0 seconds on the clock and the 22nd time they won in the final second.

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