3-5! Playoffs here we come! Thankyou bsg007 for letting me take this one.
Ok, so that was a terrible game of basketball, but the Wolves powered past some miserable stretches of play to end up as convincing winners while looking cool in black. With two notable exceptions, the players all managed to contribute positively to the victory today. Before the grades, let’s have a look at some notable stats from the box score:
Offensive rebounds: WSH 16, MIN 10
Bench net +/-: WSH -72 in 77 mins, MIN +76 in 95 mins.
Fastbreak points: WSH 21, MIN 6
(this gets a grade of F. "United We Run" my ass.)
Turnovers: WSH 15, MIN 17
I imagine many observers were expecting a turnover festival. A total of 32 game turnovers is, as expected, rather high. You may be interested to know that the highest recorded amount of game turnovers of 45 (!) was set by the San Francisco Warriors against the Boston Celtics in 1971. The record total turnovers for both teams is 73 (SAvPHI ’76 & DENvsPHX ’80). Considering Rick says this is the worst team for turnovers he’s ever seen, there is definitely historical cause for worry!
Points off TOs: WSH 21, MIN 20
A better team (i.e. anybody else in the league) is not going to let you out of jail with only 20 points off 17 turnovers.
Threes: MIN shoots 10-26. The way the team is set up, it is to be hoped that this is about the average we hit from beyond the arc. Whatever that is lacked in talent, there are shooters all down the roster. As long as we don’t "live and die by the three, Ernie" (read in Barkley’s voice) entirely, ~40% will keep us competitive in games.
To the grades! (I think I am probably a more lenient marker than bsg007.)
Darko Milicic: 2 pts on 1-4, 2 reb, 0 ast (0 DAsts, even) 3 blk, 4 TOs, 4 PFs, 17 minutes.
This is the kind of game which unfortunately typifies Darko’s career. Instead of following up a successful effort against Cleveland with another strong performance, he looked lost and out of place on offense. On one play he recovered a rare offensive rebound from Love right under the basket, and shot a weak baby hook rather than putting it home. He missed. Pitiful. He avoids a complete fail grade with some decent shot blocks, but was otherwise ineffectual.
Kevin Love: 20 pts on 7-16 (1-4 3pt), 16 reb (2 offensive), 3 ast, 1 TO, 3 stl in 40 minutes.
The 20-12 in 2012 streak continues! I vacillated on Love’s grade, since for most people 20 and 16 has to go down as an excellent night, but eventually decided to keep him in the B range because his offensive rebounding was uncharacteristically poor. Positives include his assist:turnover ratio and steals, as well as a nice fast break dunk to ring up his twentieth point. Otherwise, a typical game – and that just underscores the expectations I now have for Love’s performance. If the Wolves can shore up some of the loose joints in the framework of the team, these days Kevin Love is looking like the centerpiece of a strong playoff team and an outside MVP candidate.
Wes Johnson: 5 pts on 2-8, 2 boards, and one ast, TO & blk in 19 minutes
Wesley is playing his way not just out of a starting spot, but of possessing all credibility as an NBA player. He seems to have no idea what his role is on offense and doesn’t leverage his length and athleticism into compensating D. His ceiling at the moment appears to be Thabo Sefolosha, and he’s falling short of even that standard. His 2-8 shooting doesn’t even factor in the several open shots which he passed up to create worse ones (this is known in some circles as "The Beasley"). What’s wrong with him I have no idea, but he’d better sort himself out quick.
Wayne Ellington: 13 pts on 5-8, 0 reb, 2 ast, 1 TO, 3 stl in 34 minutes
I was pleasantly surprised by the Duke’s effort in a rare start and close to career-high minutes (he started and played 40 @ Washington last year. We lost.) Discounting a garbage time shot, he hit 5-7 including 2-3 from deep. His three steals partly pay homage to the ineptness of the Wizards (of which more anon), but also indicate some nice effort on the defensive end. One steal, where he nipped in and took it from McGee in the deep post, was particularly pleasing. Overall, well done. If he produces games like this off the bench in the future behind Our New Wing Player, that would be terrific. He won’t, but it would be terrific.
Luke Ridnour: 13 pts on 6-10, 3 reb, 2 ast, 2 TO 1 stl in 31 minutes
I personally feel that Luke hasn’t had a terrible start to the season. OK, he’s been completely outplayed and overshadowed by Rubio, but he is still averaging 10 and 4. This afternoon, however, was his weakest showing. The difference between Ricky Offense and Luke Offense has been pretty visible, but tonight it was laughably obvious. A starting NBA point guard ought to put up more than 2 assists in 31 minutes. That just isn’t going to get it done. Poor effort. The Ricky-Luke backcourt also has its issues, especially on the play they run with the handoff, pick, and return pass around the wing. Seems to produce no opportunities except a Ricky-Love iso play (come to think of it, not the worst result). Defense, as always, not great (in the same way that catching oneself in the zipper of one’s jeans can be called "not great", that is to say, painful, terrible and embarrassing.)
Ricky Rubio: 13 pts on 5-14, 6 reb, 14 ast (C-C-C-Career High! Hooray!), 5 TOs, 1 blk (When?) in 30 minutes.
Grade: A- (please read the following to this accompaniment)
Fanfare please! Thanks! I love point guard play. Best thing about basketball, and tonight we got an exhibition in drive-and-dish. Ricky came into the game late in the first and just changed everything. His introduction caused the Wolves to go on a 15-2 run that opened the lead which would not change until the final buzzer. Time and again he got past his defender, with crossovers, behind-the-backs or look offs, got down amongst the big men and threaded passes out to the shooters. One bounce pass to Derrick Williams (10:10 2nd qtr) for a triple was a particular delight. At the half, he looked on pace for a triple double. He even got into John Wall’s head (plenty of room, judging by the basketball IQ showing today) and defended him very well. I only avoid giving a full A grade for the turnovers (although at least two were Randolph’s fault) and inefficient shooting. A big test comes for Ricky in the next nights of this road trip, against Jose Calderon, who knows him well, then against reigning MVP Rose and Chicago’s D. We’ll see how he does. I’m betting on "well."
(it was the first fanfare march I could think of. Don't judge me.)
Derrick Williams: 14 pts on 5-12 shooting, 4-7 from deep, 7 reb, 1 TO, in 30 minutes
A very nice game for Williams that earned him career high minutes and points while showing that shooting stroke doesn’t only transfer if your name is, inexplicably, "Jimmer." After a rather dour start to the season, Williams has settled down a bit and is beginning to look like an exciting draft pick. He still needs to work on his inside scoring (1-5 inside the arc today) but he might well be the second best rebounder on the team after Kevin "Mine" Love. The solitary turnover is also a good sign (he has 2.4 p/36 so far). Good effort – keep getting better, DWill!
Anthony Tolliver: 11 pts on 4-6, 3 reb, 2 blk in 26 minutes
AT continues to play his way into our hearts with his hustle and versatility. At some point I may even try to selectively forget ever seeing this. An efficient and effective game for Tolliver helped the second unit open up the lead (he went for a +19 on the night). Nothing flashy, just solid basketball. He’s very important to this team, and I think I speak for everyone here at Hoopus when I say that I recognise and appreciate it.
Anthony Randolph: 2 pts on 1-1, 3 reb, 1 stl in 7 mins
Randolph had only seven minutes off the pine. If he had caught passes from Ricky and slammed home a Rubioop set up, he might have had more.
Nikola Pekovic: 0 pts on 0-1, 2 reb and a travel in 2 minutes
Pek Human Victory Cigar’d the last two minutes of the game and gave the tattoo an airing.
Pek’s Tattoo: as awesome and gloriously tasteless as ever
The Washington Wizards
We knew the Wizards would have trouble. We knew they had on-court IQ issues. I don’t think we knew they would be this completely disengaged. Wall looks, as ever, promising, and McGee is a bundle of intriguing flashes, Trevor Booker looks good off the bench, but otherwise it’s a whole heap of misfortune in the nation’s capital. Jan Vesely started his NBA career by airballing a free throw. Nick Young scores in bunches, but only rather *small* bunches. Like grapes. I have no idea who Chris Singleton is but 1-8 shooting in your first start means I don’t have to bother to remember. Andray Blatche is Andray Blatche. Jordan Crawford might do a reasonable job spelling your SG, but he is to floor generalship what Nikola Pekovic is to the double crossover fadeaway. I don’t envy Saunders, but the Wizards might be the next to "switch the Flip."
At least their new unis are cool.
Thanks for reading!