If you have watched any basketball movie in human history you will know that strangely, somehow, that ultra important game is won or lost at the free throw line. Hoosiers, Hoop Dreams, Semi-Pro... you haven't seen a free throw all movie, but there it is, when the season's on the line, they're there to be had. "There's a reason they call them free", Steve Kerr will chirp at you in 2k12 if you have the tenacity to brick a freebie. The importance of free throws is everywhere around us. It's on the forums we read, in the air we breathe. Ballers have to make those free throws cause that's what makes the difference between WINNING AND LOSING. LIVING AND DYING. And tonight gentlemen, we did hit our free throws. As a team. And we won... as a team.
In the anals of history people are going to be talking about three things: the discovery of fire, the invention of the submarine, and the Flint Michigan MegaBowl.
That's enough with the pleasantries. Whilst our lovely commentary team on Fox Sports North divulged on the stupidity of Derrick Williams' late game foul, Chris Paul was sent to the line with the game dramatically poised and his team down three. I thought he would hit them all. It just seemed like something he could do in his sleep. He's just so icy cold in the clutch and has shown it in the past. But alas, CP3 ripped out his best LeChoke James impression and became CP2from3. I wasn't expecting it, but I'm sure Wolves fans everywhere are relieved. It's yet another big win against another Western Conference powerhouse. The Timberwolves are showing up to play folks, and they're bringing it to some tough teams. Here's my thoughts on the game:
The biggest news pregame was that of Nikola Pekovic. Suffering from a sore right foot, he was given a night off by the Wolves doctors. Of course that meant Darko had a chance to step back into the starting lineup and prove himself. After so many games doing absolutely nothing besides being an ornament on the bench, one would expect he'd hit the court with some energy. Also newsworthy, Coach Adelman chose to stay with Wes Johnson at the small forward spot as opposed to the red hot Martell Webster. I'm not one to question Coach Adelman's decisions, so I won't. It was yet another sellout, and I'm hoping it was the last time we'll see those stinky Muskie uniforms.
The wolves were rocking in the first:
- Kevin Love was on fire again, scoring 16 points in the first, the same as the entire Clipper team! He drained 3 treys, and looked as good as I thought he would after a day's rest.
- Blake Griffin started off with high energy, even after last night's overtime win in Houston. He was busy grabbing offensive boards that he had no business being anywhere near (ahem... Darko). However I was cautiously optimistic when I saw him settle for a few jumpers. That was just how the Wolves wanted it.
- Minnesota had a 24-8 run to end the quarter. After starting slow, they really amped up the pressure on both ends, and with the pretty execution on the three ball, the boys had a 26-16 lead heading into the quarter break.
- There was a fantastic alley oop to Love in this quarter from Barea, the big man was getting up there! Also notable, JJ Barea hit Wesley Johnson with a sublime pass. Then Wes went and hit the three! Gods above!
As expected, the Clippers fired back in the second:
- Darko Milicic was just incapable of boxing out Blake Griffin all game. Or anyone for that matter. The low point came in this quarter when Eric Bledsoe stole a rebound off Darko.
- Talking about Eric Bledsoe, the man was a spark plug for the Clippers all night. He wasn't flashy, but his speed and pace really worried the Wolves in the second and third quarters. This is a young man with a lot of promise.
- Derrick Williams came out and played in the second. He's looking far more confident on the court nowadays, and attributes this to having a greater knowledge of his role on the team. I feel that Coach Adelman is leading the way in Williams' development, and making it known what is expected off him. It's good to see.
- Meanwhile, the referees screwed some obvious calls for both teams. A big gripe of mine is the lack of any consistency in foul calls throughout the NBA. Tonight was no different.
- At the half, Love with 18 and 9, and the Caged Lion with 15. Ricky Rubio is struggling with his shot; He has no points and 3 assists. Meanwhile, Blake is doing work with 16 and 9, and Chris Paul has been quiet with 6 and 2.
The third is where I feel the Wolves sealed this game:
- Darko came out HOT! Started the quarter with a hook shot, followed by a steal, followed by a slick spin move he was unlucky to miss a foul call on. He was big in the third for us, hitting shots just when we needed them. There was a great sequence where he threw a fantastic pass to the corner to an open Luke Ridnour, then grabbed the offensive rebound, then received a slick pass from Luke on the ensuing play and almost threw it down on a fouling Griffin. Huge energy sequence.
- The boys played well this quarter and head into the fourth up ten (75-65) after closing the third with a 18-8 run.
An exciting quarter with drama aplenty:
- Beasley hit the ground running to start the quarter. He had three quick baskets and really sparked the offense. Too bad his defense didn't quite match.
- Meanwhile at the other end, a quiet Mo Williams begins to heat up bringing the score a little to close for comfort.
- It was a veritable smacktalkapalooza in this quarter. Beasley and Paul traded some jargon. Adelman and Del Negro had a session at midcourt. The mouths were certainly flapping.
- Love let his game do the talking however, hitting big basket after big basket. He's our closer, and he did just that today.
- Ultimately the reason the Clippers lost this game was their fourth quarter free throw shooting. It was terrible, Bledsoe missed some, Blake missed a ton, and CP2from3 missed the big one. They'll be rueing the missed opportunities in Clipperland.
Random Game Notes
- Why don't they play some Beach Boys at Target Centre
- The crowd was quiet for most of the game, it took some Blake Griffin shenanigans in the fourth to elicit some noise from them.
- Muskies ewww
- Kevin Love's singlet was untucked at some points throughout the game. Looked like he was one of those ghetto gangsters balling in an over-sized throwback.
- I love Rick Adelman, he knows what he's doing.
Ricky Rubio (4 pts, 5 rbs, 6 asts in 28 minutes played)
Ricky's had some terrible trouble with his shot of late, and this game was no different. He had two air balls in the first, and it didn't improve from there. But he did his usual thing running the offense, dishing some dimes, and came up strong with a huge offensive board in the fourth. Grade - B-
Luke Ridnour (12 pts, 3 asts, 40 mins)
Lukey played some solid minutes tonight and he didn't disappoint in a quiet yet Ridnouresque performance. He didn't do anything flashy, but he did what he had to do, and played within his capabilities. That's all we ask from him. Grade - B
Wesley Johnson (5 bricks, 1 lucky block and 3 points in too many minutes)
The problems with Wes have been divulged with over and over here on Canis Hoopus. I'm not going to divulge to much further, but suffice to say, he hit one three, and when he did, I was hugely surprised. Grade - D+
Kevin Love (39 pts, 17 rbs, 2 asts in 41 minutes played)
There is no doubt about it. On current form, Kevin Love is the best power forward in the league. He is a one man winning machine, and has shown time after time this season that he's our 4th quarter takeover monster. He came up big again tonight, hitting 5 beautiful threes and raising hell on the offensive glass. I really have no qualms with him this game, it was a quintessential Kevin Love night. Grade - A+
Darko Milicic (13pts, 4 rbs in 28 minutes played)
Darko is no Pekovic (unfortunately), and it showed tonight. Mr Milicic is a highly unusual specimen, an enigma few can understand. How is it someone who completely bobbled the first pass of the game became the dynamo he was at the beginning of the third? How is he so incapable of rebounding? Does anyone know if he's motivated or just a streaky player? He's a mystery to me, and he put on a mysteriously inconsistent performance today. However, he was big for us in the third, and I'm accounting for that in his grade. Grade - B
Jose Juan Barea (No points, 5 asts, 2 rbs)
I think JJ is still feeling the calf injury. He's still wearing the calf sleeve and while some at Canis don't value him highly, I believe he's a better player than he's been of late. He's been plagued by a few injuries this season and hasn't been on top form. However, today was an ugly game for the little Puerto Rican. Too many forced shots, and no touch from the field. He dished a few dimes though, so it wasn't an utterly pointless outing for him. Grade - C- coqui!
Martell Webster (No points, 2 rbs in 12 minutes)
Not much from Martell today. A couple of sky high rebounds, but not the game you need if you want to crack the starting lineup. Grade - D
Michael Beasley (9 pts, 2 rbs in 19 minutes)
Skittles hit some tough shots to start the fourth that were key. Besides that, it was a pretty nonchalant game from Beasley, who's struggled to find consistent minutes of late. Grade - C
Derrick Williams (15 pts, 9 rbs in 25 minutes)
The Caged Lion is starting to show some real swag of late, and it's about time! Loving the way he was dropping threes with confidence in the first half. If he can keep it up, expect more minutes to go his way, he could end up being a very important high energy player. Grade - B+
Coach Adelman (WIN)
Did the job and did it well. Kept the troops in line. If he keeps this up he can expect a Coach of the Year trophy to come flying his way. Grade - A+
To Wrap Up
Twenty wins! 20! It's big, the Timberwolves are relevant, and I'm not sure if I'm used to it yet. This season has given us high hopes and exciting basketball. I hope we never take it for granted after all those years of living in the cellar. All that effort, and it's finally starting to be worth it. Great game for the Wolves! Goodnight people!