We're starting early with this one folks. (It's more realistic to say that I'm in the "honeymoon" phase of typing, so I feel like I'm just churning out stuff.)
Well it's pointless to say that our game against the Cavilers went "according to plan" for the most part, but let's face the facts that the real reason we won is because we actually managed to shoot the ball AND move it around properly. We can't dwell on our victory for long though, as this should've been a team that we could've taken care of with an entire healthy unit (I mean, just imagine the benefits of having a healthy Budinger & AK in the mix).
For now, it's time to focus on our next opponent that is the Utah Jazz. They'll be coming off a game at home in which they played the offensive juggernaut that is Oklahoma City, and even if we're playing at home it's not going to look pretty.
Just by looking at this you know that it's going to be a highlight of a front court match-up that just looks like we should have some sort of heavyweight poster involved.
That's what it needs to look like all game; Al Jefferson looking helpless against Pekovic. Even then, that match up isn't going to be the one y'all want to keep your eyes on, as everything might very well hinge on the PF battle in this game. Paul Millsap has been coming into form these last couple of years, and our enigma that is Derrick Williams needs to stop him. The question is going to be how, as Millsap I feel is an underrated player in his own right. The guy's been making almost 37% of his 3-pt shots this season, and he's crafted his mid-range jump shot to be just as effective. He's no Kevin Love on the rebounding department, but who is? As it stands, right now we're making do with the hyper athletic but don't know what to do with it Derrick Williams.
On the other side of things, we're witnessing an amazing transformation of "Back to becoming the Spanish Sensation" that is Ricky Rubio. Through the last five games, he's averaging out 10 assists and 14 points a game, effectively spurring more comparisons between him and Steve Nash. I mean, sure he had 7 turnovers just this past game, but it is good to see that he's becoming back to what we expected and more. The best part is he's becoming more selective with his shots (and more importantly making them). If Jamaal Tinsley is guarding him, I expect pick-and-rolls with Pekovic / Stiemsma / CJ / anybody over 6-10 to expose Tinsley's average maneuverability. Somewhere out there Mo Williams is itching to play, but we're glad he's only rooting for his team at the moment.
In our "shooting guard" role, if Ridnour is guarding Randy Foye for long stretches of the match, it could be bad. The Wolves can't seem to get a break in this "Roy for Foye" deal. We get Foye and Roy explodes onto the scene; we get Roy and his knees implode while Foye becomes a productive player. If Luke can't match on some level Foye's offensive output then look for us to be playing a game of catch-up.
In terms of our bench against theirs, we should be winning. Despite the calls of Barea being pure, unfiltered garbage from time to time, he's a productive player when we're trying to produce some sort of offensive. Don't get me wrong, I question some of the things that he does, but he's somebody we need in that second unit. Shved and whatever else we can support at the 2 position is going to have it's hands full with guarding Foye, Hayward (assuming that Hayward's shoulder is well enough to jack up threes), and the outside arc (oxford commas are fully supported as well). If either start getting hot from beyond the arc, then... well, let's not think about that. Dante continues to be the lone ranger of the mid-range, and if we can get Rubio and Shved playing together we might see some more magic happen.
Finally, some things to watch for...
- Andrei Kirilenko's health. If he's starting, that's good. If he's coming off the bench, that's decent (Utah's bench consists of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors when it comes down to it), but if he's not dressed then we're going to be lacking some length if Utah decides to force this game in the paint.
- Which Derrick Williams comes to play, because we need him to play. He's been a little more consistently lately, but against Millsap / Favors it's going to be a long night if he can't keep up.
- Greg Stiemsma's effectiveness. Pekovic isn't exactly known for his defense, and Al Jefferson isn't exactly going to be a picnic. Honestly, I want to see Stiemsma match up defensively against Jefferson simply because he can do one thing better than most bigs on the roster: keep your man in front of you. I'm just really hoping for a Chris Johnson sighting this time around.
- Our second unit as a whole. For a part of the game I watched Rubio and Shved on the same floor, which I didn't think was humanly possible. It was nice to see that kind of ball movement. I'm still secretly hoping for a Rubio/Shved & Ridnour/Barea pairing.
- Our 3-pt FG%. Let's take selective shots again, because that seemed to work out well.
... and of course, things I don't expect but wish to see:
- Can we please play CJ? I mean, come on, we're going to need all the help we can get on the front-court this time around.
- More of that Rubio/Shved/Gelebale/DCHam/Pekovic lineup. It was really interesting to see an actual "somewhat standard" lineup from the wolves instead of the Rubio/Barea/Ridnour combo. In all honesty I would want Shved to start at SG (needs better shot selection still) and have Ridnour provide relief to Rubio. Having a more veteran presence in the second unit (instead of just JJ in his lonesome) would be valuable, and it would give us a guy who knows how to pace the game, where JJ seems to just speed it up. That's just my thoughts, of course, but one can dream...
- Another "MPE" (I'm taking this zebano and just running with it) from our team. I don't expect it because it's rare, but I'd rather have one on our team than the other's really.
That's all for now. Our boys get a day off to prepare (in reality, they're celebrating my birthday) before Utah comes into town. Discuss away.
(edit: Removed Bell from the post and updated it to include the possibility for Hayward playing; thanks to the Jazz fan in the house.) (b^^)b