It’s hard to find new narratives at this point of the season. The Pups got Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic back tonight and it didn’t make much of a difference for most of the game. In particular, a Pelicans squad that is middle of the pack on rebounding had the same number of offensive rebounds as the Pups had defensive rebounds. It’s hard to state how atrocious the Wolves were on the glass. Even though the Pups shot 56%, the Cans tore through our interior to the tune of 58 points in the paint (Steamer was the biggest offender, but Pek and CJ had issues too).
In fact, one might be tempted to think that with the tight race shaping up between the 3rd-9th seeds in the draft (everyone with 22-23 wins), neither team would really want to win this one...especially considering that, as noted in the 2nd quarter,
it's impressive how quickly this team can fall apart
by Malastare on Mar 17, 2013 | 6:49 PM
But as both teams refused to pull away down the stretch, it increasingly turned from a defenseless CJ/DWill/Unibrow oop-off to a hotly contested test of the late season play of Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams. Unlike perhaps any of their previous wins, the Wolves won behind some stellar team defense (and a monster Kirilenko block), clutch shots from Ricky, Pekovic and the Lion, and a general lack of boneheaded concentration flukes.
Why watch either of these teams at this point in the season, let alone playing against each other? Why did I sign up for this game review? These are questions I asked myself as Lou Amundson shot a hook over the lazily outstreached arm of Greg Stiemsma. For the Pelicans, its developing a coherent offense of some kind around the wildly effective Vasquez/Davis (or Vasquez/Lopez) pick and rolls. Vasquez has turned into such a high usage player, using his body to create space, floating pretty shots to the rim and destroying defensive rotations with some perfectly timed passes. The Cans’ backcourt problems reared their head late in the game when Gordon, benched in foul trouble for most of the game, failed to effectively hero. As I’m watching this game wondering how our competitors will draft, I’m left thinking that their best bets are one of the numerous SFs atop the draft boards (or perhaps Smart if it seems Gordon isn’t working). In any case, the options available to the Pelicans are pretty good, especially since they desperately need perimeter defense and have a couple of positions locked down.
As for the Good Guys, I’m not sure what questions the Pups are trying to answer at this point. There’s a narrative about "seeing how the pieces fit together" which was squashed by Kevin Love’s admission that he might be shutting it down. There’s the Shiny New Aggressive Unicorn playing in only his 80th game, who dazzled with an efficient scoring performance tonight including step back and turn around jumpers (?!?) and filled out the defensive stats as well. And then there’s DWill, who is slowly but surely becoming a Certified NBA Player, scoring a career high 28 points. He made more threes than he missed, went to the rim without double clutching, pestered (and blocked!) the Unibrow, and made a few clutch plays down the stretch (with some crucial missed free throws and TOs mixed in). Furthermore, DWill was efficient tonight at 9-16 with 3-5 from behind the arc. Yet barring a Love trade (see below), I am not sure what this kind of play changes for the future of this organization, and thus what kind of narrative to ascribe to this game. We saw these kind of games from DWill last April as well, and it ultimately didn’t change much for us. PFs are still loaded, and I don’t even want to think about trades for a few months...not to mention DWill is becoming one of our only offensive threats.
And then there’s the draft, where with a loss tonight the Wolves could have jumped two spots to #6. Instead, we might be falling out of reach of the supposed stars to #9-10 range...which I’m increasingly thinking is OK. None of the players outside of Noel and Smart have impressed me recently, and even Ben McLemore hasn't looked anything like the answer. Tanking isn’t worth sitting through, especially with our draft history. Keep Ricky happy, win when you can, but NOT IN THE FACE!
- AK looked totally lost out there for most of the game. Then again, I believe the Wolves haven’t practiced in over a week.
- I have three notes in a row that just say UGH LOU. UGH STEAMER.
- Lopez the Lesser vs. Pekovic is not a conversation that needs to exist in the world. Don’t converse about this bullet point. Sign Pek.
- I, for one, am not looking forward to the inevitable Gordon+Anderson+Rivers for Love trade.
- Unibrow makes high percentage shots with style.
- Vasquez is so patient in the paint and so good at floating it. He was forced to take 20 shots by Ryan Anderson and Gordon's ineffectiveness, but at the right level he could turn into a very dangerous player.
- I don’t want to know what words Larry Sanders used to describe the Miami Refs, but I think we all agree with the sentiment.