Nate in St. Paul couldn't be more right when he predicted the Wolves would play "entertaining .500 basketball" for the majority of this season. Tonight, the Wolves lost to the Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena 120-113 in an entertaining duel despite another monster performance from Kevin Love. The Wolves fell under .500 to 23-24.
Last time I wrote a report card was two years ago when the Wolves lost to the
Pelicans Hornets in April 2012, extending their winless streak in April to 21 games. The last time Wolves won in Atlanta was on November 20th, 2002. Troy Hudson and Marc Jackson led the team with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
I really enjoyed TheShrink's recap from the Memphis game but I will change it up this time. I will give out grades to each player that played tonight for Minnesota. First, a quick recap.
RECAP: In the first quarter, Wolves started cold once again and fell behind 14-3. Hawks were nearly perfect in the paint but missed some wide open looks from downtown. Wolves on the other hand turned the ball over four times and made their first basket with 6:37 remaining. Nonetheless, they fought back as usual and trailed 25-24 after one.
The second quarter was the best quarter from the Wolves tonight. It started with a lineup of Barea-Shved-Price-LRMAM-Cunningham. We witnessed a lot of entertaining plays from Rubio, Cunningham, and Brewer as they made a big run (with the help of a few bounces) to take a 54-43 lead. A few seconds later, the biggest play of the game occurred when Brewer fouled Korver on a desperation 3 just before the half time buzzer. It was a dumb play which I thought was the turning point of the game. It was a sign of bad things to come in the second half.
So what happened? From the best quarter to the worst quarter, just horrific defense in the third. I understand it's the second game of a back-to-back but you can't make Kyle Korver go Kevin Durant on you. 38 points from the Hawks in the third, a 39-12 run at one point since the Brewer foul and they led 86-75 after three.
The fourth quarter was fun to watch, bucket after bucket, 72 combined points, Kevin Love going beast mode, JJ Barea going crazy mode. But it wasn't enough. Wolves got to within 3 (109-112) and that was the closest they came. Just couldn't secure a defensive rebound when they needed it. Fitting Gustavo Ayon made his only bucket that sealed the game. Barea got ejected so we saw Ricky in the fourth by default. I'm guessing Adelman was going to play Barea the entire quarter once again. Anyways, final score 120-113 ATL. Now onto the grades (from A to F):
Kevin Love (A): 12-22 FG, 2-3 3PT, 17-18 FT, 43 points, 19 rebounds, assist, steal, 3 to's, 38 minutes, -9 (Highlights)
Love's 7th career game with 40+ points, all on the road. (43@DEN, 42@POR, 51@OKC, 40@CHA, 42@SAS, 45@LAC, 43@ATL). Wolves record: 2-5. That says it all. Playing on a bum ankle, Love gave it all tonight by getting to the free throw line 18 times and keeping the Wolves in it. He single-handedly fouled out Millsap and was unstoppable on offense. Defensively he was hesitant and allowed Millsap to get some easy buckets. But overall Love did an okay job on D. Bottom line, you put up 43-19, you get an A from me. I mean we can't expect him to do everything right? To date, Kevin Love still has never beaten the Atlanta Hawks. Sigh.
Corey Brewer (C): 5-7 FG, 10 pts, 3 rebs, 5 asts, steal, 3 to's, 32 minutes, -17
Before that foul on KK, he was getting at least an A- from me, had an awesome dunk in transition and a couple nice lobs. After the foul he played like JF/WJ. There is no happy medium with this guy, it's high risk high reward with him. This game was a prime example of that. He was all over the place tonight for good or worse. I really thought Brewer was going to lock down Korver. I was right for the first 23 minutes and 59 seconds.
Ricky Rubio (B-): 1-3 FG, 0-1 3PT, 3-4 FT, 5 pts, 4 rebs, 11 asts, 5 stls, 3 to's, 32 minutes, -11
Typical Rubio box score. Made the play of the night with a behind the back pass to Turiaf for the jam. Actually got to play in the fourth quarter and did alright but didn't jump out at me. Even though I don't look for him to score 15 or 20 I still hoped he would've put up at least 10 tonight. Teague also played well, not that it was all Rubio's fault. Also, can we morph Rubio and Barea's strengths into one player? Both are exact opposites of each other. Bottom line an average to slightly above average game for RR.
Kevin Martin (C): 5-14 FG, 1-3 3PT, 6-7 FT, 17 pts, 0 rebs, 1 ast, 1 to, 23 minutes, -16
If K-Mart cannot score at an efficient level, he's practically useless. 17 points on 14 shots, and really contributed nothing else. I didn't read the game thread but I wasn't surprised that Shved got to finish the game over him. A mediocre at best performance from Martin.
Ronny Turiaf (B): 2-4 FG, 1-2 FT, 5 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast, 5 blks, 4 to's, 23 minutes, -13
If this is what we get from Turiaf on a nightly basis until Pek is healthy, then I would be overjoyed. Wolves gave up 120 but I thought he played a great game defensively. It's easy to see 5 blocks in the box score and assume he played well but from watching the game tonight Ronny did his job protecting the rim, hustling, and rebounding the ball. I did not like the turnovers however, seems like he loses the ball every time under the basket.
Dante Cunningham (C+): 2-5 FG, 2-2 FT, 6 pts, 3 rebs, 1 stl, 1 blk, 25 minutes, +6
He is who is. Had a couple really nice dunks, challenged a few shots, and missed a few open jumpers. He was active but from the words of Dominque Wilkins, "That's the guy you want shooting the ball."
Alexey Shved (B-): 3-9 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-4 FT, 9 pts, 5 rebs, 1 ast, 1 stl, 23 minutes, +5
"I like this guy." - Dominique Wilkins. Shved had a better game than what the box score showed. I thought he was aggressive and wasn't afraid to shoot. He did miss a few open looks and has replaced Darko has the new Mr. 1 out of 2 from the free throw line (Was it Darko or someone else?). An above average game for Shved which says a lot about him.
J.J. Barea (B-): 5-11 FG, 2-4 3PT, 12 pts, 2 rebs, 4 asts, 2 to's, 16 minutes, +4
There's just something about his game that I don't like, whether it's a bad turnover or a forced shot. But JJ played his role tonight and did fairly well. He generated offense and looked bad on defense as usual. He did get hacked a couple times and we all knew he was getting that T, didn't know he was going to get 2 though. Whatever positive he does on offense he will give away on defense. Denver just lost their miniature turbo PG, do your work Flip.
Chase Budinger (D): +13!!! in 14 minutes
+13 for the worst player on the team tonight, go figure. Not going to waste time typing out his line, with the exception of the Bulls game he has been brutal. I get it, he was hurt again and only been back for a few weeks. When's the excuse going to end? I just don't see him as a good bench player now and the rest of the season. Hope he proves me wrong.
Luc Mbah a Moute (B): 4 pts, 1 reb, 1 blk, 10 minutes, +2
Play him more Adelman! Like seriously? 10 minutes a game is his ceiling? That's it? His only bucket was on a pretty possession, great ball movement and Luc drove to the basket for a layup. I thought he did pretty well in his limited minutes, took a charge as well. Just play him 20-25 minutes, put him on the opponents' best offensive player and see what happens. Geez.
A.J. Price: Bleh, not worth a grade.
ATLANTA HAWKS: What a nice bench they have. They really have some awesome role players that do their job night in night out. Mike who? Mike Scott, 14-6-3. I love DeMarre Carroll, even Brand was adequate. Louis Williams is only half of what he is before the ACL injury, but he's still serviceable. For the starters, Teague is underrated, anyone else agree? Same with Millsap. Korver I wish he was here instead of Budinger. The Hawks even without Horford can be a perennial playoff team in the Eastern Conference. If the Wolves somehow can turn into the Hawks of the Western Conference which means annual 1st round exits, I would take that in a heartbeat...
Sorry for the long recap, thanks Canis Hoopus for giving me this opportunity. Living in Canada, there aren't many Wolves fans here, so I really appreciate being part of this wonderful community.
As for Kevin Love, Zach Harper at AWAW put it nicely: "worrying about [Love leaving] just seems like you’re terrified your girlfriend will break up with you so you ruin a chance of making the relationship fun." So I won't anymore. I will enjoy him playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves as much as possible, I hope you will too.