So. The season is basically over.
On a day where the Target Center crowd was unusually large and ruckus, the Wolves came out and played a single game summary of their season this year; fast start, fourth quarter collapse, loss. We've seen the script, we've watched the reruns. Again and again and again.
It's genuinely baffling to me that a team that put up 103 points through the first three quarters would come away with a loss. It doesn't seem real. Especially the way it ended....Love turns it over, Martin travels, Brewer makes the most Brewiest play I've ever seen....it was a disorganized disaster of comical proportions. The Wolves didn't even go down swinging in this one. The game was tied and they just shot themselves in the foot with multiple, back-to-back mental error possessions.
Adelman was extremely frustrated post game, giving maybe the shortest, tersest presser in the team history.
"Biggest difference. We didn't score. That's the biggest difference."
"It's an NBA game. It's not always going to be the same. Every quarter isn't going to be the same. They went small and they took advantage of it."
...and that was pretty much all he had to say. Literally, that was like, his whole presser.
Tim started a recap during the fourth quarter and left after Adelman had his say, but I was able to stay for the player interviews and as soon as Love started talking to the media in the locker room, I had Tim stop. The whole locker room was dejected, about as much as I've ever seen it. Love in particular looked like a man about to embark on an ashram. When the locker room opened up, he didn't just look dispirited, he looked crushed. And he answered the question everyone had on their mind.
"They are a good team; we score over 70 in the 1st half. It's tough to put up another 70 in the 2nd half so I don't know what it was. The ball moved, we got good shots; it's just that some of them didn't fall and then they scored."
We should've won that game plain and simple."
"They are ahead of us, obviously we looked at that, that was our playoffs right there and we lost. This one hurts a lot more than others."
That's it, right there. The team has to have known the odds of making the playoffs were against them for weeks now, but this one made it undeniable. The Suns are now a full 6 games ahead of us, with a much easier schedule. It's over. Plain and simple.
You could clearly tell that whatever trace hopes those players had of making the postseason were officially gone. The team isn't fooling anyone anymore, themselves included.
Adelman is a pro, and he's been to this dance before. He won't entertain any questions or thoughts about next year until this year is officially over (don't expect and candid answers about whether he's returning or not, BTW) But for Love....well, you know this is weighing on him. He knows the 'Love isn't a winner' nonsense is coming.
This season fell apart in the most Timberwolves way....even when we're winning, we're somehow losing. All the free agent signings and 40 point first quarters and top 10 statistical ratings and four factors and it all goes down like the Hindenburg because the Wolves drop the ball on the basics at the end of close games.
Front office, coaches, players...I'd guess there's a lot of soul searching going on right now.
- It's going to be very interesting to see Dieng's on court/off court numbers at the end of the year. The Wolves keep building these quick, massive leads when he's playing, and always seem to lose them when he sits. Phoenix went small in the fourth, but Dieng should have been out there to close the game.
- Attached to that, Tim and I briefly talked about how Adelman defaults to Cunningham at the end of games and we both felt that, as solid as Dante is, he wrecks the dynamic when he takes the floor with Love. First, obviously, there's no one in the post to draw defenders away from Love unless Love goes into the paint himself. Second, Dante always goes to just two spots on the floor....left elbow or right elbow. That messes up the motion of the court, because now, for Love (or Martin) to go from one side to the other, he basically has to run Dante over along the way. It's not the main reason for our offensive chokes in late game situations, but I'd say it's a part of it.
- Markieff Morris singlehandedly outscored out entire bench, and did a not-half-bad job of guarding Love. It's a credit to Hornacek that he's figured out how to get the best out of the Morris brothers in such a short time.
- Bazz should have played more. Particularly with the ridiculous circus show Brewer turned into. Muhammad was absolutely relentless on the boards (his knack for boxing out multiple, bigger players and getting a hand on offensive rebounds is genuinely amazing) and his shots were falling tonight. Corey was....well...
- Gerald Green demonstrated how much he's grown as a player early int he fourth when he gave up the ball on the fastbreak to Markeiff Morris for an easy dunk. Green was racing down the floor with both Ham and Rubio in front of him, and any other season of his career he would have tried to crash in for a dunk. But he had the awareness and willingness to make the pass this time, which has been a microcosm of his season. He's grown into a legit NBA player.
- It's amazing how tight-knit the Suns are. I mentioned to Tim, they're more like a fraternity than a team. Like what you used to see with the Knicks or Bulls in the 90s, when they were constantly in each others' faces hyping each other up. One of Phoenix's assistant coaches even took a T to save PJ Tucker from being tossed (Tucker got t'd up in the third and jawed at the ref for a good 8 minutes more before Hornacek pulled him and his assistant got t'd up to keep Tucker from saying something stupid as he left the court) Those guys have each other's backs in a way you rarely see in an NBA team.
- Multiple times, Hornacek employed a Dragic/Bledsoe/Ish Smith lineup. Enough to mollify my resentment of not seeing Brian Shaw employ the dreaded Foye/Brooks/Lawson trio.
- Ish Smith, by the way, is really freakin' fast. Not all that smart or good, but really really fast. But yeah...he's a beneficiary of the Eric Bledsoe small/quick phenomenon that has teams chasing guys like Maquis Teague around for no good reason.
- He's also a big reason why I will now be hawking Gary Harris to you guys for that #13 pick. He is also really freakin' fast. But also smart and good. Check out 1:38.
- A 6'5" off-the-ball shooter who can accelerate like Russell Westbrook? Yes. Get him. Trade up for him if you have to. Rubio + Harris would be an absolute joy to watch.
- I wonder what GMs think of Wiggins after he shot 1-6 and committed 4 turnovers against Stanford today. Lots of lottery picks playing awful and seeing their teams get eliminated this tourney, but Wiggins has been the worst yet. At least Parker and Ennis went down swinging.