What a game. More to follow. First, Mr. Stop-n-Pop has to set a floating mortar floor for a basement shower by way of strict orders from Mrs. Stop-n-Pop. What we saw tonight was more winning zombie basketball: up tempo, keep it simple and true...and 53% shooting. That last part always helps. Until later.
UPDATE: OK, now that the 2 x 4s have been anchored and the frame has been set, yours truly finally has some time to put down his thoughts on the game before he's tasked with actually filling the frame with concrete.
In their win against Philly I mentioned that perhaps the only point guard responsibilities that Randy Foye should have are the very basics: dumping it to Al Jefferson, bringing the ball up court, and starting off pick-and-rolls/ pick-and-pops. Last night during 1/2 time, Wolves assistant coach Jerry Sichting mentioned something to the effect of the following: "We've pulled a T-Jack and shrunk the playbook." Hallelujah. It's enough to make you want to dance:
As long time readers of this site know, I'm a big fan of the Dribble-Drive Motion offense. Without getting into the details of the system, the best part of DDM is that it teaches players how to play ball, not run plays (this is a bit over-simplified, but you get the picture). In effect, with DDM you're not teaching to a specific test, but rather you allow your players the freedom and trust to handle any test. I'm not saying they should swap out the offensive playbook; rather that they should adopt some of DDM's concepts into their repertoire.
As we have said many, many times before, the Wolves are who they are. They are a small ball roster built for up tempo offensively-minded ball with short rotations. They aren't a defensive juggernaut, they don't have a lot of above-average talent, and they don't have a real point guard. Witt and Big Al can yell at Foye until they're blue in the face (and they often do) and it will not change the fact that he's simply not going to be effective running the sets they have attempted so far this year. (As a side-note, with word that Kevin McHale may not have talked to UNC coach Roy Williams before drafting Rashad McCants, one really has to wonder if he has even a passing familiarity with Villanova's offense.) There are no shot blockers or guys that can get their own a'la Kobe or Roy in the 4th on this roster; their power forwards are undersized and thick; their shooting guards are lacking on defense; their 3 point specialist doesn't like to take shots; and their only true point can't shoot the ball. Remember folks, zombies only want to eat your brain. They can't do anything else. It's not in their nature so don't waste your time trying to civilize them. It won't happen.
Getting around to last night's game, it was even more of a blueprint for success than was the win in Philly. Unlike Philly--where the Wolves escaped solely on the backs of 51% shooting while getting dominated on the offensive glass---last night's victory could have taken a few hits to the FG% and still walked away. It was efficient, fast paced ball geared towards the strengths (and nature) of the players on the court. They were playing ball, not running plays. Let's end this with some bullet points:
- Up tempo ball and Al Jefferson are not mutually exclusive. Both Kevin Love and Jefferson can trail the play and hit mid-range jump shots.
- Will someone please explain to me why Jason Collins is taking Love's minutes? 10 of his minutes should be going to the rookie. This is still about long term development.
- After the awful Boston loss, the Wolves had an awful -5.1 point differential. After last night's 26 point victory, they have it back to a somewhat respectable -2.5. Hopefully, we won't see too many more roller-coaster rides with the scoreboard between games and they can settle into an area as close to neutral as possible. Remember, this year is about being as neutral as they can get while still holding on to as many draft picks as possible.
- Randy Foye had a fantastic night but it is important to remember that he's about as much of a 9-12 with 14 assist type of player as he is one who shoots 34% and only averages 3 apg. If he settles into 43-44% from the field with 40% 3-point shooting and 6 apg, he will more than hold his own in the starting rotation. It still would be nice to see the team get a big 2 guard who can be The Guy (what team doesn't want this?), but these would be fantastic numbers for a 3rd year combo guard who lost a year to injury.
- Foye plays his very best when he has a guard out there to share ball-handling responsibilities with. Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, or Nick Calathes would fit this bill in this year's draft. I don't mention Shaddy because I don't think he'll be back. I don't mention Bassy because even though I'm a fan of small ball (and Bassy), that's a little too small...even for me.
- Speaking of Shaddy, he was off to a good game against Philly before he got injured. Hopefully the new stripped-down approach will work for him...although I'm not too optimistic as I strongly suspect he's a take-a-mile-when-you-get-an-inch sort of guy with Witt. Here's hoping for the best with the guy as I've always liked his game and talent.
- Overlooked in Foye's big game was Mike Miller, who went 4-7 with 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
- Overlooked in Miller's overlooked game was Ryan Gomes, who went 9-11 with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and zero turnovers.
- Timberwolves Press had a pretty interesting nugget about everybody's least favorite TV pitchman, Don Overbeck. It turns out Sweetwater Jones was too expensive for the club to shrink in the commercials. Forget anything that has happened on the court this year, the fact that the Wolves can't afford the special effects in their commercials has to make Witt (with $5 mil remaining on his deal) feel pretty good about making it through his contract.
- Speaking of the hated Overbeck, here's the best comment from last night's game thread (plinytheelder writing about Mr. Overbeck): "He's a short bald guy somewhere between Les Nesman (sic) and Herb Tarlick (sic), he’s on the Wolves’ commercials, he’s trying to be a kind of retro 70s sports reporter, yellow sport jackets and plaid pants, that kind of thing. Could be good if the guy was funny" Canis Hoopus: your Les Nessman and Herb Tarlek leader.
- Best comment from the Detroit Bad Boys game thread: “Did you know the Pistons payroll is only $2.3M more than Minnesota? I learned that just now on ESPN Trade Machine trying to trade anyone and everyone on our team for some of the key pieces on the Minnesota juggernaut.”
- The Wolves now have the league's 17th ranked defense, giving up 106.1 points/100 possessions. They have the 22nd ranked offense, with 103.4 points/100 possessions.
This was a good game for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, the team finally started to play simple and to their strengths. There's no sense in over thinking this thing. Secondly, it showed that they're not nearly as bad as their 3-9 record would suggest. I still think Randy Wittman has gotten in the way of a few of their losses, but they have left a lot on the table, mostly in terms of offense. Here is a list of teams with greater negative point differentials than Our Beloved Puppies Zombies: Chicago, New Jersey, Memphis, Charlotte, Sacramento, DC, LAC, and OKC. Of those teams, only New Jersey has a better combined OE/DE ranking than the Wolves. In other words, they've underperformed just a tad. They're better than a 43% shooting team. Randy Foye is better than a 34% shooter who only gives the team 3-4 apg. Mike Miller should be taking more than 7-8 shots/game. Jason Collins is not a real starting center. I'll repeat what I said before the Portland game:
The Wolves have the 25th worst eFG in the league. They attempt the most shots/game in the league (granted, they have played some overtime games). That being said, if they shoot a baseline 45% from the floor, they make about 2 more buckets/game and we're talking about a 3-4 or 4-3 type team....
This team is losing these close games more because of offense than defense. They shouldn't be this bad from the floor. They have the personnel to make this work (and get turned around quickly) on the offensive end. Not so much on defense. This team is a small ball team. Yet, it has a coach who believes it to be a slow-em-down defensive-minded squad. It's absurd.
Has the absurdity finally started to fade away? Here's hoping last night's game was a trend and not an outlier.