Let's begin with the commenting call of the year:
Interestingly enough this is exactly what my daughter said to me while watching the game and I'm pretty sure it was in the minds of the couple hundred or so people who decided to head on out into the snow and make their way to the Target Center.
The Wolves were humming in the late 2nd quarter. Their offense was a Midway Machine and Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions were bouncing off of everyone and everything like a pinball. While this game featured what is likely the best 1/2 from Flynn (7 points on 3-4 shooting with 7 assists and only 1 TO), the team really went apes%#t when Ramon Sessions was on the court, going +6, +6, 0 and -1 in his 4 stints on the court. In one of them, he racked up 4 assists in just over 2:30 of action. Sessions was also brought into the game at two critical junctures. First, he saw action at the very end of the 2nd quarter right after the Hornets tossed off a 7-2 run. Look up at the Popcorn GameFlow. See the 2nd 7-2 run in the 2nd quarter? See the 12-3 run that ended the quarter? The peak of the Hornets run is almost exactly where Sessions entered the game. To be fair, Flynn played pretty much the same role in the earlier 7-2 Hornets run followed by an 8-0 Wolves run but take a look at the Hornets peak in the late 3rd. Sessions came in right around that time, calmed the Wolves down and was subbed out and not to be seen again with just over 3 minutes gone in the 4th.
I get that Jonny Flynn is a first round pick and that this season is about giving young players exposure to highly leveraged situations. Young players on bad teams need a trial by fire. I completely get that. What I don't get is that Ramon Sessions is a young frickin' player who is better than Jonny Flynn. He's a better defender (which would have, you know, helped a bit on the key play of the game where Flynn was torched by Chris Paul just seconds after seeing pretty much the same play fail because Paul couldn't cleanly handle the catch), he's a superior facilitator at this point, and he's building a pretty solid sample size of evidence showing that the Wolves are better with him on the court rather than Jonny. I get the trial by fire but at some point targets of opportunity have to be taken advantage of (especially in close games) and there is no reason on god's green earth why the young, talented and superior defending Ramon Sessions shouldn't have been on the court with a 1 point lead against a squad with the best point guard in the game. Flynn deserves a lot of time as a highly drafted rookie on a losing team but you put your best players on the court in that situation. No exceptions. No worrying about fragile egos or confidence. You play to win and how you handle your rotations says a lot about your commitment to that basic fact.
My beef here is that I'm not sure whether this is questionable coaching rather than questionable philosophy. I view Flynn's selection in the first place to be somewhat philosophically questionable so right now I lean towards the latter rather than the former but at some point the previously-mentioned targets of opportunity add up to a couple of wins and then...well, here's hoping it doesn't get that far.
Getting around to the title of this post, this game featured a few key items that should be placed in the vocabulary of any Wolves fan, casual or not. First:
- A pass that would otherwise be an assist were it not for the inability of the recipient to make the resulting shot.
- A tasty dime unfulfilled by Corey Brewer
- To make a pass to a person who will surely miss the shot
As in: Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions had several brewsists last night as Corey Brewer went 5-13 from the floor while missing 4 layups. Yes, layups.
It has to be a confidence thing right now, right? Just 2 weeks ago we were talking about how Brew was looking like a functional NBA rotation player and now it looks like he can't catch, dribble, shoot or make a layup. His defense isn't that good and there are only so many ways you can hide him on the offensive end of the court when the game is on the line. The problem last night was that time and time again the ball was swung to him and he was unable to do anything productive with it. He missed his first 4 free throws (ending up 1-6 from the line....game, set, match). He missed bunny layups. He lost the game for the Wolves on the wing. With just a modest amount of wing play the Wolves walk away with that game.
Since this post is kind of running on a bit and is going a bit negative (and there is still more snow to be shoveled) I'll save the second dictionary entry for another game post (as it will be sure to happen again: The Jonny Stop) and take a moment to give some praise to Big Al Jefferson.
The Wolves dominated the paint last night. Sometimes...wait for it...at both ends of the court. To Al's great credit, last night was the first time I can remember him being a completely complimentary part of the offense. Now, as the main catch in the KG trade this might seem like a bad thing, but it's not. Al passed the ball well and at half time he made what I first thought was an innocuous statement (and I'm paraphrasing): "Coach just tells me to pass it to the first open guy I see." He did and when he did the Wolves moved the ball like gangbusters and didn't get bogged down in a 1/2 court game that doesn't fit the rest of the personnel on the team. I'll go back to the question of basketball philosophy: Can Al Jefferson be the 2nd best player on a team being built as an up-tempo squad or do you build around his considerable 1/2 court post scoring talents? Can he improve his defense and passing to the point where he can fit in as something more of a complimentary player than a guy you build your entire team around? This, I think, is the main question surrounding David Kahn's approach to the roster. He himself has said that Al could be the 2nd best player on a championship team. The Wolves are still in search of their A1 option but how do you deal with your Big Dog until the arrival of Basketball Jesus? Is this a risky approach? Is it a flawed philosophy that hangs its hat more on luck than anything else? We'll just have to wait and see.