I know tonight's game is against the Spurs, but I want to talk a bit about something that is more relevant to the Wolves' future: the team that San Antonio lost to last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Take a look at the GameFlow from last night's Thunder/Spurs matchup. Notice how the Thunder are down by 15 in the 3rd quarter and just keep chipping away at the Spurs' lead? Every recap I've read about that game says that while the Thunder were hitting their shots down the stretch, but that it was their defense that won them the game. [Box Score]
Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic outrebounded Tim Duncan (although the team lost rebounding 46-43) and Thabo Sefolosha disrupted Tony Parker's game at key moments (despite Parker still getting 25 points and 7 assists). A quick look at the box score shows OKC shooting 36% from the field, but still holding San Antonio to 42%. Then check out the free throws: OKC made 17 of 21 and only allowed the Spurs 12 attempts. The Thunder also won turnovers (11 to 15) and steals (10 to 6).
The Thunder's strengths in this win against an NBA powerhouse (defense, getting to the line, not fouling) are exactly the Wolves' weaknesses.
My point is not that one game shows how great the Thunder are and how bad the Wolves are. But a come from behind win after 3 1/2 quarters against one of the best teams in the league is something we've been unable to do. In fact, we do the exact OPPOSITE by leading a mediocre team going into the 4th quarter, only to let the game slip away with defensive lapses.
The biggest reason I'm bringing up this win by the Thunder is that they're situation is very similar to the Timberwolves':
- Year 2 of a rebuilding process
Average age of 26.3 to our 27 (24.8 to 26.1 if you remove players with expiring contracts)
- Traded their cornerstones (Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis) the same summer we traded KG.
By handing over the personnel (and coaching) decisions to a new leader (former Spurs Assistant GM Sam Presti), the Sonics/Thunder have turned an aging group that peaked at the Western Conference Finals (by over-performing that year) into, what I consider, the strongest rebuilding franchise in the league:
- They hit on their lotto picks the last two years (Kevin Durant, an obvious pick, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook);
- Amassed a stash of picks (something the Wolves have done well as of late);
And made trades that improved their cap situation and stockpiled assets (again, something the Wolves have gotten better at).
We've assembled a collection of talent and assets that looks good on paper, but it has yet to translate into wins like this one by the Thunder.
And, oh yeah, the Wolves play the Spurs tonight. Go Wolves.
For actual Spurs coverage, check out Pounding the Rock.