Tonight's title comes from a tweet by Zach Anderson. We completely agree. While this contest will probably go down as the Kevin Love 31/31 game, it will forever be known to me as the game where the Wolves showed promise. There are two rare commodities in the NBA: Alpha Dogs and Upper-Level Glue Guys. It's not often you can find a guy who can go for the throat in the 4th. It's not often you can find a guy who can do all "the little things" in a big way. Against the Knicks, the Wolves showed their fans that they have two guys under 23 with the potential to grow into the rarest of rare NBA flowers. That's the story.
This game started out as a bland, run-of-the-mill Wolves loss. They were listless out of the gate, the crowd was sparse, local TV didn't carry the tilt, the offense was stagnant, and they were just begging the Knicks to beat them with up-tempo ball and 3 pointers. In the 3rd quarter, all of that changed.
After a ho-hum 1st half where he couldn't hit the broadside of a fish (see Jon's post down the page), Kevin Love was looking like a slightly smaller version of Darko. There were too many push hooks and moments of listless play. At the half (and after Amare picked up his 4th foul immediately after the 1/2) all of this changed. Love became a monster on the glass, picking up everything in sight. Granted, a few rebounds were on steals (he grabbed a couple from teammates hands on the defensive end) and cheap putbacks (he missed some bunnies), but he controlled the glass. Rarely will you see a player dominate a single part of the game in the way that Love dominated the boards on Friday night. Luckily for us, Love told us a little bit about his rebounding philosophy in his last GQ blog post:
For me, rebounding is all a mindset. My dad told me back in the day that there is no such thing as a selfish rebound because it's a team stat. If you have to fight one of your own teammates for a rebound, do it—as long as you get it. Also, I studied the greats. Dennis Rodman had it figured out: he knew that most shots are going to come to the other side of the rim. So that's how I position myself. And Bill Russell always used to say that 80 percent of rebounds are below the rim. I'm not the kind of guy who's going to jump and touch the top of the square every time. I use my body for positioning, and I work relentlessly underneath the rim. You don't have to be the most athletic guy in the world to get a bunch of rebounds, so I just try and take what my dad said to heart, what Rodman said to heart, and most importantly what Bill Russell said to heart. He's got 11 championship rings so I think he knows what he's talking about
Whatever he studied, Love had one of the top 10 rebounding nights in the last 25 years. He also had the first 30/30 night in league history since Moses Malone in 1982.
Another interesting part of Love's latest GQ post was this little ditty:
After LA, we went to Sacramento, where we finally picked up another win, 98-89. Mike Beasley had just found out his girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy, and we were all so happy for him. He was showing us pictures and everything, but they didn't name the boy yet. I knew he wanted to be home, but he focused on basketball and came up with his biggest game of the year – 42 points!
Little Beas must be inspiring daddy because in the last 2 games Michael Beasley has shown something that this franchise has...wait for it...never, ever seen before. Forget KG, forget Tony Campbell, forget JR Rider, this franchise has never, ever had an Alpha Dog. It just hasn't happened. In the past two games, the Wolves have had a player that wants to be an Alpha Dog.
Granted, he's not there yet, and he still has a long way to go, but Mike Beasley did something much rarer than a 30/30 performance against the Knicks; he staked his claim to being an Alpha Dog. He has a long way to go, and we need to see it played out against the rest of the league, but Wolves fans need to think long and hard about the biggest story of the night against the Knicks. 31/31 is an amazing accomplishment, but someone staking claim to wanting to be an Alpha Dog is the big news of the night. The Wolves have always needed a top flight 3. The Wolves have always needed someone who wants to take over down the stretch. The Wolves have always...well, 31/31 was nice but what Mike Beasley provided last night was a deliverance, and this is coming from one of the biggest Kevin Love fans out there.
- Don't look now, but Wes Johnson had his best game as a pro. 6-9 with 15 points, 4 rebounds and active defense. The guy will have to work on his ball handling to become a great player, but holy crap is he quietly working himself into the swing of things.
- Corey Brewer is a defensive terrorist. He picked up right where he left off against SacTown.
- Darko only played 20 minutes. The Wolves were able to get all funky because their opponent didn't have a real center.
- This was a very nicely played game. Very few turnovers and lots of good shots.
- At the 1/2, I was all set to write a post about how the Wolves' offense was a poor shot making machine. It still is. They are massively dependent on rebounding and good shooting. Their offense is still horrible. There is a lot of standing around and a lot of good spacing with zero movement. Add in a fast pace and this is a recipe for disaster.
- Did I mention that Mike Beasley wanted the ball and was able to score it down the stretch?