Today's game wrap is going to be a bunch of random thoughts about the game. Having a newborn at home has done a number on my typical morning blogging hours as sleep as become very, very precious around the Stop-n-Pop household. Today is all about getting the garden ready so I have to get this thing done as quickly as possible below the fold.
- The Wolves had some good early ball movement. The ball was flying all over the court and multiple players were scoring the ball. As quickly as this movement came, it departed and the Wolves fell behind for good.
- Ryan Gomes needs to develop something of a killer instinct from mid-range. He is one of the league's leading mid-range jump shooters, shooting an amazing 49% from 16-23 feet. Yet, I cannot tell you how many times this season I have seen him pass up open looks from this range in favor of passing the ball. Normally, I would be all about a player passing out of a mid-range jump shot in favor of a three pointer or lay up, but not with Ryan Gomes. He is a fantastic mid-range shooter and his skills should be utilized to a greater extent with the Triangle. Also, can someone explain to me why Gomes doesn't take more threes than Corey Brewer?
- Darko Milicic finished the game with a +7 in 39 minutes of play. Here's a stat that would be interesting to find out: What is the largest positive +/- for a player with over 35 minutes of play on a losing team? Unfortunately, basketball reference doesn't have that search option in its database.
- Speaking of Darko, the Lakers announcers want to see what we want to see: a more aggressive Darko. Early in the game Darko put a horrifically quick spin move on Pau Gasol. Instead of taking it directly at the rim, he pulled up for a baby hook that missed the mark. Darko has amazing height, length, size, and athleticism. He is a guy that should be seeking to take it to the front of the rim as much as possible.
- The Wolves made a late run but were done in by a few factors. First, they simply don't have the horses to run with even a non-Kobe Lakers team. Second, they were the recipient of some awful, awful officiating down the stretch. The play of the game was when the Wolves had clawed their way back to 4 points. A Laker shot went up, Kevin Love went up for the defensive rebound, got his hands on the ball, and somehow ended up on the floor without the ball after being grazed/touched/manhandled/you pick by Shannon Brown. The ball went right to Pau Gasol who put it in the bucket for a 6 point lead. On the very next trip down the court, Love was fouled on a drive to the basket that was met with no whistle. How do you know there was bad officiating going on here? On the Lakers' next possession, the refs made up an away from the ball call to give the ball back to the Wolves. Gotta love makeup calls that matter about a quarter as much as the original missed call(s). Of course, none of this is as bad as what happened to the Thunder earlier in the week. The NBA should suspend those refs for the remainder of the season to send a message to all the refs that you don't anticipate calls, you don't make makeup calls, you don't swallow your whistle down the stretch, and you don't manage games. That blown call is going to affect everything from playoff standings to the draft order. Those refs shouldn't see the light of day for the remainder of the time that their actions will affect. I forgot to mention: Corey Brewer was also slapped across the arm on a drive to the hoop with under 2 minutes remaining. It was ridiculous.
- What was even more ridiculous was the Wolves' 5.6 FTrate at home. They attempted 9 free throws against the Lakers. Riiigggghhhtt. The Lakers were 14-18 from the line (with Pau Gasol making 2 more attempts than the entire Wolves squad) and the Wolves were 5-9. Game, set, match.
- Speaking of Love and rebounding, he ended the game with 18 rebounds but he missed the one that mattered. With 45 seconds to go and the Lakers up by 6, Darko forced Pau Gasol into a tough shot that went off the rim. While the shot was in the air, Love lost track of his man (Lamar Odom) who grabbed the rebound and then found his way out to the 3 point line where he made the dagger three to effectively end the game. Love is a magnificent rebounder and a better defender than he gets credit for but he screwed the pooch on that possession.
- The Wolves need to sign Darko. Forget what it will do to the cap. Phil Jackson can see the writing on the wall and so should the Wolves:
Jackson was refreshingly honest when asked if he thought the Wolves can expect to sign a significant free agent with all that salary-cap money they have cleared.
"No, I don't," he said. "You have to have a team that competes, first of all. I should leave New Jersey out of it because I think New Jersey will have a bit of a bump [because of new ownership and a proposed new arena in Brooklyn, N.Y.]. Minnesota is a team that's going to struggle to find a free agent. They've got to find one that fits in with what they do."
- The Wolves are going to need free agent money to use on Pekovic and Rubio (I'll believe him getting rookie-scale money when I see it). They should use some of it on Darko and then do what they can to facilitate a sign-and-trade with Memphis for something involving Rudy Gay and Al Jefferson (or a trade involving Indy with Jefferson and Danny Granger). They could then use the remaining money on players like Kelenna Azubuike or Anthony Morrow, or, if they get lucky in the draft and with Granger/Gay, on a mid-season trade for a real player. In order to turn this thing around, they are going to need to turn Al Jefferson's salary into a starting wing player. They aren't landing a top line free agent unless it is in a sign and trade. Sign Darko.