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So close/So far

That was one of the most entertaining games we've had to watch in a long, long time. It wasn't the prettiest affair (both teams had eFGs below 50%, with the Wolves flirting with a sub 40% efg night...which is just insane) but it had few turnovers (18 combined), lots of hustle (Philly's perimeter players are everywhere), and some last-minute heroics (seriously, is there a better word to use here?) from Love turned this recap from being a downer bit about horrific wing production and Adelman's weird allegiance to the zone and...well, who am I kidding?

Let's just get this out of the way first: The Wolves starting SF had 0 points and 2 rebounds. The trio of Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, and Martel Webster combined for 3-13 shooting with 9 boards, 7 points, and 6 blks/stls in 55 combined minutes. If people have the tugging need to boil season-long trends down to a single game, this was probably the game to highlight for the whole "they really need a wing" bit.

Kevin Love came out of the gate not being able to hit the broad side of a barn. Nikola Pekovic was unable to get rolling early. Philly was killing Minny on the boards. How did the Wolves make it through this stretch? They relied on the production of their rookie point guard.

In the 3rd quarter Pek got things rolling inside and off of the pick and roll. His awesome production powered them through this stretch of the game.

In the 4th, Love showed up with a bunch of points to seal the deal. His awesome production put them over the top.

Rubio, Pek, Love.

Now throw in some ok production from JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour and the Wolves have a single game built on the backs of their 3 awesome peformers and their 2 ok ones. And....

Last year was a comically bad experience. It was frustrating but easy to write off due to the near-historic nature of the awfulness. This year is more of a real world frustration. Yes, the team is better. They are exciting to watch and they're winning and it's fun to go to games and...well, it's a bit like watching a guy with 1 arm behind his back swing a golf club. Yeah, it's really cool that he's able to do it, but he'd probably have better luck with both arms.

This team could make the playoffs with a solid wing player. They could do it this year. With each passing game, that "win now" window shrinks off into next season. Yes, I'm happy that they're finally good again. I'm also a bit chapped that they aren't taking a swifter approach to address the 1 glaring flaw on the roster: the wing. You never know what will happen in the future. Love could break a leg, Ricky could start eating Vaseline, and Pek could go on a multi-state murder rampage. Win when you can while you can.

Unfortunately, the "off on the horizon" approach seems to be popular over at 600 First Avenue. They got their best player to sign a 3 year deal with an ETO and they don't want to "sacrifice future cap flexibility" by..well, I don't know. That money is only good for what you can get with it and it is of little use for things that don't yet exist.

This is a playoff team being anchored down by an obvious and fixable problem. That's incredibly exciting and amazingly frustrating all at the same time. It is so in wins and loses.

Random game thoughts:

  • Jrue Holiday is a really fun player to watch. He doesn't have Rubio's passing ability or handle but his frame is similar (loonnnnggg arms) and he's crafty at age 21. Apparently Doug Collins has been urging Holiday to be more aggressive for his own shot. Tonight, he got into a Russell Westbrook esque back-and-forth with Ricky Rubio and I think it kind of took away from some of the matchup problems Philly could have forced with Iggy and, especially, Thad Young. I'm all about Kevin Love but Love simply can't guard Young on the wing or in the open court.
  • On the post game radio broadcast it was mentioned that Adelman's approach to this game was to limit the Sixers transition opportunities. Maybe this was the reason why Young and Iggy never got rolling. Maybe this was the reason why the Wolves had issues on the boards with poor numbers from their perimeter players. However, looking at Synergy it looks like the Sixers had 17 transition opportunities last night, which is good for 16.5% of their plays on 46.2% shooting. For the season, 14.9% of their opportunities are in transition for 51% shooting. Did the defensive strategy contribute to the rebounds and Iggy/Young inability to beast? Hopefully, these are the sorts of things the team is following up on in their post game break downs. Maybe there is a perfectly good reason for the bad wing play during this game.
  • Ricky Rubio is stupid good at basketball. As is almost always the case, my favorite Rubio play is some sort of little thing that he does that sets up a much larger play. Tonight's favorite play was when he (I think) stole the ball and was off on a 2-2 break with Ridnour. They were both on the left side of the court and he slightly put on the breaks so Love could get into the action and properly space the floor so Rubio was in the middle with Love on the right and Ridnour on the left. Once the defense collapsed towards the better player on the right, Rubio gave a slight body fake towards Love before hitting Ridnour for the open 3. He does this sort of thing on damn near every play. The Wolves should run a Ricky's Little Things basketball camp with video of him setting up other players for steals by pretending to blow by them only to pop back in front of them unexpectedly or how he makes his cross overs exactly when the defender is about to pick up his off foot (i.e. when the defender has the least amount of push off power).
  • Don't look now but Adelman's rotation is shortening. If the team needs to win games (and I think it's pretty obvious they're making a big deal out of these last 4 games before the All Star break), they're going to hand out enormous minutes to Love, Rubio, Pek, Ridnour, Barea, and whatever wing pairing is the least dysfunctional for the night.
  • Both teams ended up with 14 oreb and 34 dreb.
  • This game was almost an awesome example of the relationship between poor shooting and turnovers vis-a-vis winning. The Wolves shot 9-23 in the first with 3 tos, 8-21 in the 2nd with 4 tos, 8-20 in the 3rd with 2 turnovers, and 8-21 in the 4th with 1 turnover. In the 2nd and 4th the Wolves had a .380 efg. In the 2nd the Sixers had an efg of .420 with 1 TO. In the 4th they were 7-19 with a .447 efg and 3 TO. In other words, the Sixers (with 15 missed shots, 6 oreb, and 1 turnover) had 10 failed possessions in the 2nd quarter and ended up with 25 points. The Wolves (with 13 missed shots, 5 oreb and 4 TOs) had 12 failed possessions in the 2nd quarter and ended up with 22 points. The Sixers closed the game with (12 missed shots, 1 oreb, 3 TO) 14 failed possessions and 17 points while the Wolves finished with (13 missed shots, 1 oreb, 1 TO) 13 failed possessions and 20 points. Be on the lookout for games with equal turnover numbers or equal shooting numbers through all 4 quarters.
OK folks, that about does it. Really fun win tonight against a nice Sixers club. They are close and obviously so. Here's hoping they find a solid wing player sooner rather than later.

Until later.