The art of self-defeatment: MN v. MN (4/4)

Although I think I needed more time to digest this one anyway, I apologize for the lateness of this report card. I had intended to finish it last night after the game but kept getting called away from my computer. Unfortunately, my 20-year-old cat frequently mistakes those events as an invitation to warm her butt on my computer keyboard and do funny things to whatever I happened to be working on. After two lost drafts, I gave up and went to bed.

Here goes.

Technically speaking, I suppose it's true that the Wolves played an actual opponent on the Target Center floor last night. I suppose it would also be truthful to say that the actual opponent won the game (or scored more points than we did, anyway). Funny thing is ... I think it's truer still to say that an "actual opponent" isn't really integral to the Wolves' losing equation these days.

We are playing out the string right now. There will be no more magical unicorn sightings this year. There will be no playoff push ... but thankfully, no tanking either. The injuries and brutal March schedule were just too much for this team to overcome. I get that. I've accepted it. I knew it in my heart the moment we got the news on Rubio. It's okay. I know I've seen real, honest-to-goodness progress this year and am excited about this team's future.

That said, last night's game against an actual opponent (for narrative purposes, let's call them the Golden Low Hanging Fruities) highlighted some areas of concern that remain unaddressed. One of those is our complete lack of even average production from the starting wing positions. Another is our need to complete the holy front court trinity of Love-Pek-? with a defensive beast to prowl the middle (wish we'd have had the chance to draft one of those guys last year).

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, one of the biggest problems the Wolves have isn't something David Kahn can fix or really even attempt to fix from the front office. I'm talking about the proclivity most of our players seem to have for engaging in self-defeating behaviors on the court. Some of this is no doubt attributable to inexperience, new coach, short training camp, compressed schedule, et cetera. I understand that, but more on this later in the grades section.

So then, on to the Golden Low Hanging Fruities game. Well, if you didn't see it, the Wolves were gifted a huge first half lead by a squad missing its best two players and seemingly too tired to care. I say "gifted" because we found ourselves up by about 20 even though we had shot poorly and not played particularly well on the defensive end either. Then came the last two minutes of the second quarter and then the first 10 minutes of third, during which the Wolves were outscored by about 26 points.

How did that happen? I think the big first half lead came too easy and the Wolves took it for granted. They got sloppy; they thought they could coast. So anyway, tie game 30-some seconds left and the Wolves have the ball. Timeout. Yippee! % (At this point, I have written this game off as a moral loss no matter what the actual outcome.) A purely U-G-L-Y possession follows, yielding no points. The Golden Low Hanging Fruities take their turn, score and hold on for the victory. Having already expended whatever angst and bile I had left for the team this year during the Fruities' 2nd/3rd quarter run ... I am not the least bit upset about it.

Now, the grades.

Kevin Love v. Kevin Love ... B

Based solely on production, Kevin would have earned an A grade for the game. For most of the first half he played great. He was good but not great in the 4th. Like pretty much everyone else on the team though, his play during the Fruities 2nd/3rd quarter run was fairly atrocious. Lazy passes. Stupid passes. Forced shots. Bad defense. He also got thoroughly out-hustled by David Lee in the second half.

Nikola Pekovic v. Ankle and Point Guard Injuries ... A-

Opponents neither low hanging nor high hanging seem to bother Pek much. His ankle problems and injuries to his two favorite point guards are another matter though. Pek did give us great offensive production with few opportunities in limited minutes last night. But it also seemed clear that the ankle made it very hard for Pek to be effective on the boards and on defense.

Wesley Johnson v. Brad Miller and/or Malcolm Lee ... D+ ... C and/or C

Wes really needs to build some confidence. Unfortunately, I couldn't pit him against himself here due to the dangers inherent in combining anti-matter with an invisibility cloak. So I did the next best thing by putting him against an old and frail center who has already announced his retirement from the league and a rookie 2nd round pick who missed the first three months of the season.

Sorry Wes. Only your back-to-back threes in the 3rd quarter saved you from an F this game. In the 1st quarter, you made one dunk (off a very nice feed from Miller, btw) but Miller hit a 3, had the nice assist to you and made a couple of other nifty passes in far fewer minutes. Lee didn't see action. Advantage Miller.

2nd quarter ... both you and Miller sat down at about the 6:00 minute mark. At that time, all by your lonesome, you had scored as many points in the quarter as the entire Low Hanging Fruities team. While that sounds impressive, 35-year-old Brad Miller had twice as many assists as the entire Fruities squad at the same juncture. Two points for Wes, two assists for Miller ... Advantage Miller. Lee got into the game and scored five points, while showing some nice (if not out-of-control at times) aggressiveness on both sides of the ball. Advantage Lee.

3rd quarter ... both Miller and Lee opted for a brilliant strategy this quarter: don't play a single minute and let Wes do the work of defeating Wes himself. Mission accomplished. Yes, Wes did hit back-to-back threes in this quarter that we really needed at the time, but before and after that 30 second shining moment he was awful. Losing track of his defensive assignment, throwing up bricks, committing stupid shooting fouls ... classic Wes indeed. Advantage Miller and/or Lee, by default.

4th quarter, 2 more points for Wes, nothing good at all from Miller and Lee. Advantage Wes. Final score: Miller (3), Lee (2), Wes (1). (***Full disclosure: I would trade Wes for Sasha Pavlovic at this point. I hate him. He reminds me more and more of Darko, i.e. no will to improve or compete much of the time)

Martell Webster v. M_r____ _ebster ... C-

Martell was good on the boards tonight but pretty much a non-factor in every other facet of the game. No surprise. As many of the better minds here and on Blazer's Edge noted when Kahn traded for him, the "really good all around game once in a while followed by several MIA performances" is pretty much the M.O. he's had throughout his entire career. Still, he's hard not to like, especially with the frohawk. My hope is that we buyout the last year of his deal for cheap and then offer him a Tolliver-like contract to stick around as a backup.

What JJ Barea Can Do v. What JJ Barea Thinks He Can Do ... C

I was expecting the Wolves to be without a point guard last night and for three quarters, JJ didn't disappoint. He played well in the 4th quarter, for the most part, and finished with a respectable-looking 15 pt, 8 ast, 6 reb stat line. As I said, however, he was pretty much made awful decisions and shot terribly for the majority of the game. I am hoping for a Barea/Johnson for Marvin Williams trade after the Hawks get bounced from the playoffs. (Please god, please god, please god ... I will never ask for a winning Megamillions ticket ever again, promise, pinky swear, etc.)

Wayne Ellington v. All Other Wolves Wings Tonight ... A

I think Wayne is a decent guy to have at the end of your bench. Every once in a while, he'll give you a game like last night where he outshines your starters. More often than not though, he'll be a competent journeyman-type 10th man in limited minutes. One thing that's certain is that Wayne crushed his competition last night.

Derrick Williams Uncaged v. Derrick Williams ... D

The Lion deserved to be put back in his cage last night. Not effective at all. Still getting punked way too easily on his drives to the basket. Not much else to say. I hope he has another trade value-boosting stretch before the end of the season.

Anthony Tolliver v. Anthony Tolliver ... C-

Didn't have it last night. Probably won't be back next year. Goodbye to a class act. End of story.


No grade for Adelman. I think he did the best job he could with what we had going for us and against us last night. Maybe calling a timeout or two earlier than he did during the 2nd/3rd quarter GLHF run would've helped, but maybe not too.

Your turn.