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Wolves vs. Rockets: Sloppiness at a Trillion

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Turnovers and the Three Point Line Doom the Wolves in Houston

Houston - The Rockets are the future of the NBA.

This is a complete overreaction. I know it. But after watching the Timberwolves, Rockets disaster zone tonight, I can’t help but think that the Rockets style of play is what we’re going to be seeing from every NBA team in the near future. King Nerd, Daryl Morey, in combination with King Distruptor, Mike D’Antoni, have made mid-range basketball a thing of the past. Every shot the Rockets took tonight was from beyond the arc or within five feet of the basket. Screen, drive, kick-out for a three. On repeat. Over and over and over again.

How did the Wolves respond to this type of action? Discounting the end of the fourth quarter, it was a hot, steamy pile of poo. In the previous two games, a 119-105 win and 109-111 overtime loss (which we’re doing our best to forget each and every day), the Wolves have taken a measured, patient approach to contesting the style of play of the Rockets. Work the ball inside, get boards, get second chance points, defend the three-point line, have a balanced attack, and win the turnover battle. How did we do according to a selection of those measurables tonight?

Boards

The Timberwolves outrebounded the Rockets 58 to 31. On the offensive glass, the Wolves beat the Rockets 21 to 12. That should lead to success, right? On a normal night, against a normal team, that might be the case, however, the Rockets don’t care about your rebounding stats. They’re going to continue to heave up three-pointers without a care in the world.

Three-Pointers

Heave away, boys. The Rockets took 58 threes tonight. 58! And they made 22 of them. That’s a 38% clip for those non-maths people out there. How did the Wolves respond? Well, on the bright side, their percentage was in the same neighborhood (with some rounding help), at 35%, however, when only taking less than half the attempts (26, and a number of those were in the last couple of minutes of the 4th), it’s generally not going to lead to a positive outcome. A 9 for 26 night from three is not going to do much against a team that makes 22 from the same area.

Every time the Wolves made some sort of run tonight, the Rockets would respond with a barrage of outside shots. When the Wolves actually extended their defense to the arc, the Rockets would dump it inside to Capela or drive and get fouled.

It was a consistent one-two punch of inside/outside action that hurt both my gut and my jawline in equal parts. Oh, Wolves, you’re within a point, how about a 16 point run in the second quarter to crush your hopes and dreams? How does that taste? What’s that? You already have bile in your mouth? What’s that from?

Turnovers

Despite Ryan Anderson’s stupid face throwing down long-distance bombs or Harden’s third quarter outburst, there’s nothing that hurts worse than self-inflicted wounds. And the Wolves were punching their own groin for most of the night. 23 total turnovers, with 14 of those coming in the first half. As good as Ricky was against Dallas on Friday, he was equally bad tonight. Turnover city for the Unicorn. While he ended the game with 14 points and 11 assists, he didn’t score a point until the fourth quarter and ended with six turnovers overall (tied with Wiggins for the lead).

Most of El Unicorn’s turnovers were of the stinky turd variety, as well. Sometimes his turnovers are the result of going for an amazing pass or alley-oop that could potentially change momentum for the offense. Tonight, it was all bad giveaways or offensive fouls that almost lead him to fighting Patrick Beverley.

Balance

Unexpectedly, every member of the Wolves team played some serious minutes tonight. Wait, let me double check that. No, no I was wrong. I meant to say that, as expected, every Wolves starter played some serious minutes tonight. Each and every one eclipsed 30 minutes of play, with Wiggins and Towns both putting in 37, and only four players coming off the bench.

On the Houston side of the ledger, only James Harden and Trevor Ariza had over 30 minutes among the starters. They had five players off the bench, with Eric Gordon contributing 30 minutes.

What was even more pronounced was the offensive contribution of both teams. Until the final few minutes, the Wolves only had Dieng, Wiggins, and Towns in the double digit scoring column. Here’s how the game ended for the Rockets:

  • Anderson - 18 points
  • Ariza - 15 points
  • Capela - 16 points
  • Beverley - 15 points
  • Harden - 24 points
  • Hilario - 11 points
  • Gordon - 14 points
  • Williams - 17 points

That scoreline is the definition of a balanced attack. It’s more discouraging to me than everything else that happened. The Wolves couldn’t seem to contain anyone throughout the game. Even when Harden was struggling (only 3 points in the first half), the Wolves’ defense couldn’t seem to stop the rest of the team.

On the offensive side, the Wolves don’t currently have the contributing pieces to support Wiggins and Towns. Towns was a monster for most of the game. 37 points, 22 boards, 3 assists, on 16-24 shooting, but the rest of the cast wasn’t there to fill in the gaps. Rush ended the game with zero points but played 33 minutes. As mentioned, Rubio was not great until the final quarter. Belly and Baz couldn’t find their touch until the closing minutes.

I don’t know if it was the turnovers or the barrage of threes that left me discouraged, but there was something tonight that caused my endless optimism for the playoffs to die a little. The rest of the season is going to be against this level of competition, most of which is on the road. Do I dare start looking towards draft picks and prospects? Do I give up the hope that lucky number 8 is still in our future. Are we just not that good?

Naw, I’m not there yet. Especially with small glimmers of hope and wonderment like this:

Come on Wolves! One bad night does not spell doom for the rest of the season. Screw percentages and maths. We’re still in this thing...

Maybe...