There was a lot of exciting basketball played last night. The most exciting game of basketball played was undoubtedly the Wisconsin/Florida Sweet Sixteen game, which Chris Chiozza won at the buzzer with this full-speed, running 3-pointer:
In the NBA, a total of 11 players had over 30 points, including all three of Karl-Anthony Towns’ rivals to the throne of most exciting young big man: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis. Giannis and Jokic led their team to wins, while Davis was outgunned by James Harden. The Beard had 38 points, which would have led the league last night, if not for Devin Booker’s 70. That’s right, a 20-year-old guard scored 70 points in the NBA last night!!!
I went to the box score expecting one of the hottest three-point shooting exhibitions of all time, but was surprised to see that he had hit a respectable but unspectacular 4-11 3-pointers. No, Booker became just the 6th player in NBA history to score 70 or more points by making his way to the line 26 times!
I’m torn on whether to get excited about this, or to dread it. I lean toward dread. On the last episode of the Canis Hoopus Podcast, Dane Moore, John Meyer and I were just talking about the shift from front court stars to shooting the most free throws in the past to back court players leading the league now, mainly through what Clyde Frazier would call “duping and hooping.” I’m not sure I like seeing guards go to the line 20 times or more by jumping into guys, quick shooting while their defender is fighting through a screen, ripping through a defender’s arms during a shot attempt, and using up-fakes followed by jumping into the defender. I suppose one solution would be to give defenders more benefit of the doubt and allow more hand-checking. This game, where the Suns lost 120-130 to the Celtics in regulation, is perfectly symptomatic of the NBA’s scoring explosion that has bordered on ridiculous.
Speaking of ridiculous . . .
With all the excitement in the basketball world last night, few were expecting much from the Wolves and Lakers. The leader of our Canis community, Eric in Madison, wrote a preview for the game entitled, “Wolves at Lakers: Who Wants it Less?” and we all nodded smugly in agreement. The Lakers looked to be in full-on tank mode headed into the game. It seemed as though the Timberwolves would be able to choose between building winning habits and blatantly tanking by “bringing the Payne” for heavy minutes. But then . . .
An awesome statue in his honor had been unveiled earlier:
. . . and then, suddenly, all the players began showing off for Shaquille O’Neal:
Prior to KAT’s homage, FSN showed a clip of Towns talking about his close friendship with Shaq, their Jersey connection and his mother’s crush on Mr. O’Neal:
But don’t take my word for the importance of Shaquille O’Neal’s appearance, listen to Larry Nance Jr. and Luke Walton:
"The whole arena turned into `Oh my gosh, Shaq is here," said Larry Nance Jr., who shook his hand at halftime. "He deserves it and it was an honor getting to play on his night. I'm just glad we got the win."
"There was a better energy in the building because of Shaq," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "We didn't get to channel that until the second half when the second unit came in and began defending. It definitely brings a little extra."
It is hard to say whether Corey Brewer and Jordan Clarkson were inspired in particular by Shaq’s presence, but they played inspired basketball nonetheless. Corey Brewer was full of so much fire & desire I was reminded of his 51-point performance for the Wolves. He was also aided by luck and DGAF:
Those plays were worry-inducing, to be sure, and then Clarkson really got on a roll, finishing with a career-high 35 points on 8-11 3-point shooting:
Tom Thibodeau was obviously frustrated about the Wolves’ perimeter defense, saying, "We talked about being up on the screens and not giving up 3s, and we sat back and gave them 3s, so that's it. That's the name of the game." Still, as Jim Petersen remarked during the game, it’s tough to defend a guy as hot as Clarkson. Seemingly everything he threw up went in, and even a rare, intense close-out by Karl-Anthony Towns only resulted in a four point play.
After the game, Wolves players were predictably depressed. Referring to blowing yet another game they were in position to win, Towns remarked, "We've done this so many times. That's the most discouraging thing."
Rubio added, "After losing four in a row, we wanted to show character. For a second we showed it, but the game is 48 minutes."
Yuck. This is why you want to focus on building winning habits. losing leads to depression and depression leads to wanting out.
- Getting beaten by atomic-hot guards 2 out of the last 3 games has to make the Wolves pine for Zach LaVine all the more, as he is the only current Timberwolf capable of similar 3-point shooting exhibitions.
- Putting things in perspective: Provided our players can move on from the game, the loss does two things members of the Canis community will appreciate. It gives the Wolves a better shot at a high draft pick, which apparently they do need. It also makes it more likely the Lakers end up with no draft pick at all, which should delight the many Laker-haters that dwell on Canis Hoopus.
- In Thursday’s Cup of Canis, Eric discussed the need to balance the Wolves’ desire to win with preserving the health of its young stars. Thibodeau arguably failed to do that against the Lakers, playing Towns for 44 minutes and Rubio and Wiggins for 43. With the bad body language he displays in this clip, it seemed clear that Rubio had lost hope, but Thibs sent him out for the last minute and change anyhow:
And then, this happened:
It just seemed very unnecessary. You cannot endanger a guy who can do this by playing him in meaningless garbage-time:
- The Wolves need to fix the chemistry and lack of leadership on the bench. Look at these goofballs laughing in the direction of team clown Jordan Hill:
- I wouldn’t be Chris Riazi if I didn’t leave you with something positive or humorous, so let’s check out the Wolves’ hairstyles tonight:
Andrew’s cornrows look dope, in my opinion. Also, I’d like to believe that ol’ Jack Nicholson was wearing those red shades to conceal his now-legal recreational marijuana use.
Now, let’s check out Ricky’s pompadour:
Also pretty dope.
And now for KAT:
Oh. You need a fresh cut, bro. Remember, KAT got a fresh cut with a little swirl shaved into the side right around the All-Star Break and went on a serious tear. Freshen up your hair and enthusiasm for the home-stretch, Big KAT!