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3-pointer from Section 131 – A Free Tee-shirt, Anyway

Joann and I have tickets to 18 Wolves’ games this year. You might ask, “Why?” There is no answer to that. But we have them, and I’m going to post my impression of the team and each game right here on Bachblog. Lucky you.

Monday, January 24: Rockets 129, Wolves 125

Joann holds up prize tee-shirtThe tee-shirt Joann is holding up here was the highlight of the game for us and that’s not a good thing. It’s only a cheap tee-shirt. I won it by sinking a shot into the Best Buy basketball hoop that is carried around the stands before, and during breaks in, the game. The ball is a seven-inch “Nerf-ball” type thing, and I made a shot from about twelve rows above where the guy carrying the hoop stood. The shot basically hit nothing but the bottom of the net (the hoop guy didn’t have to move to “help me out”). It was a good shot, trust me. If you can’t trust me, ask Joann.

“The Shot” (as it will ever be known around our house) was taken before the game. Once the game started, things pretty much went downhill. The final score of 129-125 (a four-point loss!) made it look like a much closer contest than it really was. The Rockets took control in the third quarter and were never in any real danger of losing the game, despite letting most of the lead leak slowly away in the fourth.

Basketball point one
Either the Wolves just physically and mentally don’t have what it takes to play defense, or there is something seriously wrong with Kurt Rambis’ ability to teach it. There are a few Wolves, I think, who will never be good defenders. Jonny Flynn is just a terrible defender, and I doubt that anyone will change that. He looks lost most of the time, and doesn’t make an effort to fight through picks. Kevin Love will always struggle to defend power forwards who are generally quicker, taller, and more mobile; and when used in the center spot, he’s undersized. He works hard, though, and every rebound he collects on the defensive end helps. Nikola Pekovic, despite his great strength, is ground-bound and unlikely to develop into an good defender in the NBA. But the rest of the squad, it would seem, have the physical tools to be at least average defenders. Four of them—Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Anthony Tolliver, and Corey Brewer—are generally regarded to be above-average defenders.

So why can’t this team defend? Why do they continue to leave spot-up shooters wide open, while doubling less threatening scoring threats? (At least half of Chuck Hayes’ seven assists assists tonight were the result of this boneheaded strategy.) This appears to be a hallmark of Rambis’ “swarming” defensive strategy, and one that he employed with some success with the Lakers (or, maybe it wasn’t so successful?). It is a tenet of his strategy to make the opposing team beat you with jump shots. Well, beat the Wolves they do. Minnesota is in the top half of the league in 3-point shots allowed, and are 26th of 30 in terms of opponents’ 3-point field goal percentage.

Basketball point twoKevin Martin scored 16 points in the first quarter, and 34 for the game. He benefited hugely from Rambis’ defensive strategy. Double the guy with the ball and let Martin hang out by himself in the corner. Works only if the Rockets can’t get the ball to Martin. They can. No one on the Wolves is quick enough to close out on him, and if they are almost quick enough, Martin runs right by them.

Basketball point threeKevin Love did his usual work, leading the Wolves in points (24), rebounds (17), and assists (7). Wes Johnson had his best night of the season with 19 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals.

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