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3-pointer from Section 131 – The NBA: Where $@%! Happens

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.

Wednesday, November 24: Spurs 113, Wolves 109 (overtime)

Twolves mural inside Target CenterLeaving the arena frustrated and angry is just a part of the package for a Timberwolves fan. It’s bad enough for us when it’s the home team that disappoints. We don’t need to get it from the refs too.

But get it we did.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the game riding a twelve-game winning streak and with a league-best 12-1 record. Their big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are healthy. A tough matchup for the Wolves. But, behold and lo, the Wolves never trailed in regulation. That’s right, San Antonio never led in this game until overtime. In fact, there were only two tie scores in regulation: 2-2 and 106-106.

The Wolves led the game by as many as 21 points in the third period before the Spurs made their inevitable run (this is the part where we are disappointed by the home team). When they did, we knew the Wolves would be in a fight to the end: San Antonio had started to pour in the three-point shots (six of them during the run), and then the Spurs’ sixth man was showing up big. Sixth man? The referees, of course.

Unless it’s the Lakers, no team in the NBA enjoys the referees’ favor like the Spurs. Tonight, despite being the more physical team on defense and taking 32 three-point shots (they weren’t exactly driving to the hoop), the Spurs managed to draw 32 fouls and took 36 free throws. By contrast, the Wolves drew only 21 fouls and shot 24 free throws. A significant disparity, but hardly a surprise. But the refs (the Spurs’ sixth man) saved the absolute best for last.

The Wolves held a three-point lead at 106-103 as the Spurs inbounded the ball with 19.6 seconds to go in regulation. Needing a three-point shot for the tie, Spurs rookie Gary Neal hoisted a prayer that clanked off of the side of the rim. Kevin Love secured the rebound, and it looked like the Wolves would win! But wait, a whistle …

Wolves rookie Wesley Johnson was called for a phantom foul to put Neal on the line. Replays show that Johnson didn’t come close to coming into contact with Neal on the shot, but that after the shot was away, Neal’s foot grazed Johnson. Slight incidental contact that was—if anything—on Neal for kicking his leg out as he threw up the shot. But it was ruled a three-shot foul on Johnson. Neal hit all three, and the game was tied. Dick Bavetta and the crew came through big time for their Spurs! The Wolves did still have a chance to win the game, but when Luke Ridnour drove to the hoop and was thrown to the floor by Anthony McDyess—suprise, no foul!—the game went to overtime.

On the Spurs first possession of overtime, Ginobili drove in his inimitable out-of-control style right into Darko’s gut on the perimiter. This fouled Darko out, and the Spurs no doubt winked at Bavetta, “We’ll take it from here.” And they did.

Basketball point oneKevin Love scored a career high 32 points, and continued his incredible rebounding run with 22 boards. It was his third 20+ rebound performance in his last nine games. Over this nine-game stretch, he’s averaged 20.4 points and 16.7 rebounds per game. He’s been a force on the glass, and better than anyone expected on offense. He’s still a below average defender, but if he keeps up at anything like this pace, he’ll make the All-Star Game.

Basketball point twoDarko Milic dominated Duncan in the post tonight. He outscored Duncan 22-9, added 8 boards, 4 assists, and 5 block shots (he did commit 7 turnovers, though). Darko has turned it around big-time. He started the season playing nice defense and embarassing himself on offense. His turn-around started with a 13-point, 12-rebound effort against the Charlotte Hornets (and his old nemesis Larry Brown) on November 15. Now he’s on a very nice five-game run, and over the last three games he’s scored 23, 20, and 22 points on 58% shooting. I’ll have to see him sustain this over a month, at least, before I start calling him “Darkheem the Dream,” but it’s a start.

Basketball point threeMichael Beasley has crashed back to earth. After scoring at least 25 points in six consectutive games (averaging 31.3 per game and shooting 53%), he’s scored just 26 in his last two (13.0 and 38%). Tonight he was simply awful. During the big Spurs/Bavetta run, he committed two key turnovers and missed badly on the only two shots he took. His confidence and swagger have really taken a hit. The Wolves need his scoring to compete. He’ll be back, I believe.

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