Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 at 1:53 pm  |  26 responses

Game Notes: Grizzlies at T-Wolves

You break it, you bought it…

by Myles Brown

The week after Christmas is normally reserved for bargain shoppers, but as much product as there is going out the door, there’s also a significant amount coming back in. Ashley got a sweater, but she wanted a purse. Adam got an iPod, but he wanted a laptop. So it was only appropriate that the powers that be scheduled the Timberwolves and Grizzlies first matchup of the season this week to remind us of the NBA’s strict no-return policy. On trades or tickets.

In what was billed as the ‘I told you so’ game, O.J. Mayo took the floor to a noticeable round of applause during introductions and did nothing to quell the foreboding feeling that Wolves’ management may have traded away the Rookie of the Year for the second consecutive season. Of course those who expected Mayo to exact an extreme measure of revenge on the opposition left somewhat disappointed as the rook played a magnificently subdued game.

Though his defense left something to be desired in the early stages, O.J. moved with the poise of a veteran offensively, letting the game come to him. This is particularly commendable when considering that after 30 games, he’s probably established himself as the best player on his team–and that team is the Memphis Grizzlies. He didn’t chase the ball and he didn’t force up a shot when there was an extra pass available, but still effortlessly displayed his full arsenal: cutting into passing lanes for steals and breakaway dunks, slashing baseline with impressive body control for reverse layups, and repeatedly stabbing through the defense for midrange jumpers. For Minnesotans draped in the visiting blue and gold, it was a bittersweet moment as they could only wonder how the Wolves luck may have changed If He Did It for them.

But on a night where the death of another dream could have been mourned, the home faithful witnessed a small resurrection in Kevin Love. When asked postgame if any draft night flashbacks lit a fire under his prized pick, Kevin CartoonishMcHale scoffed as expected. “I tell you what, if that’s what it takes to motivate you, you shouldn’t be in the NBA. You need a new job. You need to be an accountant for…what’s one of those firms that went under? No. You’re an NBA player. Stepping on the floor and having the privilege of standing in that jump ball circle or sitting on the bench, knowing you’re going to play should be all the motivation you need.”

Though it is the expected answer, it’s also the right one. And though it is the right one, more is to be expected since Love hasn’t been expected to play all that much lately. Stuck behind Craig Smith, Brian Cardinal and even Mark Madsen in recent rotations, Love has struggled mightily the past month, shooting 38 percent from the floor and has still only made a single 3-pointer in a dozen attempts this season. His highly touted outlet and interior passing has resulted in one assist per game. Pre-draft concerns about his size and strength proved legitimate as Love’s rebounding savvy hasn’t helped him convert those boards into putbacks. And every ruthless rejection has taken a little bit of air out of the ball and Kevin.

So setting foot on an NBA court should be motivation in itself, but suiting up to prove your worth against the player your own fans would rather have must be more motivation whether Love will admit it or not. He played with a noticeable calm and exhibited better decision making, converting those offensive boards and possessions into points from the line where he scored 5 of the Wolves’ 8 total points in a second quarter to be forgotten. Whether his play to that point warranted the decision or not, McHale put his full confidence in the rookie, playing Love the entire 4th quarter and even running the offense through him for 20-footers, reverse layins and jump hooks. Shots that would have made them wince weeks ago were encouraged by a raucous crowd. Finishing with 17 and 7, Love may not be the messiah Mayo is, but 12,000 people exited the building believing in him a lot more than they did upon entry.

I’d love to wax poetic about Al Jefferson, but his dominance is nothing new at this point. Though he pivoted through countless uncalled fouls, his primary defender was Marc Gasol who I am at an absolute loss of words for. Marc Gasol makes Pau Gasol look like Alonzo Mourning. I honestly have never seen a softer player of his size. He gave Al no resistance at all, continually backing away from Jefferson with shuffled and panicked steps until surrendering prime position under the basket. Even though he went 16-25, I’m almost surprised Jefferson missed a shot at all.

Bull ChinaWhich brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves. Tied at 89 with 27.6 seconds left, the Wolves come out of a timeout looking to drain as much time as possible before scoring a winning basket. Kevin Ollie proceeds to dribble the shot clock down to 10 seconds before making a move, resulting in a botched play that offered no clear look as the game went into overtime. It was a variation of the same scenario that played out before the end of the first half. It’s a variation of the same play that every other team in the League runs at the end of a game, and it almost never works. You know why? Because none of these teams have Michael Jordan. It was Jordan and his indomitable will, who patiently waited at the top of the key for the inevitable. It was Jordan and his boundless talent, who could shake any defender and adjust to any defense on the fly without a second to waste. Teams have been unsuccessfully mimicking the strategy ever since.

Problem is, not only do these teams not have a Jordan, they often try to milk the clock to run a play rather than take a shot as Jordan did. This leaves absolutely no room for error and the slightest adjustment by the defense–be it a double team or a hard show–throws players’ timing off when they can least afford it. The success rate for these plays have to be abysmal, but we keep seeing them night after night. It is undoubtedly the worst play in basketball. Perhaps it’s also due to the Jordan Syndrome that more (or better) plays aren’t run for post players in those waining seconds. Jefferson was unstoppable in this contest and though McHale says the final play was drawn for his star, he never got a shot off. If the 14 seconds weren’t wasted, maybe he would have. But Al took full advantage of the extra five, going 3-3 from the field and the line, matching Memphis’ 9 overtime points for the victory.

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  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    the antoine walker bowl!

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    the jordan stuff came out of no where. and who did the l-wolves trade last year that might have been roy? trading roy for foye was a stupid draft day trade, so was the bulls trading aldridge for tyrus.

  • http://www.where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Good for Kevin Love.

  • Captain America

    What a dour piece! K-Love leads rookies in rebounds and ranks 6th in offensive boards in the League. That translates into many more possessions irrespective of which team member takes the shot. He tallied 17 points in a combination of free throws and mid-range shots. Besides, how can anyone view the trade as being solely K-Love:O.J?
    Included in the trade was Mike Miller, a proven scorer and rebounder, and the loss of Antoine Walker, and others. Besides good rebounding, the strength of K-Love will be on the high-low game with Big Al and his mid-range shots when Big Al is double teamed.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    The pic of the bull in the china shop with the zebra standing up is fascinating!

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Im impressed with his rebounding, but how many of those boards has he attempted to put back and has been blocked? Those arent extra possessions unless he brings the ball back out and the offense is reset. But he normally doesnt, hence the 38%, which is also indicative of how often that midrange shot of his is clicking.

    And no, the trade wasnt solely Love/Mayo, but Miller has been injured for a significant portion of the season and when he is on the floor, our ‘shooter’ hasnt even been shooting. And when he is shooting, Mayo has a better 3pt percentage than him anyway. And Im not that moved by the bad contracts we got rid of since we had to move a certain All Star to do it.

    Ive long contended that the Wolves may never draw a player of Mayos caliber through a trade or free agency and I dont think it was worth it to lose him just to unload Walker, Jaric and Buckner unless we get someone worth the misery in 2010.

    I like Love, hell develop into a respectable player. But hell never be OJ Mayo and Mike Miller and some cap space doesnt make up for that. We have probably traded away the ROY in back to back years.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Oh, the notes weren’t half bad either. :)

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Especially liked your Jordan Syndrome analysis.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    Thanks. That sh*t really gets on my nerves.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    In Miami, they call it Wadeturnovertime on most nights, which he’s usually pretty dependable with…..so yeah, that sh*t irks me too.

  • http://slamonline.com/online/nba/2008/10/game-notes-lakers-at-clippers/ Graham

    Good notes, Myles. Tarzan, the trading away the ROY was a reference to the Wolves swapping Mayo for Love as part of an 8-player deal made after the draft.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Graham, I sure hope Tarzan was being sarcastic. Otherwise, I don’t know who those comments 14 comments per day have been coming from…

  • Jackie Moon

    The Lakers don’t suffer from this syndrome.

  • Captain America

    Myles, O.J. the Great probably summarized the trade best: that both teams got what they wanted. Can you believe it, a win/win? Probably not, I shrug. Let’s give the rook a break though. He is learning on the job. Frankly, no one can judge a trade after 30 games or so. As I said before (and you didn’t respond) K-Love will continue to occupy the high-post, and build off the high-low game with Big Al. Mike Miller is not government cheese and clearing cap space is huge as we approach 2010, just ask the general managers throughout the league.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    that Wolves’ management may have traded away the Rookie of the Year for the second consecutive season………. who did they trade away in 07?

  • Captain America

    Actually, the so-called Jordan Syndrome was a sage bit of strategy. With the score tied and 26 seconds on the clock, the Wolves having possession were the only team on the floor who could have won in regulation (barring a steal/TO). So, the play turned out lousy, it still prevented the Griz from getting the last possession.

  • Captain America

    Oh, and did you know the Wolves obtained a ROY in the trade? Mike Miller, ROY, 2000-2001.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    O.J. was being diplomatic, what else was he going to say? “Youre gonna regret this for years to come”? As I said before, Kevin Love is shooting 38% from the field and is 1-12 on the season from 3pt range. His highly praised outlet and interior passing has resulted in a whopping one assist per game. At times he has been behind Brian Cardinal and Mark Madsen in the rotation. In other words, there is no high low game with Al. It may develop in the future but I have yet to see it. And no Mike Miller isnt government cheese, but a “shooter” that takes about six shots a game isnt worth much considering what we gave up for him. And again, clearing cap space is huge for 2010, I dont need to ask a general manager to know that. But why dont you ask NBA players how many of them find Minnesota a desirable destination? And I dont like wasting precious time off the clock that could have been used setting up post positioning for Al. Gasol, soft as he is, is also Memphis biggest player and had fouled out at that point. Forcing it into Al wouldve forced a double team and an open look for someone during those 14 extra seconds. Id rather score and put the pressure on them to produce.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    And my fault Tarzan, the ROY’s werent in consecutive years. Roy was 07, Durant was 08. Mayo in 09?

  • BK

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think this article cheap shots Marc Gasol. Al is a load for many 4s and 5s in the league to handle, and Gasol on Saturday outplayed Tim Duncan in the 4th quarter and got him fouled in OT.

    I find myself falling for the “soft Euro” myth as much as any NBA fan, but in Gasol’s case I think it’s misplaced. I’ve seen him have games where he looks a little lost, but I do think he’s going to be a decent NBA inside player. I’m actually a lot less impressed with Love (outside of his ability to rebound).

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

    Government cheese was actually better than the cheese most people get from the grocery store.

  • Captain America

    Oh, Myles, I’m not ready to judge K-Love after 30 games. Mike Miller (ROY, 2000-2001) grabs 6 boards a game and shoots .479%. These stats exceed O.J’s numbers. He is also a better defender. Minnesota as a desirable location has been an issue since the birth of the franchise. I suspect most locations other than NY and LA are undesirable to varying degrees also. Not sure I follow your logic “forcing it into Al…,” in that the half court offense for the Wolves comes down to making teams pay from the parameter for double teaming Big Al.

  • WhaHuh

    Good rebound game for the L-Wolves against the Mavs. I cry for Al Jefferson

  • Eric Woodyard

    Great notes Myles! OJ for MVP!!

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    That is an awful sequence of HTML at the top of the page there Myles…is that your doing?

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Anyways, co-sign Eboy in general.