The Timberwolves ability to close out games in the fourth quarter has disappeared with the loss of Ricky Rubio, and for the second time in as many games against the Golden State Warriors the Timberpups blew yet another 20 point lead to an injury-depleted Warriors team, losing by a score of 93-88. Playing their second to last game of the season, Head Coach Rick Adelman and management decided to shut down Kevin Love for the remainder of the season, despite him passing his NBA-mandated post concussion tests and being available to play. Also out with injury was Luke Ridnour, who was a game time decision but was unable to give it a go on his injured ankle. Up by as many as 21 points and leading 55-39 at halftime, the Pups went ice cold in the second half shooting the ball and appeared to give little to no effort on the offensive end. Finding success on the low post and attacking the basket early on, the Wolves settled for poor jump shot after poor jump shot with most possessions being one pass followed by a contested shot. The offensive scheming disappeared in the second half of play and our Pups could not look more like last years team.
The only player who enjoyed a great game in this one was Nikola Pekovic, who looks as good now as he did before going down with bone spurs earlier in the season. Although he continues to play through injury, he was Pektacular finishing with 19 points and 16 rebounds in 37 minutes of play. With David Lee and Andrew Bogut both sidelined with injuries, Pek was too much for the Warriors frontcourt to handle, mauling his way to the hoop and showing off his incredible combination of strength and finesse. The Wolves did a very poor job of getting Pek the ball in the second half and instead settled for low percentage, contested jumpers, failing to feed their top available offensive weapon. Alongside Pekovic at PF was Anthony Randolph, who continues to start in place of the injured K-Love. The Louisiana State product shot only 3-10 from the field, but hit all 8 of his free throws on his way to a stat line of 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks. AR-15 displayed his enormous potential on several occasions, but also demonstrated the very immaturity and poor awareness that has driven each of his NBA coaches crazy. On multiple possessions, Randolph was not ready for passes to him in the lane and was very poor at anticipating plays developing, leading to his 4 turnovers. His concentration has been subject during his four years in the association, but his ability to fill up a stat sheet given opportunity is intriguing to say the least. Facing a below average Warriors frontcourt, Randolph’s skinny body was tossed around like a rag doll and he was unable to clear out his opponent when boxing out, allowing Golden State to get offensive rebounds and second chance buckets. Randolph’s lack of mass will continue to inhibit his ability to fulfill his potential, but he still remains a mere 22 years of age.
Playing all 48 minutes of the game was JJ Barea, who saw no relief as Malcolm Lee received a DNP-coach’s decision. Barea was very effective in the first half and did a good job fitting passes through tight windows, finding Pek on the low block for high percentage looks. However, as the game went on and Barea fatigued, he stopped driving to the basket and instead selfishly settled for deep, contested threes and fade-away midrange shots, en route to 5 of 18 shooting from the field. Barea’s play dictates how the offense is run, and when he begins taking selfish shots instead of making the extra pass, it rubs off on the way his teammates play. Soon, nearly every perimeter player followed suit and it turned into a contest of who could heave up the most poor shot looks. I will give Barea credit for playing the entire game and for not having great playmakers around him, but the fact of the matter is that it is on him to facilitate the offense and to make necessary game time adjustments as they are needed. In the fourth quarter, he should have picked up on the fact that the Wolves were going to need to work for good possessions and swing the ball from side to side, but he remained content with low percentage looks, inevitably leading to their collapse. After the game, Barea explained, “We have a lot of guys that don’t care. On a basketball team, when you have a bunch of guys who don’t care, it’s tough to win games. We’re going to keep getting [losses] here until we get players that care about winning, about the team, about the fans.” A very bold statement from the player that seemed to be the leading cause of the deterioration of the offense, but an accurate one at that. It is no secret that several Pups have had their effort questioned at times (Beasley, Randolph and Darko, to name a few) and it is clear that Barea, fresh off winning the NBA Finals last season in Dallas, is upset at the difference in players demeanor in Minnesota. Yes, the team has too many injuries and the season holds little meaning at this point, but Barea is right to call out his teammates for not giving full effort or pride. To put it simply, the Wolves looked like they did not care the entire second half and did not appear to be broken up by the fact that they blew a 20 point lead to the Warriors for the second time in a row facing them.
After scoring 11 points in the first quarter, Martell Webster disappeared for long stretches of the game and finished with 18 points and 5 rebounds. Webster was aggressive with the ball in the opening period, but became passive and hesitant with the ball in his hands for the remainder of the contest. Wes Johnson played only 22 minutes, scoring 5 points and while attempting his 33rd and 34th free throws of the season, a pathetic statistic for a starting SF.
The bench consisting of Tolliver, Ellington, Beasley, and Williams provided just 18 points in this one. D-Will is playing with no confidence and Beasley looks like he is ready to get out of Minnesota. There was absolutely no execution on the pick-and-roll and this game came down to effort. It is games like these that NBA critics point to in their reasoning for not being sold on the sport; grown men being paid lavish amounts of money to play basketball for a living while not giving their full effort is a shame and a disgrace to this great game.
Photo Credits: Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE