One big complaint about tonight's game was most certainly the officiating. It was uneven and their were a lot of missed calls and just WRONG calls. Blake Griffin & Chris Paul got away with some pretty obvious flops (if Paul isn't fined for at least one of them, the suits in the NBA are just wrong!). Referee Joey Crawford (who TWolves play-by-play man Jim Pete likes) continues to try to be the center of attention. Some think he just has a big personality and makes the game more colorful. In my opinion a good referee is one you don't even notice and you can't help but catch Crawford's antics and terrible calls.
Kevin Love said himself in a post-game interview that the Wolves weren't getting the calls, but they battled through them and gave themselves a chance at the end. That they certainly did. The Wolves found themselves down 89-100 with 5:13 to play, but went on a 10-1 run over the following two minutes to cut it to 99-101 before Paul hit an 11-foot mid-range jumper out of a Clippers timeout. A big part of that 10-1 run was Adelman's call to go to the "Hack-A-" strategy. It's something we've seen against Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, DeAndre Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, etc. Basically making coaches pay for keeping their poor free throw shooters on the court down the stretch. DeAndre Jordan missed four-straight free throws over that stretch and then Clippers coach Doc Rivers inserted former TWolf Ryan Hollins who the Wolves still fouled (he went 1-of-2). It wasn't just the Hack-a-Jordan/Hollins strategy, but also some stingy defense that also forced two turnovers for run-out fast break buckets from (who else) Brewer & Martin.
The Wolves gave themselves a chance at the end and despite the loss, you can continue to take solace in the fact that there isn't a whole lot of quit in this Timberwolves squad--they've definitely showed that in more than one game this season and tonight was most certainly another example. In year's past if the Wolves found themselves down by double digits with under 4-5 minutes to go in the fourth, they'd roll over and die. We haven't seen that this year and with Rubio, Love & Martin the clear leaders on this team...I don't think you will!
There were three keys I talked about in the preview for this one. The first was the fact that the Wolves needed to get Nikola Pekovic going. I honestly didn't think it would happen tonight against one of the NBA's best interior defenders, but Pek had, undoubtedly his best game of the season against DeAndre Jordan & the Clippers. He finished with 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and with his late offensive rebound he also finished with 10 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. I knew it was a matter of time before Peković broke out of his slump and contributed, now the key will be building off of it on Wednesday vs. the Cavaliers.
The second key was the fact that the Wolves HAD to get something from J.J. Barea and that bench unit. J.J. responded to my plea with 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting. Every time the Clippers went on a run and pushed the lead to double digits J.J. was on the floor leading the team. He's looked REALLY, REALLY bad this season. I don't have as much confidence in him as I did with Pek & his struggles. J.J. is a very hot/cold player. One night he'll give you 20 efficient points and 7 assists--just does everything right and then the following night he hits one shot for a couple points and his inabilities on the defensive end shine bright (Darren Collison shined the light on J.J.'s bad D tonight). I've always said that J.J. Barea is a decent defender and I think the better word to describe his D is pesky. He's a pesky defender, he draws those offensive fouls and he gets under opponents' skins.
The third was Defense leading to Offense. I knew coming in that both of these teams are offensive juggernauts capable of scoring 120+ any given night and both teams are also very good at turning turnovers and missed shots into quick layups and easy buckets at the other end. The key would be whichever team's defense could get the stops. In truth, it was stretches of that kind of play for each team. For four or five possessions the Wolves would look out of sorts on the offensive end and their missed shots and turnovers led to run-outs for easy dunks and layups for the Clippers. Then, a couple minutes later the tables would turn and it would be Kevin Love chucking one of his now famous outlet passes or Rubio running the break with Martin & Brewer flanking him on either side, which would end in easy baskets.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
- The bench is B-A-D. They were outscored 17-40. J.J. Barea & Alexey Shved combined to shoot 1-for-11 from the field and 1-for-4 from deep. J.J.'s +/- was a game-worst -12. At some point you hope that these guys can get on track, but if they can't will Adelman make the necessary changes and give guys like A.J. Price or rookies Shabazz Muhammad/Robbie Hummel a chance?
- The Wolves dominated on the offensive glass with a +10, nearly tripling the number by LAC.
- Minnesota's 25 fouls are a new season-high. Los Angeles' 17 fouls is tied for the second-lowest by a TWolves opponent this season. The Wolves shot a season-low 18 free throws. The Clippers shot a season-high (for a Wolves opponent) 28 free throws. Granted, some of those came on the "Hack-A-" strategy (three to be exact), but it's an indication of a game where the officiating was 'suspect'. There WERE some bad calls on both ends, but if you watched the game, you know more often than not that the Wolves got the short end of the stick tonight.
- Ultimately, when you let a team shoot 55% from the field, you're going to have a tough time pulling out the W.
Some other Misc. Notes...
- Gorgui Dieng went 2-for-2 from the field as he converted his first two NBA field goals. The first a short bunny shot and the other a dunk off a drop-off pass from Barea.
- Kevin Love has now made four threes in two-straight games. His 14 defensive rebounds and 19 total rebounds are season-highs.
- Pekovic's 25 points, 11 field goals made and 15 field goals attempted are all season-highs. His 2 steals also ties a season-high (second time).
- The Timberwolves made a season-high 11 three-pointers and attempted a season-high 29 three-pointers.
- There are some other team & players' season-highs, but those are some of the main ones.
That's all for now. The Timberwolves will return to Minneapolis tomorrow, they'll take on the Cleveland Cavaliers back at the Target Center on Wednesday as they look to avenge the one-point loss they suffered to them a week ago (stay tuned for a preview of that game), until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!