Copyright 2008 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Game #51, Home Game #26: LA Lakers 117, Minnesota 92
Season record: 10-41
1. Every Position
Coach Randy Wittman was fairly nonchalant after his team got pasted by 25 points in a game that wasn’t even *that* close. But nobody could, or did, blame him, really: It was hard to tell how badly or well the Wolves had played because the Lakers looked like supermen. "This is a team playing extremely well," Wittman understated with a shrug. "We had a hard time matching up with them at every position."
Every one. Al Jefferson played well; Pau Gausol was just a little more efficient, getting his 19 points on 9-11 FG while Jefferson was 9-18 FG. Jefferson had two assists but only one block; Gausol had nada dimes by a trio of rejections. It was at best a wash, with both ensconced on the bench for an entire 4th quarter of garbage time that found 14th man Coby Karl going up for not one but two alley-oops–Bostjan Nachbar envy, no doubt.
Randy Foye took advantage of the blowout to do what he does regardless of the score: jack up shots. He had 16 of them in 28:43, giving him 75 heaves in 182 minutes. Four players on the team shoot more frequently. Jefferson is first, and justifiably so, given that he has 206 offensive rebounds and all those immediately chances for putbacks. McCants is second, and justifiably so, given that he’s the team’s most explosive and accurate perimeter shooter. The other two are clueless and past-his-prime, Gerald Green and Antoine Walker, and this, sad to say, is Foye’s current neighborhood. His 34.7% shooting is between Green’s 33.1% and Walker’s 36.6%; throw in Corey Brewer’s 35.4% and Sebastian Telfair’s 39.3% and the Wolves have already logged well over 4,000 minutes of playing time for sub-40% shooters thus far this year and we didn’t even pile on with Greg Buckner or Mark Madsen.
We are supposed to be patient with Foye. Fine. If he is having trouble shooting and having trouble defending, what about a little court vision? Well, he still has more turnovers than assists and the Lakers trapped him into difficulty a handful of times last night. What? Are you sure he’s only been back 8 games? Well, okay, but if the performance curve doesn’t start to rise soon, I’m going to start pointing out that McCants, coming off microfracture surgery, had a better 2007 than Foye’s 2008 thus far.
I can tell I’m unfairly impatient with Foye–who was 3 assists/1 turnover the other night although totally stymied by the trap–because with the possible exception of Jefferson, *nobody* on the Wolves had a good game. Corey Brewer had four steals but was absolutely abused by Kobe–who was psychologically playing for Brewer’s mindset in 2010-11 as much as this season, backing him down whenever he felt like it or simply driving past him. Too strong, too quick. And Kobe had an off night.
Ryan Gomes continued his recent series of disappearing acts, and was on the floor for the Lakers’ 39-point third quarter. Jaric and Telfair were a combined 3-11 FG. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom had a casual triple-double of 10 points, 16 board and 10 assists.
More fun facts: The Wolves and Lakers each had 93 shot attempts, but the similarity ends there as LA not only had seven more field goals but 10 more makes at the line, owing to the foul disparity–the Wolves committed 27, the Lakers 11, and while some of those whistles were Kobe worship (he was 13-13 FTs) more of it was a slower, smaller team trying to hold on, and hack, for dear life. due to the garbage time drought of just 18 4th quarter points after registering 99 in the first three, the Lakers finished with just 29 assists, the smallest total for a Wolves opponent in the past three games. No wonder everyone at Target Center–coaches, players, fans, media–were ready to get the hell out of there and flake out until next week. All except the Lakersm of course, who just finished a 7-2 road trip on ultracruise, an inordinately talented, confident and happy team that can play big, play small, play pretty or play gritty; a team that has caused Phoenix and Dallas to blow up their squads beyond all reason (Devean George apparently may save Dallas); a team that will give the Spurs all it can handle should we be lucky enough to see those teams fulfill their potentials and meet in the conference finals.
Which brings me to my fly-by-night "midseason honors."
2. Midseason honors
Best in the East
C Dwight Howard
PF Kevin Garnett
SF LeBron James
SG Paul Pierce (I know he’s a 3, but he can play here)
PG Chauncey Billups (Yes, over Kidd. Billups shoots 45.3% to Kidd’s 36.7%, turns the ball over less than half as much, and plays better D. That overcomes Kidd’s extra 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. So does the extra 16 wins Detroit has over NJ. Oh, and Calderon is on the second team ahead of Kidd.)
Best in the West
C Tyson Chandler (Way better than overrated Yao and no-D Amare)
PF Tim Duncan (The toughest call, over Boozer)
SF Carmelo Anthony
SG Kobe Bryant
PG Steve Nash (But in the playoffs give me Deron Williams. And I’m damning Chris Paul with faint praise by mentioning him only now.)
Rookie of the Year: Sean Williams of New Jersey is the best rookie I’ve seen.
Most Improved: Lamarcus Aldridge, with Chris Kaman second.
Coach of the Year: Phil Jackson
GM of the Year: Mitch Kupchak
6th Man: Manu
3. Silver Lining
Because I’ll be cross country skiing all weekend and letting the board run amok, here’s some red meat to chew on. I just read somewhere, think it was the wonderful True Hoop about three days ago, that the Wolves have three of the top 31 draft picks if the standings were to hold firm. That includes a stud at #2 and a chance for a lucky hit at #30 and #31. My opinion of the Wolves’ top needs:
1) A center who plays stalwart D
2) A dynamic small forward who can get his own shot and play uptempo or half court
3) An aggressive but pure point guard
See you next week.