The Three Pointer: Not Enough Talent

AP Photo/Jim Mone

Game #37, Home Game #18: Golden State 105, Minnesota 98

Season record: 5-32

1. Low IQ. Low skill level. Low chance of winning.

All things being equal, the Minnesota Timberwolves without Randy Foye and Theo Ratliff, opposing the Golden State Warriors on a sub-zero January night having already clearly established themselves as the worst team in the NBA, will lose to the Golden State Warriors.

Well, all things were essentially equal tonight. Al Jefferson and Rashad McCants were off their games a bit, but Antoine Walker emerged from a long slump, Ryan Gomes continued his solid play, and I thought Randy Wittman both coached well and summed up the defeat in a succinct, intelligent fashion from the postgame podium. Or maybe this loss sort of blurs into the other 31 because I’m just not inspired enough to hash out particularly innovative nuggets of wisdom that seem particularly different than the various recaps of so many other games. This wasn’t a special loss in that it was a tough, close encounter or a monster blowout, or that one particular facet of the other team was vitally important or one particular player on the Wolves was the giant goat. So rather than pretend we’re doing depth tonight, let’s just wing it with the impressions and see what happens.

But first, Wittman’s take. Asked about the large disparity in backcourt performance (Monta Ellis and Baron Davis were a combined 39 points, 6 rebounds, 13 assists, 5 steals and 4 turnovers in 73:34, versus Telfair-Jaric being 16-7-11-2-6 in 70:05), Witt rued the decision-making. "We talked before the game about how they are the number one team for turning turnovers into points," he stated, noting that the Wolves coughed the ball up 20 times, costing them a whopping 31 points, 13 more, in a 7-point loss, than Golden State yielded via its 12 turnovers. His troops were committing the kind of turnovers that result in 3-on-1 breaks in transition, Witt lamented, then shrewdly observed that instead of making the extra, safer pass, "we tried to split the seams with our passes" and the seams weren’t there.

Without calling anyone out by name, Wittman cited the dumb inbounds pass McCants made that was stolen by Baron Davis in the last 4 seconds of the third period and transformed into a layup by Matt Barnes just before the buzzer. This concluded a sequence where, after McCants drove for a layup to cut the lead to 10 with 1:08 left in the third, the Warriors scored 7 straight points to bump it to 17 at the conclusion of the quarter. Witt also called out the turnover spree after the Wolves had whittled the lead back down to 4, 96-92, with 4:11 to play. McCants had his shot blocked, Walker committed an offensive foul, and Jaric was called for a carry, a borderline whistle after a series of inept calls that prompted Wittman to earn a technical.

2. The Little Two

Normally the big two, at least in terms of scoring, Jefferson and McCants both had off nights. Shaddy’s was by far the more obvious. On a day when the Strib had spotlighted his inconsistency in a feature piece,he showcased most of his flaws, including the stupid fouls–ladled with an increasing sense of victimization that is at once partially accurate and conveniently overblown in his own mind and emotions–the holding of the ball in the half-court, the silly turnovers, and the sporadic bouts of energy and lethargy. It all amounted to 11 points in 30:12, albeit with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a team-best plus-minus of zero, which only makes the time he is forced to sit on the bench more aggravating. When he grabbed his second foul with 3:23 to play in the first, for instance, the Wolves scored a mere 4 points in the next 5 minutes, turning a one point lead into a 5 point deficit in the process before Walker went on one of his handful of personal mini-runs (he finished with 26 points).

Jefferson had better numbers: 18 points on 7-14 FG, and 14 rebounds, but Wittman didn’t like his lack of aggressiveness looking for his own shot. "Al let them off the hook too much in the first half," said the coach. "No offense to anyone, but if [Al] can get Austin Croshere [guarding him], he’s got to back him down and put it in the basket." Jefferson was a game-worst minus -19, Croshere a game-best plus +17. Actually, Jefferson looked for his own shot more in the first half, when he was 4-10 FG, versus the second half, when, despite 3 offensive rebounds, he only launched 4 shots, making 3. Yes, ‘Toine was rightly the focal point of the offense, but no way Jefferson should be tied with Marko Jaric as the team’s fifth most-frequent shooter in the second half, especially against a paint-challenged squad like Golden State. (For the record, ‘Toine had 9 second half shots, Shaddy and Gomes 7 apiece, and Telfair 6.)

For what it’s worth, Jefferson ducked the media after the game. He follows the now standard custom of not wanting to conduct postgame interviews until he is fully dressed. He came out, put on his pants, then went back into the trainer’s area. A few minutes later, a Wolves’ locker room assistant came out and scooped up the rest of his clothes. Jefferson still hadn’t emerged by the time almost all the media had gone.

3. Quick Hits

‘Toine’s breakout game was his first bout of productivity in weeks. Because both he and Gomes understand how to play the game so thoroughly, they are fun to watch, but recently only Gomes has been able to take what he sees the opponent giving him–‘Toine simply hasn’t executed. But Golden State’s fly by night D has a tendency to heal all slumps. Playing at the power forward slot, ‘Toine already is a natural floor spacer, causing mismatches either on the perimeter on down low and finding the open man or making a team pay for whatever mismatch they choose. Tonight he shot 4-5 FG from down low, especially little turnaround jumpers spinning baseline on the left block, and 3-4 from beyond the arc. Half of his 26 points came in the fourth quarter, when he went 5-5 FG. He also snatched 10 rebounds, second only to Jefferson among all players on both squads. But zero assists, because, as with Jefferson, the Warriors weren’t emphasizing the double team.

Corey Brewer may be hitting the proverbial rookie wall, usually judged to begin slightly before or after the midpoint of the 82 game season. Yes, I know Brewer’s minutes have been cut, but it isn’t the game-time lack of energy so much as the constant practicing, travel, level of competition, and, in Brewer’s case, all the losing. A key point in tonight’s game occurred when Brewer subbed in after McCants’ third foul with 6:13 to play in the second and the score tied. Mickeal Pietrus proceeded to school him for a trey, reverse lay-up and alley oop dunk in the next 1:48, compelling Wittman to utilize a quick hook and bring in Greg Buckner. That followed a desultory first quarter stint where Brewer committed a turnover and a foul in his first 70 seconds of action. For the game he had one missed shot, one assist, one block, three fouls, two turnovers and was a minus -12 in just 8:24 of action.

Asked what happened in the Brewer-Pietrus matchup, Wittman said the difference was "just experience. I would be comfortable putting Corey on him again." But 8:24 proves he was not comfortable with it–and appropriately so–tonight.

The referees were horrible. The worst display was a no-call on a breakaway layup where Stephen Jackson clearly travelled, but there were a bevy of others. McCants and Craig Smith both got jobbed and then had reason to overreact to all the legit fouls called upon them–there is a reason they lead the team in whistle frequency. But what was also telling is McCants getting whistled for pretending like he was going to fling the ball into the stands, a situation where he seemed as mad at himself as at the refs; versus the veteran Walker screaming at them for no calls during a rebounding scrum and getting only a delay of game for tossing
the ball away. The terrible crew: James Capers, Scott Foster, and Tommy Nunez Jr.

While I laughed at Gerald Green running around like a chicken with his head cut off while constantly looking to the bench for instruction on defense, GG went plus +10 during his 8:25 on the court–not coincidentally spent almost entirely with Walker.

Sebastian Telfair is dinged up, perhaps his back. Teammates took turns holding on to his arms and gently lowering him to the floor (instead of a chair) during his times on the sidelines.