Last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves rolled over the San Antonio Spurs 106-96, in a game that wasn't really even that close. According to the Spurs' announcing team, It was their first victory over the Spurs since the Garnett era, and certainly not a potential victory that I would have pencilled in on the Schedule.
Here's the Timberwolves' box-score from basketball-reference.com:
Basic Box Score Statistics Starters MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS Kevin Love 43:32 8 15 .533 4 9 .444 4 5 .800 3 12 15 1 3 2 6 2 24 Michael Beasley 43:06 8 15 .533 2 2 1.000 1 2 .500 1 4 5 3 0 1 3 3 19 Luke Ridnour 36:00 7 10 .700 2 3 .667 3 4 .750 0 1 1 9 0 1 3 3 19 Wesley Johnson 29:34 6 6 1.000 2 2 1.000 0 0 0 2 2 1 1 1 2 1 14 Darko Milicic 21:59 5 9 .556 0 0 0 0 1 5 6 1 0 1 0 2 10 Reserves MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS Ricky Rubio 23:41 3 8 .375 0 2 .000 0 0 0 2 2 3 0 1 2 1 6 Anthony Tolliver 23:39 1 3 .333 1 2 .500 2 2 1.000 2 4 6 0 0 0 1 1 5 Derrick Williams 11:44 3 3 1.000 1 1 1.000 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 3 7 Wayne Ellington 6:45 0 2 .000 0 0 2 2 1.000 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 2 Team Totals 240 41 71 .577 12 21 .571 12 15 .800 7 31 38 18 4 7 19 18 106
Interesting, to say the least. I'd never have believed that the Wolves would even be in a game where they committed 19 turnovers and forced 9, and had 11 fewer FGAs and 5 fewer FTs than the Spurs, but this one is a statistical outlier for the ages: Wes Johnson shooting 6-for-6? Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley both above 50%? I feel like I'm in an Inception sequel.
Enjoy this shooting spree while it lasts, folks, because it won't. If the Wolves are going to shock everybody and flirt with .500 ball this season, they will have to take better care of the ball, and that starts with Kevin Love, who had a couple of careless ones, and ends with...well, it probably only ends with reducing the minutes of Darko, Johnson, and Beasley; at this point in their careers, I don't really expect Darko to get new hands, Johnson to develop an ability to dribble against the defense, or Beasley to gain decision-making insight, no matter how much of a genius everyone thinks that Adelman is.
What truly worries me is a trend I see developing with Kevin Love: he bitches with referees in the middle of the play a lot. I counted at least 3 possessions where he didn't get a call, and he looked over at a ref for the call instead of fighting for the loose ball. Once when he was under the basket and thought he was fouled on a shot, he looked to the ref while Toliver fought for the offensive board that was still live. And twice at the top of the key DeJaun Blair slapped the ball out of his hands, and instead of fighting to get it back while the ball was still loose, he looked at the ref and slapped his own hands in frustration.
These are the habits of a frustrated player that's grown accustomed to losing. And they also tend to be the things that only the best player on the team can get away with. Kevin Love is monumentally talented, and by far the best player on the Timberwolves. But he's only 23 and he's certainly prone to doing the same stupid shit that most kids that age do (yes, I'm old enough to call him a kid. Get off my lawn). And it worries me that the Wolves have neither the culture nor the type of veteran player that Love would respect who can get in his face and yell at him and tell him to shut the hell up and play ball.
Because in a sense he's right, he is getting fouled a lot. And he's not getting calls that he should. I joked on twitter that coming into the Mavs game, the refs must have seen that Love led the NBA in FTAs and said "Well, that can't be right!" and decided they were going to put him into his place, because he got hacked a hell of a lot that night and shot two whole free throws. The Mavs only fouled the Timberwolves best player once in 37 minutes? Yeah, right. I'm sure the Mavs were so busy peeing themselves with fear and making sure Wes Johnson and Darko Milicic weren't scoring that they had no energy left over to foul Kevin Love when he caught the ball under the basket.
But in the end that doesn't mean squat. Because bitching at refs during the game is going to accomplish precisely two very counter-productive goals: 1) making the refs think you are a soft whiner, and 2) giving the opponent a free five-on-four for a few seconds. At the end of the day, basketball isn't fair, so get over it. Hustle up and get the ball back. Grip the ball a little harder so you don't lose it when the defender bumps you or slaps your wrist. And you might probably discover that this will get you the calls. Because a ref might not see the first bump, or might not think it's worthy of a call, but defenders tend to push too far; when the ref doesn't call that wrist slap, they get too eager, they push too hard, they commit fouls -- but you've got to be tenacious enough with the ball to make them do it. If you just give up the ball after that first slap, the defender won't have to foul you.
There's probably nothing wrong with some occasional and selective bitching at the refs. Kobe and Wade, who get way more than their fair share of calls, are masters of the "Are you kidding me!?" look when they aren't getting calls. But you know when that is? It's after the ball is dead. I'm fairly certain if Wade gave up on a play early, James would let him have it (and vice versa), and I find it sad that the Timberwolves don't currently have the kind of player who will tell Kevin Love to man up right now.