April 21, 2018, 5:16 pm
It doesn’t feel quite right that the Wolves have been among the worst offensive teams this postseason, after ranking near the top all season long in most offensive categories. With an offensive rating of just 95.5 (95.5 points per 100 possessions), the Wolves are dead last among the 16 playoff teams.
In the regular season the Wolves’ offensive rating was fourth best at 110.8, per NBA.com. No team had an offensive rating below 100 this season, a feat that’s only happened two other times since they’ve started tracking it in the 90s. Those happened in 2006-07, and last season. Offense is up across the league (shocking, I know) and the Wolves are among the best in the league.
Making things even more perplexing is the Wolves’ defense that’s holding the Rockets to just 103 points per game. The Wolves defensive rating of 103.9 is significantly stronger in the playoffs than it was in the regular season, where their 108.4 mark was 22nd worst in the league.
The Rockets were among the strongest offenses in the NBA this season and a Wolves’ defense that struggled all season long has found a gear we didn’t know they had. Suffice to say the path through this series hasn’t exactly gone to plan, but it has still ended up where most expected to be.
The Rockets carry a 2-0 series lead on the Wolves as the teams head to Minneapolis, a city that’s hosting the first NBA playoff basketball game since 2004. The fans aren’t unaccustomed to playoff basketball, though. The city is still celebrating the deep playoff run from the Minnesota Lynx that resulted in a WNBA Championship, their fourth in the last decade.
Minnesota fans know playoff basketball as the Lynx have made seven consecutive playoff appearances, and they’ll be eager to show the Wolves what they’re expectations are.
The Wolves aren’t nearly ready to compete with the dynastic history of the Lynx just yet, but they’ll look to salvage their series with the Rockets, or at least pull off a victory for the home crowd and send this series back to Houston.
As of now the biggest hurdle is the offense, so for a team that powered through the regular season with a top-four offense it should be a simple turnaround (ideally). Nothing will be that simple, though.
In Game 1 the problem was the Wolves weren’t able to feature Karl-Anthony Towns enough, for a mixture of reasons. The Wolves didn’t adjust much for Game 2, but made a concerted effort to involved Towns more often. Perhaps they focused on him too much and telegraphed their intentions.
The Wolves typically don’t have an offense that flows in any sort of consistent manner. In fact it’s typically disjointed and gets by on pure talent and will, but there is a semblance of a plan there through all of the junk. In Game 2 it seemed the Wolves were too focused on one part of the plan.
The Rockets were forcing the ball away from Jimmy Butler and pushing Towns away from his spots, but took too much time in trying to get them the ball instead of moving on and running a play or a pick-and-roll or some last-second offense. They came out of the first quarter strong with nice set plays, but seemingly lost cause after the Rockets adjusted (or ran out of plays).
After shying away from the things they did so well in the regular season, they tried to force them too much. The truth always lied somewhere in the middle, a balance between the two. Adjusting to the adjustments, while avoiding the desire to over-correct.
The Wolves have also been uncharacteristically sloppy in areas they are normally strong in. Their shots to the rim haven’t been falling, shooting just 57.7 percent (a mark that would rank dead last in the regular season) compared to the 66 percent mark they hit over their first 82 games. They’re also shooting just 36.6 percent in the paint, compared to 44.8 in the regular season.
On top of that, they’re turning the ball over 15 times per game which has led to 15 points per game off of turnovers (compared to just 5.5 points for the Rockets). In the regular season the Wolves were among the best in taking care of the ball, which was necessary to give their defense a chance, but also fueled their offensive success.
Credit is certainly due to the Rockets. They have responded to the Wolves’ every attack with their own counter, and they host a talented (overlooked) defense. The Wolves, and Tom Thibodeau specifically, are notoriously slow to make adjustments, though, and that has to change here in Game 3.
That means getting KAT, who averaged nine shots in the first two games, going on offense, but sticking to the strengths as a team. Attacking the paint and getting to the free throw line. Avoiding the sloppiness that has plagued the team through two games.
Back on the home floor, where the Wolves’ offense in the regular season was even more potent and in front of a full crowd of hyped up fans ready to cheer away 14 years of waiting, the team is seeking for answers on offense. Their best course may be to look back, remember what made them so effective in the regular season. Their offense is what got them to this point, and it’s what will give them a win against Houston.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Chris Paul – PG
James Harden – SG
Trevor Ariza – SF
P.J. Tucker – PF
Jimmy Butler (wrist) – PROBABLE
Justin Patton (foot) – OUT
Ryan Anderson (ankle) – PROBABLE
Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder) – OUT
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
When: 6:30 CT
How: Fox Sports North and ESPN
April 24, 2019, 9:56 amIvan Rabb - F - Memphis Grizzlies
Ivan Rabb plans to spend much of his offseason in the weight room as he tries to bulk up and show that he has NBA-level defense to pair with his expanding offensive game.
For all the charm of Rabb's smooth offensive repertoire, he knows his defense needs to improve. It was especially evident in an April 3 loss at Portland when Enes Kanter torched Rabb and the Grizzlies in the post for 21 points and 15 rebounds. Rabb posted almost identical statistics this season to those he posted in 36 games as a rookie, but the second-year post player knocked down 37 percent of his 3-pointers in the G League, showing a comfort level from beyond the arc previously missing from his game. Rabb's deal is non-guaranteed, so the Grizzlies could move on from him if they want but he is only 22 years old and has shown enough potential to likely warrant another season at the relatively low price tag of $1.6 million. Keep him in your radar as he might have an important role next season in what might be a rebuilding year for the Grizzlies.
Source: Memphis Commercial Appeal
April 24, 2019, 9:41 amClint Capela - C - Houston Rockets
The Rockets hope that Clint Capela has benefited from two more days of treatment for the virus that has sapped his energy through much of their first-round matchup against the Jazz.
Since opening the series with 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting, Capela has averaged just 7.3 points on 47.4 percent over the past three games. He was 1-of-6 with seven rebounds on Monday while the Rockets got outscored by 20 points when he was on the floor. "He's trying to battle through it," Mike D'Antoni said. "I think he's been great because he's been able to play. Each day that passes, the virus passes and he'll feel better. Hopefully next game, he's back to almost 100 percent.” The Rockets will try to close out the series on Wednesday night in Houston and they are going to need their starting center to show some signs of life.
Source: Houston Chronicle
April 24, 2019, 9:04 amJason Kidd - Team - Los Angeles Lakers
Bill Plaschke of the LA Times is reporting that the Lakers interviewed Jason Kidd only as a favor to his agent, Jeff Schwartz, who is also the agent for Lakers forward Brandon Ingram.
Kidd doesn’t really seem to have a chance at the gig and the fact that he lobbied for the job even while Luke Walton held it is a tremendously bad look for the former All-Star guard. Jeannie Buss looks like she has no plans, at least not yet, to support current GM Rob Pelinka with bright, young personnel as he instead is being assisted in this coaching search by Kurt Rambis. The Lakers continue to target Monty Williams, Ty Lue and Juwan Howard and the list doesn’t seem likely to expand.
Source: LA Times
April 24, 2019, 8:51 amEnes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers
Enes Kanter suffered a separated left shoulder in the first quarter of Game 5 on Tuesday night, but he received an injection at halftime and gutted his way through despite clearly being pain at times.
“I just tried to play through it," Kanter said afterward. "We'll see what happens in the future." The Blazers will have at least through Saturday off as they await the winner of the Nuggets-Spurs series. Kanter’s teammates and coaches were impressed with his ability to play with pain but this looks like a serious injury and it remains to be seen if the Turkish big will be forced to miss any time.
April 24, 2019, 2:18 amDamian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard put up an instant classic performance featuring a game-winning deep three, 10 total triples and a 50-spot in Tuesday's 118-115 closeout win over the Thunder in Portland.
Lillard started off Game 5 with 34 first-half points while playing all 24 minutes. He finished with seven boards, six dimes, three steals and a block while shooting 17-for-33 from the field and 6-for-8 from the line. Despite a big second-half Thunder run, Lillard kept it going all the way until the buzzer as his shot from near the logo fell, giving him an even 50 and a series win as he waived goodbye to the Thunder.
April 24, 2019, 2:08 amCJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum put up 17 points (8-of-19 FGs), two rebounds, two assists, one triple and two blocks in 32 minutes in Tuesday's closeout win over the Thunder.
McCollum sat a little more than usual in the first half after getting his third foul early, though he also ended with three fouls in another example of why coaches should just leave players in until they get their fourth or fifth. McCollum had been on fire in this series, averaging over 26 points per game coming into tonight's game. He and the Blazers now wait to see if they'll get the Nuggets or the Spurs in the next round.
April 24, 2019, 1:55 amEnes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers
Enes Kanter toughed out a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double over 32 minutes in Tuesday's Game 5 victory over the Thunder.
Kanter also had four assists and a block while shooting 6-for-9 from the floor tonight. He got pretty banged up in the first half, injuring his shoulder which was heavily wrapped after the game. Kanter averaged over 13 points and 10 rebounds in under 30 minutes for the series and he looks like one of the best mid-season signings in the league at this point.
April 24, 2019, 1:48 amMaurice Harkless - F - Trail Blazers
Maurice Harkless had 17 points on just nine shots with seven rebounds, an assist and a steal in 33 minutes on Tuesday vs. the Thunder.
It's not wise to rely on Harkless, but he can be the wildcard the Blazers need every few games. After closing out the Thunder tonight, they'll await the winner of the Spurs and Nuggets series.
April 24, 2019, 1:37 amPaul George - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Paul George had a huge game with 36 points (14-of-20 FGs, 5-of-8 FTs), nine rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers in Tuesday's 118-115 road loss to the Blazers.
George was feeling it early, making his first five shots. He battled through first-half foul trouble and likely some lingering pain from his injury. But it wasn't quite enough as Damian Lillard out-played him in this one to end the series in Portland.
April 24, 2019, 1:30 amRussell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook put up one final triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists as the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs by the Blazers on Tuesday.
Aside from making all three of his free throws, it was a microcosm of Westbrook's season. He shot just 11-of-31 (4-of-11 from three) and had four steals, two blocks and five turnovers in 45 minutes. There's no better value if you're looking to punt three categories next season.