On Monday, I took the opportunity to attend what is likely to be the only Timberwolves game I get to attend this year or most years. The Timberwolves took on the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. I went with my brother’s girlfriend. I know that sort of thing is normally frowned upon, but it’s not what you think! – he couldn’t make it and she is a big Cavs fan and was gracious enough to join me. I expected a close game. What the crowd consisting of 99.5% Cavs fans was instead treated to was a blowout through three quarters. To the Wolves’ credit, though, they somehow battled back and brought the game within one point on a Kevin Love lay-up with 38 seconds remaining. As they clawed their way back, I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. The Wolves’ field goal percentage hovered around 32% for most of the game and they played really, really suspect defense but they somehow found themselves knocking on the door as the game neared its conclusion. After Love’s lay-up, Kyrie Irving missed a jumper on the other end with 15 seconds remaining and Kevin Martin rebounded the ball. That set up a frenetic final possession for the Wolves which saw Barea dribble around awkwardly for most of the final 15 seconds, almost lose the handle and finally offload the ball to Love in the corner. Love created some space and took a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left, which clanked off of the back rim. Was I disappointed? Of course I was disappointed. But honestly, I didn’t feel like the Wolves deserved to win that game. I, like most fans, will take a win any way I can get it. I also strongly believe in the saying “may the best man (or in this case team) win.” And the Cavs were definitely the best team that night. They deserved it. While there were some solid individual performances for the Wolves (Martin, Brewer to some extent), there were also some pretty lackluster performances (Rubio, Pek and Love, if only because we expect All-Star caliber performances out of Love).
Since this game was played two days ago and everyone has already had a chance to read the AP recap and peruse the box score, I’m going to share my thoughts and feelings from an overall fan experience perspective as well as things that stood out to me rather than give the stats a lot of focus.
Things to Note
– There were not many Wolves fans in attendance. This is likely a surprise to no one. It was a little bit hard to pick out the Wolves fans that were in attendance because we didn’t have much to cheer about for three quarters. I spotted at least one guy in a Timberwolves hat, a couple wearing Rubio and Garnett jerseys and walked past a guy wearing a Timberwolves t-shirt during halftime. I tried to connect with him in passing on our mutual love for the T-Wolves, but he wasn’t having it. Must’ve been fuming over the T-Wolves poor performance in the first half.
– The pre-game video sequence and introductions are pretty excellent at the Q. Even though I’m not a Cavs fan, they got me pumped up and excited for the game. You can’t beat the pyrotechnics – they were pretty intense. You can actually feel the heat from your seat.
– The Wolves rely too much on three point shooting. Not only that, but players that shouldn’t be taking very many three point shots (Brewer, Rubio) were taking them. Brewer took four and Rubio took three. All were misses. Love took and missed seven. I’m normally fine with him taking a lot of threes because he is a good three point shooter, but on what was clearly an off-night for him, he should have taken less. The Wolves combined for 28 three-pointers and Martin was the only player to make any of his attempts (he made five) – yikes! Let’s hope this was more of an exception than the rule.
-The Wolves are going to struggle defensively. This is also news to almost no one, but it’s even more apparent in person. Though the Wolves “held” the Cavs to 93 points and the Cavs only shot 45% from the field, the Cavs got a ton of penetration and when they weren’t scoring inside, they were kicking the ball out to shooters for open three point looks. A little bit better offensive team would have taken much better advantage.
-The strengths of the Wolves are their ability to get to the line often, get extra possessions through steals and get a lot of easy looks inside with a dozen or so threes sprinkled in. They need to remember that and avoid falling in love with the three point shot. With Martin, they have one excellent three point shooters. Every other player outside of Love, Barea and the currently sidelined Budinger is pretty marginal.
All in all, I had a good experience even though the Wolves lost. I enjoyed myself and like most other Wolves fans, have plenty of optimism and hope for a successful season. I hope the Wolves can build off of their poor performance and their performance that night as a whole was a bit of an aberration. The Wolves take on the Warriors tonight, and I will definitely be tuning in to see how the Wolves respond. Warriors – come out and play!