Timberwolves rise again
The best basketball player in the Target Center on Wednesday night was reclining in the fifth row, pizza and fries on her plate and a baby in her tummy. That player, of course, was Candace Parker, WNBA MVP and Rookie of the Year and child bride of the Wolves' lumbering Shelden Williams. On another night, such a star sighting might have been a welcome break from the pain of another Wolves loss. But on this night, friends, the gloom lifted.
The Pale Kings
For a long time I had planned to write about the Wolves' amazing garbage time crew--the spectacular mess of gangly playground madness and whitebread stolidity that took over when Carney, Madsen and Cardinal took the floor together, playing out the string at the end of a lopsided loss. But then, at some point, the shroud of garbage time began, for better and worse, to envelop everything the Wolves touched.
At its best, this led to entertainingly unstable showings, like the high velocity/low structure wins in New York and Indiana. For much of the time though, especially after Al Jefferson got hurt, the result has been a creeping sense of futility and irrelevance. And now that Rashad McCants is gone and Carney and Cardinal get meaningful burn, the timekilling minutes have gone to Shelden Williams and Bobby Brown--much less fun.
So it was a relief for the Wolves to feel competent (and to actually enjoy themselves) for once, even if it was at the expense of a team even more disheartened and lackluster than themselves. O.J. Mayo still looks beautifully fluid and still when he shoots the ball, but in almost every other way, Memphis was pretty lifeless.
Despite their serious size advantage, with Marc Gasol and the unhinged Darko Milicic, the Grizzlies rebounded really poorly (the Wolves outboarded them 48-28). Besides a brief period feeding the very slow Gasol, who was being guarded by the even slower Jason Collins, their offense mainly consisted of contested jumpers by Mayo and Rudy Gay. And they didn't put much effort into interfering with the Wolves' motion offense; Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Mike Miller (who finally, miraculously, chose to shoot the ball--don't expect it to continue when Randy Foye gets back) and Craig Smith all got clean looks at the basket and all shot over 50%.
Cardinal, my new best friend, even managed, in a blessedly loose period when the game was out of reach for the Grizzlies, to rain some threes. His shooting barrage drew genuine, cathartic celebration from his buddies on the bench. For once, they didn't have to look on blank-faced as the opponent put their mechanical finishing touches on a humdrum win. For once, they didn't have try to muster up some convincing explanation for their mediocre showing--other than the painful fact that they just aren't very good. Like I said, a relief.