The Three-Pointer: Season Opener
After most Wolves' games, I'll pick three points to riff on for as long or as little as I feel like it. In the wake of the Wolves' 90-86 victory over Portland to kick off the 2005-06 season, the topics are Jaric-KG, Casey-McCants, and Miles-NBA All Star Game.
1. Jaric and KG
Coming out for the second half, the Wolves set up Kevin Garnett in the high post and either cut point guard Marko Jaric toward the hoop or had them improvise on potential pick and rolls. In the space of four minutes and nine seconds, Jaric and Garnett assisted on each other's baskets five times, bumping a three-point lead up to nine.
The Clippers blew a lot of ballgames in the 4th quarter last year. When ex-Clipper Jaric gift-wrapped a couple of Portland layups with errant passes that helped whittle the Wolves lead from 7 to 1 with less than three minutes to play againt Portland, the potential deja vu of it all must have been playing a tune on his self-confidence. But in the huddle, Wally Szczerbiak told everybody to keep it simple and get the ball to KG. Garnett canned an outside jumper from just inside the three-point line with 55 seconds to play, and nailed a baby hook over the arms of seven-footer Joel Przybilla 16 seconds later. That was the margin of victory.
Coach Dwane Casey said flat-out that those turnovers "broke our back." But the Wolves limped to victory regardless. Jaric has never had a lifesaver like Garnett for a teammate. What that will do for his confidence over the course of a year is exciting to contemplate. Fools talk about how much KG will miss Sam Cassell. Sam Cassell is really going to miss Kevin Garnett. Meanwhile, Jaric and Anthony Carter provided what may have been the most consistent display of quality perimeter defense out of the point guard slot in Timberwolves history (which unfortunately damns the franchise with faint praise). Garnett will grow to enjoy having this big 6-7 European galoot around.
2. Casey and McCants
In his first-ever victory as a head coach, Dwane Casey gave cocky rookie Rashad McCants enough rope to hang himself three or four times over in the third quarter. McCants kept missing and the Wolves once-huge lead kept shrinking. But the coach wouldn't pull the kid. Nor, in his postgame comments, would he blame him for all those shots. Instead, Casey revealed that he told McCants not to worry so much about his defense that his offensive game suffered. Giving a kid with tons of ability and tons of immaturity the room to start realizing and regulating his own arrogance is a gutsy play by the new honcho. McCants hung himself three times. Casey unwound the rope and told him to keep lassooing.
3. Darius Miles and the NBA All Star Game
Come February, I expect that Miles will selected to his first all star team. He absolutely bedeviled the Wolves last night for 32 points, 11 boards, 5 assists, 5 steals (I counted at least 7) and 3 blocks. He's got the right coach in Nate McMillan, someone who will utilize his length and provide tough love to strengthen his D. Over the summer, it looks like Miles has added an outside jumper. And he just turned 24 last month. Don't know whether he'll be merely a star, or a superstar. But if there's any justice, he'll be an all star at small forward for the western conference in 2006.