The Three-Pointer: Confidence Growing
1. Eddie Griffin on the block
Anyone who watched EG play last season, especially the synergy he developed with Kevin Garnett, knew that when the Wolves signed him for a measly $5.2 million over the next two years it was a steal. Tonight Griffin was the X factor, registering 8 blocks and 11 boards in less than 28 minutes of play. He also rang up 14 points, courtesy of a perfect 6-6 from the field inside the three-point arc, and 6-9 overall. Furthermore, Griffin is the type of player who elevates his game at crunch time. No player in Wolves history has enjoyed a better month of shot-blocking than Eddie has put together to begin this season, providing the Wolves with a whole new dimension in the low block.
I'll have more on Griffin in a Hang Time to be published either late Tuesday or early Wednesday at the regular citypages.com website home.
2. Denying the long ball
One of the things Coach Casey has preached from the first day of training camp is a need to defend the three-point shot. The Wolves entered the Utah game second in the NBA (to Golden State) in lowest 3-point percentage by opponents and proceeded to limit the Jazz to just one make in ten attempts from behind the arc. This, by the way, might also explain the significant drop-off in the team's defensive rebounding totals and percentages.
3. A rotation is emerging
There may always be slight wrinkles in Casey's substitution patterns, like the recent early insertions of Dupree to spell Hassell, but a fairly predictible player rotation has begun to emerge and it has been boosted the club's confidence and rhythm.
The starting five has never varied: KG, Szczerbiak, Kandi, Jaric, and Hassell. The crunch time quintet is comprised of Hudson and Jaric in the backcourt, with Eddie, KG and Wally up front. Filler time is late first period through much of the second quarter, when McCants, Madsen, Dupree, and even Frahm are likely to get most of their minutes. Everything is complicated by fouls and matchups, of course, but Casey obviously trusts Griffin and Hudson at the expense of Kandi and Hassell when it matters most. So far that has been rewarded. In any case, when Wally is hitting his shot, the Wolves are proving to be a very tough 4th quarter ballclub.
Tonight's game against Utah was their third improvement in a row. It will be interesting to see how good this crew is when they start facing a steady diet of quality competition later in the month.