Quick Three-Pointer: Bulled Over
1. The defense restsThe Wolves play again tomorrow at home so I'll be brief tonight. The Wolves yielded 50 points in the paint to a 3-point-shooting team. The Bulls shot 48 percent, and were 36-65 from inside the three-point arc.
The key to Minnesota's success isn't that mysterious. They are 20-10 when they hold their opponent below 45 percent shooting, and 4-22 when they don't. Coach Dwane Casey said he wanted this team to have a defensive identity, and when they were going well, they did. Now the emphasis seems to be on scoring points in transition, which is fun to watch, and may even pay off someday. But the D was painful to watch in Chicago.
The worst offenders (defenders?) tonight were the three starters who are ex-Celtics. Mark Blount looked lost and slow, committing more turnovers than he grabbed rebounds and disappearing in the second half once again, mostly due to foul trouble. Depending on how much you like his game, Ricky Davis was either less selfish or less engaged than he's ever been since arriving a month ago, but in any case had a hell of a time staying with Chicago's squadron of quick, penetrating guards and small forwards. And Marcus Banks has totally confounded the early scouting report on him ever since the Wolves picked him up. The book on Banks was that he defended well but didn't shoot accurately. The opposite again occurred: Banks looked smooth and confident getting his shot, a little less so running the offense, and totally out of sync trying to defend anybody.
2. McCants keeps coming
The rookie had another decent game, going off for 14 points in the second quarter, but, like just about everybody else, his defense took a step back from the acme of the Memphis game. Yet there is no disputing that the guy is a stone delight to watch, so ambidextrous around the hoop and so comfortable in an uptempo offense alongside Banks in the backcourt. A couple weeks back I said that either McCants or Davis needs to be designated a sixth man, a statement that looks wiser all the time (I usually don't resurrect my stupid comments).
3. Premature ejaculation
I probably brought all kinds of porn spam down on this site with that heading, but the past two road games, the Wolves have roared out of the gate and then got wiped out the remainder of the game. Against Washington they at least waited until the second period; tonight, they tossed away a 13-3 lead in 4:26, the time it took Chicago to draw even at 19, and then permanently put Minnesota behind them.
The problem, unfortunately, is perimeter defense. Kirk Hinrich is only the latest backcourt opponent since the Boston trade to utterly roast the Wolves. Because Hinrich is more talented than the Speedy Claxtons, Chucky Atkinses, Demarr Johnsons, and Mike Jameses of the world, he really stuffed the stat sheet, with 30 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and zero turnovers. A blindfolded Sam Cassell couldn't have permitted him more freedom to do whatever he wanted than what the Wolves afforded him.