The Three-Pointer: Another Gut Check Victory
1. Garnett Dominates
My favorite part was the five blocked shots in a span of 7:45 of the third quarter. The shots were offered up by big dudes like 'Sheed, sneaky quick and slithery smart penetrators like Rip Hamilton, and brave, overmatched souls like Flip Murray, who was housed three times. When your superstar is owning the paint like that, taking out even more trash than he's talking, the superstar's team can shoot 38 percent (5-13 FG), turn the ball over four times in 7:45 against a quality team on the road and still turn a one-point deficit into a three-point lead.
But it wasn't just the blocks. It was the 14 rebounds, the half-dozen dimes versus one turnover in 50 minutes of play (the game went overtime), the bevy of perimeter picks that freed up the jumpers of his teammates, and, oh yeah, the defense that limited Rasheed Wallace to 3 points (1-11 FG) in more than 43 minutes before he fouled out trying to guard Garnett. That was an MVP caliber performance.
2. The Weird and Apparently Wonderful Point Guard Situation
Talk about a match made in heaven: Randy Foye is not even close to being your prototypical ball-movement oriented point guard. But he is playing with the most unselfish superstar in the NBA, who doubles as the best passing power forward in the game. His backcourt mate is another guy who could ring up 5-7 assists a game without much difficulty if the offense ran through him, and who can bail out the rook by getting open against his man almost any time. The swingman has superb court vision, is incredible unselfish, but can nail the open jumper almost any time he's called upon. And the center ranks with Utah's Mehmet Oker as the best outside shooter in the NBA at his position.
Put simply, Randy Foye doesn't have to worry about assuaging egos with any distribution rations, or passing it at the wrong time to the wrong clueless guy. And the one thing he does best--elevate in crunchtime, seize the moment, be the man--is the one thing these other four guys truly desire him to be. Imagine Foye with Cassell, or Szczerbiak, or Marbury, or even Spree. The green lights wouldn't be as bright.
This all could have been Mike James's world. It was supposed to be, at least for a year or two, while Foye found his bearings. I guess now is as good a time as any to give it up to coach Dwane Casey for splitting time so James can start and then almost all of the third period, leaving the substitution-heavy scrum time in the second and the tightrope-walking crunch time of the fourth for Foye. The rook needs both of those stints, one to grow on and one to strut.
Take a look at the box score from today's matinee overtime road win over Detroit. The superstar is your assist leader with 6. Your defensive stopper chimes in next with 5. Your athletic enigma has 4, albeit with 4 turnovers. In all, the half-dozen guys who don't play point guard get 16 assists versus 9 turnovers. Foye and James? A combined 3 assists (2 for Foye) and 8 turnovers (4 apiece).
When Foye drove the lane to win the ballgame in regulation, Antonio McDyess was so sure of where he was headed that he was checking his watch and eating a sandwich before Foye arrived. In overtime, Foye didn't drive. He swished two long bombs (one a trey) and dished to the corner baseline for Blount's gamewinning three-pointer. And in the past couple of games, he's twice dished the ball to Ricky Davis on breakaway layup situations when he could have easily scored himself. No, he's not a point guard--or if he is, he's very, very raw. But he is a leader and right now it is pretty exciting to contemplate what that means.
3. Quick hits.
Having lavished attention on the fine play of Bracey Wright, it is only fair now to point out that Bracey got the worst of it in his matchup with Carlos Defino in the second period.
If there is a Marko Jaric sweepstakes, the trio of Pistons potentially involved certainly whet the appetite of Wolves fans everywhere. McDyess nailed 8-10 FG, almost all midrange jumpers per the Flip Saunders method, and played staunch defense throughout today. Dale Davis stood up Blount and KG on a pair of possessions in the first half that indicates he's still got the trunk of a stolid post defender. And Nazr Muhammed had his moments, including a nice offensive board and fadeaway J near the foul line. Again, all would be acceptable for Jaric, less because Marko is deficient--he's not, actually--but because less is more when you're unclogging the swingman glut, and because it would be nice to have another big man for the paint wars down the stretch.
Last but certainly not least, Trenton Hassell made all but one of eight shots, grabbed 8 offensive rebounds, meted out five assists, and held Tayshaun Prince to 40 percent from the field (6-15 FG). Do the Wolves win this game without him? They're not even close.