Randy Foye starts from now on. Period.
By Stephen Litel
It seemed too easy for the Timberwolves. Win this game and hold the tiebreaker with both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors for the eighth and final playoff spot. Yet, one of the final nails was slammed into the Wolves coffin last night. This game was over at the tip: when Tom Hanneman announced the Troy Hudson was starting, it was clear that Coach Wittman had not learned anything from Tuesday's win over Indiana.
I do not have the same amount of issues with Troy Hudson as most, as I have noticed his ability to move the ball and bring tempo to the offense. However, in a game against a high tempo team such as Golden State, good ol' T-Hud comes shining through, making poor decisions and jacking up bad shots.
Not to mention, that after the Indiana win, Coach Wittman stated that the starting lineup would now be determined by match-ups. Ok, that is fair enough, I guess. Although a Randy Foye/Baron Davis match-up still favors Golden State, is it not better than a Troy Hudson/Baron Davis mismatch?
From the very beginning of the game, Hudson accomplished exactly what Wittman wanted out of him. There was a quicker pace to the game than we are accustomed to seeing from Minnesota, but the problem was that it still led to jump shots, rather then any sort of aggressive play. Kevin Garnett himself was in on the jump shooting barrage of bricks, not taking advantage of his clear advantage over Andris Biedrins. This led to a 0-7 shooting start.
When Foye finally enters the game with Minnesota trailing 11-19—lucky to be down only eight points—he immediately changed the flow of the game. The first offensive possession with Foye on the court brings a jump shot from Foye after driving into the paint. The next trip down puts his head down, drives to the hoop, is fouled by Monta Ellis and hits both free throws.
The problem Minnesota currently faces is that the best team they can put on the floor (Foye, McCants, Jaric, Smith, and Garnett) includes players who play best by playing off Garnett. Therefore, when Garnett sits, any positives that each of these individuals bring to the table disappear. With Garnett on the bench, Golden State went on a 16-7 run lead by Mickael Pietrus. Just when Minnesota began to play some decent basketball, again led by the young players, their anchor took his needed rest and it all went to hell.
Does Randy Wittman realize that he can start different players in the second half? Apparently not, as Troy Hudson and Mark Blount returned for another stint of losing basketball.
Finally inserting Foye and Smith for Hudson and Blount as the Wolves were trailing 50-72, Wittman put his rookies into a situation where they could not succeed. This seems to be a trend that gives Wittman the ammunition he needs to continue to play the veterans at the expense of this year's playoff chances and for the development of the younger players. It was obvious that the rookie was trying to become Fourth Quarter Foye again, but because of the situation he was placed in by his coach, he was pressing and making rookie mistakes.
On two consecutive possessions, Foye made bad plays. The first was a fast break where Foye dishes the ball to Craig Smith at the free throw line, a cardinal sin for a point guard. Unless that player is someone such as Kevin Garnett or Amare Stoudamire, big men should not receive the ball that far from the hoop on the fast break. The next trip down, Foye again tries to force the action, leading to Al Harrington drawing a charge from the rook.
Admirable of Foye to try to change things up and make things happen, but his coach did not allow him the court time when he could have been more relaxed.
It seems to me that when the Wolves face the Lakers on Sunday, a matchup of Randy Foye/Smush Parker to start the game would favor Minnesota. Hopefully Coach Wittman is finally able to see the same thing.
By Stephen Litel