Wolves at Heat: Wittman Blew It
by Stephen A. Litel
As the Timberwolves travel to Miami to take on Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat, I travel over to City Pages to bring you a different look at your team. My name is Stephen Litel and for those of you who have not run across my work before, I prefer to focus on the story behind the story. Any of us can look at the box scores from each game and read the AP recaps and have a good feel as to what occurred during the contest, but I will also give you a glimpse into the locker room and behind the scenes.
I am an admitted fair-weather baseball and football fan, jumping on the bandwagon when the Twins and Vikings are playing well. Possibly blasphemous in the state of Minnesota, I could care less about hockey, never finding anything that excites me in that sport. Yet, my love for NBA basketball has been large since Day One and, although I acknowledge the fan base will never compare to the NBA's, that love extends over to the WNBA and the Minnesota Lynx.
Currently, I am working on my first book, which is still untitled. The book, due out this summer, dissects the place in history of Kevin Garnett, whether or not he wins a championship, Timberwolf or not. During the process of putting the book together, I have had the opportunity to speak with a large number of NBA stars to gauge their thoughts on Garnett's legacy. The exclusive commentary includes Dwight Howard, Ron Artest, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Ben Wallace, Amare Stoudamire, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell, among others.
Knowing that my predecessor had a loyal fan following, I would love to have a new community begin here. As I continue on this odd career path that I am on, I hope that you will come along on the journey.
No Wade. No Problem.
As expected, Shaquille O'Neal jumped out to a great start with 15 first quarter points. As we all know, Miami is playing without Finals MVP Dwayne Wade, therefore The Big Diesel should be carrying his team. Minnesota actually did well in the first quarter when things could have gotten out of hand quickly with O'Neal's dominance coupled with Garnett's foul trouble. Yet, when Garnett sat down with his second foul, the Wolves "weathered the storm," only being outscored 14-10 until Garnett's return to start the second quarter.
Mark Blount played nearly the best game you can expect from him when matched up with Shaq. Although the head-to-head matchup goes to the big fella, Blount played him without fouling. Because of Blount's ability to stay out of foul trouble, he was able to stay on the floor, continuing to be an offensive threat and keeping Shaq honest on the defensive end.
The rebounding battle was the telling stat in this game. When Eddie Jones pulls down the same amount of rebounds as Kevin Garnett, the Timberwolves are not going to win. This is the clear area Minnesota needs to address in the off-season since they did nothing to improve before the trade deadline.
What killed the Timberwolves through the first three quarters tonight was Troy Hudson or, to put it correctly, Coach Randy Wittman's inability to sit Hudson down. Once it was clear that Huddy's shot was not falling, he has no value to the team on the court. His defense—or lack of defense—was the key to Jason William's hot shooting in the third quarter when the Heat extended their lead. At times Hudson was lost on defense, trailing the also-hobbled Williams and allowing him to find his shot and give Shaq a breather from carrying the offensive load.
Troy Hudson does have a place on this team, but in a limited role.
Hudson has seen court time recently because the ball movement has improved since he began to see time... and because Kevin Garnett likes him. Garnett has all but lobbied for Huddy to get playing time, although on most nights the team plays its best basketball when Foye is on the court. Does Foye make rookie mistakes? Absolutely. He still has quite a lot to learn, but Garnett is in denial if he believes that this team will be better in both the short term and long term with Hudson running the show.
Simply put, Fourth Quarter Foye earned his starting spot back tonight.
Stephen A. Litel