An ugly collapse
Hawks 94, Timberwolves 87
Season record: 1-10
It all seemed so simple. Get the ball inside to Jefferson. Let him take his defender to the basket, or, if double-teamed, have him pass out to the open man, who would then nail his shot. Force difficult shots on defense. Box out and battle for rebounds. Repeat as necessary.
It worked great for the first half of Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, during which the Wolves looked like a confident, assertive, winning team. Jefferson in particular came out of the block strong, hitting all four of his shots and both free-throws for 10 first-quarter points to go along with eight boards. And he wasn’t alone. In the first half, ‘Toine was 5-5 with two threes and 12 points. McCants, Jaric, and Telfair were a combined 9-13 for 22 points. The team as a whole shot 66 percent, and turned the ball over a mere four times. And they were up by 18 at the break.
Then it all fell apart.
Let’s turn it over to coach Wittman, who after a good ten seconds of standing silent at the podium in the post-game press conference, rubbing his eyes and scanning the papers stacked in front of him, fielded the first question:
Wittman: "You tell me."
The coach soon elaborated. “We played scared. We played on our heels. We played not to lose, instead of to win,” he said of the second half in which his team was outscored 49-24. “I’m a loss right now to explain why… I’ve got to figure out a reason why. It’s not youth. It’s not inexperience.”
Asked if this was the toughest loss to take yet, he nodded. “This is pretty tough,” he said. And he looked like he meant it.
Josh Childress, the afro-sporting, ugly-jumpshot-owning, Stanford-onetime-attending forward for the Hawks bears a striking resemblance to Bubbles, the heroin-addled moral center of HBO’s The Wire. Which is not to say that Childress looks strung out, or that Bubbles has an afro (it’s more of an anti-haircut), but just that they have very similar facial bone structure. We just thought you should know.
We wanted to chat with Childress, as well as with the monstrous shot-blocking machine that is Josh Smith, who we hear is also a swell guy, and ask them about stuff, but we were too tardy in getting over to the visitors’ locker room after the game. It was a ghost town when we showed up. So, apologies for lack of excitement on that front.
We were wrong about Gerald Green getting more time on the floor after his solid performance against Cleveland. He did get 12 (mostly unproductive) minutes Friday against Denver, during which he missed all three of his shots and turned the ball over twice. But on Saturday, even as the Wolves were imploding in the second half, even with McCants coming off a dreadful 1-15 performance the night before, even with no one “throwing haymakers” in response to “getting punched in the mouth,” as Wittman put it a couple games back, the coach didn’t call Green’s number. After the game, Gerald kept things in perspective.
"We've just got to make things happen," he said.
Green added that he's been working in practice on "taking over" games. "I want the ball in my hands," he said.