No Darko, No Chance
(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Wolves Record 15-61
With Jermaine O'Neal sitting out because of a knee injury, this looked to be one of those rare matchups where the Wolves could take advantage of their size against a smaller opponent. For the first 18 or so minutes of the game, we did just that. The Heat tried guarding Darko with Michael Beasley and didn't work out so well for them. In the 13 minutes Darko played, he had 10 points on 5-8 shooting and could have more if the Wolves weren't busy displaying some of the best ball movement I've seen all season from them. Our guys were zipping the ball around the court, making the extra pass, and getting open looks. Even Jonny Flynn was getting in on the action. Darko and Pavlobrick were playing an effective two-man game, passing back and forth to each other until one of them had a good look. No joke, Pavlobrick looked like a competent NBA player for the 2nd game in a row. With that said, Darko's biggest impact on the game, by far, was his defense. He was guarding the basket like his life depended on it, turning away anybody that dared come into the paint. Any time DWade tried one of his kamikaze drives, Darko was there to turn him away. At least 2 of Darko's 3 blocks came against Wade (I can't remember who the 3rd one was against). With the Wolves leading 27-25 after the 1st quarter, I honestly felt like we could could (and should) win this one. The Heat were giving their all, and the Wolves were outplaying them.
Alas it was not meant to be. Early in the 2nd quarter, Jamaal Magloire was going up for a shot and elbowed Darko in the jaw. He left the game and would never return. After that, it took approximately 2 milliseconds for everything to unravel. At this point, we were still up by 2 points, but I think you can guess what happened next. DWade got wherever he wanted, when he wanted, and scored 13 points in the 2nd quarter during a 20-6 Heat run and gave the Heat a 9 point lead at halftime. The Heat then started off the 3rd quarter with a 16-4 run to run up their lead to 21 points. Shortly after this, the Wolves went on a 21-6 run of their with Ramon Sessions playing point and cut the lead to 6. We were never really back in the game though, as DWade came back in in the 4th quarter and scored 12 straight points to crush any hopes of a comeback we may have had.
As I previously mentioned, Sessions had a good game. He played 25 minutes to Flynn's 23, and was clearly much more effective as evidenced by his +5 plus-minus rating to Flynn's -18. The one thing I have to harp on is Sessions' free throw shooting. 2-5 on free throws just isn't going to cut it. Him and Hollins combined to go 4-12 from the free throw stripe. If I remember correctly, they somehow managed to miss 7 in a row between the two of them in the 3rd quarter. That'll just kill any momentum you have when trying to erase a lead. With that mentioned, I guess I'll talk about Hollins. HE IS TERRIBLE. I know you guys already know that, but it can't be said enough. He is one of the rare 7-footers that has absolutely no single skill that would ever allow him to play in the NBA. He can't score, he can't play defense, he can't rebound (how hard can it be when you're 7 feet tall and can jump through the roof?), and his basketball IQ is on par with a kid playing on a junior high school team. He had a thunderous dunk in the 3rd quarter, but I can't even enjoy those anymore because I'm so pissed off that he's playing. This is another reason Darko is so valuable to us, it means that Hollins never has to play.
Al and Love both had pretty forgettable performances. Udonis Haslem had 13 points and 17 rebounds, but it didn't really feel like he was impacting the game in the way those stats suggest. Sure, Haslem and Beasley outplayed Al and Love, but that's not the reason we lost this game. The real matchup of this game was Wade and his sidekick Quentin Richardson versus Brewer, Gomes, Wilkins, & Pavlovic. Wade had 39 points on 15-27 shooting, 6 assists, and 8 rebounds alone. Those 4 players for the Wolves I mentioned combined for 25 points, 6 assists, and 10 rebounds. Corey Brewer was the worst offender. He had an absolutely brutal performance: 0-9 shooting and 1 point. You've got to be kidding me. Not only that, him and Wilkins took turns being raped by Wade (Gomes was never matched up on him & I can't remember about Pavlovic). I wouldn't fault Pavlovic anyways, he played about as well as you could reasonably expect for a guy who won't even be in the NBA next year. When Wade wasn't making our wings look silly, Q was filling in to the tune of 14 points on 4-5 3-point shooting. This is the point I would probably diss the refs because they suck at life, but it's a given that when you play against Wade he's going to get all the calls and you will get none. So I'll just leave that alone.
In short, we lost the game because:
1. Once Darko left the game, Wade could score at will.
2. Brewer & Co. out on the wings sucked worse than usual.
3. As a team, we shot 4-18 from 3-point land. 3 of the makes were by Gomes, so the rest of the team combined shot 1-12.
4. 12-23 free throw shooting. That's just inexcusable.
That's all I got.