Ugh. The first four losses hurt, but this one really stings.
Out of their first five games, the Wolves easily had the best chance of winning this one. But an embarrassing offensive meltdown in the fourth quarter doomed them to dropping this game to the Kings, and falling to 0-5.
I have no idea why this team can't get their act together in the fourth quarter. And specifically, the last six or seven minutes of the game. It's been the same story in virtually every game this season...the Wolves put themselves in a position to grab the win, but the offense falls flat in the final minutes.
Tonight's offensive collapse was even uglier than in previous games. There was a stretch where they went about eight minutes without a basket.
Obviously, there's never a single reason for such a ridiculous offensive meltdown. But first and foremost, tonight, the scoring drought was caused by a lack of touches for Al Jefferson...Big Al seems like the perfect guy to break a squad out of an offensive slump, but inexplicably, he was never given much of an opportunity to do so.
For that, Wittman is extremely rippable. There's no excuse for not going to Jefferson in crunch time.
Brad Miller was guarding Big Al down the stretch. That's a huge mismatch...Al was visibly frustrated with not getting the opportunity to take advantage of that.
And he should have been frustrated. I can't even begin to fathom why he wasn't given the ball in the midst of the fourth quarter collapse. A few quick buckets by Jefferson to get things back on track, and I'd bet that we would've come out on top.
Here's where the Wolves did do a good job: They didn't rely on the jumper as much as they did against the Lakers. In particular, Jaric, Brewer, and McCants did a nice job of penetrating and creating shots, and the Wolves as a whole combined for 52 points in the paint- a good sign.
Another positive- It wasn't always pretty for Corey Brewer tonight, but he emerged with a solid stat line...15 points, and 7-7 from the free throw line. Although he did make a few mental errors and seemed out of control at several instances on offense, he was aggressive and actually drew some fouls. Which is unheard of for this squad.
We can also feel good about the superhuman shot-blocker that is Theo Ratliff...six blocks for Theo, and he added 14 points and seven rebounds.
Really, though, there are few reasons to feel positive, and many reasons to be frustrated. I guess what irks me the most is that all of these games have, for the most part, fallen into the same pattern. Time after time, the Wolves have had a legitimate chance to win, but they've blown it in the final few minutes.
Speaking of business as usual, Sactown shot 40 free throws to the Wolves' 24. And again, any discussion of some anti-Minnesota officiating bias is ignoring the main issues...this team is having some major problems on defense.
As I wrote yesterday about the Lakers game, there have been far too many defensive lapses on the perimeter. Kevin Martin, in particular, murdered us with his dribble drives...and the Sacramento guards were given ample opportunity to penetrate, as a result of a slow, unorganized, and porous perimeter defense.
The Kings had seemingly endless chances to drive to the bucket. We fouled them as they reached the bucket, to prevent easy baskets. They went to the free throw line. It's that simple.
And the Kings took advantage of the Wolves' sluggish transition defense that was exposed in the Lakers game. Sactown's down-court passes caught our guards napping on too many occasions.
It's frustrating. I guess that's probably the word that best describes the attitude of Wolves fans toward their squad, at this point in the season. It's not that anyone expected the Wolves to start the year with a string of wins, but still, some of these losses have been very disappointing. They've been winnable. And tonight's loss takes the cake, in terms of the "yelling at the TV" factor. The fourth quarter was absolutely painful.
I, for one, am more than ready to see them win one of these close games. That monkey is clinging pretty hard to our squad's backs, but we have a solid chance of picking up our first win this Wednesday, when the Kings come to Target Center.