Halfway through the third quarter we almost left. If Condor hadn't returned to our seats carrying beers, we probably would have. And we would've been sorry we had.
For most of the first 30 minutes of the game, the new edition Wolves mostly resembled their 15-win predecessors. They seemed out-matched at every position and looked pathetically bad on the defensive end of the floor - too many lay-up, dunks, and and-ones. But then New Jersey, being the poor-quality team that they are, went to sleep and Kurt Rambis loosened the reigns on the team and - POW! What once was a 19-point deficeit turned into a 2-point victory. It really was a fun game to watch. Well, a fun fourth quarter to watch anyways. A W is a W, as they say, and since we may not see too many of those this season I'll take it. Plus it's always nice to start off the season on the right foot.
"Running" the Triangle Offense
It's pretty clear that most of the players are still pretty clueless on how the Triangle works and, with all the nuances it has, that's completely understandable. That being said, they looked uncomfortable and disjointed when trying to run plays - many of which ended up with someone taking a Kobe-esque shot with the shot clock winding down. It seemed that the two guys taking on the MJ/Kobe role in the Wolves version were Corey Brewer (Kobe) and Damien Wilkins (MJ). So, from this point on, that's how we'll be referring to those two.
"United We Run"
That's the team's slogan this year. It's not a bad slogan. It tells me, the fan, that you're going to get up and down the floor, score a lot, and probably be a pretty fun team to watch, even when it doesn't add up to wins. Of course, if you're not what you've advertised, then of course, maybe you should consider changing it. It took the Wolves almost 3 quarters to get their running game going. Usually running teams run for a MAJORITY of the game, not 30% of the game. Once they started running, they owned the game, turning a blow-out loss into a last-second win. But what sparked the change you ask?
Pressure, pressure pressure
While they were getting owned in the paint early and often, once the Wolves started successfully pressing the Nets, they started forcing turnovers - which make running much easier. They forced 22 turnovers (while only comitting 10 of their own by the way). Sure, the Nets aren't a very good team, but 22 is still a lot of turnovers. Forcing those turnovers did two things. First, it didn't allow the Nets to get into their offense - aka give the ball to Brook Lopez and let him do whatever he wants. Secondly, it led to a lot more fast-breaks and open floor plays - and LESS of the unknown Triangle offense. The youngsters benefited from that by getting a lot of easy shots, while not giving as many of them up.
Jonny Flynn can fly!
If you watched him play at Syracuse last year, you already know how quick Flynn can be. Normally that level of quickness isn't as prevalent at the NBA level, unless your name is TJ Ford. Well, add Flynn's name to that list. Once he got the nervous butterflies out he pretty much got by anyone at will, to the point where he was a little too quick for his own good. He's also a pesky defender and definitely plays the game with a TON of energy.
What you may have also noted by his performances in college - specifically the 6 OT game against Uconn - is how clutch the kid can be. Well, in his first NBA game, he scored 13 of his 18 points in the fouth quarter - 11 of which came in the final run that won the game. He was also charged with taking the game-winning shot and, even though he missed it, there was no fear in that shot. I really like what I see so far out of him.
Corey Brewer, meet Felton Spencer
I'm trying SO hard to like Corey Brewer, I really am. He's a nice kid who plays with a lot of energy, and he knows how to win. But he can't make a layup to save his life. On more than one occasion when we went in for a layup the ball came out of his hands like he had wooden blocks strapped to them - like when you go up for a layup, the ball slips out of your hand, so you try to bat it up towards the rim. It was awful. Of course, he did hit the jumper that gave the Wolves a 92-91 lead towards the end of the game, so I guess he can make them when he needs to? But enough about what he can't do.
The Wolves Kobe can get up and down the floor. He was all over the place - for better and worse. On one play he stripped the ball loose in the corner and was the first guy down the floor. He recieved a pass just inside the three line, did a nice spin dribble - right into a double-team and got his shot blocked. If he can fix the layup problems, he'll be fine - but I'm afraid that still a pretty big if.
Al Jefferson is injured
Don't let the fantasy basketball notes fool you. He is NOT healthy. No way. He was limping around the court all night, grimacing any time there was a stop in play. He was WAY behind on defense, even for Al Jefferson. He doesn't look like he can jump and spent most of the night settling for shots out of his range.
He needs to get deeper in the post, where he can be effective, and he needs to learn how to pass out of double-teams. Most of all though, he needs to be sitting on the bench, resting until that achillies is healed.
The last thing the franchise needs is it's franchise player suffering another season-ending injury.