Thunder 118, Timberwolves 117; A Microcosm of the T’Wolves Season

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Brett Cloutier-


Kevin Love and Michael Beasley carry the Timberwolves.

An opposing player has a career game against the Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves lose a game in which they have endless chances to win.

Luke Ridnour takes an idiotic shot during crunch time.

Sound familiar?

Those four headlines have been seen on a nightly basis for the 2010-11 Minnesota Timberwolves. Like clockwork Wednesday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was no different.

This game served as a microcosm for the Timberwolves’ season.

Lets first start with the positives from the Wolves 118-117 overtime loss at the hands of the Thunder.

Kevin Love was once again phenomenal; 31 points and 21 rebounds for his third 30-20 on the season. (Note: The rest of the NBA has a combined 0, ZERO 30-20 nights this season.)

Michael Beasley was just as brilliant; 30 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in his battle against childhood friend Kevin Durant. Both Beasley and Love left everything they had on the floor.

Unfortunately for fans of the Timberwolves, Durant was even better. He scored a career high 47 points (side note: what are the odds that he surpasses that number in the next year, 7-6?), and notched a career best 18 rebounds.

Ok, tip of the hat to Durant, but the problem lies in that this has been a problem for the Wolves all season. Over their past four games the Wolves have allowed the following players to have huge nights for their given abilities.

  • January 24th vs. Houston: Kevin Martin 34 points.
  • January 19th vs. the Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin 29 points.
  • January 17th vs. Portland: Wesley Mathews 23 points and LeMarcus Aldridge 37 points. (Note: Mathews also poured in 36 against the Wolves on January 7th.)
  • January 15th vs. Orlando: Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick each with 21 points.

The list goes go on and on. And I get it, players are going to have big games against any team; it’s part of the game. But every night it seems as though someone has career performance against the Wolves.

This season the Timberwolves’ point differential is down to –5.8, last year that number was –9.6. Much of that is due to their ability to stay close in most games this year. Yet their inability to finish these close games has been very troublesome.

The Thunder served Wednesday night’s game on a silver platter.

At the end of regulation Love had a chance to win it, but his hook shot rimmed out.

In the final minute of overtime the Wolves had an inordinate amount of chances.

They took two consecutive Thunder charges, had numerous second chances, and even got Corey Brewer, a 73 percent free-throw shooter, to the line down by two with seven seconds left. Yet they still found a way to mishandle these golden opportunities.

The lack of performance down the stretch for this team has been a staple all season. Especially in regards to point guard Luke Ridnour.

After Brewer missed the second of two free throws the rebound got tipped out to Ridnour at the three-point line. Like those Twix “need a moment” commercials, it was as if time stopped while Ridnour held possession. If you have followed the Timberwolves as much as I have this season, you knew what was going to happen next.

Instead of passing to his left to the open Wes Johnson, or calling a timeout that the Wolves still had left, or trying to find Love or Beasley—you know the two that scored a combined 61 points—Ridnour did what he has done all season, force up a shot from deep during crunch time.

Ridnour has had some solid games this season, but tonight wasn’t one of those nights. The 29-year-old guard had 12 points on 4 of 13 shooting from the field, and 0 for 4 from three.

As to why he decided shoot a double-pump, contested, 26-foot three point shot isn’t that hard of an equation. HE’S BEEN DOING IT ALL YEAR!

While 82games.com doesn’t keep track of crunch time stats… wait, yes they do.

Ridnour ranks 64th in the NBA in points per 48 minutes during crunch time. He’s behind Elton Brand and Hedo Turkoglu, and just ahead of O.J. Mayo and Anthony Morrow.

After I bludgeoned myself with my television remote a la Arthur Miller in the 4th season of Dexter, I finally came back to my senses to see this tweet from Kevin Love.

“All I can say after that one is…both teams played hard. We had our chances”

A thesis to the season. Yet as has been the case throughout, the Wolves again failed to come out victorious.

-Brett Cloutier is co-host of The Backdoor Cut, a Minneapolis based sports talk show, and Timberwolves beat writer for The Sports Bank. Brett can be followed on Twitter @brettcloutier

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