T-Wolves’ Last Shot

My season of Timberwolves-viewing got off on the same bad foot previous ones have ended on, with the T-Wolves unable to get off a decent shot with a chance to win the game. Last night it was against Kevin Garnett and the undefeated Celtics, who played a very losable game with the particular help of new addition Rasheed Wallace, who insisted on clanking three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Thus, the Wolves found themselves down 92-90 with the ball and 13 seconds left.
My complaint in years past has been their tendency, at this point, to stop cutting-and-passing, the way they play best, and leave the ball in the hands of the point guard, who dribbles the clock down to three seconds, then finds that he can’t make a play all by himself – the familiar isolation dribble that works fine if you have Allen Iverson or Dwyane Wade or LeBron James on your team. My complaint last night was the equally familiar NBA move: the coach calls timeout to “draw up a play” or “make sure the team knows what to do.”
First of all, any basketball player who doesn’t know that in this situation you wait for the last shot doesn’t belong in a gym, let alone the NBA. Second, it shouldn’t take a coaching genius to tell you that, facing a much stronger team, you should try for a three-pointer and the win, not overtime. Therefore, what wisdom is there left for the coach to impart during the timeout. Yes, he can “draw up a play,” but what have practices been for? And how many such plays ever get effectively executed, given the unknown of the opponent’s defense?
On the other hand, by calling timeout, the coach a) gives the defense time to make situational substitutions and organize itself, a greater advantage to the generally harried defense than the offense; b) loses precious seconds and perhaps even the ball by requiring his offense to run an in-bounds play; and c) kills the momentum the offense often has when it has made a defensive stop and is coming downcourt with a chance to win.
Last year, the Wolves couldn’t even get the ball in-bounds in this situation. Last night, they did – barely – then had to repeat themselves after the Celtics used their “foul-to-give,” another weapon the defense often forgets or is unable to employ absent a time-out called by the offense. The ensuing “play” consisted of Corey Brewer, one of their most erratic offensive weapons, driving to the basket, which in itself basically removed the chance of a three-point shot and victory. Kevin Garnett tied him up after a mild foul – but what ref would call a foul on a defensive player of the year in that situation? – and there went the Wolves’ chance.
I won’t mind if the Wolves play all their games this close and it comes down to the last shot. I will continue to be bothered, though, if in those games the Wolves don’t get off that last shot.