A peek at the standings shows the Wolves sitting at .500, a half game behind the 8th seeded Portland Trail Blazers, a game and a half behind the 7th seeded Nuggets, and just two games behind the 6th seeded Houston Rockets.
I bring this up because, in their unwatchable loss to Utah last night, the number of things that could be better was growing while the number of things that could be worse was not. .500 ball and knocking on the door of the playoffs was what spurred the breathless anticipation of this season. With their two major stars and a good chunk of the roster struggling to return to full health, I’d say there is reason to think things couldn’t get much worse.
But then, the Wolves are playing in Denver on the back end of a back-to-back.
Nuggets probable starting lineup:
PG Andre Miller
SG Andre Iguodala
SF Danilo Gallinari
PF Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
The Nuggets haven’t played since ending the Los Angeles Clippers 17-game winning streak in Denver on January 1st. Ty Lawson sat out that game with tightness in his achilles. In his stead, Richard Pryor look-alike — and perennial Wolf-killer — Andre Miller tallied 12 assists and Blake Griffin shot (a Kevin Love-like) 4-11 from the field. The Nuggets won 92-78.
Lawson is questionable tonight against the Wolves. This season Lawson is assisting and stealing more (6.9 and 1.6 per game) while shooting more and making less per game (13 field goal attempts, 40% accuracy).
Other fun facts:
Corey Brewer is attempting over 4 3s a game, making 35%, in 24 minutes a night.
After a slow start to the season, Faried is averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and block a night, while shooting 53% from the field.
Iguodala is shooting 64% from the line — the 2nd worst mark of his 9-year career (61% last season).
Anthony Randolph has appeared in 11 games this year.
Wolves probable starting lineup:
PG Luke Ridnour
SG Alexey Shved
SF Andrei Kirilenko
PF Kevin Love
C Nikola Pekovic
A night after shooting 35% from the field and 11% from beyond the 3-point line, there ain’t anywhere for the Wolves to go but up. Love’s shooting struggles continue, and unless Chase Budinger is walking out of the trainer’s room — sorry — even if Chase were healthy enough to walk through the door the Wolves aren’t a single savior away from fixing what ails them.
Ridnour’s shooting has been down around 33% (17% from 3) over the last 5 games. JJ Barea has been shooting 38% (31% from 3) and dominating the ball over the same stretch. Past those two (and Chase), who besides Love would be considered a perimeter shooter on this roster? Shved’s been more than handling playmaking duties while shooting (a comparatively en fuego) 44% over the last 5 (36% from 3). Much-maligned Derrick Williams has been holding down the fort with 43% shooting — a ridiculous 56% from 3 — the problem is he can’t seem to get out of Adelman’s doghouse for more than 13 minutes at a time and is still on the Wolves’ roster.
In Utah, those four combined to shoots 29% on 10 of 34 shooting (2-10 from 3). The problem seems pretty straightforward: Make shots or find guys who can.