Feb 11, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Luke Ridnour (13) calls a play in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Winning Perspective in a Lost Cause

It’s amazing how your perspective on something changes after you stop and acknowledge expectations have changed.

Weeks ago if you had sat through Sunday night’s game and saw the Wolves getting snuffed out by the Memphis Grizzlies at every turn you’d have been continually reaching for one of those foam bricks to throw at your screen while cursing out everything from Mickael Gelabale’s clueless defense to Rick Adelman’s refusal to play Chris Johnson.

But Monday night, the Wolves are tossing 3s in like layups and everyone contributes something they’re capable of and the thing looks like a functional, intended operation. And you look at the playoff picture, realize it’s not going to come into focus this year, and outside of that pressure cooker, appreciate each game for what it is.

Zach Harper expounds:

Everybody on the Wolves had a solid, if not good game. You can’t point to one player on the team and say, “this guy needed to play better tonight.” That was the difference between the Wolves pulling out a victory tonight and falling short in so many games recently. This is what Rick Adelman has been preaching all along. Show heart, step into your role, and play within the system.

The system is movement. The system is a continuous flow of ideas and reactions. Reactions to proactions by the defense set up opportunities for success within the system. Read the defense and make them pay. This is something Wolves were able to do consistently for 48 minutes for the first time since the blowout victory over New Orleans. Both of these occurrences happened against bad teams, but they happened nonetheless.

That is the point here, of course. Both New Orleans and Cleveland are poor defenses. Maybe that has something to do with it? It is a lot easier for Derrick Williams to get to his spots without Zach Randolph shoving him to the ground. Likewise, Pek can turn baseline a lot easier without Marc Gasol’s two-handed post “defense” impeding him.

But the biggest benefactor of all would be the unsung and undersized shooting guard. Harper continues:

For Ridnour, he’s often been the scapegoat for Wolves fans, and unjustly so. Luke is a backup point guard in the NBA at this point in his career. He’s there to have a steady hand at the wheel and knock down shots. That’s his job. That’s why he’s on the team. When’s the last time he got to fill that role? Because of a roster and a wing core decimated by injuries, Ridnour is the starting shooting guard on this team. He’s played one quarter of the Wolves’ available shooting guard minutes this season. Last season, he played 38% of the SG minutes.

Luke’s rarely been allowed to fill his role on this team and because of that, it makes his performance look bad many nights. Instead of complaining about his misuse (often by being forced to use him this way), all he does is go out there and do what Adelman has to ask him to do. Defend shooting guards; be a shooting guard. He does it. Sometimes he does it well; often times he doesn’t because that’s a hard thing for a 6’1″, 170 lbs point guard to do.

People have wanted him gone from this team, and it drives me crazy. He’s so good to have on this roster, simply because he usually embodies what Adelman is trying to teach this roster. Don’t complain, don’t feel sorry for yourself, and just step up to fill the role asked of you. It’s important to have guys like this because it shows leadership through action and when they help you close out games, it justifies the words of the coach.

Ridnour was unstoppable in the fourth quarter tonight. It helped facing a bad Cleveland defense, but he still had to knock down the shots. 13 of his 21 points came at the end. 11 of them came in the last 6:08 of the game. Luke helped bury a young team because when you’re taking and making good shots, it helps rattle what they’re trying to do. But he was just one of nine Wolves players who filled their role in this game.

Luke being ‘unstoppable’ in this case simply means he isn’t just getting free for mid-range jumpers and hitting them — he’s actually hitting 3s at his career clip.

And when you sit back and stop pulling your hair out over Ridnour’s standstill defense, it’s easier to appreciate him for one of the few guys still standing who can find himself an open shot and shoot straight. In this season of walking wounded or incompetent, that is cause for celebration. Hard to put a contribution so plain and simple into terms like that, but when you’re at the point when such satisfactory results are not the norm, it’s easier. Much easier after a win, anyway.

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