Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble. - Samuel Johnson
I love watching the Minnesota Timberwolves play. I like to laugh, and I like to live, so their games provide a curious fulfillment.
Something about the way in which they lose games is absolutely mystifying. The end result is more or less a certainty. But for the first 43 minutes of most games, you forget about all the David Kahn jokes you’ve made, and you forget that the team has one of the worst records in the league. Because for some reason, no matter who the opponent, the team plays 89.5% of the game with an indescribable flourish.
It’s the remaining 10.5% that leaves the Wolves high and dry. And it’s sobering to see, in motion, the futility of man over and over and over again. How else would you describe the 4th quarter meltdowns that have occurred almost like clockwork? And it’s not like players are seizing on the floor once the 4th quarter buzzer sounds. They have players trying their hardest out there, but just don’t seem equipped for the task. Out of 38 games thus far, the Wolves have outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter 18 times, trailed their opponent 19 times, and tied once. Their 4th quarter point differentials coupled with the Wolves’ well-documented struggles in the final minutes show no real trend, only disappointing realities.
The team is full of capable three-point shooters, short and tall. But their lack of offensive creativity leads to underwhelming execution in pressure situations, which either foils an otherwise stellar performance, or stifles a last-second run.
This is never quite as evident as it is in the season’s series against the San Antonio Spurs (the last game of their four-game season series is today). The Wolves have both blown leads and attempted comebacks in the series, though they’ve never lost by more than six points. What’s most frustrating about the eventuality of a Wolves’ loss is that their first quarters are generally stellar. In three games against the Spurs this year, the Wolves’ haven’t trailed after the first quarter once, and have kept the games competitive up until the final minutes. Kevin Love surely isn’t the problem. In the three games, he’s averaged 25 points and 16.6 rebounds. He’s had the help of a random assortment of contributors on each game, but the something that remains consistent is the team’s lack of a true wing presence.
To be fair, Beasley was only able to play 11 minutes in their last game due to an ankle injury, but the Wolves’ wing rotation (which runs four deep) with or without Beasley is full of athletes with nonexistent ball-handling skills, which limits them to basic cuts and three-point attempts. Only Beasley manages to escape this generalization, but he’s still yet to prove himself as a consistent shot-creator. One only needs to look at the free throw situation in the three games against the Spurs to see how the lack of dynamic wing scorers has affected the Wolves’ success. In three games, Love shot 20-24 from the free throw line. In those same three games, Minnesota’s wings as a group shot 12-16. The Wolves haven’t been able to get easy opportunities from their swingmen, and it’s killing them. The Spurs have averaged about 12 more free throws in their meetings with Minnesota. When the margin of victory has been an average of 3.25 points, allowing for that large of a free throw differential is absolutely ball-busting.
The Wolves have one last shot at earning a victory against the Spurs today. The past three losses have essentially summed up Minnesota’s season thus far: endlessly disappointing, but a whole lot of fun. Their highs can never be too high, and yet their lows are never that low. While relevance in the traditional sense of championships and playoff berths may be out of the question, their flawed, yet lovable team has become a regular League Pass alert, if only to watch a boneheaded last-second play unfold.
Besides, isn’t that what comedy is all about? We have a need to poke at our festering wounds. The absurdity of our pain tells us we’re alive to fail another day. And until Minnesota makes sense of their lineup, or finds dynamism in their stable of one-trick-ponies, their bizarre comedy act will continue to flesh out. Until they’re ready to be taken seriously.