May 5, 2004

That Stunk

If there's anything more depressing than losing a game in the 16th inning, it is following the entire game on an internet play-by-play service because you can't watch the damn thing, thanks to your favorite team starting up their own TV channel and...well, you get the idea.

Actually being able to see a team strand runner after runner while watching your starting shortstop make a bonehead baserunning mistake in extra innings is one thing. Not being able to see it, and instead looking at such things as "Mientkiewicz grounded into fielder's choice to right, Guzman out at second" on your computer screen is an entirely different level of pain. And yes, you did read that right, Mientkiewicz's "fielder's choice" was to right, as in right field. Don't ask.

On top of that, my beloved Timberwolves dropped Game 1 to the Kings last night. I know I typically reserve "my beloved" for the Twins only, but once another of "my teams" advances past the first round of the playoffs, they get the title too.

Sam Cassell was, once again, absolutely amazing offensively, scoring 40 points (on 15-for-25 shooting) for the second time this postseason. The problem was that the rest of the team shot 24-for-63 (38%) and the Wolves turned the ball over a total of 18 times.

There is already a ton of talk about this being a Sam Cassell-Mike Bibby matchup. In fact, the game recap carries the headline, "Kings win Bibby-Cassell shootout." On the TNT post-game, Charles Barkley (whom I absolutely love) made the comment that Cassell scoring 40 points wasn't all that impressive, since he let Bibby score 33.

This, of course, is simply not the truth. I'm not sure if Charles was actually watching the second-half, but the fact is that Cassell stopped guarding Bibby and Bibby stopped guarding Cassell. In crunch-time, it was actually Fred Hoiberg trying to stop Bibby, and Doug Christie was chasing Cassell for most of the night.

I thought (and perhaps still think...I'm not sure) that the Wolves will win this series. As Bill Simmons says, when in doubt, always take the team with the best player, and that is most certainly Kevin Garnett and the Wolves.

That said, after one game I can already see what may kill the Wolves in round two. They simply have no one capable of guarding Mike Bibby. Sam Cassell is not a horrible defender, but his weaknesses defensively are magnified when he is asked to chase a small, quick guard like Bibby.

At the same time, Trenton Hassell is an extremely good defender, but he is just not capable of guarding a speedy point guard. Hoiberg is a very capable defender as long as he's guarding two-guards and small forwards, but he's not built to run after Bibby. The only guy on the roster who could even come close to matching Bibby's speed and quickness is Troy Hudson, and he's out for the year with a bad wheel.

Bibby is one of the best point guards in the NBA and, more than that, he is one of the best shooters in the NBA. Normally he is a guy who doesn't particularly look for his shot, instead just taking what comes to him. In the playoffs, however, that all changes, which is why the Wolves are in trouble. With Cassell, Hassell or Hoiberg guarding him, Bibby can manuever at will and shoot at will. He can get to the basket and he can free himself for open jumpers.

He wasn't even particularly "hot" last night either, going 10-for-21 overall and 3-for-8 on three-pointers. That's good shooting certainly, but it's not like he was on fire. Bibby shot 45% on the year, including 39% on threes. I'll be shocked if Bibby doesn't lead the Kings in scoring at least three more times this series.

The Wolves clearly need to win Game 2, because they aren't going to take more than one game in Sacramento.

I'll say this... yesterday wasn't my all-time favorite day as a Minnesota sports fan.

New article at The Hardball Times: Adam Dunn: A True (Outcomes) Hero

Today's picks:

St. Louis (Williams) +125 over Philadelphia (Millwood)

Los Angeles (Weaver) +150 over Florida (Penny)

Arizona (Daigle) +225 over Chicago (Wood)

Pittsburgh (Wells) +190 over Clemens (Houston)

Oakland (Zito) +140 over New York (Brown)

Total to date: $25

W/L record: 32-38 (My slide continues, as I go 3-4 yesterday for -65)

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