Timberwolves Fever has no cure, so why fight it? That’s the message we tried to convey to Kraig Applecherry, who was equal parts excited to take in one of his first NBA games ever and ready to hit the concession stand with reckless abandon last night. Obviously, he picked a good night to catch the infection.
As KA assaulted a bbq sandwich, peanuts and a bag of mini donuts — ending his decision paralysis with a flurry of purchasing — Randy Foye assaulted what might be the worst defensive team we have ever watched. Two weeks ago, we might have thought such a statement could only be made about a Wolves intra-squad scrimmage. That was before watching the lethargic and helpless OKC Thunder give away points like Halloween candy. Things we know for sure: Minnesota is a better team than Memphis and Oklahoma City, and the Wolves are certainly not the worst defensive team in the league.
Our end of the bargain was simple: we were content to 1) delight in a laugher, for a change — the second consecutive victory witnessed in person and the fourth overall for the Second Hottest Team In The League; 2) Devour two hot dogs, purchased for the bargain price of $1 each during our first Wednesday game of the year; 3) chart the all-out hustle and grit of Brian Cardinal, who has obviously learned a thing or two during his nine years in the NBA and the previous 11 spent playing for Gene Keady at Purdue.
On point three, this is all we know: Cardinal came in at the 1:48 mark of the first quarter with the Wolves ahead 34-16 (after the second of two made free throws by Kevin Love). He exited with 9:21 to play in the second quarter with the Wolves up 49-26. Plus-5, Brian Cardinal. During that glorious 4-minute stretch, these things were scrawled in the margin of our game program: “Back-door pass, Miller layup, 11:23.” “Knock ball away, leading to 24-second violation, 11:16.” “Pick-and-roll defense, 11:45.” “Pass to Love for free throws, 10:57.” This can only lead to the obvious conclusion that ALL BRIAN CARDINAL DOES IS MAKE PLAYS AND WIN. Later, in garbage time, he dished out another assist, made a steal, blocked a shot and had what appeared to be a key conversation with an official at the foul line. The Wolves increased their lead from 29 to 37 while he was in. That’s plus-13 for the game in less than 10 minutes of action — impressive even in a 42-point victory.
Cardinal left to thunderous applause, probably because he was replaced by the equally crowd-pleasing and hustling Mark Madsen. Mad Dog and Rashad McCants both entered the game for the first time with 6:56 to play, another affirmation of just how deep into the doghouse (and not the Mad Doghouse) Rashad has fallen. He’s played a combined 13 minutes and change in the past four games. The Wolves are 4-0 in those games. Rodney Carney, who is eating into McCants’ minutes, had two breakaway dunks in the fourth quarter that left Applecherry speechless. Perhaps the only disappointment is that KA was so busy stuffing his face that we forgot to make signs at the booth the Wolves set up.
Lingering questions after a 42-point victory:
1) Will the Wolves ever lose again?
2) But seriously, has this team turned some sort of a corner? We’ll say 40 percent of this is the schedule softening, 30 percent is a sensible rotation and strategy employed by Kevin McHale, 20 percent is an attitude improvement and 10 percent is pure witchcraft.
3) A greater need next year: a true point guard or a dominant low-post presence to rotate in with Love and Jefferson (and to sometimes play all three at once)?