Close, But They Didn't Deserve To Win

By Stephen Litel

Lately I have been tearing into Coach Randy Wittman quite a lot, but he does deserve credit for his coaching in last night's game against the Lakers for the most part. There were still areas where he could have made better decisions, yet, as a whole, he did his job well.

Finally starting Randy Foye, Wittman put his young "point guard" in a better situation to succeed, as Foye was given the opportunity to play off Kevin Garnett. The one time when you feel for the situation that Coach Wittman is in happens to be on nights like this. He gives his rookie this chance to contribute in a big way and Foye responds with three points, three turnovers, one assist and two rebounds in fifteen minutes. Ouch.

So, Wittman makes the correct move by bringing Mike James into the game. Although his shot was still not falling, James had one of his best games in recent memory scoring eighteen points while dishing out eleven assists in 33 minutes. If Minnesota had production on that level throughout the entire 48 minutes from the point guard position, a win would be more achievable. Now this is only one game, but it just drives one crazy to think what could have been if James was able to play at this level from day one of the season.

The only real issue that I have with Coach Wittman on this evening was in his choice to only play Rashad McCants six minutes. Understandably, Witt has a tough job in determining playing time for his team full of guards, but there must be more court time for McCants. With Ricky Davis scoring the ball the way he was throughout the game, McCants was not going to take minutes from that spot. The combination of Trenton Hassell and Marko Jaric combined for seven points, five rebounds, 0 assists and 3-10 shooting in 48 minutes. Jaric started and played 23 minutes, while Hassell played 25 off the bench, but with neither doing anything to earn these minutes, McCants should have been give more of a chance.

I also cannot forget to mention that both Jaric and Hassell played stellar matador defense, only allowing Kobe Bryant to go off for his second straight 50+ point game.

Some may complain that the lineup that has played well together recently (Foye, McCants, Jaric, Smith, and Garnett) was not seen tonight. With both Davis and James playing relatively good games, it was nearly impossible to get that lineup onto the court. I'll give Coach Wittman a pass on that one for this game.

In 43 minutes of action, Kevin Garnett put up the great numbers that we have come to expect from him. 26 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists and three blocks. Greg Anthony spoke during the game about the comparison between Tim Duncan and Garnett and was spot on. Anthony stated that Garnett was the more talented player of the two, but Duncan was a better basketball player. Duncan is able to realize who is guarding him, the situation he is in during the game, and—most importantly—who HE is, and will dominate against the lesser opponents that he meets on most nights.

Look at Kevin Garnett's shot chart from this game here.

With guys like Kwame Brown, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, and Luke Walton (at times) guarding him, why does Garnett continue to bail them out on defense? Of these four players it is clear that Lamar Odom is the best, but Garnett should be absolutely abusing him down low. Garnett continues to show that his versatility has determined who he is as a player instead of matchups. Going up against someone like Tim Duncan, Garnett most likely should play an outside game like he plays most nights, but on the nights when he is not facing someone on the same level, Garnett needs to get his behind down on the block.

This game was a perfect example of the curse of Kevin Garnett. He continues to put up individually great statistics, but his team comes up short. The problem is that his team comes up short because of who Garnett is as a player on nights like this. My criticism of Coach Wittman recently has been that he has not put his players in a position to succeed, but on this night that is the criticism on Garnett. It may be difficult and odd to say it, but this loss is on Garnett.

By Stephen Litel [email protected]

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