Tag Archives: Minnesota Timberwolves

Adding to the unlikeliness of Corey Brewer’s 51 points

Shortly after Corey Brewer’s 51-point outing against the Houston Rockets, Ryan Feldman at ESPN Stats & Info published a post about if the Timberwolves wing is the most unlikely 50-point scorer ever.

Here are some cool tidbits from that column that I suggest giving a read:

What do Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Rick Barry and Corey Brewer have in common?

They’re the only players in NBA history with at least 50 points and six steals in a game (steals became official in 1973-74).

More:

Brewer is the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in a game without having previously scored 30 points in a game.

And lastly:

Brewer, in his seventh NBA season, is the most experienced player ever to score 50 points without having previously scored 30.

The only other players to score 50 before ever scoring 30 among players with at least two full seasons of NBA experience were Delk (fifth season in 2000-01) and Willie Burton (1994-95 season with the Philadelphia 76ers was his fifth season).

I’d like to add onto those interesting stats, though, after looking through 50-point scorers dating back to the 1978 season. It seems like that’s the first year Basketball-Reference started adding usage rating, among other statistics to their player pages. Here’s what I found:

For seasons when a player has scored 50 points in one game, Brewer’s usage rating is comfortably in last place. Below are the bottom 10 out of 150:

In the last 10 games prior to his explosion versus Houston, Brewer was using 18 percent of the team’s possessions while on the floor. Adding his career night (32.6 usage) hikes that recent uptick to 20.

Brewer also holds the second-worst PER (bottom 10 here) of the 50-point club, one that increased .5 points overnight. He also squeaks into the bottom 20 percent when it comes to offensive rebound percentage, something that could aid in scoring. He’s also on the list of the 25 worst three-point shooting seasons ever, at least for players taking over 200 attempts, and a below-average free throw shooter at 72 percent. The Timberwolves were also without one-half of their “outlet mall” in Kevin Love while Brewer often makes up the receiving end of the fast break points.

None of these obstacles got in the way of Brewer, who scored 32 points in the restricted area alone while going 2-of-6 from three-point range. As for three throws, he was 73 percent but off 15 attempts, good for 11 points from the stripe.

It’s safe to say he’s one of the more unlikely 50-point scorers and hopefully those stats contribute to the discussion. Just for fun, I wanted to compare his shooting that game to his averages in his first 77 outings so I fiddled around with a variety of graphs I’ve recently used for the highest scorers and teams, among other related posts.

Below are his attempted and made shots per game. The last graph is Brewer’s first 77 games with the same axis used for his 51-point outing:

Brewer attempts together

Click to enlarge.

Lastly, points per location:

brewer points

Click to enlarge.

Edit: Percentage of points by location and shooting percentages can be found in those links. I just couldn’t help myself when it came to including yet another batch of those charts in a post. I should probably turn it down a notch.

As someone in Minnesota, though, this has been quite an entertaining last month or so of the season despite the Timberwolves either basically out of playoff contention or officially eliminated. They travel to Sacramento on Sunday where they’ll play former-teammate Derrick Williams, who always seems to show up to play them, but how Brewer will bounce back from 51 points (I still can’t believe it) will obviously be exciting as well. Given how he plays, it’s possible those were the happiest 51 points ever.

All stats are according to Basketball-Reference.com, save for the shooting charts. Those are according to NBA.com’s numbers.

East vs. West Week 23: Counting down to the last of the 450 games

Another week, another updated week-by-week breakdown:

The most exciting non-conference game of the week had to go to Minnesota traveling to Miami and winning in double overtime, much of it thanks to Kevin Love’s ridiculous shot making and Ricky Rubio carving up a hyper Heat defense. LeBron James and Chris Bosh weren’t too bad for the Heat, though, among other players. Dwyane Wade didn’t play because of a lingering hamstring injury.

Houston also lost their last two non-conference games, falling to the Nets and Raptors. Aside from all but guaranteeing the Rockets the fourth seed in the West, it also meant that San Antonio clinches the best record against the East at 24-6 while the Lakers and Kings are tied for the worst at 12-18 each. Neither hold a candle to Milwaukee’s 3-27 record in non-conference play, however, and the Bucks, 76ers, Magic, Celtics, and Pistons are collectively 100 games under .500 against the West, a combined record of 24-124 with the 76ers and Pistons finishing up the season with Memphis and Oklahoma City, respectively.

Maybe that’ll lead to an uptick in the West’s point differential, which I also updated from last week’s post. It hardly changed, but probably worth noting where it ranks in non-conference play since 1997 anyway:

Lastly, here’s the 212,749,834,9a8,943,f92th reminder about the West’s possible record-breaking winning percentage: They’d have to finish their last five games 4-1 to tie 2004’s 63.3 winning percentage and win all five to break it.

Below are those final non-conference games this season:

The last three games look very winnable for the West while the first two are something of a toss-up. Maybe they’ll split? Miami and Minnesota will be playing the tail-end of back-to-backs, however, with the first games against Brooklyn and San Antonio, respectively. Not the easiest two consecutive games for either team, especially when Minnesota has been without Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and about half the roster recently.

Non-conference update: The East continues to chip away in the standings

The non-conference update follows games pitting the Western Conference’s teams versus the East’s. This season, the West has often held a winning percentage so large it hasn’t been seen in over 50 years.

Last week the East continued a respectable winning percentage against the West, finishing 9-10. Among the teams bullied, though, was the New York Knicks thanks to Dirk Nowitzki and Stephen Curry. Detroit also didn’t win either of their games against the West. Over the past month, though, the East is 40-46 against the West. Not great, of course, but definitely fine.

Below is an updated week-by-week breakdown of non-conference play so far:

I mentioned in my last non-conference post that the West’s best season ever against the East was in 2004 when they finished with a winning percentage of 63.3. Last week put a dent in the possibility of 2014 surpassing that mark, though it’s still possible. The West would have to finish 71-35, which can be slimmed to 64-35 when taking into account Philadelphia playing seven non-conference games that should hardly be competitive. POOR THADDEUS YOUNG.

A pretty good chunk of non-conference games will take place this week, 28 total with each conference having 14 home games apiece. Indiana and Miami, far and away the best teams against the West, play five games while West playoff teams and their hopefuls play in 20 of them. A closer look at those games can be found here as well as bolded games I think the West will win, though I put little thought into it. Basically, the West was predicted to go 19-9 which is right on track to surpass 2004’s winning percentage.

The rest of March as a whole has a ton of non-conference games, 98 to be exact with 50 of the games hosted by West teams. After that, it slows down significantly with nine games over the 16 other days.

Below is a look at the league standings with non-conference games left. Conferences are separated by different sheets, so to view the West simply go to the bottom and click on sheet labeled after it.

Dallas having seven less non-conference games than Memphis and Minnesota looks pretty huge, though the Grizzlies still have to play Miami not once, not twice, not three times, not four, not five okay they play the Heat twice, but still. They’re actually a pretty interesting matchup with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph playing against the smaller lineups of Chris Bosh and either LeBron James or Shane Battier.

Minnesota also faces an important stretch of non-conference games right when they need it most, all while Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin return to the lineup. They’ll host New York, Detroit and Toronto this week and Milwaukee in the following one. That’s a good reminder that while the East is holding its own as of late, a stretch against their teams is still seen as a way to beef up in the standings.

Until next week.

Non-conference play and its importance to the West

It was nearly a month ago when Mark Jackson was on the hot seat. Golden State had fallen to 14-13, losing to a short-handed San Antonio Spurs on national television. Championship expectations by fans were replaced with hope to just make the playoffs. The Warriors were in ninth place in the West, grouped with the mediocrity of the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers, among other teams.

Then Golden State beat both of those teams, rattled off home wins against the Clips and Suns, and went on a seven-game road trip out East where they finished 6-1. Their best stretch of the season was topped off with a win at home against Boston. 14-13 became 25-14. Title-contention was back to being realistic, though still a long shot in the loaded West.

The road trip out East helped the Warriors arguably the most in their quest to outdo last season’s exit in the Western Conference Semifinals. (Those hopes may have gotten a little higher today, thanks to a three-way trade to acquire Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks.)

All but one Western Conference playoff contender has used road trips out East – and games against the lowly conference in general – to beef up their win total. That one, singled-out contender is Phoenix who’s .500 in non-conference play.

Beating up on the East has been key for Western Conference playoff contenders since 2000, when the West took the upper hand in non-conference play, but it’s at its highest importance this season. That all might be obvious, but it’s nonetheless important to note that over the last 14 seasons just five Western Conference squads made the playoffs while finishing under .500 against the East:

Team vs East Record Seed  Finish
2000 Seattle SuperSonics 14-16 45-37 7 Lost First Round
2004 Denver Nuggets 14-16 43-39 8 Lost First Round
2006 Sacramento Kings 14-16 44-38 8 Lost First Round
2007 Golden State Warriors 14-16 42-40 8 Lost Semifinals
2007 Los Angeles Lakers 14-16 42-40 7 Lost First Round

The East just doesn’t have the same urge to win their battles against Western foes, able to stay in contention if they stumble during a road trip on Pacific coast, for example. Over the same seasons, they’ve had 50 teams in the playoffs with non-conference records below .500. Only one team, the 2012 Boston Celtics, has done that and made it all the way to the Conference Finals, but they needed some injury luck to get there. There’s always a chance they upset a top-seeded Bulls squad with a healthy Derrick Rose, but it’s an unlikely one.

Again, it might seem obvious about teams out West need to beat those out West to do well over 82 games. Related to the first table, below are the playoff teams with the second-worst non-conference records in those same seasons:

Team vs East Record Seed Finish
2000 Minnesota Timberwolves 18-12 50-32 6 Lost First Round
2004 Dallas Mavericks 19-11 52-30 5 Lost First Round
2006 Memphis Grizzlies 18-12 49-33 5 Lost First Round
2006 Los Angeles Lakers 18-12 45-37 7 Lost First Round
2007 Denver Nuggets 18-12 45-47 6 Lost First Round

The teams in the first table gave up, at the very least, four games to fellow playoff contenders. That worked out fine for the 2007 Golden State Warriors, but every other team missed out on the possibility of improving their seeding by one to three spots.

Of course, another (and more frequent) way of moving up in the standings is by winning games against contenders in the same conference, but some teams have gotten by with cherry picking — winning a good chunk of their games against the East. Here are some of the most egregious instances. For one squad, it wasn’t enough to make the postseason:

Team vs East vs West Record Seed Finish
2001 Houston Rockets 25-5 20-32 45-37 9 Missed Playoffs
2004 Houston Rockets 24-6 21-31 45-37 7 Lost First Round
2012 Denver Nuggets 16-2 22-26 38-28 6 Lost First Round
2013 Houston Rockets 21-9 24-28 45-37 8 Lost First Round

This season’s Minnesota Timberwolves, currently 11-5 versus the East but 7-14 against the West, might join the few and not-so-proud of that grouping.

Every 82-game season requires 30 non-conference games, though, and every one of those count given how stacked the West is this season. It’s also not any team’s fault for winning games they’re supposed to. Minnesota (and Denver and Memphis, for that matter) are hanging around with the help of that one edge available for about one-third of the season, but it would certainly help if they beat a few teams currently in the playoff seeds they’re trying to overtake.

For more posts about the East-West battles, check this out.

LeBron James and the Heat look young again while I age myself

Sometimes aging is smooth and graceful, like realizing I’m only 24 and have plenty of life left in me. Other times it’s a rude awakening, like stressing out over crazy things like responsibilities while being reminded of more enjoyable times, like the first time I watched a basketball team chasing a three-peat make their stop in Minneapolis.

There’s very little I remember about the time the 1998 Bulls came to Minnesota, likely because I was playing basketball with a five-foot hoop, one with an oval-shaped cardboard backboard and an Orlando Magic logo slapped on it my dad squeezed into the basement a couple years earlier. The space to chuck bricks at it to the point it looked like I was trying to mash a hole was something like 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. To the left of the hoop were the house’s furnace and firewood which represented out of bounds along with wherever the carpet near it ended. The right right side of the basement featured a couple steps leading to a worn out couch and a television I watched basketball from when I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, which was basically never.  

That’s probably why I remember very little from that game 16 years ago between the Bulls and Timberwolves. Outside of watching basketball, roughly 99% of my freezing Minnesota winters from 1996 to 1999 – first grade through fourth for me – were spent shooting hoops in the basement or playing NBA Live 95, 97, or 98 after school. Having the flu didn’t stop me from any of those hobbies, and especially not after Michael Jordan’s ‘Flu Game’ during the ’97 Finals. I still remember the times I labored from my bed to the basement, humming the theme song of NBA on NBC only for my legs to feel like Jell-O a few minutes later. It was never a good idea to create my own flu game, but I couldn’t help it.

The little I remember from the time the Timberwolves beat the Bulls, though, like Stephon Marbury celebrating by heaving the ball into the stands, will stick with me for as long as I’ll live. Marbury and the fans acted like they won the NBA Finals that night, but I can’t blame them. After that game, Eight-Year-Old Me thought Minnesota escaped the cellar of the West for good and became a contender.

Here are some highlights of that game:

Even though this season’s Wolves and the one of ’98 were looking to put years of rebuilding behind them, not much was alike in regards to what actually happened during their games. The crowd last night was mostly dead and so was I. The gravitational pull of recliner left me with no urge whatsoever to stand up and pass time between dull moments by exercising. I chose instead to stare blankly at what appeared to be a payment plan for college loans, while other times I scrolled Twitter and online discussion forums about visual snow. It even took me midway through the second quarter to realize the last time I saw Minnesota host a team chasing its third championship was when I was four feet tall. In 2002 I was glued to the PlayStation 2 when the Lakers paid themselves a visit, and I was playing online poker both times the 2011 Lakers won at the Target Center.

Like the enthusiasm, the result of the game wasn’t close to what it was like in ’98. A youthful Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had the luck of playing a Bulls squad missing Scottie Pippen while last night’s Heat were at full strength and Minnesota was missing Kevin Love. If that sounds like a recipe for a blowout, you would be right. LeBron and Dwyane Wade ended the Heat’s two-game losing streak by doing LeBron and Wade things. After their 21-point victory, Wade video bombed LeBron, giving an accurate summary of the game:

That’s what I’ll remember most about last night. Neither lasting memory from the Timberwolves playing host to the ’98 Bulls or ’14 Heat were highlights from the actual games.

After watching Stephon Marbury celebrate Minnesota’s victory over Chicago by heaving the ball into the stands, I celebrated by shooting hoops in my basement and pretended I was Kevin Garnett with my newfound energy, banging a ball against my head and pretending to be a seven-foot freak of nature. 16 years later, 24 Year-Old Me lounged in the recliner long after the Heat mopped the floor with the Love-less Timberwolves. The time I should’ve spent trying to get back into shape, or anything really, was instead wasted wondering if Wade would ever videobomb LeBron while dressed as an elf. I dozed off shortly after, waking up four hours later and tweeting in my foggy, half-asleep daze about the need for an all-you-can-eat French fry buffet.

For more Timberwolves memories, check this out.

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