MINNEAPOLIS – It’s impossible not to have faith in Kevin Love, but in his first weeks back this season, I’ve found myself holding my breath during every 3-point shot he attempts. It hasn’t been pretty; he’s shooting just 19.4 percent from long range. Of course Love is still getting his shooting back after five weeks out, and with the strides he made from long-range last year, you have to think this is going to improve.
But it’s not just Love who’s struggling at the 3-point line. The team has come a long way (which is a nice way of saying it’s regressed) since his dramatic win in the 3-point shooting contests during All-Star Weekend last February, and it needs to figure out a means to get its long-range shooting into some kind of passable shape.
Through Friday’s game, the Timberwolves are shooting 28.6 percent from long range, compared to the 33.6 percent they’ve allowed opponents. That 3-point accuracy is good for dead last in the league, and it’s a sizeable chunk behind the next-worst team, the Wizards, who have a 30.2 percent mark.
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The only upside to the Timberwolves’ long-range woes is that they make their 26th-ranked field goal percentage slightly more acceptable.
The team’s starting lineup of late (before Andrei Kirilenko’s injury) – Love, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour, Malcolm Lee and Kirilenko – is shooting a combined 28.9 percent from long-range, and Kirilenko has thus far been the most effective long-range shooter (37.5 percent). That lineup for its career, though, shoots 34.2 percent on 3-pointers, so this is an aberration for sure.
So what’s to blame for this fall-off? It’s hard to say. The easy answer would be Chase Budinger’s injury – he was shooting 30.4 percent but is a career 36.1 percent shooter from long range – but even that isn’t at fault; before Budinger went down, the Timberwolves were still last in the league at 28.4 percent from 3-point range.
On Friday, though, the team posted its best 3-point shooting of the season: 42.1 percent. It went 8 for 19 from long-range courtesy of Alexey Shved’s 4-for-6 mark, and it seems that maybe coach Rick Adelman’s “just keep shooting” advice will pay off. In fact, Adelman has mentioned several times over the past few days that players, especially Shved, have been shooting better in practice, and now he’s just waiting to see it translate to the court.
Maybe Friday was the beginning of an upward trend, but it’s going to take better long-range shooting Tuesday in Philadelphia and Wednesday in Boston, and even Friday at home against Cleveland, to prove it.
The other Andrei Kirilenko: I have to credit Grantland’s Brian Phillips for this one. This morning, he tweeted: “Quietly weird phrase in today’s New York Times: ‘The chief economist at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Andrei Kirilenko’.” I found the article, and it’s true. The chief economist at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is indeed named Andrei Kirilenko, though from the picture in the story, he’s dark-haired and somewhat diminutive.
So much less cool than if the small forward had a double life and was trading futures while sitting out with back spasms.
Anderson Varejao as the new Kevin Love? Monday night, the Cavaliers’ big man logged his ninth straight game with 15 or more rebounds. It’s the longest such streak since Love had 10 straight 15-plus rebound games from Nov. 22 to Dec. 11, 2010. The Cavaliers play the Bulls Wednesday night and then the Timberwolves Friday, so if the streak makes it through Wednesday’s game, Varejao will have a chance to surpass Love’s mark in Minneapolis.