April 4, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) attempts to shoot the ball as Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) defends in the second half at Verizon Center. The Pacers won 109-96. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Game #32 Preview: Zach Harper Talks Wolves

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Indiana Pacers
7:00 PM EST
Conseco Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Indiana

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I’ve only seen about four Minnesota games all season, so rather than pretend I know what I’m talking about when it comes to the Wolves, I’ve contracted Zach Harper to answer a few questions on Indy’s opponent tonight. Zack writes about the Sacramento Kings at Cowbell Kingdom and writes about the NBA generally at Talk Hoops and Hardwood Paroxysm. But his real fan passion lies with the Wolves, so he knows them just about as well as anyone. Enjoy.

cherokee parks

Jared: The Wolves are only 2-5 in their last 7 games, but if you look at the opponents that doesn’t sound quite as bad. They beat both of the two teams that they “should have” beat (Wizards, Nets) and they lost to four teams they really have no chance to beat (Magic, Spurs, Atlanta and Boston). How have they looked overall during this stretch?

Zach: Isn’t it pathetic that a 2-5 stretch is cause for hope? Sadly, it IS cause for hope, mainly because we’re seeing Al Jefferson start to get some of his dominance back. When you have Kevin Love and Al Jefferson as your best frontcourt combination, you’re going to assume that there will be a lot of points in the paint given up by your team. But with the way Kevin Love is rebounding this season (he’s arguably the best rebounder in the league as a second-year player) and the way Al Jefferson contained Dwight Howard during this stretch, you start to think that you can live with hoping they’ll be decent defenders.

They also took the Jazz down to the wire in one of those games, which would have meant 3-0 against them so far this season. Jonny Flynn is still playing well enough to trick you into thinking you don’t need Ricky Rubio right now. Corey Brewer is pretending to have a jumper right now, which is really nice. There are a lot of nice-enough building pieces, and seeing them play a more spirited brand of basketball is nice to see. Especially after how they started the first 20 games of this season.

Jared: Kevin Love has now played in 16 games since missing all of November with a broken hand. And in those 16, he has 15 double-doubles. Looking at his game log makes him look like one of the most dependable-to-produce guys in the league. 15.1 ppg, 12.6 rpg and 2.6 apg. That’s beyond legit. How happy are you to see all this, and is he really this good?

Zach: I’m very excited to see this. Much like with Randy Foye, we’re always going to compare Kevin Love to the rookie we traded to get him. So when O.J. Mayo looks like the second coming of Joe Johnson most nights, you put added pressure onto Love and hope he can perform.

I know I just stated it, but I do think he’s the best rebounder in the NBA. My proof of this is looking at the type of athlete Dwight Howard is and looking at the body and type of athlete Kevin Love is. Should they be matching each other rebound for rebound on a nightly basis? He’s just so intelligent that it gives you serenity knowing that the ball is in his hands. He’s a decent enough scorer from the perimeter and he’s a good passer, which a greater understanding of the triangle offense will prove. I think he really is this good — and probably better. He’s a better version of David Lee. He’s not going to stop much inside but you can trust the ball in his hands for 94 feet.

Jared: What’s the best commercial featuring a T-Wolf? KG has a lot of good ones (“Tastefully Done” with Steph, the foosball one with Brandi Chastain, the Styles P one where he’s playing in the rain, “Ayo, give me some help“), and my favorite indeed features him — but it’s really more about Cherokee Parks and, ultimately, how cool Googs was/is. You really can’t beat The Fun Police’s classic “And your facial expressions when you dunk are VEERRRRY limited.” Discuss.

Zach: Here’s my ranking of the ones you mention here:

#1. Fun Police
For many reasons. But most importantly, it symbolized how fun the emergence of the KG era was. There was fun and excitement buzzing around the fans. Googs had a barbed wire tattoo before it was fashionable with douche bags and bad Baywatch spin-offs. Plus, look at the acting chops of Cherokee Parks. Hell, look at the fact that Cherokee Parks was in a NATIONAL commercial. This embodied Kevin Garnett. The ultimate teammate. You think Kobe Bryant was putting Cherokee in a national Nike spot? Jordan? I didn’t see Grant Hill getting a pass from Cherokee between drinking Sprite and dunking on at a park.

#2. Foosball.
It was dry wit. It was topical. It was Kevin Garnett playing foosball. I had a foosball table at the time. I would have LOVED for KG to play foosball at my house and then try to get girls to take off their shirts.

#3. Ayo, give me some help.
This was pretty much the equivalent of the Wolves from 1998 to 2003. No help for KG. Duncan and the world trying to stop him. The only thing missing is Wally Szczerbiak trying to steal the ball from his own teammates.

#4. Styles P.
I downloaded this mp3, had it as my ringtone and listened to it as much as any song before I played basketball. To say there was a Kevin Garnett obsession with me is to define the word understatement. Plus, I only wore And 1′s at the time. So this was like ice cream mixed with porn but not in the gross fetish sense of the combination.

#5. Tastefully Done.
If Stephon Marbury hadn’t been selfish and ruined the 2K version of Stockton/Malone, this would probably be number one for me. But I don’t like to talk about Steph any more. Sore subject.

Jared: Even though Al Jefferson has only missed 2 games this year, he is still only in the “post ACL surgery” stretch of his recovery. Before he went down with that knee injury last year, he was looking like a guy who really could (sorta) validate trading KG and rebuilding from scratch. Has he gotten back to the point where he is fully dominating the block again or is he still pretty far below how good he was last year?

Zach: He’s definitely not dominating the lower block again but after seeing his performance against Dwight Howard, I think he’s getting back there. The Wolves are being smart by not forcing the ball into him and relying on Al to carry the team while still working out the kinks of his surgically repaired knee. There are nights in which he’s a step or two slow. And the Wolves recognize that early. I’d expect by March he should be back to validating the trade as much as he possibly can. Then when next season comes, he’s going to make post players wish it was 2009 again.

Jared: Jonny Flynn looks pretty good so far and is known to drop 20-25 points every once in a while. Are Wolves fans enjoying that pick and does the kid looks like someone they’ll want around four years from now? Is he a guy who might light up TJ Ford and Earl Watson tonight, I guess is what I’m really asking here? And for clarification’s sake, I — of course — mean “will he light them up more so than everyone else does?”

Zach: I’m probably the wrong person to ask about Jonny Flynn. Much like the Kurt Rambis hiring, I feel that it’s a nice pickup but I don’t see it being the building block to a title contender. Flynn is everything you could want in a point guard when you’re a fledgling franchise with no real hope in the near future. He’s quick. He can jump. He can score like crazy. But he’s a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s frame. And with the rights to Ricky Rubio in our safe deposit box that we can’t find the key to, it’s even more frustrating trying to talk yourself into him.

As for tonight, he’ll probably destroy Ford and Watson and keep tricking us into thinking we can make the playoffs with this guy running the show. I’d feel a lot better about him if he was backing up a Spanish kid rather than trying to figure out the next motion in the triangle.

Indy vs. ‘Sota: By the Numbers

[TABLE=39]

Off Rating: pts / 100 possessions Def Rating: pts allowed / 100 possessions
eFG%: FG% accounting for 3PA being worth more Pace: avg possessions per game

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