While I am a huge Sonics fan and huge supporter of the team I am not someone that gets the opportunity to see lots of games live. Very rarely do I get the chance to sit anywhere but the nosebleeds so last nights game was a treat for me. I read the write up by Psheehy so I'll try not to give a bit of a different feel.
Tonight's game was a story of two halves. In the first half Minnesota's offense was really clicking and Seattle, with the exception of Ray Allen, really struggled to get it going. Even as the third quarter started we could not get the offense clicking but there was a measured increase in intensity on the defensive end. By the fourth quarter both the offense and defense were absolutely rolling.
First the point is not anything that any of us don't already know, is that Ray Allen is amazing. I could go on and on about hte game he played tonight, but he was just Ray being Ray. What really made me happy though was that Earl Watson showed tonight exactly why he was worth dealing for and why he'll be a key member of this team for a long time. He's steady, can hit open shots, plays tough defense and doesn't back down from anyone. In other words he's a younger, less abrasive Antonio Daniels. Luke really struggled tonight, earlier in the year this is a loss simply because Flip would not have been able to do what Earl did.
Robert Swift is a game changer, in the fourth quarter he had the most effective 12 minute 2 rebound stint I've seen in a long time. Any T-Wolves' player that tried to take it to the cup had thiershots changed because he challenges everything. I'm sure some people will point to the shots Mark Blount hit, but aren't those the exact shots (and the exact player) you want taken? If Minnesota is going to beat you with Mark Blount hitting 20 foot jumpers they deserve to win. The picks Robert set allowed at least two Allen threes, as well as his give and go pass to Watson for the three are hopefully a sign of things to come.
Out of this game I hope that Bob Hill changes the starting lineup and inserts Swift alongside Chris Wilcox. Those two as a pair on the court are MUCH better than the Wilcox/Johan Petro combo Hill has been starting. Petro and Wilcox really do not compliment each other while Swift and Wilcox do. Mikki Moore is showing that he can be a capable reserve player and has the tools to compliment Petro better than the other bigs on the roster.
Couple things from the Minnesota side that would really worry me if I were a Timberwolves fan. Dwane Casey did not coach a good game tonight. There was no reason that he had Rashad McCants in the fourth quarter while Trenton Hassell was on the bench. I can't fathom why Casey did not call at least one timeout when the Sonics offense got rolling in the fourth. Going to Justin Reed was an odd choice at the end, I didn't see much from him that made me think he'd be the right guy to go to in that situation.
And what would sitting close to the action be without the funny musings from the Minnesota bench. In the first half there was a sequence when Banks was called for palming, then on the next possession jacked up a three which may have hit the net. Before even seeing where the shot landed Casey turned down the bench commenting 'Marko, go get him'. Nothing else, just that and everyone knew exactly who he was talking about. Also before the game former Sonics announcer Billy McKinney was courtside and was very gracious to everyone who he walked by. From ushers, to PR people to long time ticket holders Billy took time to talk and mingle with anyone. I almost worked up the nerve to ask him if he'd please come back and replace Ehlo, but I didn't want to put him on the spot.
Tonight I got the true appreciation of the Mark Madsen experiment. Let me be the first to say that I became a much larger Madsen fan tonight. There's no one on that team other than KG that was more into the game than Madsen. He meets every teammate when they come off the court, he pays attention in the huddle, he acts like the ref when he thinks there should be a foul called. He's great, and he takes abuse from fans with a smile and grace. Think Steve Scheffler with personality.
Great game, I wish it would have been on TV for everyone to enjoy.