- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Western Conference scout on what ails Minnesota:
“When they’re clicking, they’re as good as anyone you’ll see offensively. Their ball movement and all their little actions ... it’s fun to watch when they’re making shots.
“But then you look at their record and it just doesn’t match up. I think they’re really good. This should be a playoff team. But it’s gotten to the point where you start to wonder if it’s an internal personality thing when a team keeps losing close games over and over and over.
“They have some things working against them. Ricky Rubio’s shooting is becoming more and more of an issue; if you can just keep him out of the paint he’s not a factor at all. They could really use a shot blocker, too, and they always seem to have their fair share of injuries. But when you hear a stat like that [Minnesota is 0-11 in games decided by four points or fewer], what it says to me that they stop trusting each other in close games or they get down on each other quickly.
“I don’t think it’s fair, but this is going to end up falling on [Kevin] Love’s shoulders if they can’t turn it around. This is coming from a big fan of his -- I really don’t know if he could give them much more – but he’s the face of that team. So he’s got to take it. That’s just the way it is in the NBA. If Kevin’s your best player, whether you think that’s fair or not, most of [the criticism] is going to land on his doorstep. And I really don’t see them making the playoffs.
“I’m out on Denver, too. Phoenix ... I just don’t think they can sustain what they’ve done for the first couple of months. It’s starting to go sideways now, so they have to pray that [Goran] Dragic doesn’t get hurt, because he has to play 40 minutes a game now that [Eric] Bledsoe’s out. I think Devin Harris coming back is going to be a big help for Dallas and I think Memphis is starting to put things together. [The Grizzlies are] going to jump back in [to the West’s top eight].
“But Minnesota is the toughest read. Either they’re scoring at will and cutting people apart or they’re losing another heartbreaker. I’ve got Dallas and Memphis grabbing those last two [playoff] spots.”
95dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo