Minnesota Timberwolves 105 – Philadelphia 76ers 88

Timberwolves’ Alexey Shved hit 4 of 7 three-point attempts and powered Minnesota past the 76ers (Photo Credit: Howard Smith/USA Today Sports)

The Minnesota Timberwolves stormed into the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night and nailed a remarkable 13 three-pointers en route to a 105-88 victory on the first night of a road double-header. Alexey Shved led the way for the Wolves, contributing a very impressive 17 points (5-8 FG, 4-7 3FG), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 block and 3 turnovers in 29 minutes of action.

The Russian free agent acquisition was virtually unstoppable tonight and clearly had the hot hand for Minnesota. Shved dazzled a Philadelphia crowd that witnessed the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA shoot a combined 13-25 from beyond the arc, good for 52%. With the game separated by double-digits in favor of the Pups for what felt like the entire contest, Shved and backup PG JJ Barea did a tremendous job of managing the game in the second half and never allowed a doubt about what team was going to walk away with the W. Barea was a game-high +12 on the court and finished with 11 points (5-10 FG), 10 dimes, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and only 2 turnovers in 27 minutes.

The first half of play was about as one sided as they come, as Minnesota nailed 7 of their 12 three-point attempts and led the 76ers by a score of 65-57. Remarkably, Philadelphia committed only 3 more turnovers than the Wolves and was nearly even with the Pups on both rebounds and assists. However, the Wolves shot nearly 60% from the field with 10 Timberwolves scoring in the first half alone.

Although I feel like the top performance of tonight’s game goes to Shved, it is very difficult to ignore the performance that Josh Howard gave the Pups tonight. From the get go, Howard was constantly in positions to score and did a great job anticipating passes and getting his arm in passing lanes. He played with the relentless fire that we had grown used to seeing during his All-Star days in Dallas, and quite honestly he was everything the player he used to be in this game. In 29 minutes, Howard scored 16 points (7-12 FG, 2-3 3FG) while grabbing 10 boards on his way to his first double-double of his Timberwolves career. Howard simply out-hustled every player on the court, his own teammates included, while his jumper was clearly on. It was extremely satisfying to witness Howard give a performance like this, given how saddening it was to never see Brandon Roy play like his former self while in a Wolves uniform.

This might be the longest I have gone in a game recap without mentioning Kevin Love. The reason for this is that somehow, some way, the team did not need any of Love’s duties tonight. Playing only 26 minutes, K-Love scored a season-low 6 points to add with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Confusingly, Nikola Pekovic also ended the night with 6 points and 5 assists, while playing 27 minutes. The Wolves shot so well from nearly everywhere on the floor, especially from three-point range, that they appeared to have no use for their impressive frontcourt duo. Instead, the Pups went with smaller looks as Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham both played key roles in tonight’s blowout.

Dante Cunningham played his role to near perfection, consistently getting open for 18-20 footers that he has been able to knock down so effectively this season. Cunningham finished with 13 points (6-10 FG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and no turnovers in 25 minutes. Every day I love the swap of Cunningham for Ellington more and more.

Williams, who is often the casualty of Minnesota’ frontcourt depth, took advantage of 16 minutes of playing time and nailed 3 of his 4 three-point attempts, finishing with 10 points, 4 rebounds and not a single turnover. It was great to see D-Will get in a groove from beyond the arc, because if he can start to gain a rhythm shooting the ball, he could be a tremendous asset to Minnesota down the line.

The Timberwolves bench outscored the 76ers bench 57-23, and completely dominated with either unit in the game. Although both of Minnesota’s starting guards played very well, the Wolves second unit guards played so well and were able to give both Luke Ridnour and Malcolm Lee a breather before their matchup in Boston tomorrow night. Both Ridnour and Lee finished with 10 points apiece and played 21 and 19 minutes, respectively.

I cannot fail to mention Greg Stiemsma, who fed off the energy and optimism and provided solid interior defense in 18 minutes. Despite committing 3 fouls in such a short amount of time, the Stiemer was very effective and provided 6 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block.

I do not expect the Pups to shoot 53% FG in tomorrow’s matchup in Boston, and the team will need to continue to move the ball and rotate on defense as well as they did tonight. Pekovic and Love were able to get some good rest tonight, and that should help them against a Celtics team that has been called “soft” by some this season. Here are my Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Alexey Shved
  2. Josh Howard
  3. JJ Barea