Minnesota Timberwolves 91 – Cleveland Cavaliers 73

Friday night’s game against the Cavs was set up perfectly for the Timberwolves – they had an off night the day before to rest after their quick trip to the East coast.  They also don’t play again until next Wednesday.  Therefore, it was an opportune time to try to get AK47 back on the court to test his back.  The time off after this game was a good reason to keep Ricky Rubio off the court for one more night.  As an aside, I fully expect the Unicorn to be in action next week and the Wolves announcers did virtually nothing to temper those expectations.

The Wolves starting five consisted of Ridnour, Lee, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  The Cavs opened up with Jeremy Pargo, Boobie Gibson (sorry, had to), Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao.  As expected, the Cavs were without Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving.  “Supremely overconfident” could be used to best describe how I felt about this game and the Wolves getting the win.

The Mayans might be right because I actually had this one correct.  Less than three minutes into the game and this felt appropriate:

Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour led the way for the Pups with real strong first quarters.  Love finished with 15 points and 4 rebounds, while Luke did a little bit of everything – 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 points, and 1 steal.  (Given it is December, here’s the obligatory “and a partridge in a pear tree” wit.)  The Wolves had a nine point lead (25-16) after the quarter and it didn’t really feel that close at all.  The only watch-out worth mentioning is the continuation of sub-par free throw shooting, with the team going 7-11 in the quarter.

At the beginning of the game, Jim Pete offered up his three keys to the game and they all had to do with “2nd” stages; “2nd chance points”, “2nd half performance” and “2nd effort”.  Unfortunately, that second one should or could have said “2nd quarter woes” as the team struggled once again in the quarter.  The Cavs were able to cut the lead to a single point about half way through the quarter.  Going into a timeout, it was time for Adelman to bring back a few starters as the second unit was not working, putting up only 2 points in the quarter with several minutes already gone by.

After the Cavs tied the game at 35, the Pups woke up and finished the quarter on a 9-2 run to go into the half with a 44-37 lead.  Thank goodness for Kevin Love and his 20 points because no one else on the Wolves was scoring.  The second leading scorer for the team at the half was Ridnour with 6 points.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Pekovic and Varejao were both scoreless in the half.  That deserves a kudos to both guys’ efforts on the defensive end
  • Paging healthy wings … the Pups were 1-11 from three point range in the half
  • Paging a FT consultant to come into practice over the weekend; the Wolves were 13-19 in the half.  They continue to get there but continue to struggle from the line
  • Alonzo Gee had 8 points at the half but was a -9 in +/- for the half and did virtually nothing else on the court.  However, he’s the biggest call-out for the Cavs at half time.  This is going to be another tough sports season for Cleveland

The Wolves built their lead going into the first time out of the 3rd quarter, finally getting to the fifty point mark, while still holding the Cavs to under forty points.  Luke Ridnour continued to impress with a few assists that gave AK47 a few easy buckets in the early minutes.  This was just as much about Kirilenko’s ability to see the court and be in the right spot at the right time.

Aside from when the Wolves were running in transition, it was surprising at how little they went into the paint to feed Kevin Love.  They tried to feed Pekovic quite a bit, but it wasn’t working against Varejao.  Conversely, Love owned Tristan Thompson when given the opportunity to post up.  This really could have and should have been a set play every trip down the floor when they ran the half court offense.

At the end of the 3rd, the Wolves maintained their nine point lead, 66-57.  This wasn’t exactly a free flowing, offensive game by any stretch of the imagination.  The Cavs were shooting 34% from the field, while the Wolves were at a 42% clip.  Love already collected his double-double for the evening with a quarter to go, finishing the 3rd with 30 & 10.  The only Cavs player worth noting (sorry Cleveland fans) was Alonzo Gee, who had several highlight reel dunks in the quarter and leading the Cavs with 16 points.

The 4th quarter got a little interesting as the Cavs cut the lead to just six points.  However, similar to every other run that was made the Pups were able to answer with their own small run to increase the lead to right around double digits.  As the quarter wore on, the Cavs wore down.  The Wolves built the lead thanks to … well, frankly, the same players that you’ve read about multiple times throughout this summary + JJ Barea.

I don’t have evidence of this, but I feel like JJ plays under more control when he’s on the floor with AK47.  This may just be Kirilenko’s overall presence on the game and the team.  He simply makes the game look easy and makes everyone else look that much better.  AK’s final line of the night is quite impressive: 8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.  Seriously?

The final score of the game was 91-73 with the Wolves continuing to run away with the game as the minutes wound down in the final quarter.  This was a good team win against a team that the Pups should beat and need to beat if they have playoff aspirations.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Kevin Love
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Luke Ridnour