Setting the stage:
First, let me clarify a technicality. Due to the cancellation of the game in Mexico City against the San Antonio Spurs, the number of each game is off by one game, relative to adding up the wins and losses for the Wolves to this point in the season. When we get to the Spurs game on April 8th, we will be calling that “Game 20”. Please just agree that this is “fair”. Why? Because I want to leverage this week’s preview as a place to rant about how the Wolves are looking “halfway through the season”. Let’s pretend that we aren’t 49% of the way there and are at 50%. Sound good? Thanks!
This past week included two bad losses to the Kings and Raptors. The Wolves salvaged the week with a blowout victory against the Jazz on Saturday, but remain below .500 for the season – 19-21, now sitting in the 11th position of the Western Conference. The team is 3.5 games behind Phoenix for the 8 seed in the Conference, with the Grizzlies and Nuggets also ahead of them. Let’s agree that this is an underperforming group right now, despite the few injuries that the team has endured.
This team needs to make a move to shake things up. The chemistry of this roster doesn’t seem to be very good and the body language stinks coming out of timeouts, etc. This coming week, I’ll be posting midseason grades for the roster. It won’t be rosy. As mentioned in Friday’s recap against the Raptors, I truly believe that Rick Adelman is doing a disservice to the future of this franchise by not playing the young players. At the very least, they need to be getting minutes in blowout wins and losses. At the very least! I get that he has no interest in rebuilding a team and that he won’t be coaching more than another couple of years, but he is doing the franchise no favors in not letting these guys experience some playing time.
Let’s take a look at this week’s slate of games:
Game 42: Tuesday, 1/21, 8pm – Timberpups @ Utah Jazz (TV: FS North)
The Pups are right back at it with a home and home against the Jazz, after taking them out rather easily on Saturday, 98-72. Nikola Pekovic had a monster game and Kevin Martin showed signs of life. Hopefully, this continues in Utah.
Opponent to watch:
Alec Burks – Burks had a nice game on Saturday, with 18 points. If he repeats that performance, perhaps he is showcasing himself for the Wolves? (One can hope)
The Wolves must take care of business again. Final score: Timberwolves 102, Jazz 89
Game 43: Friday, 1/24, 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Golden State Warriors (TV: FSN & NBA TV)
I thought the Wolves were going to get a break here, as they have a few days off before continuing their road trip in the Bay Area. Unfortunately for them, the Warriors will have been of since Monday, 1/20 coming into this game. The Wolves lost to the Warriors back on November 6th, 106-93, on the Target Center floor. (Noteworthy as this was the first game I had ever seen in person at Target Center!)
The Warriors severely outplayed the Pups that night, with Klay Thompson and David Lee going off.
Opponent to watch:
Andre Iguodala – Iguodala’s numbers are down this season, but much of that should have been expected, at least in the scoring department. Note that he is shooting north of 50% from the field though, illustrating an improvement in efficiency. AI2 is a tough match-up for many teams around the league, but particularly for the Wolves wing players, who don’t have the size (read: “weight”) to body up against him.
The Warriors really handled the Wolves earlier in the year and with all of the time off they have coming into this game, I fear the same result. Final score: Warriors 115, Timberwolves 102
Game 44: Saturday, 1/25, 9pm – Timberpups @ Portland Trailblazers (TV: NBA TV)
I’m still surprised at how well the Blazers are playing this year, sitting at the top of the Northwest division with OKC. (Boy was I wrong about this team.) They do however have a busy week ahead and will play five games this week – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. The scheduling gods continue to do no favors to the Wolves, as the Blazers will have an off day before this game.
The Wolves beat the Blazers back in December, 120-109, at Target Center. Kevin Love lit up LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers to the tune of 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists. So much for that “Best PF in the NBA” argument, huh?
Opponent to watch:
Damian Lillard – Speaking of lighting it up, Lillard killed the Pups’ PG’s back in that December meeting, putting up 36 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. PG play for the Wolves in recent weeks has been questionable at best. I wouldn’t expect much less of a performance from Lillard in this one.
While I would love to see Ricky Rubio answer the call, this doesn’t seem to be the place that it is likely to happen. The Wolves would need another Herculean effort from Love to pull this one out, coming off a game against GS the night prior. Final score: Blazers 112, Timberwolves 106
This may be a “make or break” week for the Wolves and as you can see above, I don’t think it is going to be easy / handed to them. This team must right the ship. Please … Let’s go Wolves!