Kings Overcome Love’s 43 points, Defeat Wolves 106-103

The Kings held off a tremendous individual performance by Kevin Love and went on to defeat the Wolves in Sacramento, thanks largely to the play of their man in the middle, DeMarcus Cousins. Despite leading by as many as 11 in the third quarter and getting 30 second-half points from K-Love, the Wolves fell to 16-24 on the road this season and dropped yet another game to a team that will be vying for a top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Between Love and center Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves’ starting frontcourt recorded 64 points and 25 rebounds. However, Corey Brewer (2-8 FG), Ricky Rubio (0-4 FG) and Kevin Martin (0-8 FG) combined for a lousy 12 points which went a long ways towards nullifying the exceptional performances of Love and Dieng.

The lengthy Ricky Rubio matched up against the shifty 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas, and failed to score a single point in 32 minutes while notching 11 assists. Despite possessing a significant size advantage, Ricky lacked aggressiveness on the offensive end as shown by his zero free throws attempted. Thomas, on the other end, had an off-game himself but was still able to weather through the storm and got the better of the matchup posting 14 points (6-13 FG) and 4 assists in 30 minutes.

After being taken with the 7th overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, Ben McLemore fell way short of expectations this season as he recorded horrific advanced statistics despite having started 54 games and playing an average of 26.5 minutes per night. Having a reputation as a dynamic scorer coming out of Kansas, McLemore has shot just 37% from the field while sporting a 7.45 PER (15 is indicative of “average”). With how terribly this rookie season has gone for him, he had every reason to be nonexistent in Sunday night’s game against Minnesota. Instead, he came out and had one of his best performances of the season. McLemore made Martin look like the struggling rookie, scoring 19 points on 6-11 shooting (3-6 3pt) while turning the ball over only once. On the defensive end, he held Martin to only 2 points.

McLemore and Cousins combined to make four big free throws in the final 12 seconds, ultimately solidifying a 106-103 win for the Kings. Cousins led the way for Sacramento with 35 points (13-21 FG), 15 rebounds and 6 assists in 37 minutes. He was able to help the struggling Kings overcome a monster 43-point, 11-rebound performance from the superstar Love and showed glimpses as to why he is on his own path to superstardom. Despite his huge performance, he disqualified himself from Sacramento’s upcoming final game of the season after being called for his 16th technical foul of the season late in the fourth quarter. Due to NBA rules, Cousins must sit out the team’s final regular season game against Phoenix on Wednesday.

The Wolves will travel to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors tonight at

Three Stars of the Game

  1. DeMarcus Cousins
  2. Kevin Love
  3. Ben McLemore

Wolves Fall to Bulls at Home 102-87

With only 5 games remaining in their 2013-14 campaign and the playoffs out of reach, the Wolves hosted the Bulls on Wednesday night. Led by Joakim Noah‘s fourth triple-double of the season, Chicago had little difficulty putting away a lackadaisical Wolves squad and out-scored Minnesota 54-34 in the second half.

Chicago has found a bright spot in D.J. Augustin, a former number-9 overall pick whose career had sputtered after stints with Charlotte, Indiana, and Toronto. A sharp-shooter coming out of Texas, Augustin had trouble getting acclimated to the NBA due to his lack of strength and questionable decision-making as a point guard. It appears that those concerns are behind him now with the mentorship of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, and Augustin has provided the Derrick Rose-less Bulls with a much-needed scoring punch off the bench that has the team vying for the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Wolves were without Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin, J.J. Barea, and Shabazz Muhammad on Wednesday night and dealt with even more problems after Kevin Love hyper-extended his elbow in the first half. Despite having a favorable match-up against Carlos Boozer, Love made only 7 of his 20 shot attempts and was noticeably off.

Playing 30 minutes off of the bench, Augustin scored 21 points on 8-14 shooting while knocking down 4 of his 7 three-point attempts. The Wolves as a whole converted on only 4 of their 17 three point tries. While Augustin made mincemeat of Minnesota’s defense, no player was more outstanding than Noah. With Rose constantly sidelined due to injury, Noah has elevated his game to new heights and notched his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season on Wednesday night with 15 points (7-13 FG), 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a game-high 41 minutes of action.

Six Bulls scored at least 13 points and they went on to handily defeat the Wolves 102-87. Minnesota is set to host the Houston Rockets Friday night at 7pm CT.

Timberwolves Fall on the Road to Lowly Magic, 100-92

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Game Summary

Just a day removed from a thrilling double-OT victory against the Miami Heat, the Timberwolves traveled to nearby Amway Arena on Saturday night to face an Orlando Magic team that will be picking near the top of the lottery once again this summer. With the playoffs out of reach, Kevin Love (back spasms), Kevin Martin (foot) and Shabazz Muhammad (knee) had a chance to rest their various ailments while the bench got extended run.

Dante Cunningham filled in for Love in the starting lineup and played 34 minutes despite being released from prison nearly 24 hours before the game. Cunningham was charged Friday with one felony count of domestic assault by strangulation after choking his girlfriend of eight months during a domestic altercation. The Timberwolves organization released a statement Friday concerning the charges:

We are aware of the matter involving Dante Cunningham and are in the process of gathering more information…The Minnesota Timberwolves organization takes the matter very seriously and does not condone the type of behavior that is associated with this situation. However, we need to let the legal process run its course, and will have further comment at the appropriate time.”

Under the NBA’s labor agreement with its players, the Wolves will wait until the legal process unfolds with Cunningham before suspension or any other sort of disciplinary measures are brought by the team and/or league. Cunningham will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and there is a high likelihood that these next few weeks will be the last that he is spotted wearing a Timberwolves uniform.

Following a season-best performance in which he netted 24 points which included 5-7 shooting from beyond the arc, Chase Budinger was forced to leave after the first minute of the contest due to an ankle injury and was unable to return. In his place, seldom-used forwards Robbie Hummel and Luc Mbah a Moute played extended minutes with each getting over 30 minutes a piece.

The Wolves led the Magic 48-46 after the first half. Led by Ricky Rubio taking advantage of a porous Orlando defense, the Wolves built upon their lead in the third quarter and led 72-59 at the 4:45 mark. However, the momentum soon shifted when Rubio went to the bench for a breather as youngsters Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris helped the Magic inch back within 77-72 heading into the final quarter.

Orlando outscored Minnesota 28-15 in the fourth and ended the game on a 10-1 run, ultimately defeating the Wolves 100-92 for their 22nd win of the season. Oladipo and Harris had near identical nights coming off the bench as each player was a +26 on the floor while each shot 7-12 from the field. Oladipo finished with 16 points and 6 assists while Harris tallied 17 points to go along with 6 rebounds.

With their primary scorers out, Rubio was forced to take on a larger offensive role and attempted 18 field goals, converting 7 of them on his way to a game-high 18 points and 10 assists in 33 minutes. Gorgui Dieng continued to build upon a tremendous past three weeks and he finished with 12 points (5-9 FG), 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in 36 minutes.

Minnesota lacked aggressiveness against a clearly inferior opponent on Saturday night. The Wolves held nearly every advantage statistically as they committed only 13 turnovers to the Magic’s 23 while Orlando committed 23 personal fouls to only 10 by Minnesota. However, the Magic out-rebounded the Wolves 40-30 while netting 9 of their 17 three-point attempts. Minnesota, conversely, shot a ghastly 1-15 from long range.

The Wolves (38-38) are set to host the first-place San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night and have just six games remaining for the 2013-14 season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Victor Oladipo
  2. Tobias Harris
  3. Ricky Rubio

Timberwolves, Dieng Roll Past Hawks at Home 107-83

Carlos Gonzalez / Minneapolis Star Tribune

Carlos Gonzalez / Minneapolis Star Tribune

Game Summary

Another game, another big night for Gorgui Dieng. Coming into Wednesday night’s game against Atlanta, the Timberwolves’ rookie first-round pick had previously notched double-doubles in four of the past five contests while demonstrating significant improvement from his earlier play this season. Provided with a big opportunity in front of him given the continued absences of Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf, Dieng has really hit his stride over the past week and a half and has started to attract national attention due to his impressive work on both ends of the floor. The tandem of Dieng and Kevin Love made mincemeat of an Atlanta frontcourt lacking depth and Minnesota went on to outscore the Hawks 42-28 in the paint, ultimately defeating them 107-83 in what was essentially a meaningless game to Minnesota’s place in the final standings.

The Wolves, 35-35, are currently locked in at the tenth spot in the Western Conference with a very unrealistic chance at gaining a playoff berth. Currently, the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns are tied for the final playoff spot in the West as both sit at 43-29, each seven games ahead of Minnesota with just twelve games to play for the Wolves. And while the playoffs are a pipe dream, the Wolves are almost guaranteed to keep their top-13 protected draft pick that they traded to the Suns in the same move that shipped Wesley Johnson out of town. Not the worst consolation when considering that the 2014 draft is considered by many to be one of the top drafts over the past decade.

On Wednesday night, the Wolves took complete control of the game in the second half after leading by a relatively modest seven points at halftime. Corey Brewer led the team with 12 points at the break with 2 of his baskets coming as buzzer-beaters to end each of the first two quarters.

In the first quarter, Ricky Rubio was forced to leave the game after taking an elbow to the upper lip which required 15 stitches before he was able to return to the game. However, he was able to overcome a bum lip and a tough shooting night to effectively contribute, tallying 10 assists while swiping 6 steals in 31 minutes.

No player was more notable than Dieng for the Wolves. The former national champion out of Louisville scored 15 points on 6-8 shooting while grabbing 15 rebounds in the process. Playing a game-high 41 minutes, it is clear that Wolves head coach Rick Adelman has gained a good comfort level with his rookie in the middle, and why shouldn’t he have? Gorgui has been on an absolute tear and Jim Peterson said it best when he exclaimed during the game broadcast, “Gorgui alone is worth the price of admission.”

While Wolves fans have been getting their happy fill of Dieng, one Wolves rookie has had a tougher time carving out a consistent role in Adelman’s rotation. On a night where Dieng posted 41 minutes of run, Shabazz Muhammad found himself on the floor for a mere 4 minutes despite hitting his only field goal attempt – a three-pointer – while notching 1 assist to boot. With the future cloudy for fellow rookie Robbie Hummel as he can be let go with no implications to the cap after this season, he quietly had a nice night for Minnesota as he scored 9 points (3-6 FG, 2-3 3pt) with a +10 on the floor.

Chase Budinger, another guy that Minnesota fans would like to see hit a groove to end the season, enjoyed a very nice performance off the bench as he recorded 14 points (5-8 FG, 2-5 3pt) and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes. After nearly being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies at the trade deadline, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Chase heading into a big summer of decisions for the Wolves.

Minnesota will host the Los Angeles Lakers this Friday night at the Target Center at 7:00 CT.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Gorgui Dieng 
  2. Chase Budinger 
  3. Ricky Rubio

Timberwolves Fall at Home to Knicks, Carmelo Anthony

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary

Having won six out of their past seven games including an impressive 4-1 road trip, the Timberwolves came home to the Target Center to take on a struggling Knicks team that was riding a seven-game losing streak. Entering the game, the 30-29 Wolves looked to take advantage of an inferior opponent at home in order to continue closing in on Memphis and Phoenix in what looks like will be a dog fight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

From the get-go, the game was all Knicks. In the opening quarter, New York converted 8 of their first ten field goals and made 5 of 7 three-pointers to lead 38-24 behind 13 first-quarter points from superstar Carmelo Anthony. The obvious focus of New York’s offense, Minnesota was unable to slow Melo down despite the best efforts from Corey Brewer on the wing.

An impending unrestricted free-agent-to-be, Melo will likely opt out of the final year of his contract in order to test the market this summer. With the Knicks messy cap situation, many have speculated that he may seriously entertain the possibility of joining either the Los Angeles Lakers or Chicago Bulls given the lack of talent and salary flexibility in New York. However, the Knicks will be able to offer Anthony a five year maximum deal while every other team will only be able to offer four years and slightly less money annually, and it will be a very interesting situation to watch unfold in the coming months.

In the second quarter, the Wolves were barely able to chip away at the Knicks’ lead and trailed 66-55 at halftime. Kevin Love was able to contribute 18 points in the first half, but no other Wolves were in double digits. Despite being down by as many as 17 in the second quarter, Minnesota was able to cut the deficit somewhat as they headed into the locker room down by 11 at home.

The Wolves came out hot to start the second half, scoring on nine of their first eleven possessions cutting the Knicks lead to four. The Wolves outscored the Knicks 31-22 in the third quarter which brought the game to 88-86 in favor of New York heading into the final quarter of play. Ricky Rubio scored 9 points in the third quarter while Nikola Pekovic also got hot taking advantage of the minutes Tyson Chandler was on the bench. Despite bringing the game into winnable territory, the Wolves were unable to gain momentum in the final quarter and were ultimately defeated 118-106.

K-Love was held to only 1 second-half point due largely to the impressive defense brought on by the Knicks’ frontcourt of Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire. With Pekovic on a minutes restriction, Wolves head coach Rick Adelman was forced to sit his starting center for much of the final quarter despite Pek playing extremely well while on the court. In 26 minutes, Pek recorded 17 points on 8-12 shooting and 6 rebounds. Chandler and Stoudemire combined for 33 points and 22 rebounds.

Raymond Felton was an unexpected high point for New York on Wednesday night, scoring 18 points and tallying 8 assists in what Knicks head coach Mike Woodson dubbed “his best game of the season.” After struggling with injuries for much of the season as well as being arrested on gun charges late last month, Felton has had his fair share of struggles since rejoining the lineup. However, he was extremely effective and used his bulky frame to muscle his way past Rubio and J.J. Barea for much of the contest.

It was a very tough night for Minnesota’s backcourt. Although Rubio was able to post the line of 11 points (4-6 FG), 8 assists and 6 rebounds, he turned the ball over 6 times while being clearly outplayed by a mediocre player in Felton. Barea had a nightmare of a night, shooting 1-9 from the field in 15 minutes while being exploited on defense. Kevin Martin, still adjusting to playing with his healing left thumb, scored 12 points (3-10 FG) in 28 minutes.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Carmelo Anthony – No deliberation needed here as Melo was the clear star of Wednesday night’s contest. In 43 minutes, Anthony shot 14-27 from the field scoring 33 points to go with 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Pretty impressive when considering he only scored 2 points from the charity stripe.
  2. Raymond Felton – Despite being in the midst of a disastrous season, Felton showed his toughness and determination by playing arguably his best game of the season in a tough road win for the lowly Knicks. He shot 5-8 from the field including 2-4 from three-point range and posted the final line of 18 points, 8 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds.
  3. Amar’e Stoudemire – Chandler had a great game with 15 points and 14 rebounds, but it was Amar’e who showed glimpses of his old self while playing some solid defense on K-Love. In 31 minutes, STAT was a +17 on the floor while recording 18 points (8-18 FG), 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Timberwolves Defeat Suns 110-101 Behind Shabazz’s Career Night

shabazz Game Summary

On a night where Kevin Love posted another stunning line of 33 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists, he was hardly the focus on the post game analysis of Minnesota’s 110-101 come-from-behind victory in Phoenix. Disregard the fact that he had his fifth straight game of 30+ points (which happens to be a franchise record) and the fact that he also notched his 32nd 20-10 game of the season. When the buzzer sounded and the Wolves were left victorious, the spotlight was on rookie Shabazz Muhammad and his career-high 20 points (10 of which were in the fourth quarter) that helped spark a team who has had glaring problems during fourth quarters this season.

With Love the consistent offensive force that he is, we have become greatly desensitized to his ridiculous stat lines and have come to expect him to get his 25 points and 13 rebounds a game. What we have not come to expect from this team is volume scoring (aside from the rare J.J. Barea outburst) from a bench unit that has had a very inconsistent season. As Alexey Shved has fallen out of favor with Rick Adelman due to his inefficiency on offense and mediocrity on defense, it has opened the door for Muhammad to take advantage of the hole at shooting guard that Kevin Martin left when he broke his left thumb. During this current three game road trip, we are beginning to see the thought process behind as to why Flip Saunders decided to forgo the opportunity of drafting Trey Burke in order to roll the dice on the one-and-doner out of UCLA.

I believe that Zach Harper summed up Shabazz’s play excellently tonight in this post-game tweet:

To keep the recap relatively brief, let’s skip ahead to the fourth quarter at just around the 7:30 mark. After having trailed by as many as 9 points in the third quarter, the Wolves found themselves trailing the Suns 91-83 and desperately needing a spark. As Minnesota began clawing back by scoring on two straight possessions, a Ricky Rubio interception followed by a nice lead pass to Muhammad resulted in a gritty and-1 by the athletic swingman. However, Shabazz failed to convert at the line which put the game at 91-90 in favor of Phoenix. As the two teams continued to trade leads with the game heading down the wire, Minnesota caught a huge break when Goran Dragic, who was in the midst of a tough game, drew his sixth foul after attempting to get his own rebound following a missed shot. With the game being constantly traded between mid-range jumpers from both sides, the Wolves were finally able to gain a cushion thanks in large part to the energy and hustle from Muhammad, who worked his tail end off in order to gain inside position on a missed K-Love three-pointer in order to come down with a key offensive rebound, of which he immediately rallied to a cutting Corey Brewer who put the Wolves up by 5, effectively securing the win for the Pups.

Final Score: Wolves 110 – Suns 101

The Wolves improved to 28-29 and play next on Monday night in Denver. Let’s hope that Shabazz can build on his success as Nikola Pekovic and Martin are both likely to remain out.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Shabazz Muhammad - ‘Bazz truly earned first star as he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter while showing tremendous energy playing without the ball and on the defensive end. All the pre-draft knocks on his work ethic and motor on defense were totally unsubstantiated by Tuesday nights performance and the lack of consistent playing time during the first half of the season apparently has only made him work harder on improving his game. If Shabazz can take the next step and develop a perimeter game, he has the potential of becoming a great scorer in the league.
  2. Kevin Love - It’s pretty tough to give a guy second star when he comes one assist shy of a triple double while scoring over 30 points, but it was truly a special night from Shabazz and I’m sure K-Love did not mind all of the post game attention on the fellow UCLA alum. Love is currently on a torrid pace and is playing arguably the best basketball of his career, as shown by the following tweet from Alan Horton.
  3. Ricky Rubio – Ricky struggled during much of the first half of the game, but came on late to play a very effective fourth quarter and finished the night with 7 points, 11 assists, 3 steals and 3 rebounds. It was good to see Ricky on the court to finish the game as Coach Adelman has often preferred to go with Barea running the offense late in the fourth quarter. I have a sense that we are going to be seeing a lot more of La Pistola in fourth quarters from this point on in the season.

Timberwolves Blow Out Jazz Behind Love’s First Career Triple-Double

Lovetripledouble

Game Summary

Still without starting center Nikola Pekovic and starting shooting guard Kevin Martin, the Timberwolves played their second game since the All-Star break in a matchup against the lowly Utah Jazz. Utah received some unwelcome news that starting center Derrick Favors would miss Saturday night’s contest with a hip injury, and in his place, 21-year-old Turkish center Enes Kanter would get the start. Despite his improved play as of late, there is no denying the struggles the Jazz have had when Kanter has been in the starting lineup this season. Being matched up with Kevin Love did not appear to help, either.

With Pekovic sidelined for the eleventh straight game with bursitis in his right ankle and Ronny Turiaf out indefinitely with a knee injury, Minnesota went smaller with the 6-foot-8 Dante Cunningham starting alongside Love in Minnesota’s frontcourt. Faced against a clearly inferior opponent, the Wolves lack of size did not pose any serious mismatch problems given the disparity in talent between the two clubs. [Read more...]