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


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…]

Trail Blazers drop injury-depleted Wolves 117-110

(Photo: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

Game Summary

The shorthanded Timberwolves hosted the Trail Blazers on Saturday night in the first game of a four game home stand without three of their starters and approximately 60% of their total offense. With both Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Love (quad) already sidelined, matters were made much more difficult after Kevin Martin sustained a broken left thumb against the Pelicans on Friday night. The Blazers, having lost six of their past ten games, faced off against an impotent Minnesota offense of which included Dante Cunningham, Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf in the starting lineup.

The lack of offensive weapons opened the door for Ricky Rubio to assume a much greater role in the teams scoring efforts and he began the game very aggressive on the offensive end. The early returns were fruitful for the Spanish point guard as he hit four of his six shot attempts while not shying away from mid-range jump shots. It was very encouraging to watch Rubio gaining confidence in creating his own shot and he did a very nice job with both his elevation and release point on his shots. For Rubio, he will need to find consistency in his release in order for him to begin to take the next steps as a scorer.

The Timberwolves kept the score close during most of the first quarter until allowing an 8-0 Trail Blazers run to end the quarter. Portland led 28-23 after one.

During the second half, Coach Rick Adelman called on rarely-used rookie Shabazz Muhammad to inject some energy into a stagnant Minnesota offense, and he did not disappoint. Within a few minutes, Muhammad had already eclipsed his former career-high points total with 7 first-half points while demonstrating an ability to go to work on the low block. The first-round pick out of UCLA was criticized for his back-to-the-basket play during the draft process, and it was immediately evident that he has been putting in time on his post moves. He strongly favored a left-handed hook shot and cleared space through the use of a couple of crab dribbles followed by a sharp right pivot, but went to the move almost predictably down the stretch of the game. Regardless, Muhammad lifted Minnesota’s bench and looked confident while on the floor and he will be needed during this current stretch of misfortune for the Wolves.

The Wolves trailed 55-54 at the half despite being clearly overmatched in terms of talent. Cunningham and Turiaf provided reasonable interior defense and helped keep LaMarcus Aldridge to 10 points. Rubio led Minnesota with 14 points while Shabazz  brought good energy to Wolves players and fans alike.

Against all odds, Minnesota continued to fight for any points and rebounds they could and jumped ahead 82-75 with 1:50 left in the third quarter, despite having trailed for much of the first half. However, another late-quarter run by Portland put the game tied at 83 heading into the final period.

Leading 87-85 with just under ten minutes to play in regulation, the Wolves soon ran out of steam hanging onto the fleeting offensive production of Rubio and Corey Brewer. The surging Blazers proceeded to go on a 13-1 run, effectively putting the game out of reach for the battered Wolves.

Perhaps the most pivotal play of the game occurred with just under seven minutes remaining with the Timberwolves on a 2-on-1 fast break advantage that initially appeared to culminate in an and-1 layup by Shabazz. However, the young swingman was instead called for a questionable offensive foul for swinging his right arm into the chin of Wesley Matthews. The opportunity for Minnesota to cut the score to 92-90 was denied, and Portland subsequently kept the momentum and quickly extended their lead to 10 points. Budinger’s third three-pointer of the night cut the game back to a 5-point differential at the 4 minute mark, but that was as close as the game would come for the Wolves as they fell to the Blazers 117-110.

Leading the way for the Wolves was Rubio with a career-high 25 points (8-19 FG, 2-4 3pt) and 9 assists in 39 minutes. Both Brewer and Budinger enjoyed arguably their best performances of the season as Brewer recorded 26 points (11-23 FG, 0-1 3pt) and 7 rebounds in 39 minutes while bringing tremendous energy on the defensive end. Budinger netted 19 points (6-12 FG, 3-6 3pt) to pair with 5 rebounds in 29 minutes. Turiaf added 8 points (4-8 FG), 13 rebounds and 3 blocks in 38 minutes.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. LaMarcus Aldridge – Aldridge scored 16 second-half points giving him 26 points (12-16) and 9 rebounds in 34 minutes and was the key for Portland’s late victory on Saturday night. Combined with his 6-foot-11 stature and high release point, Wolves defenders had no answer for the Blazers’ All-Star power forward. Aldridge’s ability to consistently drain 18 to 20-foot jumpers makes Portland’s high-low offense lethal when clicking.
  2. Wesley Matthews – Matthews got the most out of his matchup against Budinger and posted 21 points (6-14 FG, 3-5 3pt) and 6 assists in 33 minutes. Portland’s starting shooting guard is now shooting 41.7% from long range and poses a serious threat whenever playing against the defensively-incompetent Minnesota shooting guards.
  3. Ricky Rubio – Despite shooting a poor percentage yet again, Rubio scored a career-high 25 points and tallied 9 assists while looking the part of a scorer in the first-half.

Timberwolves Fall to Portland 115-104

LaMarcus Aldridge held his own against fellow all-star Kevin Love (AP Photo/Don Ryan).

LaMarcus Aldridge held his own against fellow all-star Kevin Love (AP Photo/Don Ryan).

Game Summary

For the third game of their current roadtrip, the Timberwolves (21-21) traveled to Portland (32-11) to take on the third place Trail Blazers as Minnesota attempted to rise above .500 for the first time since November. The game featured the often publicized matchup of superstar power forwards Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge. Following a very impressive late game victory in Golden State on Friday, the Wolves looked to continue to feed  Nikola Pekovic on the low block as he entered Saturday night’s game as the NBA leader in points in the paint for the month of January.

Despite nursing a broken left finger, Nicolas Batum got off to a hot start early, scoring the first two buckets of the game and 11 total points in the first period. On the other end, Kevin Martin was sizzling from the get-go and helped open things up on the low block for Minnesota’s frontcourt, scoring 10 points in the opening quarter. Portland’s length advantage proved to be an obstacle in the paint as both Aldridge and Robin Lopez made life difficult on the low block. Although the Blazers failed to convert on any of their first quarter three-point attempts, they hung around and only trailed the Timberwolves 29-27 after one.

Beginning the second quarter, the Blazers showed off their deep bench and got off on a 9-2 run to start the quarter prompting a frustrated timeout from Rick Adelman. Mo Williams led the scoring attack for Portland, netting 10 quick points while dominating Alexey Shved. Portland kept the momentum and soon after extended their lead to 43-33 with 8:44 left in the quarter. Former Kansas standout Thomas Robinson demonstrated his awesome combination of strength and athleticism as a scorer and rebounder and exploited Dante Cunningham on both ends of the floor. Despite being previously labeled as a bust after failing to live up to lofty expectations in both Sacramento and Houston, Robinson has carved out a niche in Portland’s rotation and the 22-year-old appears to have a bright future in the Association. Ricky Rubio attempted to jumpstart the Wolves’ offense with two consecutive highlight reel passes to a leaking Corey Brewer which trimmed Portland’s lead to 51-46 at the five minute mark. Despite ramping up their defensive intensity, the Wolves trailed the Blazer 65-57 at the half.

Halftime Notes:

  • I can’t get over seeing Alexey in that facemask, but it really goes to show his toughness as he hasn’t missed any time after breaking his nose on Tuesday.
  • Damian Lillard really struggled in the first half, shooting a miserable 1-10 from the field and getting outplayed by Rubio on both ends.
  • K-Mart was scorching in the first half as he scored 20 points on 7-13 shooting, providing an isolation option against a very tough opponent. After jawing with Robinson following a shooting foul call, Martin then missed two consecutive free throws in what was one of the most uncharacteristic sights you will ever see.
  • Minnesota’s starting frontcourt played well in the first half as Love recorded 11 points and 6 rebounds while Pek scored 8 points to pair with 7 rebounds.
  • Batum failed to score in the second quarter after a hot first, but still contributed in a variety of ways as he finished the half with 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

Second Half

The Wolves came out with good energy to start the second half and began the third quarter on a 14-6 run,  tying the game up at 71 just before the seven minute mark. Brewer’s first three-pointer of the night put the game at 78-76, and two consecutive blocks on the defensive end and a subsequent Martin three gave the Wolves a short-lived lead of 79-78. With Lillard struggling mightily, Portland decided to go back to the red-hot Williams at the point, and he responded by immediately draining a three on their following offensive possession. The Blazers finished the third quarter on a 9-2 run and headed into the final period leading Minnesota 87-81.

Although Minnesota played Portland tough the entire way through, the Wolves were unable to claw their way back and ultimately fell in Portland 115-104. The Wolves allowed the Blazers to score a season-high 60 points in the paint while their bench was outscored 34-15.

This game really came down to bench production as each of Minnesota’s starters were at least a +3 or better, and the Wolves reserves not only did not score well but were also exploited on defense. Love was able to overcome a poor shooting night to post a respectable line of 15 points (4-12 FG, 1-3 3pt) and 13 rebounds in 36 minutes, while Pekovic enjoyed another monster performance of 23 points (9-18 FG) and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes against a very good defender in Lopez. Tricky Ricky played well but still needs to improve his scoring, as he is consistently a liability due to his now nonexistant midrange game. He finished the night with 10 points (4-8 FG) and 11 assists in 37 minutes, while his backup J.J. Barea missed all 4 of his field goal attempts.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Mo Williams – Mo proved to be the game-changing lift that the Blazers needed from their bench with Lillard really struggling. Williams sported a game-high +20 on the floor and posted 16 points (6-12 FG, 2-3 3pt), 6 assists and 5 rebounds in only 25 minutes.
  2. Kevin Martin – The poor play of Minnesota’s bench unfortunately overshadowed a phenomenal game from K-Mart, as he netted 30 points (11-22 FG, 6-10 3pt) while not turning the ball over a single time in 41 minutes of action.
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland’s All-Star PF played very well on both ends of the floor and recorded 21 points (9-21 FG) and 6 rebounds in 34 minutes.

Timberwolves Sink Season-High 16 Threes, Dismantle 76ers 126-95

Photo Credit: Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer

Photo Credit: Steven M. Falk/Staff Photographer

Game Summary

Coming off a 1-2 home stand, the Timberwolves traveled to Philadelphia to take on an inexperienced yet talented 76ers team that was in the midst of a 4-game winning streak. The 16-17 Timberwolves looked to get back on track against the worst defensive team in the league and did just that with a 126-point outburst that was supported by a season-high 16 three-pointers.

The Timberwolves improved to 9-1 when shooting over 40% from beyond the arc and got 47 points of bench support. Ronny Turiaf was active for the first time since undergoing surgery on his elbow and was extremely active on the defensive end for a team that has been in desperate need of his services. Despite failing to score a point in 23 minutes (he only attempted 1 shot), he secured 9 rebounds and blocked 2 shots while playing solid defense throughout the entirety of the contest. [Read more…]

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 11

Setting the stage:

The Wolves endured a very dramatic pair of losses during the holiday break, first against the Dallas Mavericks following a terrible non-call which kept Kevin Love from attempting the game-tying free throws, and then again at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder after Love was fouled on a three-pointer and awarded with three free throws with Minnesota down by two, but he was unable to make the first two and intentionally missed the last one.

Minnesota was able to defeat the New Orleans Hornets at home on New Years Day, but a 1-2 home stand does not cut it for a team that currently stands at 16-17 and tied for ninth place in the Western Conference. Let’s check out this weeks matchups: [Read more…]