Timberpups Roundtable on Andrew Wiggins

 

(photo credit: nba.com)

The Man – Andrew Wiggins (Credit: nba.com)

As we exit All-Star Weekend there has been one constant in the Timberwolves lineup this season, the future Rookie of the Year for the 2014/15 season, Andrew Wiggins.  Wiggins has played in and started every game thus far for the Wolves.  Let’s dissect his game a bit and what our projections are for the Timberwolves’ star.

Question 1: What has impressed you the most with Andrew Wiggins’ game?

John:

Every night he is guarding some of the best wing players in the NBA and he doesn’t seem to mind the task at all.  This has to be exhausting on any NBA player, but is almost unthinkable to ask a 19 year old to go out there and do this night in and night out.

Secondary vote goes towards his all-around offensive game.  I’m surprised it is as strong as it is already.  Once he starts getting the benefit of the doubt from the referees, he is going to make a living at the free throw line.

Lindsey:

His confidence in shooting the ball. I think in the first couple games you could see that he was getting used to that transition into the pros, but even then he didn’t hesitate to shoot. He knows what he can do, and he knows he’s capable of being a star in the NBA. It gives the Timberwolves an energy and spark on offense that I haven’t seen for awhile.

Alex:

So far this season, I have been blown away by Wiggins’ maturity and even-keeled approach to the game. We can talk all day about his physical tools, but his mentality and attitude have demonstrated a particular leadership that was missing in the Timberwolves’ last star. Sitting at a youthful 19 years of age, Wiggins has a chance to one day be a very special player.

Josh:

His consistency on offense. For a guy that was known to fade on offense at times at Kansas, Wiggins has found his spots offensively and been aggressive. His shooting form has also impressed. Even still, there’s plenty of room for more improvement to Wiggins game, and that has to have Wolves fans excited.

Question 2: Is Andrew Wiggins happy in Minnesota, and will he stay happy here?

Lindsey:

The short answer is, Wiggins is currently happy in Minnesota. No one enjoys losing of course, so there is that element of frustration, but I don’t agree with people who say that Wiggins feels negatively about being traded from Cleveland. Sure, he could have played with LeBron James in Cleveland and would have won more games. But he would have been in the shadow of LeBron and Kyrie Irving, and I think the Timberwolves gave Wiggins the best chance to step up and stand out as a rookie. Long-term, it’s hard to say how content he’ll stay if we don’t see a major improvement on the team. I do think he’s happy with the fans, city and especially his teammates, and there is still a lot of upside with guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine. Games have also been much more promising with Rubio and Pekovic back healthy–in my opinion, Wiggins is getting set up for a good situation here.

Alex:

An underrated aspect of acquiring Wiggins was that not only were the Timberwolves getting arguably the best NBA prospect since LeBron James, but also that he happened to be from Toronto, Ontario. Andrew seems to be growing very comfortable in his settings and I truly hope that this working relationship can continue for many years to come. And it’s as simple as that.

John:

Being traded to Minnesota was probably the best for Wiggins in terms of quick development.  Is he happy?  He sure seems happy when he is on the court.  This is really on the front office to turn things around very quickly moving forward.  The Wolves cannot afford to have two or three more losing seasons with Wiggins leading the charge (with Ricky Rubio).  Winning cures all.

Question 3: Is Andrew Wiggins going to hit the rookie wall?

Josh:

He may have already hit it. The last few weeks before the All-Star break Wiggins seemed to tire in the second half of games. He’s played the most minutes in the NBA since January 1st, and the week long break, should do him wonders as he works to get back in sync with Rubio.

Alex:

In short, yes, in one way or another Wiggins will ultimately hit the “rookie wall”. However, I do not believe that we will suddenly begin to see noticeable flaws in his game, rather that physical exhaustion and lack of proper endurance will take a step or two away from him. The truth of the matter is that he is an extremely well-rounded player who can beat you in a myriad of ways, and I do not expect to see him go down without a fight.

John:

I’m shocked that he hasn’t really fallen off too much.  He did have a few off games before the break, but it wasn’t like he fell off a cliff like many rookies do at some point over the course of the season.  With the rest, he will likely have recharged the battery for another few weeks; where maybe we start to see him tail off in late March or April.  I’m impressed that he hasn’t really shown a great deal of decline, particularly since he is consistently asked to guard the best wing players in the league every night.

Lindsey:

It’s hard to tell! He’s had a couple “off games” over the past couple weeks that Rubio has been back, but I don’t think he’s going to fully hit that wall that we see a lot of rookies up against. Wiggins has gotten progressively better and more confident throughout the season, and I have to imagine that finally having Rubio and Kevin Martin back will increase the morale and energy for everyone on the floor, but especially Wiggins.

What has caught your attention the most with Andrew Wiggins?  What was your favorite highlight thus far?  Let us know in the Comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Post All-Star Weekend

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)

 

Setting the stage:

The NBA gets back to the grind Thursday and Friday night after an eventful All-Star Break that saw the young Pups take center stage.  While the season has slogged along, aided by the significant injuries to key players, the Wolves were able to make some noise during the break and put a little bit of spotlight on the young, potential stars on the roster – Andrew Wiggins, as well as Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, and Shabazz Muhammad.

The Timberwolves open up their post-Break with a home game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night and then move into the following week with four more games.  At 11-42 thus far on the season, fans are more interested to see what tweaks might be made to the roster (or future draft picks) as we close in on the NBA trade deadline.  Timberwolves’ fans will then pivot their attention to ping pong balls as the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers continue their tanking ways.

Here is a preview of the next five games:

Game 54: Friday, 2/20, 7pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Suns enter the second half of the season as the 8 seed in the Western Conference but have the OKC Thunder right on their heels.  To make matters worse, Goran Dragic has told the club he won’t be resigning with them this summer.  The team is reportedly looking to move Dragic before the trade deadline so that they don’t lose him for nothing.  It could be an interesting dynamic to watch on Friday night.

The Wolves lost twice to Phoenix in mid-January, one on each team’s court.  However, the game in Minnesota was a nailbiter, with the Suns pulling out a 113-111 victory.  The teams combined to score 75 points in the final quarter, with the Suns outdueling the Wolves 42-33 to take the victory.

Opponent to watch:

Eric Bledsoe – Pick a Guard of your choosing as the Suns have a plethora of talent in the backcourt.

Game 55: Monday, 2/23, 7pm – Timberpups @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

It’s Flip Saunders vs. Kevin McHale night in Houston!  There hasn’t been this many past and present Timberwolves coaches on the same court since … Friday, December 5th when the Wolves lost to the Rockets in overtime.

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden put in 38 points in that OT victory against the Wolves and Wiggins will have his hands full trying to guard one of the very best offensive players in the NBA.

Game 56: Wednesday, 2/25, 7pm – Washington Wizards @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Wait a minute, we’re getting McHale and then Randy Wittman two nights later?  Did Flip make the schedule himself?  If it weren’t for the incredible season the Atlanta Hawks are having, the Wizards would be in serious contention for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference … with Wittman as their Head Coach.

Opponent to watch:

John Wall – 17+ points and 10+ assists per game and you still don’t hear THAT much about Wall.  He’s going to give Ricky Rubio fits.

Game 57: Friday, 2/27, 7pm – Timberpups @ Chicago Bulls (TV: FS North)

The Bulls defeated the Pups on 11/1 earlier this season, 106-105.  Kevin Martin had 33 points and Rubio had 17 assists but the Bulls came through at the end hitting clutch free throws to put the game away.

Opponent to watch:

Jimmy Butler – Butler was the player who hit those two free throws at the end of the game.  Jimmy is also likely target 1A, 1B, or 1C on most Wolves’ fans free agency lists this coming offseason.

Game 58: Saturday, 2/28, 7pm – Memphis Grizzlies @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Timberpups lost the season opener in Memphis but defeated the Grizzlies shortly before the All-Star Break.  You may remember this game as the one where Rubio willed his team to victory, returning to the court after rolling his ankle and causing hearts to skip a few beats.

Opponent to watch:

Zach Randolph – Randolph was a no-show in the Wolves’ victory against the Grizzlies in their last meeting.  It will be interesting to see if his teammates force-feed him the ball to get him involved early and often.

Wrap-up:

The scheduling gods do the Wolves no favors again to start the second half of the season.  Tough opponents and the team continues to travel back and forth from Minnesota after each game.

Here is to staying healthy and not doing anything dumb at the trade deadline!  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 16

The NBA’s top teams visit the Target Center this week ahead of NBA All-Star Weekend. (Credit: via Mashable - Marcio Jose Sanchez / Todd Kirkland, Associated Press)

The NBA’s top teams visit the Target Center this week ahead of NBA All-Star Weekend. (Credit: via Mashable – Marcio Jose Sanchez / Todd Kirkland, Associated Press)

 

Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to turn the corner and come into the final week before All-Star Weekend with a three game winning streak.  With a 11-40 record, the Wolves are staring down ping pong balls and not much more but they are playing well within the past week.  The Wolves have two more games ahead of All-Star Weekend and while both are at home, they may be the toughest two opponents in the league.  The Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors are this week’s match-ups and should provide the Wolves’ faithful a glimpse of solid fundamentals and exciting team basketball.

Here is a quick preview for both games:

Game 52: Monday, 2/9, 7pm – Atlanta Hawks @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

Owners of one of the longer winning streaks you will find in recent NBA history (19 games) the Hawks look to enter the All-Star break with the best record in the Eastern Conference and, potentially the entire NBA.  Atlanta beat the Pups back on 1/25, 112-100.  All five starters scored in double figures for the Hawks in that affair, as they shot 56% from the field.

While the Wolves were without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin for that game, it will be tough to beat one of the league’s strongest team defenses and best overall teams.

Opponent to watch:

Al Horford – One of the league’s best big men, Horford had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the game against Minnesota, shooting 8-9 from the field in 31 minutes.  As Nikola Pekovic continues to round into form, he will need to use his muscle and punish Horford on both end of the floor.

Game 53: Wednesday, 2/11, 7pm – Golden State Warriors @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The most exciting team to watch in the NBA frequents the Target Center just ahead of All-Star Weekend.  The Warriors put up over 110 points per game on average and this game could lead to a 240 points plus combined.  Don’t miss this game if you like offense!

Opponent to watch:

Stephen Curry – Are we beyond the statute of limitations on “what could have been?!” here?  I can’t decide.  Curry has been lights out this season, leading the team in points, assists, and steals.  I hate to even say it, but most importantly, Curry hasn’t missed a game all season.

Wrap-up:

A short, but very tough week for our Pups.  Hopefully everyone can stay healthy and get the necessary rest and relaxation during the All-Star break so that the team can come back with a positive attitude and finish the season on some type of strong note.  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Stand Tall, Defeat Grizzlies 90-89

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Both teams started the season with a 0-0 record and when they faced each other on opening night, the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves had reason for optimism.  Since losing opening night in Memphis, the Timberwolves have faced a series of injuries and unfortunate events week by week.  At 9-40, the Wolves are looking at the forthcoming All-Star Weekend as a time to recharge their collective battery.

At 37-12, the Grizzlies may want to hold off on the All-Star break, as they have been red hot since hitting a midseason bump in the road in late December, early January.  Since January 11th, Memphis has won 12 of 13 games they have played.

The teams met again on Friday night in the Target Center and here is a look at the action.

Since covering last Friday’s massacre in Philadelphia, the Wolves got their Unicorn back and the team has been remarkably more appealing to watch.  Minnesota opened up Friday night with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Nikola Pekovic.  The Grizzlies countered with Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol.

Both teams got off to a slow start on the offensive end, which probably could have been predicted the way the Grizzlies typically slow the pace down.  The Wolves also lost Pekovic early to two fouls.  However, Gorgui Dieng filled in admirably throughout the first quarter.  Coming out of the first timeout of the game, the Wolves went to Andrew Wiggins often and he continued to come through scoring the next four baskets for Minnesota and giving his team a 14-10 advantage.  One other note from the start of the game – Ricky Rubio assisted on each of the team’s first five baskets.  Have I mentioned it is nice to have Ricky back yet?

Would you like another example of the benefit of having Rubio on the floor?  With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Mo Williams launched a 24 foot jumper in order to set the Wolves up for a 2-for-1.  It missed badly.  After a steal on the defensive end, the Wolves had a chance to play for the last shot.  Williams pulled the ball out of what seemed like a potential bucket in transition, launched a 25 foot jumper as time expired and missed everything.  The score at the end of the 1st quarter was 24-23, Minnesota’s advantage.

With Pekovic back on the floor and Anthony Bennett at the Power Forward spot, the Timberwolves came out of the chute nicely in the 2nd quarter, at one point building a ten point lead, 37-27.  The highlight of the run came on a loose ball scramble where Wiggins tracked down the ball and whipped a pass to Bennett for a dunk.

All good things come to an end this season.  That ten point lead quickly evaporated with the Grizzlies going on a 10-0 run of their own.  During the run the Wolves committed three turnovers and missed badly from the floor.  At the half, the teams were tied at 43.

Here are a few additional halftime notes/stats:

  • The Timberwolves scored on only three of their final fifteen possessions of the half
  • Wiggins led the Wolves with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 21 minutes of action … rookie wall will have to wait until after the All-Star break apparently
  • In his 9 minutes on the floor, Zach Randolph didn’t take a single shot and was scoreless in the half

The Timberwolves opened up the second half on a 10-3 run which was capped off with a Rubio three pointer from the top of the arc.  In the midst of the run however, Pekovic picked up his fourth foul and would be forced into very limited action for the remainder of the evening.  Once again, the Grizzlies came storming back to take a 58-57 lead, forcing Flip Saunders to burn another timeout.

With Ricky Rubio still on a minute limitation, Flip had to turn to Mo Williams again for PG duties, who promptly turned the ball over two times in a row trying to feed the post.  This led to the following:

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Grizzlies held a 69-65 lead.  The Timberwolves offensive execution in the final minutes was fragile at best, highlighted by the final possession of the quarter that saw Mo Williams dribble at halfcourt for too long, feed a terrible pass to Kevin Martin right on the three point arc, and then seeing Martin launch an off-balance jump shot that clanged off of the rim.

Early in the 4th quarter the Wolves got another scare.  With a 77-73 lead, Thad Young threw a pass in the open court to Rubio who connected on a layup.  Ricky was fouled on the play but a whistle never blew, despite him crashing into the padding under the baseline.  Almost immediately, Ricky ran to the locker room but was back on the floor in under five minutes.  (Collective “Phew …”)

With Rubio’s return, something seemed to happen with the Wolves on the court.  It may have been confidence, it may have been his calmness.  Whatever it was, it worked.  After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Wolves found themselves down 85-78 with a little over two minutes to play.

Pekovic and Jeff Green traded jumpers, followed by a Rubio three pointer.  After Courtney Lee and Wiggins traded two made free throws, Rubio hit another three pointer to cut the Grizzlies lead to one point, 89-88.  On the Grizzlies next possession, the Wolves forced a turnover led by … you guessed it, Ricky Rubio.  Inexplicably, Zach Randolph fouled Rubio to put him on the line for two shots.  Ricky hit both to give the Wolves a one point lead, 90-89.  With a swarming defensive set, filled with solid rotations and a total team effort, the Wolves forced one final turnover to hold onto the victory.

The final score: Minnesota 90, Memphis 89 – the first back-to-back victories for our Pups this season!

Game Notes:

  • All five starters for the Wolves in double figures, led by Wiggins’ 18 points and 6 rebounds, Rubio’s 17/5/5/3 line, and Thad’s 14 points and 8 rebounds
  • The Grizzlies were only 2-12 from three point range tonight
  • Despite his 10 rebounds, Zach Randolph only scored 6 points and was a game low -10 in +/-

Timberwolves Embarrass Themselves, Lose to 76ers 103-94

Who is having a more enjoyable rookie year between Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid? (2015 NBAE, Jesse D. Garrabrant, NBAE via Getty Images)

Who is having a more enjoyable rookie year between Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid? (2015 NBAE, Jesse D. Garrabrant, NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Ahead of the emotional return of Mike Miller and Kevin Love to the Target Center Saturday night, the Timberwolves took the show on the road to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers.  Along with the Knicks, the Wolves and Sixers are aiming for the most ping pong balls come lottery time and Flip Saunders’ Timberwolves took a commanding lead for the pole position.

Friday night’s game at Wells Fargo Center was downright embarrassing as the Wolves have lost both match-ups against a terrible basketball team this season.  This one came with Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup.  Just about every preconception I had on this year’s team came to fruition in last night’s game.  I typically reserve some of my thoughts until seeing it with my own eyes … and that is exactly what happened last night.

The first 22 minutes of the game were pretty entertaining basketball if you like offense.  If you like defense, you might have wanted to look away.  The Wolves got big performances from Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng, while the Sixers were led by Michael Carter-Williams (MCW) and ex-Pup LRMAM.

With about two minutes to go in the first half, the Wolves started to fall apart and the body language of the vast majority of the squad became disturbing.  After multiple turnovers, the Wolves gave the ball back to Philadelphia with 3.8 seconds on the clock.  MCW received the inbounds pass and drove all the way to the hope for a buzzer beating layup.  The lack of energy, effort, frankly anything from the Wolves on that play set the tone for the second half.

Already missing Mo Williams due to injury for Friday’s contest, Zach LaVine went down for a while with an ankle injury.  After heading to the locker room for a bit, LaVine later returned to the court to play in the 4th quarter.  I’m not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing, outside of the fact that the injury itself doesn’t seem to be significant.  LaVine is very clearly not ready to play Point Guard in the NBA on either side of the court.  MCW crushed him throughout the night.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, LaVine’s backup is not an NBA caliber player.  Lorenzo Brown’s return to the team that drafted him should be over upon the return of Ricky Rubio.  The Brown signing is the type of laziness that exudes from the Wolves front office – “We drafted this guy a few years ago, so there was something there. He’s available and we need a PG.  Sign him!”

The second half was the worst half of basketball I have ever seen with my own eyes.  The Wolves put up 18 points in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Sixers 18-17.  Not to be outdone, Minnesota put up 17 points in the 4th quarter to allow the Sixers to put them away for good.  The loss moves the Wolves to 8-38 on the season, while the Sixers go to 10-37.  Minnesota now has a clear track to the most ping pong balls with two losses to Philadelphia.  Joy.

The final score: 76ers 103, Timberwolves 94

Game Notes:

  1. I want to touch on the body language again as there were a few particular examples worth calling out:
    • Kevin Martin and the returning to Philly Thad Young could not have looked more disinterested.  Martin was a chucker (5-18 FG’s) and Young didn’t seem to have much emotion returning to Philadelphia.
    • The one guy that visibly cared the most, was wearing a suit and still recovering from his ankle injury.  Ricky Rubio jumped out of his seat when the Wolves failed to execute in the fast break.  The Wolves are lucky Rubio was willing to resign earlier this season.
    • When LaVine twisted his ankle it was quite telling that not a single teammate stayed by or even really went to his side before heading to the locker room.  This season and all of the losing is likely leading to a lot of this, but in the back of my mind is the fact that this is a Flip Saunders run team and he has never been known to enforce or instill camaraderie with his club.  This isn’t going to end well.
  2. It was not a packed house last night …

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 14

The Timberwolves took a trip to Cleveland to take on the new “big three” including ex-Pup Kevin Love. (Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports)

Guess who is coming to Minneapolis this week? (Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports)

 

Setting the stage:

At 7-36 after Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Minnesota Timberwolves are officially on pace and watch to finish with the worst record in the NBA and in franchise history.  Truth be told, this wouldn’t be that annoying if Flip Saunders would stop talking about how injuries have derailed the season and would have accepted blowing up the roster by trading Kevin Martin for ten cents on the dollar before the season started.  Saunders must find a way to get out of his contract, as well as finding out if/where there is a market for Nikola Pekovic.  While I want to see more of a Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng frontcourt, the sooner Saunders realizes that a full reset is the best way to go, the sooner this team will become relevant again outside of Minnesota (and one household in New Jersey).

The Pups have a heavy workload this week with four games, including tonight’s game against the OKC Thunder.Here is a preview for each game this week:

Game 44: Monday, 1/26, 7pm – Timberpups @ Oklahoma City Thunder (TV: FS North)

With the Thunder floating around .500 ball with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back on the court, it is beginning to look like a lost season for OKC.  Even if they squeak into the playoffs, they are likely on the road to start each series.  While he it mentions it an annoying frequency, I agree with Bill Simmons on the fact that OKC’s ownership blew it by getting rid of James Harden and refusing to pay the luxury tax.

Opponent to watch:

Dion Waiters – OKC’s new Shooting Guard is playing relatively well for the Thunder, averaging over 11ppg.  He’s not Harden, but it was an interesting move to acquire the maligned Waiters.  How he fits in with Durant and Westbrook over the coming months is an interesting storyline worth watching.

Game 45: Wednesday, 1/28, 7pm – Boston Celtics @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Wednesday night’s game will be the last of a six game road trip for the Celtics, who will have played in Utah on Monday night.  This is a good opportunity for the Pups to take advantage of a team that is probably looking ahead to getting back home.  The Wolves lost big in Boston back in December, with the final score 114-98.

Opponent to watch:

Kelly Olynyk – Olynyk put on a show back on 12/19 against the Pups.  In only 25 minutes, he had 21 points (8-13 FG’s) and 8 rebounds.

Game 46: Friday, 1/30, 6pm – Timberpups @ Philadelphia 76ers (TV: FS North)

Last week’s preview was “We’re going streaking!” and had it not been for Saturday’s game, this week’s preview was going to be “We’re going tanking!” thanks to Friday’s game against the Sixers.  These two teams, along with the Knicks, are in a bloody brawl for the league’s worst record.  Who will come out of this in a better place?  Only a frozen envelope away from that answer …

Opponent to watch:

Nerlens Noel – Noel isn’t lighting up the box score but is seemingly making progress averaging over 8ppg and 7rpg.  It should be a fun matchup between he and Dieng.

Game 47: Saturday, 1/31, 7pm – Cleveland Cavaliers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Well, here we go Wolves fans!  Here is your chance to boo the holy heaven out of Kevin Love … or you can go the other way and cheer him on for bringing some level of competency to the franchise for several years.  There were more than a handful of nights where Love simply dominated the opponent while wearing the Wolves’ uniforms.  Unfortunately, my favorite memory of Love will always be his “What are we doing” tweet after David Kahn drafted seventeen PG’s in the 2009 NBA Draft.

Opponent to watch:

LeBron James – Too easy to pick Love here.  James is the best player on the planet, so in between your cheers and jeers for Kevin, sit back and enjoy LeBron’s game.

Wrap-up:

The scheduling gods are doing the Wolves no favors, consistently flipping back and forth between home and road games throughout the week.  While it would be nice to see a win vs. Cleveland on Saturday night, I don’t have high expectations there.  The Pups do have a legitimate chance of at least splitting W’s and L’s this week though.  Let’s go Wolves!

Happy Birthday Crunch – Wolves Lose to Pelicans 92-84

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter - @WolvesCrunch)

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter – @WolvesCrunch)

 

The 7-34 Minnesota Timberwolves completed their brief homestand on Friday night against the 21-21 New Orleans Pelicans.  Both teams reside at the bottom of their respective divisions but one is clearly still playing for something this season while the other continues to receive more bad news.  Reports have surfaced that Ricky Rubio’s ankle injury is worse than originally thought.  That quickly took all of the steam out of Nikola Pekovic’s return to action on Wednesday night.  The Pelicans have been struggling with their own injury news of late with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday missing time recently.

The two teams met early on this season in New Orleans, with the Pelicans undressing the Wolves to the tune of 139-91 – the worst loss in Wolves’ franchise history.

Looking for a reason to celebrate Wolves’ fans?  The Wolves celebrated Crunch’s birthday Friday night at the Target Center.  So at least there’s that for those in attendance.

Let’s take a look at how Friday night’s action went down at the Target Center.  The Wolves opened up with a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Andrew Wiggins, Robbie Hummel, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Pelicans countered with the following starting five: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, ex-Pup Dante Cunningham, the aforementioned Davis, and Omer Asik.

The one Pup that I have consistently laid into this season (Thad) started off a house of fire, accounting for 7 of the Wolves first 11 points, which led to NOLA Coach Monty Williams to call a very quick timeout with his team down 11-1.  While the Wolves continued to hustle and play relatively well coming out of the timeout, the shooting percentage came back to earth and the Pelicans were able to tie the game at 18, forcing Flip Saunders to burn the Wolves first timeout with just over three minutes left to play in the 1st Quarter.

With Wiggins and Pekovic a combined 1-8 in the opening quarter for the Wolves, the Pelicans took a 24-20 lead into the break.  As time expired in the 1st, Chase Budinger drew a foul on a three pointer, only to see the referees swallow their whistles.  It has been a rough enough season for Chase, he doesn’t need any help from the zebras.

After taking a 32-29 lead in the 2nd Quarter on a beautiful post move from Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves turned the ball over on consecutive series and quickly gave up their lead.  Concentrating on the positive for a moment, Dieng’s offensive game continues to grow stronger as the weeks continue to pass by.  If for no other reason, and I can’t think of another one, Pekovic’s injury has had at least one benefit for the Wolves and that is the improvement in Dieng’s all around game (and likely his confidence).

At the half, the Wolves trailed 45-44.  Halftime notes/stats:

  • Thad Young with a team high 11 points on 5-8 shooting … but 0 rebounds
  • Conversely, Dieng finished the half with 8 points and 7 rebounds
  • The Wolves shot 44% from the floor in the 1st half, while the Pelicans shot 59%
  • Pups only got to the free throw line six times in the half – as did the Pelicans – but only made two of their attempts

The 3rd Quarter seemed to slog along with some ugly basketball being played.  Through the first four minutes of the quarter, the Wolves had one made basket and two free throws.  After Dante Cunningham made two long range jump shots, Flip Saunders called a timeout to try to straighten the ship.

The Pelicans opened up a double digit lead but the Wolves were able to cut it back down to four.  Nate Wolters scored as the clock was running down in the quarter, giving the Pelicans a 69-63 lead heading into the final frame.

There were several mini-runs for each team to start the 4th Quarter, with the Wolves trimming the Pelicans lead thanks to some strong offensive play from Chase Budinger, who scored all but two of his ten total points in the 4th.  However, the Wolves could never get over the hump and fell to the Pelicans.

With about :40 seconds to go in the game, the Pelicans were inbounding the ball up by six.  With a foul to give before going into the penalty, the Wolves scrambled to try to trap an opponent defensively.  It didn’t work but with under ten seconds on the shot clock, the Wolves then commit the foul.  That resets the shot clock to 14 seconds and the Wolves then have to commit another foul before forcing the Pelicans to the line.  In no way, shape or form was this a defensive strategy worth repeating.  Ever.  Either foul early and stretch the game as much as possible or play and hope they miss the shot.

The final score: New Orleans 92, Minnesota 84.

Game Notes:

  • Happy birthday Crunch!  You don’t look a day over 26 …
  • If the Wolves have any interest in winning games the rest of the way, a Pekovic-Dieng frontcourt is going to need to be used
  • Mo Williams had a quiet double-double on Friday night, tallying 12 points and 10 assists
  • In fact, the Wolves assisted on 27 of their 35 made baskets (77%)