Timberwolves Drop Disappointing Loss to Denver at Home

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The Timberwolves jumped out to a fiery start Wednesday night, but the energy was short-lived as the last three quarters proved a constant battle of “catch-up.” The 100-85 loss to a less-than-impressive Denver squad made it that much more disappointing. Andrew Wiggins led the team with 20 points, followed by Gary Neal who added 13 off the bench.

Minnesota had an early spark when Ricky Rubio dished the perfect pass to Wiggins for a slam dunk at the 6:00 mark. The play was part of an 8-0 run by the Wolves, and things seemed to be going their way. After a reactive timeout by Denver, though, the momentum shifted and from that point on the game ran in the Nuggets’ favor.

In the second quarter, Minnesota shot only 21 percent from the floor for 16 points, in comparison to Denver’s 34 points.

“In the last two months this is probably the most disappointing loss we’ve had just because we’ve been playing pretty good,” said head coach Flip Saunders. “We just didn’t play with any sense of urgency.”

Kevin Garnett added 11 points, six rebounds and a block in 21 minutes on the floor. Minnesota’s defense looked rough all night, but it was abysmal when Garnett was on the sideline. The young team just could not keep up with Denver, and they struggled to find a groove on either end of the floor.

No matter how many times the Wolves grabbed a bucket or two in an attempt to cut the deficit, the Nuggets answered with points of their own. Following the game, Rubio took ownership for some of the problems.

“We’ve got to bring more energy every night and tonight we didn’t,” he said. “We’ve got to start the game with energy. I blame myself. I didn’t bring enough energy tonight.”

Both Rubio and Kevin Martin have been averaging double-digit points over the last stretch of games, but the pair looked entirely out of sorts, combining for only 15 points on 7-of-28 shooting. As a team, Minnesota shot 39 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from behind the arc. Denver shot 40 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Kenneth Faried took control of the game, tallying 18 points and 14 rebounds on the night, notching his 16th double-double on the season. Will Barton added 17 points and six rebounds.

The Wolves biggest downfall Wednesday was in the paint, as they allowed the Nuggets to outscore them 52-28 points in that zone.

Despite the tough loss, Garnett continues to express a positive and motivated attitude since returning to his original team. The veteran spent the entire game coaching his teammates on the sidelines, offering encouragement, and handing out fist bumps as the guys came off the floor.

“This is a team that will fight for 48 minutes,” said Garnett. “This is a team where everyone will give what they have every night. That’s a good sign.”

Minnesota fell to 13-47 on the season, and the team will remain in town for the last of a three-game home stretch. The Wolves will welcome Portland for a 7 p.m. tipoff Saturday night.

 

Timberwolves Lose Close Game to the Clippers

(photo credit: fox sports)

(photo credit: fox sports)

Monday’s game proved exciting for all four quarters, and the final score came down to the wire. Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, the Wolves just couldn’t hang on and fell 110-105 to the Clippers. Gary Neal joined the starting lineup and led the Wolves with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio followed close behind with 18 points apiece.

As expected, Chris Paul put on quite the performance for LA, and he played a major role in pulling out the win. Paul, who is averaging 18.2 points and 10 assists per game, finished the game with an impressive 26 points and 14 assists. The point guard made the play of the night, grabbing a bucket over Kevin Garnett with 38 seconds remaining. That basket sealed the win for the Clips.

“[Paul] is a hell of a player,” said head coach Flip Saunders following the game. “We defended him as well as we could on that play, and he makes that shot.”

Garnett praised Paul as well, saying, “He’s probably the best general in the game as far as a guy executing. They’re playing better than anybody.”

Minnesota played well for most of the game, but the fourth quarter proved especially trying for Minnesota. Coming off a 37-point second quarter and 54.5 percent shooting in the third, the Wolves collapsed in the final stretch. The Clippers held Minny to just 7.1 percent from the field, which equaled just a single basket. Of the 18 points the Wolves tallied in the fourth, 16 of those came from the charity stripe. Looking at these numbers, it seemed unrealistic that Minnesota was actually given the chance to tie the game in the final seconds. Neal attempted a shot to even the score, but the launch fell short.

Neal did have the most points in the game, but his shooting was not particularly impressive. The guard shot only 6-of-17 from the field and 2-of-7 from behind the 3-point line.

“We were struggling and I thought [Neal] just thought he could make a shot,” Saunders said. “He thought he maybe got clipped a little bit in his legs. It was kind of a combination of he was looking for a call and also trying to shoot.”

The Wolves shot 43.9 percent overall Monday night, and they easily out-shot LA from the free-throw line with 82.9 percent compared to the Clippers’ 52.6 percent. Minnesota also out rebounded its opponents 47-43.

Here is something you don’t see every day: seven of the eight Wolves players who saw minutes scored in double-digit points. Adreian Payne proved a huge asset off the bench, adding 12 points and five rebounds, and rookie Zach LaVine also contributed 14 points. Garnett tallied 12 points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in his third game back with Minnesota.

Rubio was the stat line of the night, though, grabbing his fourth triple-double of the season. The point guard finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Several good things happened for Minnesota, but in the end it’s still a game in the Loss column. The Associated Press’ Jon Krawcynski posted the following after the game:

Monday’s game marked the first of three home games this week for the Wolves. Up next, they welcome Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Timberwolves Weekly Preview — Week 19

(photo credit: fansided.com)

(photo credit: fansided.com)

Setting the Stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are continuing to adjust to a new-look roster and starting lineup, but luckily for them, one of the “new” faces—as we all know—is none other than Kevin Garnett. The Big Ticket has played in two home games since joining the Wolves, and he’s notched one win and one loss.

This week promises to be interesting, as Minnesota has three home games. The Target Center has been packed since the news broke of KG’s return. It seems probable that he will play in all of this week’s games, being home, but fans shouldn’t count on too many minutes from the veteran.

 

Game Previews:

Game 59: Monday, 3/2, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers at Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

Minnesota last faced the 39-21 Clippers on Dec. 1, and the Wolves came up short in the 121-101 final score. Performances to note from Minnesota were Shabazz Muhammad (18 points and 10 boards). Andrew Wiggins (14 points), and 13 points contributed by Robbie Hummel off the bench.

Three of the Wolves starters in that game—Thad Young, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams—are no longer with the team, and LA will be facing a whole new lineup. Chris Paul is a tricky opponent, and Jamal Crawford has been scoring a ton of points lately, especially with Blake Griffin out. However, the Wolves have a much better chance at winning this game if they play defense the way they did against the Wizards Wednesday night.

Opponent to Watch:

Chris Paul—The Clippers point guard is averaging 18.1 points, 10 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. In December, Paul scored 12 points and dished out eight assists against the Wolves. All eyes will be on the Ricky Rubio and Paul, as each is considered a top passer and defensive PG in the league.

 

Game 60: Wednesday, 3/4, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

Wednesday will be the fourth meeting of the season for Denver and Minnesota. The Wolves lost their first two matchups, but they grabbed a win in Denver on Jan. 17. All five starters scored in double digits that night as they walked away with the 113-105 win.  Andrew Wiggins went off for a season-high 31 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and four assists, while Robbie Hummel filled in as a starter and added 15 points for the evening.

The Nuggets are currently 20-39 and are allowing their opponents to score an average of 104.2 points per game. They will be playing back-to-back games, as they play the Bucks at home Tuesday night before travelling to Minnesota. The Wolves will need to take advantage of a nice home stretch and fresh legs as they look to grab a second win over Denver.

Opponent to Watch:

Ty Lawson – There’s no way around it; this guy is a huge offensive threat. Lawson is averaging 16.3 points per game, and his most impressive stat is the 9.8 assists he is dishing out per game. He promises to be a good matchup for Ricky Rubio, who is averaging 8.5 assists per night. In Minnesota’s last game against the Nuggets, Lawson led the team with 22 points.

 

Game 61: Saturday, 3/7, 7pm – Portland Trailblazers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves are 1-1 against the Blazers this season, winning their most recent matchup 90-82 on Dec. 10. Both teams shot under 40 percent in that game, and the Wolves should only assume that Portland will have a stronger offense this time around. The advantage for Minnesota, however, is that the Blazers will be coming in after already playing three games this week.

Portland is currently ranked No. 3 in the NBA for rebounding, averaging 45.7 boards per game. KG and the Wolves will certainly have to play tough defense against this squad, and Payne will probably get some decent minutes Saturday as well.

Opponent to Watch:

Damien Lillard – The 24-year-old PG has been the thorn in Minnesota’s side on more than one occasion. In December, Lillard tallied 23 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Wolves. He is explosive offensively, and he often determines the pace of the game. Rubio and Zach LaVine will have their work cut out for them Saturday.

 

Wrap-Up:

This stretch promises to be a busy one for the Wolves, but at least all three games will be at home. The three biggest factors for Minnesota heading into this week are Kevin Garnett, Adreian Payne and Ricky Rubio. Team defense is a must in all three scenarios, and Payne and Garnett automatically set the tempo on that side of the floor. Payne doesn’t have much experience in the NBA yet, but he has shown some real potential in the post. Rubio will also need to be spot-on when facing three great point guards in Paul, Lawson and Lillard. If Rubio cannot move the ball effectively and find a way to make shots, the Wolves will struggle against the opponents’ back courts.

My prediction: The Timberwolves will come out of this week 2-1.

 

In addition: The team will be participating in Minnesota’s Taste of the Timberwolves event at the Target Center Thursday evening. 

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Poor Offense Brings 113-102 Loss in Houston

(photo credit: chatsports.com)

(photo credit: chatsports.com)

Minnesota’s defense looked a lot better in the road contest against Houston Monday night, and it was only defense that kept the Wolves in the game as long as it did. The Timberwolves’ offensive performance was abysmal, and they fell 113-102 to James Harden and his squad. Rookie Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves with a career-high 30 points on his 20th birthday.

Harden was the story of the night, notching yet another triple-double with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He didn’t start out that way, however. Harden played 12 minutes in the first quarter and went 0-for-6 from the field and 0-for-4 from behind the 3-point line. Houston kept the game going and patiently waited for its super star to catch up–which he certainly did.

“When I get my teammates confident to shoot their shots and be aggressive and get them in their rhythm, I can get into mine and that makes everything easy,” Harden said.

On the other side, it was an entire team that shot poorly. The Rockets held Minnesota to a season-low 33 percent from the field, including just 28.5 percent in the second half. The Wolves’ best quarter was the second, in which they shot 52.4 percent and tallied 31 points. If they could have kept the game going at that pace, a win would have been in the cards for the young team.

Kevin Martin added 21 points for the team, a solid contribution, but even he wandered from his usual consistency and made only 32 percent of his shots. Martin also committed six turnovers, which combined with the 20 total errors Minny made on the night.

Ricky Rubio has been playing well since his return from injury, but he struggled to find a groove Monday. The point guard made all 10 of his attempts from the free-throw line, but he was only 2-0f-13 in his other shots. The Associated Press’ Jon Krawzcynski posted on Twitter during the game:

The Wolves did hang on for most of the game, thanks in large to Wiggins, and they trailed by only a single point with under four minutes remaining. Unfortunately, though, Minnesota ran out of steam. Houston went on a 14-2 run in the final minutes of the game, and it was over.

“They kept getting us down, but we kept on fighting,” coach Flip Saunders said. “But we just didn’t have enough there at the end.”

Adreian Payne made his first NBA start on Monday, and the center played much better than he did in Friday night’s contest. Payne finished the game with a double-double, adding 11 points and 10 rebounds. The rookie started in the absence of the injured Anthony Bennett, who is slated to be out for two weeks with an ankle sprain.

The biggest news for Minnesota remains the return of Kevin Garnett to the team that drafted him. The 38-year-old Garnett will have his first practice with the team Tuesday, and he will be officially introduced in a presser at 3 p.m. The team has announced that Garnett will make his debut in Wednesday’s home game against Washington. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Timberwolves Make it Official, Bringing Kevin Garnett Back to Minnesota

(photo credit: NBA.com)

(photo credit: NBA.com)

Welcome home, KG.

In a swirl of events on the day of the NBA Trade Deadline, the Timberwolves have made it official—Kevin Garnett is coming back to Minnesota.

This morning, I checked my Twitter feed at 5:57 a.m.—because isn’t that what everyone does first thing in the morning—and read several posts about Minnesota negotiating a trade with Brooklyn to bring Garnett back to the team he was drafted by.

Rumors buzzed around the Internet all morning and through the lunch hour, and then, at 1:34 p.m., we got this:

So, there you have it. For better or worse, The Big Ticket will once again don a Timberwolves jersey. According to sources, Minnesota traded forward Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn in exchange for Garnett. The final decision was ultimately up to KG, because he had a no-trade clause written into his contract with the Nets. In an earlier post, ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote the following:

“Garnett has insisted in recent weeks that he is not in the market for an in-season exit from Brooklyn, largely because he does not wish to displace his family ‎in the middle of the season.”

It seems he made an exception  for Flip Saunders and the Wolves, though, as it will offer him a chance to finish out his NBA career with the city he first called home.

Garnett will be returning to play for Saunders, who coached the forward during Minnesota’s only eight playoff appearances (1997-2004). He will also be coached by former teammate Sam Mitchell, whom Garnett has described as “The Great Sam Mitchell” and offers nothing but respect and praise for. Earlier this season, Garnett said the following of the coaching duo:

“It’s refreshing [to see them back together in MN]. I know those are great basketball minds, great basketball IQs, two guys that are really competitive, teaching young guys. I think the league needs more of that […] I thought when the league got rid of a lot of veterans, it took away a lot of dignity and professionalism with it. It’s good to see those guys back.”

(photo credit: SportsCenter.com)

(photo credit: SportsCenter.com)

KG won an MVP during his final season in Minnesota, after leading the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals. Over his time here, he averaged 20.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. There is no denying the fact that Garnett is aging, though. This season, at 38 years old, the veteran is averaging 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. So, was this a poor move for Minnesota?

It is certainly a bummer for Wolves fans to say good-bye to Young, who is only 26 years old and more in the prime of his career. Young is currently averaging 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, which looks much more appealing on paper, but he also has an opt-out clause following this season, and this is not the first time Minny has shopped Young around. In addition, the forward puts a $10 million hit against the Timberwolves’ cap space.

A general trend across social media this afternoon is that most fans are beyond excited to see KG back in the Target Center, but that the trade is really a marketing scheme by the Wolves—after all, nostalgia sells tickets.

So is that all this is? Is this just a “two-month victory lap“?  The Associated Press’ Jon Krawczynski says “no.”

In a radio interview with KFAN, Krawczynski expressed that there really is a plan here to utilize Garnett for the experienced veteran that he is. After all, No. 21 entered the league as a teenager—just like rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine did this year.

“Flip really does believe that having Garnett here can really set the stage for Wiggins and these young guys,” Krawcynski said. “[He’s an …] investment in the future of the franchise.”

In addition, the Wolves have made it clear that they are interested in signing Garnett to a two-year extension. As Krawcynski pointed out, “KG is aware the Wolves want to do the extension. No doubt that factored into his decision to waive no-trade.”

There’s no guarantee that Garnett will bring any sort of offensive explosion to the floor—although you can bet that the first dish from Rubio to KG for a slam dunk will blow the doors right off the Target Center. One thing people aren’t acknowledging, though, is the defensive energy Garnett still demonstrates. NBC Sports‘ Aaron Gleeman posted the following:

The Wolves defense has not been anything worth raving about in several seasons, and even this statistic about KG brings a little more upside to the deal.

However you look at it, there are a lot of variables in this trade—there are a lot of things difficult to predict. Will Garnett transition well back to Minnesota? Will he improve the Wolves offense? Will he sign an extension, and for how much? But for now, today, one thing is enough for Minnesota Timberwolves fans:

KG is back in the house.

Timberwolves Come Up Short, Fall 94-91 to Golden State

(photo credit: wizofawes.com)

(photo credit: wizofawes.com)

In a game that came down to the wire, the Timberwolves had a legitimate chance to pull off a win over the weary Golden State Warriors. In the end, though, Minnesota came up on the short end of the 94-91 game. Kevin Martin led the team in scoring with 21 points, followed closely behind by Ricky Rubio with 18. On the other side, Stephen Curry had another huge night with 25 points.

“We had a chance,” head coach Flip Saunders said following the game. “If we come out better from the beginning, we might have had a better opportunity.”

“We didn’t start the game very well especially against one of the best teams in the league,” Rubio said. “We’ve got to learn from this game that we have to play 48 minutes.”

The game had close moments throughout the first three quarters, and the Wolves held Golden State starters Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes to a combined 11 points on the evening. Even though the Warriors looked a bit more lackluster than usual, the 41-9 squad gradually pulled away from its opponents.

At the 7:30 mark of the fourth quarter, the Wolves trailed by 14. It seemed certain that the game would pull away from them. Rubio lit a spark of energy, however, and the team battled back to have a legitimate chance at winning. With Minnesota down 92-91, Nikola Pekovic missed a crucial layup that would have given his team the lead with less than 10 seconds left. Following the missed shot, Andrew Wiggins fouled Curry in a last-ditch effort to keep the Wolves in the game. Curry made both shots from the charity stripe, extending the lead to 94-91. With one final chance to throw up a three and tie the game, Klay Thompson tipped an inbound pass intended for Chase Budinger with 1.4 seconds left, and the game was over.

It was the reserves crew that made a difference Wednesday night. The Warriors led Minnesota 32-14 in bench points and shot 17 for 30 from the field.

“[Their reserves] won the game for them,” Saunders said, “and our bench didn’t match what they were able to do throughout the game.”

Minnesota’s bench players scored only 14 points as a unit, including a disappointing performance from Gorgui Dieng. The center 0-of-5 from the field and grabbed only two rebounds in almost 14 minutes of play.

The home loss dropped Minny’s record to 11-42 on the season. This was the final game heading into the All-Star break, so the team will get some much-needed rest. Up next, the Wolves will host Phoenix on Feb. 20.

Timberwolves Taking Action Before the Trade Deadline, Add Gary Neal and Adreian Payne to Roster

(photo credit: nbcsports.com)

(photo credit: nbcsports.com)

Timberwolves trade Mo Williams, Troy Daniels to Hornets for Gary Neal, Second-Round Draft Pick

According to league sources, the Timberwolves have decided to part ways with Mo Williams and Troy Daniels. The Wolves traded the guards to the Hornets in exchange for Gary Neal and a future second-round draft pick.

Adrian Wojnarowski posted the following on Twitter Tuesday morning:

The move is certainly an effort on the Hornets’ part to make a push at the playoffs. With a 22-29 record, they are currently standing No. 7 in the Eastern Conference standings. Bringing in Williams will help them add depth to the backcourt while point guard Kemba Walker is out with an injury, and his experience will be helpful coming off the bench when Walker returns, as well. Charlotte is also familiar with Daniels, as he spent time with the Hornets training camp last season.

The Wolves are taking a risk with letting Williams go, but they are banking on Ricky Rubio staying healthy after his return to the court. Minnesota’s current season is basically beyond repair after so many injuries to the lineup, so focusing on upcoming seasons is a No. 1 priority. NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman said the following:

“The Timberwolves get a draft pick that could help them in the future, lose a couple players who could hurt their lottery position and – depending on the cash sent out – save a little money. Those are ideal ingredients for teams in Minnesota’s position”

Charlotte acquired Neal from Milwaukee a year ago. Currently in his fifth NBA season, Neal played in 65 games for the Hornets last season, averaging 10.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.  So far this season, Neal has averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists over 43 games. The Timberwolves Twitter account posted the following quote from head coach Flip Saunders following the transaction:

Williams will certainly be missed as a veteran on the court and positive influence in the locker room.

Both he and Neal have expiring contracts, so the move probably won’t serve as a long-term answer for either team; however, it does have implications for the Wolves’ younger roster. Williams leaving for Charlotte will automatically re-open some minutes for rookie Zach LaVine as he continues to develop as an NBA guard.

 

Wolves Acquire Adreian Payne from Atlanta Hawks, Trade Future First-Round Pick

Shortly after the news broke of the Charlotte transaction, AP sources shared another move:

Payne was drafted No. 15 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he should have a lot of upside. That has left to be proven, though, as the Hawks have clearly already given up on their first-round pick. The big man played for Michigan State, where he consistently improved with ever season. As a senior, Payne was selected to the preseason Third Team All-America by CBS Sports. He was named to the Midseason Wooden Award Top 25 Watchlist, and he also earned Big Ten Player of the Week on two occasions.

After missing the beginning of the 2014-15 NBA season with plantar fascitis, though, Payne has spent most of his pro experience at the D-League level. Over four stints in the development league (two with Austin and two with Fort Wayne), Payne averaged 12.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 blocks in 25.7 minutes.

It’s positive for the Wolves to add another powerful player to the roster, and it’s possible that Payne will develop more into a standout player. Minnesota traded a future first-round pick for the big man, so it’s a costly gamble to take.

It will be interesting to see if Minnesota makes any more moves before the NBA Trade Deadline on Feb. 19.