Timberwolves Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 14

The Wolves have had a long road trip, and the schedule doesn’t exactly get lighter coming up. Minnesota will face another four-game week with road games bracketing a home stance.

The Timberwolves have won three of their last five games, and the team does seem to be pulling things together. There [appears to be] less tension on the floor, and the team is putting up big numbers on offense. In addition, Kevin Love was recently voted in as an All-Star starter, and we have to imagine that the honors will bolster the forward’s demeanor.

Ricky Rubio has been playing solid defense and scoring more points, and he is showing more and more consistency with every game. The most stable factor on Minnesota’s roster currently is center Nikola Pekovic, who is averaging 18.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Fortunately for the Wolves, Pek has been much healthier this season and is dominating on the inside.

If the Wolves stay on their current track, here are my predictions for Week 14 …

 

Game 45: Monday, 1/27 – Timberwolves @ Chicago Bulls (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves will play final game in a four-game roadtrip when they face Chicago Monday night. They’ve had a good trip so far with two wins a single loss, but a lot rides on Game No. 4 as a “W” would bring Minnesota back to .500. Chicago’s standing in the Eastern Conference (No. 5) may be deceiving; it’s 22-21 record stands at only one game better than the Wolves.  The Bulls are coming off an 89-87 win on the road in Charlotte. The Bulls are in the middle of a hot streak, opening 2014 with 10 wins and only three losses, and Minnesota has historically struggled to come away with wins at the United Center. In order to win, all the pieces must be there for the Timberwolves.  Love, Pekovic and Martin will need to be on their top game and hold the team above 45 percent from the field.

Opponent to watch:

D.J. Augustin – While he may not be the top name on Chicago’s roster, the 26-year-old point guard has played a significant role for the Bulls after they traded away Marquis Teague and were without Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. “[D.J.] was ready when this opportunity came around and he hit the ground running,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “It’s not just his individual talents but it is also what he is doing for our team. He is running our team well.”

Augustin is currently averaging 10 points and 4.5 assists per game. Rubio will need to be on his top defensive game Monday night.

Predictions:

The Timberwolves will be feeling the effects of a four-game road trip, and the numbers don’t bode well for them. Chicago is ranked No. 2 in the NBA with only allowing an average of 92.9 points from their opponents, and the Wolves are 1-11 on the road when scoring fewer than 109 points. Love was limited by a sore knee in Saturday’s 115-104 loss at Portland, and he may not be back to 100 percent for Monday’s game.

Final score: Bulls 101, Timberwolves 95

 

Game 46: Wednesday, 1/29, 7pm – New Orleans Pelicans @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

Currently holding a record of 18-25, the Pelicans are one place below Minnesota in the Western Conference standings. New Orleans is ranked No. 24 overall for points allowed (102.7), which certainly stands in Minnesota’s favor. Wednesday night will be the first home game for the Wolves in over a week, and the home-court advantage should play a big role in the contest. It will be interesting to see Pekovic matched up against former Timberwolves center Greg Stiemsma, who is currently averaging only 2.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in NO.

Opponent to watch:

Anthony Davis – The second-year PF has not disappointed since being drafted out of Kentucky. Davis is averaging 20.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. His most impressive stat, however? The big man also averages 3.1 blocks per game.

Predictions:

Overall, the Timberwolves are just the better team in this matchup. Love will certainly have his hands full with Davis and will have to work extra hard to drive those baskets inside, but that proves the biggest obstacle. Pek should have no problem guarding on the inside, and if Minnesota can put up another triple-digit game, it should be a win at home.

Final score: Timberwolves 115, Pelicans  92

 

Game 47: Friday, 1/31, 7:00pm – Memphis Grizzlies @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

This will be another close game, as Memphis and Minnesota are currently only two games apart.  Both teams are fighting for that No. 8 playoff spot, and we can’t expect the Grizzlies to roll over on this one. Memphis has a tough defense, ranked just under Chicago in allowing 96 points per game. In addition, the matchup between big men will be one for the books, with Love and Pekovic going up against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

The teams faced each other on Dec. 15 in Memphis, and the Timberwolves came away with a 101-93 win. Love had 30 points that evening, and we hope he can tally at least that many again.

Opponent to watch:

Marc Gasol – At 28 years old, Gasol shows no signs of slowing down. He is currently averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and at 7’1″, he is taller–and a bit more athletic– than the 6’11” Pekovic. Gasol was inactive for the Dec. 15 game, so he could very well be the difference maker in Monday’s matchup.

Predictions:

I’m going to predict this as the closest game of the week. Both teams have strong offenses, and if players are healthy on both sides, I expect there to be six digits in the final score. Memphis does hold a stronger defensive game than Minnesota, but the Timberwolves are ranked No. 2 in the NBA for points scored. The Wolves seem to be gelling much better as a team, and I think the home-court advantage will carry them through in the end.

Final score: Timberwolves 104, Grizzlies 101

 

Game 48: Saturday, 2/1, 6:30pm – Timberwolves @ Atlanta Hawks (TV: FS North)

Atlanta’s record isn’t exactly outstanding (23-20 as of 1/27), but it’s good enough for a No. 3 seat in the Eastern Conference. Across the board, the Hawks prove to be a slightly above-average team, but they often come out of the woodwork and surprise their opponents. Last week, the Hawks snapped Miami’s 9-game losing streak.

This will be the first matchup for Minnesota and Atlanta this season. In 2012-13, the Hawks averaged 103 points against the Wolves, and Minnesota had an extremely difficult time shutting down Al Horford, who is no longer with the team.  

Opponent to watch:

Kyle Korver – Averaging 11.9 points per game, Korver is not the top scorer on the team, but he can be hot when you least expect it, and he is the top three-point shooter in the league.  In fact, Korver has gone over 100 games without missing a long ball. The Timberwolves tend to struggle defending the outside, and Korver will be a major threat in that aspect.

Predictions:

I may get some flack for this, but I foresee Saturday’s road game being one that the Wolves let slip through their fingers. It will be the end of eight games over a two-week stretch, and Atlanta has been playing extremely well. I don’t think Minnesota has what it takes to defend the Hawks and Korver’s crazy three-point game.

Final score: Hawks 100, Timberwolves 89

 

Wrap-up:

This will be a challenging week for Minnesota, but the Wolves will enjoy having back-to-back home games. Ideally, they will prove my prediction wrong and beat Atlanta on the road before enjoying two days off.

Timberwolves Grab Big Road Win Over Utah

The Timberwolves started their first four-game road trip of the season on Tuesday, and they came out with all cylinders firing. All five starters scored in double digits, and the Wolves shot 45.6 percent from the field and an impressive 38 percent from the three-point line en route to a 112-97 win over Utah. Corey Brewer and Kevin Love led the team with 19 apiece; Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin each followed closely behind with 18.

(photo credit: dunkingwithwolves.com)

(photo credit: dunkingwithwolves.com)

Minnesota played excellent defense, holding three of Utah’s starters to only four points each and only allow the Jazz to score 16 points in the first quarter. The Wolves grabbed eight steals on the night, five of which were credited to Ricky Rubio. The point guard has struggled a bit over the past few weeks, but Tuesday proved a different story. In addition to the steals, Rubio dished out a notable 13 assists and added 11 points.

Utah’s Gordon Hayward tallied 27 in a valiant effort to keep his team in the game, but the Jazz simply couldn’t keep up with the Timberwolves’ inside game. Starting center Derrick Favors sat out with a hip injury, and his presence was sorely missed by Utah.

“We knew we had the advantage against them inside,” Coach Rick Adelman said.  “After [Saturday's] game, we wanted to keep doing that. We had a nice balance of looking at those two guys, plus getting other open looks.”

Overall, the Wolves played much stronger as a team than they have been. They ran crisp sets and were eager to make the extra pass to wide-open teammates, easily controlling the pace of the game.

twolves tweet

It’s no secret that some tension has existed this month between teammates, but everyone seems to be gelling as a squad and things are settling down. Love and JJ Barea played well together, and Barea played a significant role in the win. The 6’0″ point guard handed out three assists and added 15 points, including 3 baskets from downtown.

“Tonight was a pure team effort,” Pekovic said. “We are all good friends between us. On the good nights everything is fine, of course.”

The Timberwolves hope to find continued success on this road trip. They enjoy two days off following Utah before facing Golden State on Friday and then Portland on Saturday. Finally, they will travel to Chicago for a Monday night contest before returning to Minnesota.

 

Rubio’s Assist of the Game: 

During a timeout, Utah’s mascot brought a little girl out onto the court. He walked her around the floor before grabbing a ball from a ref and handing it to the tiny fan. Rubio noticed, and he started playing catch with the girl. The adorable interaction was caught on video here.

 

 

Wolves Continue to Struggle, Fall to Sacramento Kings at Home

The Timberwolves delivered a strong fourth quarter and had six players tally double-digit points, but unfortunately it was too little too late. The Kings came out roaring, shooting 55 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from the three point line. Rudy Gay proved a dominating force with 33 points, and Minnesota suffered another loss with the 111-108 final score.

(photo credit: kare11.com)

(photo credit: kare11.com)

Prior to Wednesday, some players (and fans alike) may have written off the 13-23 Sacramento team as a comfortable win. The Kings are a team easy to dismiss… if one looks at their record. Their roster, however, tells a different story. With Gay, Demarcus Cousins, and Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento deserves more respect than its record suggests.

Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman said the following after the game:

“It’s not overlooking [...] Trust me, why are we overlooking anybody? We’re under .500. We talked about that team, they had lost a ton of games early. They beat, I said before the game. They’ve beaten Miami, they’ve beaten Portland, they’ve beaten Phoenix twice. What would give us the right to overlook them? To me that’s just not even an excuse. If they are, then something’s wrong.”

Minny hit a couple quick baskets to start the game, but it wasn’t long before Sacramento pulled ahead of the disjointed Timberwolves. Kevin Love’s shooting looked a bit off initially, but the All-Star forward kept pushing his way inside, and he ended up with an impressive 27 points and 11 boards, shooting just over 50 percent.

(photo credit: www.wkbn.com

(photo credit: www.wkbn.com

 

Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic each tallied 14 points on the night, but Pek struggled to connect with the net for three quarters. The big man banged his way to the basket several times, but he couldn’t get much of anything to fall. Across the board, missed layups were a problem for both teams Wednesday.

When all was said and done, defense proved the largest problem for Minnesota. The Wolves constantly allowed their opponents open stretches down the lane in addition to allowing the Kings open three-point shots. The 5’9″ Thomas was a thorn in Minnesota’s side. He may be one of the smallest players currently in the NBA, but he uses his size to his advantage. Thomas came up with driving layups time and time again. In addition to 26 points, he dished out seven assists and even grabbed three rebounds.

Ricky Rubio delivered a less-than-par performance, and he ended up splitting floor time with JJ Barea, who finished with 14 points and two assists. While Rubio did grab a game-high three steals, the point guard gave the ball right back with five turnovers.

“Yeah, I couldn’t find my rhythm,” said Rubio. “I couldn’t find my teammates. I committed too many turnovers…. (I) have to step up my game and keep working and trying to find myself.”

The Timberwolves will now head on the road to face Toronto Friday night before returning to the Target Center for a Saturday night showdown against Utah.

Timberwolves Tamed by San Antonio

The Timberwolves knew that playing the Spurs on the road would be tough, and shooting 33.5 percent from the field made it impossible to keep up with the No. 1 team. In the end, Minnesota landed on the short end of the 104-86 final score.

Nikola Pekovic led the team with 22 points, followed by Kevin Love with 14. San Antonio boasted six players who scored in the double-digits, including three guys off the bench.

Minnesota appeared a step behind from the beginning, missing 12 shots in the first quarter and proving unable to capitalize off of five Spurs turnovers.

spurs

The Wolves had a big second quarter, though, and looked to turn it around. Minnesota outscored the Spurs 28-24 and entered halftime trailing by only three points. Pekovic scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half, and he came up huge with a slam dunk early in the game. [Read more...]

Timberwolves Battle Boston, Come Up Short

Kevin Love put up another double-double Monday night, but the forward’s numbers weren’t enough for a Timberwolves win. Love led his team with 27 points, and Nikola Pekovic added 13 points.

The two teams proved a fairly even matchup for most of the game, exchanging leads several times. Minnesota outscored its opponent in the second and fourth quarters, but ultimately Jared Sullinger and the Celtics pulled away with the 101-97 win.

According to ESPN.com, Celtics coach Brad Stevens encouraged Sullinger to “keep an eye on Kevin Love and try to learn whatever he could from the big man.”

Stevens’ advice certainly worked, because Sullinger took control of the floor toward the end of the evening. The score was tied twice during the final period, but Sullinger had 15 points and six rebounds in the fourth, including a tie-breaking shot from downtown at the 2:22 mark. [Read more...]

Timberwolves Attack Grizzlies, Come Away With 101-93 Win

The Timberwolves improved their shooting Sunday night, and the squad came away with a much-needed road win. Kevin Love led the team with 30 points, followed by Nikola Pekovic who added 19.

On paper, both teams matched up pretty evenly for the evening. They each ended the game with just under 50 percent shooting, and their rebound totals were 44 (MIN) and 47 (MEM). Mike Conley scored 28 points for the Grizzlies, and Zach Randolph came away with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

(photo credit: NBA.com)

(photo credit: NBA.com)

In the end, however, it was simple: the Wolves put up more points.

As a team, the Wolves’ three-point shooting–not typically a strong area for Minnesota–proved a major factor in the win. The Wolves shot 46.2 percent from the perimeter, knocking down 12 three-pointers on the night. Love tallied four of those buckets, while JJ Barea came off the bench to add three of his own. [Read more...]

Timberwolves Come Back, Take Down Sixers 106-99

Wednesday night’s home game did not get off to a pretty start for the Timberwolves, but the team rallied in the 4th quarter. Minnesota overcame a 19-point deficit to take down the Sixers 106-99. Kevin Love led his team with 26 points and 15 rebounds, followed by Ricky Rubio with 21 points. On the opposing side, Spencer Hawes and Tony Wroten came away with 20 points apiece.

Wolves fans experienced an emotional roller coaster.  With their team coming off a big win over Detroit on the road,  they hoped to see the same explosive play at home. The first half certainly looked nothing like Tuesday night, however.

(photo credit: Kare11.com)

(photo credit: Kare11.com)

Minnesota struggled early on in the game, fighting to keep up with Philly during the first quarter. Rubio added nine points to bring his team to within three at the 3:02 mark, but the Sixers answered by going on a 16-0 run to close out the period.

Quarter 2 did not prove much better.

The Sixers scored 18 fast-break points and seemed to hit almost every bucket they threw up. At the close of the half, they were shooting 63.4 percent from the floor and led the Wolves 61-48.

“We know exactly what [the 76ers] are going to do,” said Coach Rick Adelman postgame. “they are going to run it down the court and try to attack the basket as quickly as they can and they just got it going and got us on our heels.”

Minnesota didn’t back down, though. Adelman led his team out of the locker room to start the third quarter, and the Wolves were ready to go.

Love and Rubio added seven and five points, respectively, and Corey Brewer added eight points as well, including two three-point buckets. The Wolves outscored their opponents by 10 for the quarter, and the team–and fans–showed a new level of energy headed into the fourth.

Robbie Hummel came off the bench to score Minnesota’s first basket of the quarter: a nice three-point shot from the corner that brought the Wolves within two of Philly. The second-year forward proved a major key to his team’s win, as he tallied 10 points, three rebounds and a steal in just under 12 minutes on the hardwood.

“[Robbie] made shots but he also made a nice job defensively on the boards, too,” Adelman said. “He gave us the spark we needed.”

It may not have been a beautiful game overall, but in the end, Minnesota’s 38.5 percent shooting and solid defense was enough to grab a second consecutive win.

Adelman said the following about the team’s come-from-behind performance:

“Usually it’s hard to have that happen and win the game. We got the win, but hopefully we learned a lesson.”

(photo credit: StarTribune.com)

(photo credit: StarTribune.com)

 

3 Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love: Love proved once again why he is one of the top forwards in the league. In addition to his double-double, Love also tallied five assists and two steals on the evening.
  2. Ricky Rubio:  The point guard may not be known as a scorer, but Rubio has proven critics wrong a few times this season. Minnesota would not have landed a win without his 21 points, and Rubio once again topped the chart with seven assists and three steals.
  3. Spencer Hawes: Hawes was definitely his team’s most all-around player Wednesday night. The forward shot 58 percent from the floor, including 4-of-5 from behind the three-point line. Hawes also blocked three of Minnesota’s shots.

 

Key Takeaways

  1. Minnesota’s win might have come a little easier with a stronger presence from Kevin Martin. Philly held the shooting guard to one of his least-productive games of the season — Martin went 0-7 during the first half, and he finished the game with only five points.
  2. It may seem obvious, but the Wolves need to step up their shooting if they expect to keep winning. They squeaked out a victory with a tough defensive performance and some solid perimeter shooting, but 38 percent will not be enough to make headway in the competitive Western Conference.
  3. The 76ers have now dropped 12 of their last 14 games and nine in a row on the road. Wednesday night’s loss at the Target Center dropped Philly to No. 13 in the Eastern Conference with a 7-16 overall record.