Wolves Clipped by Clippers, 107-109

For the second time this season the Minnesota Timberwolves watched a shot fall-short that would have won, or tied, the game at the buzzer. The loss, though tough to swallow, doesn’t prevent Earth from continuing to spin. In yesterday’s recap I used the term fatalism; the belief that what will happen has already been decided and cannot be changed, and unfortunately, it’s what we may have seen in Staples Center last night. However, there’s still plenty season remaining and the Wolves have made it clear they’ve arrived as a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. The game was the second straight sellout, in back-to-back nights, in Los Angeles. Not bad for a small market franchise from the midwest.

BREWERDUDLEY

Brewer drives by Jared Dudley, both wearing the NBA issued headbands worn over the weekend and Monday night in honor of Veteran’s Day

First Half

Compared to Sunday’s meeting with the Lakers Monday’s opening quarter was frustrating although the Wolves led the Clippers at the end of the first; 26-23. Blake Griffin led all scorers with 11 points and it was apparent he was going to be allowed to shoot the 15 foot jumpers facing the basket, he was defended by Nikola Pekovic and not Kevin Love — the Wolves sacrificed strength for speed guarding the Clippers’ high-flying forward. Love and Kevin Martin, Team Kevin, scored seven point each, Ricky Rubio scored two points and had as many assist to go along with three points from Corey Brewer and five from Pek. It was a balanced effort showing Rick Adelman’s Princeton offense is starting to operate on all cylinders.

The starting unit this season has been remarkable and entered last night’s game scoring 80 percent of the team’s points, they needed to bail out the bench -again- Monday. Love, who played just over seven minutes in the first, played eight-and-half during the second quarter and scored nine points. Pek lumbered his big body around for over 10 minutes in the first, but did his heavy lifting over second minutes in the second — scoring 12 points on 5 of 5 from the field and 2 of 3 from the free-throw line. However the Clippers balanced scoring came to life, by halftime, every player that stepped on the floor before halftime had scored; the home team led at the half, 59-58.

First Half Notes

  • The Clippers bench outscored the Wolves 21-10
  • Rubio had only two points, but had five assists
  • Love, Martin and Pek scored 43 of the team’s 58

Second Half

The Clippers expanded their halftime lead in the third by outscoring the Wolves, 26-22. Griffin added 10 to his total and Paul showcased his midrange game after fancy crossovers that, although Rubio defended well, were just too much for the 23 year old to handle. At the end of the third quarter the deficit had grown to five, the resilience of the starting unit was keeping it close — the bench failed to score in the opening period of the second half.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Love   are two players that make Clippers-Wolves one of the NBA's most exciting new rivalries.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Love are two players that make Clippers-Wolves one of the NBA’s most exciting new rivalries.

Martin was relatively quiet in the first half and went to charity stripe only four times thus far. He matched that output in final quarter and made good on all four attempts, asserting himself offensively during the game’s final minutes. The lack of productivity from the bench was taking it’s toll on the starters, Rubio failed to record a rebound in the second half, scored zero points in the final quarter but -as only he can- found a way to distribute four assists down the stretch. Love despite dominating the boards, snagging eight rebounds, scored only two points in the final quarter. The Wolves, again, had a chance to run a play with a chance to win on the road. Here’s a breakdown.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.03.39 PM

 Martin throws the ball in to Love from the far sideline, Love sets a screen on Matt Barnes and hands it back to Martin who dribbles to his left toward the top of the key. Because it’s this late in the game, the Clippers will undoubtedly switch on the pick-n-roll — leaving DeAndre Jordan to defend the smaller, quicker Martin.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.07.09 PM

Here, Martin can either pull up from behind the three-point line and go for the win if Jordan decides to sag and defend against dribble-penetration. Martin chooses to continue driving to his left, that’s the side of the court he’s most comfortable shooting the ball.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.10.19 PM

The play is well defended, Jordan recovers well and Martin is forced to shoot an awkward jumper; however, Pek has bullied Griffin almost completely under the basket Love is crashing the boards with the smaller Barnes on his hip. This puts both players in position to obtain the offensive rebound.

 Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.14.19 PM

Pek gets the offensive board because of his positioning, has a look at a baby hook to win the game. Barnes instinctively jumps to defend the shot, Love slips behind him toward the rim in front of Paul.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.17.44 PM

THIS, THIS IS HOW CLOSE THE WOLVES WERE TO SENDING THE GAME TO OVERTIME. Love’s putback sits on the rim for what felt like an eternity before falling off in the Clippers favor.

“When Kevin [Martin] had shot the ball, I knew we had 11 seconds left. Pek got the rebound, shot it up, so my natural instinct was to try and rush and put it up there. It sat on the rim and, like I said, 99 times out of 100 times, that goes in.” – Love said after the game.

He told fans the same thing he told his teammates just moments after the buzzer rang at Staples.

As he walked toward the bench, Love smiled. Despite the outcome, the game was fun — the Wolves have no reason to hang their head after this one, well, the starters don’t anyway.

 

Three Stars (Do we include Clippers players? I’m new at this)

  1. Nikola Pekovic – Pek scored 25, his highest output of the season, on 11 of 15 shooting and had 10 rebounds.
  2. Kevin Love – Mr. Double-Double scored 23 and grabbed 19 rebounds, he has a double-double through every game this season
  3. Blake Griffin – Silently matching Love’s scoring output with 25 points on 11 of 22 shooting in addition to 10 rebounds. He had zero turnovers.

The Wolves have today off but face the Cavs tomorrow at home. More on that one to come.

Wolves at Clippers: A Preview Featuring Trisity Miller

As promised in yesterday’s weekly preview Trisity Miller (@Trisity_) joins the PupsBlog for some insight on tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Miller is a Staff Writer as well as Editor of FullyClips.com, THE Clippers Blog of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network. She had me answer of few of her questions on the Clipper site, read them here.
Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Here’s a few notes.

  • Doc Rivers is now head coach, he’s called for the removal of Laker banners in the Staples Center during Clipper home games.

“This is our arena when we play,” when asked about the banners. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them (Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

  • The Clippers offense ranks first in the league in points per game — they’re piling 110 on their opponents
  • The Wolves played last night, the Clips didn’t, we’ll see how playing on back-to-back nights affects them despite not having to travel between games.

Here’s a few questions I asked Miller via Email.

How, if it’s possible, do you stop the Clippers?
Slow the pace down and make them beat you in the half-court. Judging a team based on their performance against the defending champions in Miami isn’t smart, but it revealed a lot of holes in this team. Scoring and defending in the half-court is their biggest weakness as it has been for the past two years. Improvement is happening due to Doc Rivers putting his touch on the offense. Also getting Jordan, Paul or Griffin is one heck of a way to slow this team down. Neither have replacements that can come in and keep up wait they started. That’s a huge change compared to last season.
What, if any, are Chris Paul’s weaknesses?
Knowing when to cut the scoring switch on. I don’t like to call him a pass-first point guard like Ricky Rubio and he definitely isn’t a score-first point like a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. He sits somewhere in the middle. But there are moments where the Clippers need a guy to take over the game. We saw him do it against Houston and Golden State. The Clippers needed that Chris Paul last night. Once he figures that out he’ll be as sound a player as there is in the league.
How does having Hall of Fame coach Doc Rivers chance the attitude in the locker room compared to last season?
On the outside looking in, this group seems to take more pride in what they’re doing now. The fun is still there, but there’s now a sense of knowing now is the time for the Clippers to win. The biggest change is the approach that DeAndre Jordan is taking to the game. He’s coming along on the defensive end, but there’s a change in the way he’s taken to being the defensive leader of this team. A sense of entitlement and a dose of confidence is what I’m seeing, something that Vinny Del Negro never helped him develop. He’s taking responsibility when the good and bad happens and knows that without quality defense from him his team can’t contend late into June.
What were expectations for offseason acquisition J.J. Redick prior to the season? Is he meeting, exceeding or below them at this point?
Redick was expected to come in and provide a dimension to the Los Angeles Clippers that the shell of Chauncey Billups couldn’t add. And he’s blown those expectations out of the water. For years all we as fans wanted from J.J. Redick was to see him on a team that wasn’t a bottom-dweller. Now that he’s on a championship contending team everyone sees why people felt that way. His shooting alone is a dynamic that helps those around him, but his off-the-ball work is what makes him a step up from being “just a shooter”. Most shooters you don’t want dribbling the ball. Redick’s the opposite as he’s an underrated pick-and-roll player and passer. And defensively he’s a million times better than Billups. Come playoff time defenses are going to absolutely loath him.
How good would Jamal Crawford fit on the Wolves? Or is Kevin Martin doing a good enough from from your perspective?
Crawford would fit well in a reserve role while Kevin Martin meshes perfectly with the Minny starters. Martin’s ability to move off the ball, draw fouls at a reasonable rate and knock down the three-pointer is something Wolves fans will love. Crawford is a frustrating player to watch all while being enjoyable at the same time, similar to J.R. Smith but without the shenanigans. The isolations are cool to watch, but Crawford often struggles to realize that there’s a time and a place to do that.
If you’re starting a franchise, do you pick Kevin Love or Blake Griffin as your power forward?
As much as Blake Griffin has improved this isn’t even close. I’m going with Kevin Love. There was once a point where I got a David Lee-esque feel from KL, but he’s blown that comparison out of the water. I will say this. Neither are bad options, but looking at Love’s skill set and where the NBA is currently heading a big that can hit the boards like no other and spread the floor is the new wave. If Blake Griffin can begin knocking down the 15-footer with confidence and consistency then the gap closes up due to him being able to affect the defensive end more due to his athleticism. But since that hasn’t come into fruition yet, Love’s the guy.
Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Miller is good stuff and churns out content like a machine for FullyClips and the other sites she’s involved with. On behalf of Timberpups I’d just like to take a moment to give thanks for the time she spent on this preview, as well as help with editing in the past (and probably the future).
If you’re a writer who covers an upcoming Wolves opponent and would like to participate in our previews, shoot me an email or DM — Zwbd333@gmail.com or @ZacharyBD. If you have any questions about an upcoming opponent feel free to DM or mention myself, Alex, John, Lindsey or the PupsBlog twitter (@timberpupsblog) with those. Also, we’re not opposed to fan posts — if you’re a regular reader here at the PupsBlog, we’d love to hear your opinions pertaining to our favorite team.
Photos are from the Clippers and Wolves team sites and can be found in appropriate photo archives.

Recap: Wolves Drain Lakers, 113-90

Scattered about the web during, and before, the season — one phrase in particular lingers about the Minnesota Timberwolves fanbase; Wolves are Coming. Against the Los Angeles Lakers, under the lights and in front the sold out crowd of 19,000 at Staples Center, the Minnesota Timberwolves arrived on Sunday night.

The streak is over. Prior to last night, December 5th, 2005 was the last time the Wolves left Staples with a victory over the Lakers, they lost 22 consecutive games. Think about your life then, compare it to now. Yea — shocking. Because coaches and players are professionals it’s less likely that the streak continued because of failure to overcome a mental hurdle, however, this is Minnesota. Because pessimism and fatalism run rampant in the minds of Twins, Vikings, Wild and Wolves fans alike, the expectation of imminent failure and eventual disappointment lingers like gnats on the summer night of a beer-league softball game; will it be the Wolves that start to break the trend of negativity throughout the state? If something this monumental were to ever begin, the ball started rolling last night in L.A. It’s like the Lakers didn’t exist in the opening quarter.

Corey Brewer caught and finished an 85 foot outlet pass from Kevin Love.

Corey Brewer caught and finished an 85 foot outlet pass from Kevin Love.

 

Kevin Martin and Kevin Love ‘put on a clinic,’ as the cliche goes, shooting a combined 12 of 14 from the field, six of seven from downtown en route to scoring 34 of the team’s 47 points points in the first. Ricky Rubio, quietly (if it was possible for him to be low-key), assisted on seven baskets while snatching two rebounds and three steals. Rick Adelman and the Wolves offensive gameplan exposed Lakers’ center Chris Kaman, who was forced to defend Love on the perimeter, which isn’t easy, and K-Love had an easy time hitting 4 of 5 three-point attempts. K-Love, from the L.A. area, is outspoken whether it’s positive or negative and has been frank with his feelings since coming to Minnesota.

During the second quarter the bench continued it’s struggles and the Lakers outscored the Wolves 25-20, though many were still riding the high from the game’s first 12 minutes. Corey Brewer scored four, Nikola Pekovic had five, Martin added three and Love scored two as the J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved combined to score only four points; we’re left only to scratch our head and wait until the second-unit figured things out, it may not be until Chase Budinger returns.

The halftime lead was 67-48 and feelings of worry, unease and excitement continued to argue on the Twitter Machine. It’s as if nobody knows how to feel when the Wolves are beating the Lakers on the road. Love and Martin combined for 39 points including six more triples on nine attempts in addition to Brewer’s 10 points he obtained doing his usual thing in transition by the half. The Lakers made a push in the third behind the three-point shooting of Steve Blake. Again, the Wolves were outscored in a quarter, 23-28 and Blake converted three of four from downtown to continue fueling any pessimistic fire fearful of an eventual Minnesota Sports letdown. Dante Cunningham and Barea played just under four minutes each and the starting-five stayed on the floor, hinting at Adelman’s lack of confidence in anyone sitting to his left.

“We’re trying to establish ourselves, I don’t want to get our guys playing 45 minutes a night but I wanted to win” Adelman said after the game.

 

At the start of the final quarter his bench had only amounted to four, seemingly meaningless, points and the Wolves led 90-76. Blake and Jodie Meeks led the way for the Lakers, if there was a place to go, with 19 and 14 respectively. The crowd began to clear during the final quarter close to the eight minute mark, the show was over and it was time to head home. Rubio earned his second-career triple-double and took a seat shortly after, ending with a stat line of 12 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists and 5 steals — nobody gave a ‘quadruple double alert,’ though it had been mentioned throughout the second half. The Wolves defeated the Lakers, 113-90 in a 23 point, no-doubt, show-stopping performance under the lights and accolades hanging in the rafters at Staples — success that started in the state represented by the visitors.

It’s a franchise guy, potential MVP and league superstar like Love that needs to perform well in order to change the culture of a city and it’s fans. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s MVP last season, is an example of an athlete that optimists in the Twin Cities hold tight to in ‘turning perspective around,’ he’s not due to be a free-agent until 2018. Love’s situation, and dominance, isn’t proven to be the same as “All Day’s” yet, K-Love will be a free-agent in the summer of 2015 — fans of the Lakers twisted his performance last night into ‘The Audition” for his eventual arrival back to the City of Angels.

How long will Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love be the All-Star Tandem in Twin Cities?

How long will Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love be the All-Star Tandem in Twin Cities?

 

It’s about winning, period. Players, fans, coaches and even writers such as myself want to see local teams succeed whether it’s against or with the odds. Heading into last night the Wolves were the better team on paper, during the game they were on the court but Laker faithful and even some local skeptics refuse to accept one thing — the Wolves are here. They’ll play the Los Angeles Clippers tonight, 9:30 CST (Fox Sports North)

 

Zach.

 

 

(Photos are from the Minnesota Timberwolves website and may be found in the photo gallery)

Timberpups Weekly Preview: Part One, Week Three

Last week John previewed the week ahead for the Wolves because, here at Timberpups, we do week previews — not game previews. Well, sometimes we do game previews but we try to feature guests on those to gain some outside perspective; Trisity Miller (@Trisity_) will join us tomorrow previewing the Wolves matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. Ms. Miller is a Staff Writer as well as Editor of FullyClips.com, THE Clippers Blog of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network. Like Zach Oliver and Brandon Rushie before her, we’re happy to have some perspective, on and from outside, of Wolves Nation.
If you’re a writer who covers an upcoming Wolves opponent and would like to participate in our previews, shoot me an email or DM — Zwbd333@gmail.com or @ZacharyBD. Also, we’re not opposed to fan posts — if you’re a regular reader here at the PupsBlog, we’d love to hear your opinions pertaining to our favorite team.

Tonight the Wolves play the first of back-to-back games at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Here’s John’s take on tonight’s matchup from his Week Two preview.

This will be Wolves’ fans first opportunity to see the almighty Wes Johnson in purple and gold.  Have I mentioned him in the past?  I think I have.  While we won’t see Kobe Bryant, I still think this team can tread water for a while.  This past Friday night, the team stayed with Duncan-less Spurs and almost pulled it out.

Opponent to watch:

Wes Johnson – Just kidding, unless you want to induce a coma.

I’m not sure why he’s previewing tonight’s game, it’s Sunday today which means that a new week has started but John will be John.Since we’re not afraid of self-promotion here, here’s a tweet of mine from earlier today.

 

It’s been since March 6th of 2007, four days removed from my 17th birthday, since the Wolves last win over the Los Angeles Lakers (I’m 23, for those too lazy to do the math). The last time the team won in Staples Center, against the Lakers (Clippers play there, too), was December 5th, 2005. Yea, that’s when I was 15-years of age! Today is November 10th, 2013 and it’s time for the Pups snap these -undesirable- losing streaks.

Projected Laker Starters:

  • Nick Young
  • Chris Kahman
  • Pau Gasol
  • Steve Blake
  • Steve Nash

It’s not a laughable bunch that will start the game for the ‘Lake Show’, however, L.A’s bench unit is deserving of some praise. Against tomorrow night’s opponent tomorrow night, Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson (a former Timberpup) and Jodie Meeks scored 66 points in a shocking upset of the Clippers in the season opener. This Laker-five played the entire fourth quarter, scoring 41 points en route to defeating the stadium-sharing rival, 116-103.

Against the Dallas Mavericks we saw Rick Adelman try some different things to make up for his bench unit’s dismal scoring, keeping Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin on the floor for a bit longer than Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer. Adelman’s played Alexey Shved, until the Shvedder shows he’s struggling or does something that warrants him off the floor — I expect him to stick to a similar strategy tonight.

Shved's struggling this season: Averaging only two and a half points per game and failing to shoot 30 percent from, both, inside and outside the three-point line.

Shved’s struggling this season: Averaging only two and a half points per game and failing to shoot 30 percent from, both, inside and outside the three-point line.

 

Monday, the Wolves face the Clippers — we’ll bring you more in depth information tomorrow with Trisity but here’s a few bullets on the ‘Clips.

  • Doc Rivers is now head coach, he’s called for the removal of Laker banners in the Staples Center during Clipper home games.

“This is our arena when we play,” when asked about the banners. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them (Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

  • The Clippers offense ranks first in the league in points per game — they’re piling 110 on opponents
  • Oh, if you weren’t aware — Chris Paul is really, really good.

If you’re a follower of my work personally, you may have seen my Pacific Division previews for SavingTheSkyhook.com. Saving the Skyhook, like FullyClips, is part of SI’s Fansided Blog network. I combined the preview for the Lakers and Clippers into one piece — read it here. (Sorry more self-promotion, it just fits for this week in Wolves basketball)

Pek shook his struggles off Friday against the Mavericks, he scored 15 points on 44 percent shooting and tallied six rebounds in addition to three-blocks.

Pek shook his struggles off Friday against the Mavericks, he scored 15 points on 44 percent shooting and tallied six rebounds in addition to three-blocks.

I’m hoping to the Wolves split or sweep these two games in L.A, they return home for a rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. The Cavs won a thriller against the Philadelphia 76ers last night, 127-125. They face the Chicago Bulls tomorrow and will have an off-day before having to play in Minnesota. Neither team will be on the tail end of a back-to-back, there shouldn’t be any excuse for the Wolves this time. Read what happened in last Sunday’s meeting between Cleveland and Minnesota — here.

Irving led the Cavs to a victory last week with 15 points and 6 assists, though he also had 8 turnovers -- the Wolves hope gain revenge Wednesday

Irving led the Cavs to a victory last week with 15 points and 6 assists, though he also had 8 turnovers — the Wolves hope gain revenge Wednesday

 

On Tuesday I’ll check back in and go over the Wolves trip to Los Angeles beyond our recaps that will follow the outcome of each game. That’s when we’ll take a closer look at the Cavs, Denver Nuggets- and Boston Celtics. The Wolves are in Denver on Friday and travel home to face the C’s on Saturday, after that they’ll have three days before their next game.

For now, #BeatLA.

Zach.

 

(Photos are from the Minnesota Timberwolves website and may be found in the photo gallery)

 

 

 

 

Wolves Mash Mavericks, 116-108

The Minnesota Timberwolves rank fifth in the league in scoring, they’re posting 105 points per game. The Wolves needed to post the average and a little more Friday, the Mavericks entered Target Center scoring over 109 ppg and brought the player boasting the league’s highest field goal percentage this season — no, not Dirk Nowiztki — Monta Ellis.

Prior to tip-off the league suspended veteran shooting guard and once prolific dunker, Vince Carter. Carter elbowed Oklahoma City’s Steven Adam’s during a game Wednesday night. This is the second time this season that Minnesota’s been the beneficiary of a suspension, the New York Knicks J.R. Smith sat when the team’s met last week due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

Ellis entered the game leading the Mavs’ in scoring and assists -as well as turnovers- but needed to bring a top-tier effort in Minneapolis if Dallas wanted to leave with a victory; he didn’t. Mr. “have-it-all” Ellis went two for six shooting in the first quarter, scored four-points but had zero-assists and two-turnovers in the opening period. However a balanced scoring effort from Dirk, Shawn Marion (once known as The Matrix), Samuel Dalembert and off-season acquisition Jose Calderon helped keep the game close after one — trailing the Wolves by a score of 24-28 at the end of one.

For the Good-Guys points weren’t distributed evenly and it was Corey Brewer, essentially catching touchdowns from Kevin Love on outlet passes, leading the way to start the game. Brewer scored 13 points on five of seven shooting and Love assisted on four of the baskets. The Wolves third and fourth points of the game came after Love snagged a defensive rebound and got the ball to Brewer, who laid it in just four-seconds after a missed three by Marion. Four-seconds. Take that, “seven seconds or less”, Phoenix Suns.

During the second quarter Dallas showed glimpses of why they’re the second best scoring team in the league. Dirk started to warm up, hitting a three as well as three free-throw’s, and Ellis started to heat up — the two combined for 16 of the Mavs 32 points during the period.

The Wolves’ second unit continued to struggle however Adelman spiced up the rotation by playing Robbie Hummel, Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea aside the supervision of Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. This savvy move from the coach who knows the ins-and-outs helped increase production when Love is off the floor, additionally getting Pek more looks around the basket. I pointed out his struggles earlier this week but the issue was addressed and judging by his two of three shooting in the second quarter, I don’t believe this will be an issue much longer.

The Wolves trailed the Mavs at halftime 55-56, despite K-Love’s 17 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. People seem to think he’s pretty good, I can’t help but agree.

After the half Martin began to heat up, he hit four of five from the field and was two of three from downtown and made-good on three free-one’s en route to an 11 point third quarter performance — he’s been stellar since his arrival in Minnesota. K-Mart, under a new alias ‘K-Target’ (Thanks, @Patrick_Fenelon) is shooting 47 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind-the-arc — not bad for a guy that the Oklahoma City Thunder treated as a spot-up shooter last season.

Calderon kept the Mavs in the game by losing either Ricky Rubio, Barea or Martin on the offensive end during the third, he converted four of five three-pointers and the game entered the final quarter with the Wolves leading 85-81.

It was the last 12 minutes of the game that just under 14,000 strong at Target Center witnessed something perhaps many have never seen before — a closer.

Adelman left Martin’s hot-hand in for the entire final quarter of the game. His performance left me pondering and leads me to this bold question: Is he the best shooting guard in franchise history? I know, I know — it’s too small of a sample to tell, for now. But K-Target (this may take some time getting used too) answered the call in the fourth on Friday night — scoring 6 of the Wolves final 13 in the final five minutes of the game.

The Timberwolves would defeat the Mavericks by a final score of 116-108. They are now 4-2 on the season and making noise on a national level, people are predicting there will be playoffs in Minnesota.

 

Three Stars:

  1. Although he wasn’t mentioned much in this recap, Kevin Love is the game’s top performer — Mr. Double-Double ended with a remarkable 32p-15r-8a stat line.
  2. Kevin Martin, who’s proving to be clutch, is a close second ending with 32 points on 10 of 19 shooting from the field, 3 of 5 from three-point range and 9 of 10 from the charity stripe.
  3. Brewer’s 17 points earns him the third slot because words cannot even begin to describe his importance for this team in transition, he’s done a fine job of fulfilling the role of Andrei Kirilenko, who apparently didn’t want to play for the Wolves this season.

 

 

Zach.

 

 

 

 

Man Your Post: Wolves Lacking Low Block Presence

The Minnesota Timberwolves are missing a dominant post-presence, to put it kindly. The harsh reality is Kevin Love isn’t there yet and Nikola Pekovic hasn’t been the answer, either. The Wolves miss Ronny Turiaf — plain and simple.

Pek’s averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per game but in back-to-back losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors he’s struggled, in particular, scoring around the basket. Thanks to the new SportVU player tracking system on NBA.com, we’re able to find some data that may pinpoint the issue.

  • Pek ranks eighth in the league in Close Shot PTS Per Game (Points that are scored by a player on any touch that starts within 12 feet of the basket, excluding drives) with 5.4 points per game. However; he’s 181st in Close Field Goal Percentage (Field Goal Percentage on shots taken by a player on any touch that starts within 12 feet of the basket, excluding drives.) shooting
  • This signifies that although Pek is getting his points but isn’t finishing around the rim efficiently.

Here’s his shot chart (NBA.com)

Shotchart_1383856294228

 

It’s not because he’s not getting his touches, either. Pek leads the league in ‘Close Touches’ are touches that originate within 12 feet of the basket, excluding drives with 7.8 close touches per game. However; he’s not making the most of these — only averaging .42 Points Per Half Court Touch (The amount of points a player scores per half court touch.)

This isn’t all Big Pek’s fault. Prior to the season SB Nation’s Mike Prada wrote a piece explaining what makes Pek such a load offensively. On of the constants in Prada’s piece is that every time Pek is fed the ball — ball movement and spacing has been on-point. This hasn’t been the case this season. After signing such a large contract in the offseason opponents have taken notice to the type of threat he provides, making it difficult for him to score after touching the ball.

The defender can afford to leave Corey Brewer space on the weak side, Brewer is not a premier or even average three-point shooter.

The defender can afford to leave Corey Brewer space on the weak side, Brewer is not a premier, or even an average, three-point shooter. His man is essentially fronting Pek.

Rubio looks to feed the beast, however, fellow Montenegrin Nikola Vucevic does a good job of bodying Pek and the perimeter defender is still lurking.

Rubio looks to feed the beast, however, fellow Montenegrin Nikola Vucevic does a good job of bodying Pek and the perimeter defender is still lurking.

Rubio passes to Brewer on the wing because of the help defense preventing the pass to Pek on the inside.

Rubio passes to Brewer on the wing because of the help defense preventing the pass to Pek on the inside.

He manages to get the ball on the inside, only it's further away from the basket than Pek would like it -- forcing him to take a dribble, rather than keeping the ball high and laying it in off the backboard.

He manages to get the ball on the inside, only it’s further away from the basket than Pek would like it — forcing him to take a dribble, rather than keeping the ball high and laying it in off the backboard.

The Gig is UP! Pek is doubled by the Magic's Jason Maxiell and Pek makes a bad pass out of this doubleteam resulting in a turnover.

The Gig is UP! Pek is doubled by the Magic’s Jason Maxiell and Pek makes a bad pass out of this double-team resulting in a turnover.

It’s this type of defense opponents are throwing at the Wolves center making it difficult for him to score. Pek is not the best passer, so far this season he’s averaging one assists per game but his NBA lifetime career assist average is less than one assist per game.

He’s going to need to learn to either spot up from the 10-12ft range and shoot over the recovering defender before the double arrives, OR, keep his composure and pass away from the double team. Pekovic is an essential part of this team’s game plan offensively.

By comparison, Love is more efficient than Pek in close shot percentage (53%) but doesn’t take many looks within the 12ft area — he’s only averaged 3.8 close shot points per game. K-Love’s strong suit is shooting facing the basket or following up an offensive rebound; not the post-game. Here’s his shot chart.

Shotchart_1383860227399

Notice the area to the left of the basket — this is where Love, LOVES to post-up, however, he hasn’t been successful through five games this season.

 

After shooting performances like Love’s 10 for 25 last night — team’s are going to focus on stopping Pek first and encourage K-Love to beat them shooting jumpers. Last night against the Warriors the Wolves shot a horrid 38 percent from the field and, an even worse, 25 percent from three-point range.

There’s still no timetable for Turiaf’s return, so until then, it’s uncertain how the Wolves are going to fix the problems scoring in the post, BUT, keep in mind these are small sample sizes and Rick Adelman’s team will make adjustments accordingly to address these issues.

 

 

Zach.

 

Cavaliers Conquer Invading Wolves: 93-92

The Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t stick around the Big Apple after the victory over the New York Knicks, the team arrived in Cleveland early Monday Morning. Yesterday, jumpers and free-throws fell short throughout the game and the Wolves were unable to overcome an early deficit, falling to the Cavaliers despite making a run late in the fourth quarter, 92-93.

Rick Adelman started Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love and the Cavs countered with Tristin Thompson, Earl Clark, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejeo and Kyrie Irving — both teams youthful and poised for a postseason run in their respective conferences.

Kevin Martin continued his three-point shooting streak carrying over from Friday and kept things close, but the Prince of Cleveland stole the show during the opening quarter. Uncle Drew wasn’t going to let his old friend Wes get the best of him on his home floor. Irving looked well on the way to a triple-double, scoring seven points, four assists and snatching three rebounds. Kevin Love failed to hit on two attempts from downtown and shot two of five from the field, scoring only four points in the first. Martin was three of four from distance and hit two FT’s on his way to 13 of the Wolves 23 points.

Irving finished with 15 points and 6 assists

Irving finished with 15 points and 6 assists

Cavs swingman C.J. Miles played as well as he did with the Utah Jazz when he scored 40 against the Wolves in a game during the second half of the 2010-2011 season. He came off the bench and scored 12 points on six shots despite never shooting a free throw during the second quarter.

The Wolves were flat and looking Adelman searched for solutions involved with the problem of losing backup center Ronnie Turiaf. Against the Knicks Minnesota went small with lineups of Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams at the power forward and Love at the five. After the game he insinuated Gorgui Dieng would see minutes in relief of Pek, who won’t be able to play for 40 minutes as he did in New York. The rookie was not up to his enormous task and committed three fouls in less than three minutes, Andrew Bynum imposed his will on Dieng. Varejeo took advantage by dropping in a few “bunnies” around the rim on his way to 10 first half points.

The Wolves trailed at halftime 38-55.

Both teams appeared cold coming out of the locker room at halftime and the Wolves managed to outscore the Cavs 23-21, trading baskets but failing to cut the deficit to a manageable number. Irving continued to show why he’s been called Cleveland’s savior and significantly out performed Rubio, the 23 year old from Spain had five assists but was zero for seven shooting and had only scored four points.

Minnesota cut the lead shorter and shorter throughout the fourth quarter. Spark plug J.J. Barea and Derrick Williams scored a combined 13 and narrowed what had been a 23 point lead all the way down to one, Adelman called a timeout with 11 seconds remaining to run a final play hoping escape Quicken Loans Arena with a victory despite never having the lead during the game.

Williams had 13 points in Monday's loss

Williams had 13 points in Monday’s loss

Barea caught the ball at the top of the key, nearly lost possession going around a screen to his left and passed the ball to Love — who stood in the same place where he hit a game tying three against the Orlando Magic that eventually forced overtime in the Wolves season opener. This time, he was not-so-clutch.

Coming away 2-1 against the Thunder, Knicks and Cavs isn’t something to team, or it’s fans, should hang their heads in shame for — through the first four games, the Wolves have played considerably well.

Tomorrow Target Center hosts the Golden State Warriors, the game should make for lots of scoring excitement but it’s another tough test early in the season.

The team has a well-deserved day off today, we’ll see if they can bounce back at home Wednesday night.

Zach.

 

 

 

(Photos from MinnesotaTimberwolves.com)