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!

No Rubio, No Problem; Wolves Streak Reaches 3

(Photo Credit: AP/Duane Burleson

(Photo Credit: AP/Duane Burleson)

The Timberwolves can’t be stopped.

Yes, the statement above is accurate. As weird as it feels to type, it’s true – the Timberwolves are on a winning streak, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. After beating the Pistons 112-101 Sunday night, the Wolves winning streak reached a current league best of three.

Impressively, the Wolves were able to pull off the victory without the services of Ricky Rubio, who has not yet been cleared by doctors to play back to back games. Surprisingly, without Rubio, it was the guard play, combined with Pek’s monster night, that fueled Minnesota’s victory.

The Wolves never trailed, which was in part because of their hot start from the floor. Minnesota put up 32 points in the first quarter, 22 of which were from the trio of Pek, Mo, and Thad. The Wolves out rebounded Detroit 12-5 in the frame, as Pistons big Andre Drummond found himself in foul trouble early, picking up two quick fouls in the first five minutes of the game. Also notable were the two highlight plays produced by Wiggins and LaVine.

Quarter number two belonged to one man – Kevin Martin. Kevin Martin played the entire period, and he looked like his old self, putting up 13 points on 6/10 shooting. Martin provided the instant jolt of offense that they had lacked with him out of the lineup. His easy offense lowered the burden on the rest of the team. Detroit now had a man they had to keep their eyes on for the rest of the game. As a result, Detroit was less willing to double Pekovic, and Minnesota had more space for the offense to work. At the half, Minnesota had a 61-51 lead.

The third period was owned by Andrew Wiggins. He put up eight points in the third, shooting 2-3 from the floor and 4-5 from the line. His improved vision was also on display, as he put up two assists in the frame. For a player that had one assist throughout all of Summer League, Wiggins dished 5 assists in this game alone.

When the fourth quarter came around, Pekovic decided to assert his will. He was back to his old Peksecutioner ways. The most improssive shot Pek his was a spinning fade his fadeaway. Not even the Timerwolves own twitter account could believe it.

Pek tied his career high for points in a quarter with 15. It seemed like everything he was putting up found the basket. Whenever Detroit tried to keep the game within reach, the Wolves would throw it into Pekovic in the post, who hit with outstanding accuracy. Pek even went 7-8 from the stripe, including knocking down key free throws when Detroit had resorted to intentional fouling.

The win ups the Wolves record to 11-40. With the victory, the Wolves surpass the woeful Knicks (10-41) in the win column. Monday night features the red hot Wolves taking on the East leading Atlanta Hawks, and with Ricky Rubio and Shabazz Muhammad hopefully playing, the Wolves will have an opportunity to send shockwaves throughout the NBA.

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 Grab Win Over Miami in Nail-Biter Finish

(photo credit: foxsportsnorth.com)

(photo credit: foxsportsnorth.com)

It seems that things are finally starting to come together for the Minnesota Timberwolves, as three starters who have missed weeks due to injuries are finally back in the lineup. With Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, and [finally] Ricky Rubio all healthy, games have suddenly become a lot more competitive. Wednesday’s home game proved to be a real nail-biter down to the final seconds, but Minnesota came up with the 102-101 victory over Miami. Martin led the Wolves in scoring with an impressive 30 points, and Thaddeus Young added 16 points to the effort.

Martin proved the biggest highlight of the game, shooting 47.8 percent from the field and knocking down the game-winning shot off an assist from Young.

“He’s amazing,” Rubio said. “He’s been doing that for 10-12 years. We all know he’s going to step up when we need it.”

Rubio also had a strong performance in his second game back. The point guard tallied eight points on the evening and also dished out nine assists. Prior to the game, head coach Flip Saunders emphasized that he would keep Rubio in the 21-22 minute range as he transitions back. In such a close game, however, Saunders bent his own rules a bit. He left Rubio in during the end of the game, and Rubio helped control the pace of the game.

“We’re just a different team with him,” Saunders said post-game. “I was just excited to come and watch Ricky play with our guys to see what he can do with some of these guys. We haven’t had a chance to see that a lot this year.”

Mo Williams also returned after missing a few games, and he came off the bench to contribute 10 points and 10 assists.

The Wolves held a lead for much for the first half, but in the third quarter things started to unravel in an all-too-familiar fashion. Miami controlled the ball for much of that quarter, outscoring Minnesota 32-23 and capitalizing off turnovers. Just when it seemed that the game may end up like so many other games this season, Timberwolves fans saw the momentum switch heading into the fourth.

During the final quarter, Minny scored 26 points. Even more significant, though, the Wolves held Miami to just 18 points—including just a single bucket during the deciding seven-minute stretch.

Despite being out-rebounded 47-32 by the Heat, Minnesota made 51 percent of its shots and gutted out the night for a much-needed win. Although the Wolves season is arguably “over” at this point, as far as the postseason is concerned, each victory improves team morale and offers a glimpse into the future of the team if anyone remains healthy.

And if nothing else, the Wolves certainly acted as spoilers Wednesday. The loss dropped Miami’s record to 21-28, and the Heat are in a must-win situation. Forward Chris Bosh, who added 14 points for Miami, said the following after the game:

“Hell yeah, it’s a missed opportunity. We’re not going to get it back. That’s one thing about this league: If you’re in a situation where you can’t really afford to lose any games, things are slipping away from us […] We’re about to be out of the playoff race. I mean, not the race, but as far as the seeding we’re about to be out. And we’re not concentrating. I don’t understand that.”

The Timberwolves improved to 9-40 on the season, and they will remain home to host Memphis Friday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Wiggins 33 Not Enough in Love’s Return

No Love Lost (via David Sherman)

Tonight was supposed to be about Kevin Love. About his return to the city he called home for six seasons after forcing a trade this past summer. And it was, if for only a quarter.

As expected, when Kevin Love was introduced into the starting lineup for Cleveland, fans provided him with a spattering of boos. They didn’t stop, either. Every time he touched the ball, you could hear the boos raining down. Kevin Love didn’t care.

In college, Love faced a similar situation. Love grew up just outside of Portland, and when he decided to sign to UCLA instead of staying in his home state, he knew Oregonians wouldn’t take it well.

When Love made his only visit to Eugene as a college athlete, the vitriol thrown at him was staggering. College kids drunk out of their minds let Love know how they felt about him, and Love did the same. He put up 26 points and 18 rebounds, leading #8 UCLA to a huge road victory.

In his first game back at Target Center as a Cavalier, Love’s performance was eerily similar to his only collegiate game in Eugene. Love put up 9 rebounds in the first quarter, and finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Love attacked the glass relentlessly and wasn’t afraid to let his shot fly.

His defense, per usual, was suspect, especially when it came time for him to rotate. On one possession, all Love did was stand still as Wiggins drove to the hoop untouched for a dunk.

As good as Love was early on, by halftime, the storyline had shifted. What was supposed to be a game defined by the Love’s return turned into an epic duel between Wiggins and LeBron.

The first three rounds of the four quarter duel went to Wiggins. In front of a sellout crowd, Wiggins shined. He drove to the basket, pushing through contact with ease. His shot looked smooth as well, as Wiggins nailed all three of his attempts from deep. In addition, Wiggins provided defensive pressure on defense, accruing four steals. As a result, when the third quarter ended, the Wolves found themselves leading, with Wiggins already having posted 31 points.

When the fourth quarter started, LeBron decided to send a message. The greatest player of his generation wasn’t going to allow himself to be shown up by a rookie, let alone the player he helped trade away.

LeBron was LeBron, and there was nothing Wiggins could do. James put up 16 points in the final frame, outscoring the entire Wolves team. He also held Wiggins in check, holding him to just two points as the Cavs took control late to win their 10th straight game.

Even though the Wolves lost, the sellout crowd was thoroughly entertained, which is something that hasn’t been said often over the last ten seasons. There have been far too many games the past few seasons where Target Center has been staggeringly quiet, hopeless, and devoid of life. But for one night, the fans packed the arena 19,000 strong, passionately cheering on the Wolves and getting a small peak at what the future could look like for this young squad.

The highlights are below, and they are worth a watch.

 

 

 

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 …

Kevin Martin Returns to Lineup, Wolves Pick up Home Win Over Celtics

KevinMartin

The active roster looked a little different than it has over the past several weeks, and the changes worked in Minnesota’s favor. Guard Lorenzo Brown, originally drafted by the Timberwolves, signed a 10-day contract with the team and grabbed 11 points in Wednesday’s contest despite not yet having a full practice with the team. Kevin Martin returned to the floor after missing 34 games with a fractured wrist, and he looked better than ever in the 110-98 win over Boston. Martin led the team in scoring with 21 points, and Gorgui Dieng added a double-double to the stat sheet with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Martin had been listed as questionable before the game, as he had experienced swelling in his wrist earlier that week. However, he played 24 minutes and said his wrist felt great.

“I’m just a scorer at the end of the day,” Martin said. “It felt good early on to see a couple go in. I went through a little [rough] stretch there and just had to knock some of the rust off and got back at it in the fourth. It’s just fun to get a win. That’s what it’s all about.”

Both teams shot well at the Target Center, but Minnesota was able to grab the upper hand, no doubt feeling momentum as the lineup slowly gets healthy. An impressive 14 players scored in double digits, seven from each team. The Wolves shot 49.4 percent from the field, more accurate that fans have witnessed in awhile. One nice change was their 3-point game, as Martin and Brown added two buckets apiece from downtown. The Celtics shot 46.2 percent on the evening.

The game proved an exciting one for four quarters, as neither team could run away with it. Boston and Minny exchanged the lead five times throughout. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Wolves really stepped up and sealed the deal. The home team tallied 29 points in the final quarter, and Martin scored 12 of his 21 points within that time frame. The guard arguably had the key move in the game, when he converted a 3-point play during the fourth quarter that helped the Wolves extend their lead.

Zach LaVine was recently listed as a participant in the NBA All Star Slam Dunk Contest, and he is favored to win. Whether due to that excitement or simply feeling re-energized, the rookie came out Wednesday with all cylinders firing. LaVine had a strong performance, adding 17 points and six assists to help the Wolves win their first game at the Target Center since Dec. 10. Nikola Pekovic, also recently returned, added 14 points, and Thaddeus Young grabbed 12 points and nine rebounds for the Wolves.

On the opponents’ side, Jared Sullinger led the Celtics with 16 points and eight rebounds.

“If you want to make it to where we’re trying to make it, these games cannot happen,” said Sullinger. “These types of games cannot happen.”

The win extended Minnesota’s record to 8-34. Up next, the Wolves will travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Friday.

“We’ve got another three weeks of Training Camp,” head coach Flip Saunders joked after the victory. “These guys coming back, it’s going to take them about three weeks to get their sea legs back. […] We’re going to find out how our pieces all fit together.”

 

Timberwolves Fall Short to Oklahoma City Thunder

(photo credit: SI.com)

(photo credit: SI.com)

OKC’s Kevin Durant missed Monday night’s game with a sprained toe, but even several close points of the game, Minnesota couldn’t pull out a win. The 92-84 loss dropped the Timberwolves’ record to 1-12 in Oklahoma City over the past few seasons. Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves with 23 points, followed by Thaddeus Young with 22. Center Gorgui Dieng had a big night beneath the basket, grabbing 18 boards.

Oklahoma City felt the absence of Durant, who has never missed a game against Minnesota and typically averages 28 points per game when playing the Wolves. Minnesota’s defense proved above average in keeping Russell Westbrook‘s point total down (18 compared to the 25 PPG he has been averaging).

It seems the Wolves can never get everything to work together, however. On a night of decent Minnesota defense, it was a battle of poor shooting from both teams. The Wolves shot just 34.1 percent from the field, while the Thunder made 41.9 percent of their attempts.

Young had another solid performance, giving Minnesota an early 4-2 lead. Monday marked the second consecutive game that head coach Flip Saunders has started Young at the small forward position. Young said he’s enjoyed playing there, as the position helps him see the floor and move the ball more effectively.

Minny held the Thunder to just 2-of-11 to start the game, and Westbrook was a non-factor throughout most of the first quarter. However, OKC fought back and held a decent lead for most of the first half, going on a 6-0 run to start the second quarter.

At one point, the Wolves fell to a 15-point deficit as Dion Waiters and Kendrick Perkins both added a spark off the Thunder bench.

Minnesota battled back to within three, trailing 54-57 at the 5:29 mark of the third quarter, but the excitement for Wolves fans was short lived as Oklahoma City continued to make buckets that its opponents could not answer to.

The game got a bit chippy on more than one instance, and Saunders received a technical foul at one point over a controversial penalty called on Wiggins. The energy was certainly high on the Wolves’ bench, and the team did give a valiant effort to regain a lead in the fourth quarter, scoring 28 points in the final period. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.

The biggest area in which Minnesota struggled was 3-point shooting. The Timberwolves shot less than 16 percent from behind the arc, Mo Williams making only one of six attempts from downtown.

Oklahoma extended their home win streak to six, while the Wolves lost their 19 out of 21 games and fell to 7-37 overall.

Up next, Minnesota will return home to host the Celtics Wednesday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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!

How to Cope With Losing; A Wolves-Hawks Recap

"Hold me back, son!" - Flip Saunders (Photo Credit - Curtis Compton)

“Hold me back, son!” – Flip Saunders (Photo Credit – Curtis Compton)

The Wolves tried to shake things up, going with a starting lineup featuring three bigs (Thad Young, Gorgui Dieng, Nikola Pekovic). For Young, being moved to small forward produced positive results. He had one of his best performances of the year, posting 26 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. As a whole, the three combined for 50 points, and 12 assists, but were only able to corral 16 rebounds, not nearly enough when you’re trying to beat the best team in the East.

After the game, the Wolves received even more unfortunate news, when they learned Robbie Hummel, who left the game in the third quarter, suffered a “non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand.” In Layman’s terms, Hummel dislocated his finger. He’ll be out anywhere from 4-6 weeks, which is not something fans were hoping to hear.

As it stands, Minnesota sits at 7-35, alone in the cellar of the NBA. Losing 80% of games not only takes a toll on the team, but the fans, too. So I wanted to know – How do Wolves fans cope with all of the losing?

Like any normal person, I went to twitter, where the responses ranged from as low as the pits of despair to as high as the peak of the mountains of optimism.

C’mon @iPhonemuscle, watching the Wolves can be quite fun, even with all of the losing. Remember Ricky Davis, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic? Those were some hilarious times. Don’t think of it as wasting your life, think of it as dedicating yourself to a lifetime subscription of hope. Hope – It’s that thing that keeps you from going insane™.

If you’re looking to find a silver lining, you should take heed to the advice of Joel Bischoff.

Ah, yes, overeating. What Wolves fan hasn’t downed an entire pint of ice cream after watching the Wolves come up short on the court. Because sometimes all you can do is down some Cherry Garcia and keep on truckin’.

I love this suggestion. It combines hopeful optimism with and creativity, while providing a distraction from the product currently on the floor for the Wolves. This method is something anyone can do; just go to a mock draft site like DraftExpress, find a name that you like, and come up with a catchy hashtag. Some examples: #OferForOkafor, #SuckForStanley, and #CantGetStopsForKristaps.

If simply making hashtags isn’t enough to take your mind off the pups, you can try Phillip Moore’s tried and true solution – watching highlights. There’s plenty of options – you could watch D’Angelo Russell make ridiculous passes, Jahlil Okafor destroy everyone in his path, or Karl Towns dominating the paint. The craziest part- it’s more likely than not one of those three players are wearing a Wolves jersey come October!

But if none of those work, you can go with nick’s strategy, and remember the good ol’ days of the 2003-2004 season.

The 2003-2004 season was a great time for Wolves fans. Minnesota won a team record 58 games, Latrell and Cassell were balling, and KG won MVP. And thanks to youtube and the occasional NBA TV replay of the game, you can relieve that glorious season for all of eternity, or at least until the draft in June.

It’ll be pretty hard for the Wolves to ever top game 7 against the Kings, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. So as you go to bed tonight, think about Andrew Wiggins in his prime, along with Ricky Rubio and Jahlil Okafor, dominating teams on both ends and leading the Wolves to the promised land. Because, as The Big Ticket once said, “Anything is possible.”