Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 10

Shabazz Muhammad and the Timberwolves will take on the Jazz twice this week, a great effort to stop the bleeding on their current losing streak. (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

Shabazz Muhammad and the Timberwolves will take on the Jazz twice this week, a great effort to stop the bleeding on their current losing streak. (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves enter the week with a 5-24 record and have lost eight straight.  The week ahead gives the Pups two games against a very beatable Utah Jazz team, with the Sacramento Kings sandwiched in between.  There may be a light ahead, as reports have surfaced that the Wolves expect Ricky Rubio to return to the court in mid-January.  Rubio has been stretching his legs during warm-ups with assistants and will be more than a welcomed sight on the floor for Flip Saunders and his crew.  While it looks like Rubio is almost ready to return to the court, there is no news out there right now for Kevin Martin or Nikola Pekovic.

As the season continues to slog along, it will be interesting to see if GM Flip is able to convince Head Coach Flip to make a move and clear more of the deck to make the franchise rebuild that much more official.  Here is a brief preview for each game of the coming week:

Game 30: Tuesday, 12/30, 8pm – Timberpups @ Utah Jazz (TV: FS North)

The Jazz open up the week with a 10-20 record and will be in Los Angeles on Monday to take on the Clippers.  The Wolves catch the benefit of the schedule gods, as the Jazz will have to travel home after Monday night’s game to play the next night.  With the Wolves’ injuries continuing to wreck the season, any benefit the team sees is well received.

Opponent to watch:

Gordon Hayward – Hayward is putting up strong numbers so far this season (18.9ppg, 5.3rpg, and 4apg).  He isn’t “worth” what the Jazz resigned him for, but I don’t understand the current NBA salary structure anymore than the next person.  Hayward does pose another tough night for Andrew Wiggins on both ends of the floor … yet again.

Game 31: Thursday, 1/1, 7pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves open up the 2015 calendar year against the team they have faced 1,000 times to open up past NBA seasons.  The Kings open up the week with a 13-17 record and will also face the Timberwolves off of a game the night before.  Sacramento will be in Boston for a game against the Celtics on Wednesday night and will travel to Minnesota afterward for Thursday’s game.  The Kings are 10th in the league averaging 102.6ppg but are giving up 103.9ppg – “good” for 26th in the league.

Opponent to watch:

Darren Collison – Collison is going to be a very tough matchup for Zach LaVine and Mo Williams.  Collison has picked up starting PG duties for the Kings admirably, averaging 16.3ppg, 6apg, and 1.3spg.

Game 31: Saturday, 1/3, 7pm – Utah Jazz @ Timberpups (TV: FSN  Plus)

The Jazz and Wolves will face off for the second time in less than a week.  For the third time in a row, the Pups’ opponent will be coming off of a game the night before, as the Jazz will be in Atlanta on Friday night.

Opponent to watch:

Derrick Favors – Favors seems to have found his groove in the NBA, putting up 15.7ppg and 8.3rpg.  He will be a tough matchup for Thad Young.  I would prefer Flip goes to Anthony Bennett early and often at PF, particularly against the Jazz.

Wrap-up:

Scheduling quirks are a reason to be optimistic this week for the Pups to finally break the losing streak.  If the streak happens to get to ten, expect the Wolves to beat the Jazz on Saturday, as that will be Utah’s fourth game of the week.

Cavaliers Big Three Drive Past Timberwolves, 125-104

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

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

The 5-21 Minnesota Timberwolves strolled into Cleveland to take on the NBA’s latest edition of a “Big Three” to take on the Cavaliers.  That of course meant it was the Wolves’ first meeting with ex-Pup Kevin Love.  The Cavs have been somewhat disappointing so far this season with a 16-10 record and playing a methodical pace of basketball under new head coach, David Blatt.

The Pups opened up with Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  Cleveland countered with Kyrie Irving, another ex-Pup Mike Miller, LeBron James, Love, and Anderson Varejao.

Cleveland won the opening tip and quickly went down to the post to Love, who subsequently blew a layup (instead of dunking the ball …).  The Wolves went to Wiggins early and he responded with an early bucket and helped draw two of the three quick fouls called against Mike Miller.  Heading into the game’s first timeout, the Cavs held a 14-9 advantage.

At the end of the first quarter, the Cavs held a 27-26 advantage in a back and forth quarter that saw six lead changes.  The Wolves were led by Wiggins (11 points) and Dieng (6 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals) in the opening frame.  Love finished the first quarter with 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.

If there is an intriguing storyline or subplot to keep an eye on over the next few weeks/months, it is what becomes of Chase Budinger.  Chase has shown signs of life over the past two weeks and may be rounding into form.  He opened up the second quarter by hitting his first two buckets for five points.  (Note: He also entered towards the end of the third quarter and that is, where you will find, the unraveling of the game for the Pups.)

With a little less than six minutes left in the half, the Cavs went on a mini-run and opened up a 9 point lead, 46-37.  Cleveland’s ‘Big Three’ led the charge, assisting and/or scoring on just about every bucket the Cavs scored up to that point in the quarter.  However, Wiggins and the Wolves came right back, going on an 11-4 run to cut the Cavs lead to two points (50-48) and forcing David Blatt to call a timeout.  Cleveland answered the call and went on a 7-2 run to open up another five point lead.  At the half, the Cavs held a 64-56 lead.

The third quarter wasn’t a banner quarter for the Cavs as Love and Varejao both went down with injuries and to the locker room.  Love would return to the floor just minutes later.  At the same time, Andrew Wiggins was heating up, scoring or assisting on five of the club’s first seven baskets in the quarter.  After cutting the Cavs lead to one point, James and Irving hit back to back three points to open up the lead once again.

Unfortunately, the close (and good) game seemed to end towards the end of the third quarter.  Cleveland went on a 16-1 run and held a 96-79 advantage heading into the final frame.

The fourth quarter was unfortunately more of the same from the final few minutes of the third.  The Cavs essentially imposed their will on the Wolves and were able to maintain their double digit lead throughout.  The final score: Cleveland 125, Minnesota 104.

Game Notes:

  • Anderson Varejao was reported to have a left ankle injury and didn’t return to the court on Tuesday night.  According to the Cavs broadcast, he will be reevaluated on Wednesday.
  • Kevin Love finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, his 15th double-double of the season.
  • Andrew Wiggins finished the game with a team high 27 points on 9-16 shooting from the floor.
  • Anthony Bennett probably had the worst game of his career and certainly his worst performance in a Wolves uniform.  He finished the game with 0 points on 0-4 shooting, poor defense, and was -27 in the +/- column.
  • You likely have already seen this, but Flip Saunders told Jon Krawczynski the following ahead of Tuesday night’s game regarding Kevin Love:

    “Minnesota people are pretty loyal. You turn on Minnesota, they don’t forgive you,” Saunders said after practice on Monday. “So I think people probably appreciated him while he was here. But you leave under the terms that he did, just the way Minnesota people are, they’re not pretty forgiving along those lines.”

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 9

Andrew Wiggins plays his first game in Cleveland Tuesday night. The Cavs drafted Wiggins with the #1 overall pick before trading him to Minnesota.

Andrew Wiggins plays his first game in Cleveland Tuesday night. The Cavs drafted Wiggins with the #1 overall pick before trading him to Minnesota.

Setting the Stage:

Games weren’t the only thing the Wolves lost last week. Minnesota was part of a 3 team trade that sent Corey Brewer to Houston and Ronny Turiaf to Philadelphia. In return, Minnesota received a few second round picks, as well as Troy Daniels, a volume 3 point shooter who set multiple D League records last season for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

With an 0-4 record last week, the Wolves were able to give themselves a bit of breathing room at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Minnesota’s dismal record puts them is 3 wins back of the Lakers and 4 shy of Utah. In all 4 games last week, Minnesota had opportunities to take control late, but failed to do so. Stuck in what is currently a 5 game losing streak, Minnesota will hope to break the trend. It won’t be easy, however, as the 3 teams they will face have a combined record of 50-29.

Game 27: Tuesday, 12/23, 6pm – Timberpups @ Cleveland Cavaliers (TV: FS North/NBA TV)

The Cavs sit at 16-10, a somewhat disappointing record considering the expectations they were handed. Their 7-3 in their last 10 games, however, and on Sunday, the Cavs used a 4th quarter spurt to blow past Memphis. Cleveland has started to figure things out on the court, and when they have all cylinders firing on offense, as they have done in short stints, they are nearly impossible to stop.

What to Watch:

Kevin Love - Tuesday marks Kevin Love’s first meeting against Minnesota. Playing alongside Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, Love’s production has decreased significantly. His average of 16.8 ppg and 10.5 rpg are the lowest numbers he’s posted since his 2009-2010 sophomore campaign. But make no mistake, Love will be up for this game, and if the Wolves aren’t able to defend him, the score could get ugly.

Game 28: Friday, 12/26, 8pm – Timberpups @ Denver Nuggets (TV: FS North)

The game this week that appears to be the most winnable comes Friday in Denver. The Nuggets may not have any all-stars, but a glut of quality talent at several positions makes them competitive team, even in the loaded west. Although Denver won’t find themselves still playing basketball come May, their home court advantage is unparalleled. The altitude combined with a passionate fan base makes it tough for any team to win inside Pepsi Center.

What to Watch:

Faried vs. Shabazz - Arguably the two hardest working power forwards in the game will be matched up on Friday. Both are fan favorites, but only one is known as the ‘Manimal.’ As rumors have circulated surrounding Faried’s standing on the team this season, his numbers have down across the board, averaging a career low in rebounds while only scoring 10.8 ppg.

Game 29: Saturday, 12/27 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Golden State Warriors (TV: FS North)

There isn’t much to say about Golden State, other than that they’re really, really good. With a record of 22-3, the Warriors dominant in all facets, including defensively, where they rank first in the league.

What to Watch:

The Perimeter – If Minnesota wants to pull off the monumental upset, they will have to prevent the Warriors from dominating the game from deep, where they average nearly 10 makes a game on 38% shooting. It starts with the Splash Brothers, Klay and Steph, and extends to Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and the rest of their bench.

Wrap Up:

Unfortunately, another winless week seems to be on the horizon. But with the return of Ricky Rubio looming, the Wolves christmas stocking won’t be filled entirely with coal.

Wolves Unable to Complete Comeback, Fall to Indiana

(Jesse Johnson - USA Today Sports)

(Jesse Johnson – USA Today Sports)

By all accounts, this was a winnable game. Indiana, playing the second half of a back to back, was shorthanded and exhausted. Without their all-star Paul George, as well as starting point guard George Hill, Indiana had to make due with a patchwork starting lineup that included the likes of Solomon Hill, CJ Watson, and Rodney Stuckey.

Minnesota had their chances but struggled to capitalize, especially early on. Minnesota held the Pacers to a mere 20 points in the first quarter, but were only able to score 17 themselves. The second quarter wasn’t any better, and Minnesota found themselves in a 14 point hole at the half.

The game was marred with sloppy ball handling, questionable decision making, and horrific sequences of basketball that would make a grown man cry. There were passes off of teammates backs, missed assignments on defense, and plenty of airballs. At times, it looked as if both teams were playing drunk.

(Via CJ Zero)

Incredulously, Minnesota woke up in the second half, and even took the lead for a brief stint late in the fourth. The Wolves were able to overcome what was a 19 point deficit and turn it into a 92-91 lead with 2:17 left.

The comeback effort was led by two men, Shabazz Muhammad and Mo Williams. The duo scored 29 of the Wolves 58 second half points, giving Minnesota the opportunity it needed to pull out a much needed win.

As soon as Minnesota took the lead, Indiana answered. Minnesota had the lead just twice in the fourth, for a total of 36 seconds. In the final two minutes, Pacer guard CJ Miles scored 7 of Indiana’s final 9 points, swishing a contested 26 foot three and going 4-4 from the line, sealing the win.

The loss drops Minnesota to a dismal 5-21, and the schedule may not be getting any easier, but there is still one thing we can all look forward to: The return of Ricky Rubio.

Save us Ricky. You’re our only hope.

RubioHelp

Celtics Outlast Timberwolves, 114-98

Kelly Olynyk put on a show against the Timberwolves Friday night in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Kelly Olynyk put on a show against the Timberwolves Friday night in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves wrapped up a quick two game swing to the East Coast on Friday night in Beantown.  Both teams entered the game well under .500 and have started making the appropriate moves for their roster.  Earlier Friday, Woj dropped news that the Timberwolves worked out a trade with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.  Fan favorites Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf are on their way out of Minnesota, with our Pups getting back SG Troy Daniels and two second round picks.  Hours earlier the Celtics sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks with Dwight Powell for Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, picks, and a trade exception.

With all of that roster movement out of the way, the Wolves and Celtics took to the floor this evening in an entertaining night of basketball.  The Pups opened up with Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Celtics countered with Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, and Tyler Zeller.

The Wolves held a 13-12 lead six minutes into the game and heading into the first stoppage in play.  Wiggins was off to a slow start (0-3 shooting) but Shabazz had two nice post-up moves for two buckets.  The Celtics were led early by Avery Bradley who was attacking the Wolves’ rookie PG, putting up seven shots in the first six minutes.

Tyler Zeller picked up two fouls and gave way to Kelly Olynyk.  The Garden quickly became Olynyk’s playground as the Center finished the 1st quarter with 11 points on 5-7 shooting, to go along with 3 rebounds, an assist, and a block.  At the end of Q1 the Celtics held a 27-24 advantage.

The teams battled back and forth in the 2nd quarter.  Olynyk continued to lead the way for the Celtics, while the Pups offered up a balanced attack on the offensive end of the floor … and very little defensively.  Chase Budinger received some early minutes tonight and made the most of them, opening up by hitting his first three shots for 7 quick points.  However, the Celtics went on a little bit of a run to close out the half, going up by eight eights before Shabazz hit a three pointer to cut the lead to 53-48 at the half.

After showing signs of falling apart late in the second quarter, the Wolves defense became visibly worse coming out of the locker room.  The Celtics rebuilt an eight point lead largely due to poor team defense and an inability to control the defensive boards.  With Anthony Bennett on the bench, Flip stuck with Thad Young against Jared Sullinger and all that did was hurt the Wolves on the defensive end of the floor.  At the end of the third quarter, the Celtics held an 83-77 lead.

Despite strong efforts for three and a half quarters, the Wolves started to fall apart late in the 4th quarter.  The Celtics opened up a double digit lead and seemed to track down every loose ball and find the open man on the Wolves’ defensive rotations.  After cutting the lead to three points (95-92), the Celtics pulled away and finished the game on fire from the field.  The last six minutes of the game were an abomination for the Wolves, who struggled in every aspect of the game.

The final score: Boston 114, Minnesota 98.

Game Notes:

  • Shabazz Muhammad took his role as starting wing seriously, putting in 26 points on a very efficient 11-15 shooting to go along with a career high 5 assists.
  • Chase Budinger had a season high 19 points on 8-12 shooting.
  • The Celtics had six different players with double digit points, led by Olynyk’s 21 points on 8-13 shooting.

Minnesota Timberwolves Reportedly Trading Corey Brewer to Houston

(photo credit: NBA.com)

(photo credit: NBA.com)

According to a recent report by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Timberwolves have reportedly agreed to a deal that will send forward Corey Brewer to the Houston Rockets.

Brewer was involved in trade rumors earlier this year, but nothing came to fruition initially. Now, it looks like the deal has been made. The Rockets were originally looking to obtain Rajon Rondo, but now that Rondo is headed to Dallas, the team made a full-fledged push for Brewer. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle said the following:

“[Houston] is involved in talks with Minnesota for small forward Corey Brewer, a person with knowledge of the talks said. A deal is possible by Friday, which is the last day a team can acquire a player and then trade him later in the season. The Rockets could fit Brewer into their salary cap using the trade exception they got from the Jeremy Lin deal this summer.”

Feigen posted the following tweet on Dec. 18 regarding Brewer’s upside and benefits for the Rockets:

Brewer is currently averaging 10.5 points, 3.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game for Minnesota. The forward has played for the Timberwolves in two separate stints: he made his NBA debut in 2007 and played with the Wolves through the 2010-2011 season in which he joined Denver for two seasons before returning to Minny in 2013.

According to reports, Ronny Turiaf will also be included in the deal, although he may end up being moved to a third-party team. Turiaf is out of the season after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery on Dec. 16.

Minnesota will reportedly obtain shooting guard Troy Daniels from Houston as part of the deal. Daniels is averaging just 2.7 points per game in his sophomore year with the Rockets. The 23-year-old did not get much playing time between James Harden in Houston, so it will be interesting to see if he is able to bring something the Wolves are looking for.

Continue to follow Wojnarowski for updates as the transaction unfolds.

Timberwolves Battle, Fall to Washington on the Road

(photo credit: foxsports.com)

(photo credit: foxsports.com)

In the first of two road games for Minnesota, the Timberwolves gave a valiant effort against the Wizards. In a game that stayed close in score for a majority of the contest, it was foul shooting that most hurt Minnesota, and Washington pulled away with the 109-95 final score. Thaddeus Young led the team with a season-high 29 points, followed by Shabazz Muhammad who added 21 off the bench. On the opposing side, Rasual Butler tallied 23 points, 18 of them occurring in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards shot off to an impressive start early on, going on a 14-2 run in the first four minutes of the opening quarter. The Wolves slowly worked to battle back. Rookie Zach LaVine added a spark with a nice three-point bucket by rookie at the 4:55 mark, but Washington continued to make its shots and keep a lead over the Wolves. Minnesota entered the locker room at halftime down by 10, shooting 33.3 percent from the floor. The team controlled the ball well and committed only four turnovers in the first half.

Where most teams would make up that point deficit, at the free-throw line, the Wolves played terribly. Throughout the first two quarters, Minnesota went just 4-of-14 from the charity stripe. At the end of the game, less than 60 percent of the team’s free throws were successful.

On the opposing side, Washington 50 percent from the field and 72.2 percent from the free-throw line.

“They’re just too good for us right now,” coach Flip Saunders said postgame. “We just don’t have enough firepower.”

Seven Washington players scored in double-digit points, including fourth-year guard John Wall. Wall recorded a double-double on the evening when he scored 21 points and dished out 17 assists. Wall earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.

“I think [John] still has the best ahead of him,” coach Randy Wittman said. “He deserved to win Player of the Week. I told him, `That’s no big deal, you deserve it.’ There’s nothing surprising here, let’s just keep doing it.”

The Wizards improved their record 18-6, demonstrating why they are currently ranked No. 2 in the Eastern Conference.

Minnesota fell to 5-19, losing nine of its last 10 games. The team continues to struggle with three of its starters (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin) being sidelined indefinitely.  Young players are learning on the fly, and the squad is scrappy at the very least. However, the Wolves know they need to start finding a way to win, and soon.

Next up is the Boston Celtics on Friday evening. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. (CST) at the TD Garden arena.

Bryant Breaks MJ’s Record, Timberwolves Fall to Lakers 100-94

(foxsports.com)

(foxsports.com)

Lakers All-Star Kobe Bryant made history in Minnesota on Sunday night, when he passed Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list. Bryant beat Jordan’s record with a pair of free throws in the second quarter; he tallied 26 points on the night to total 32,310 for his career.

The Timberwolves delivered a strong performance at home, and fans saw several glimpses of young players finding their groove on the court. In the end, though, it seemed fitting that Bryant knocked down a couple of clutch shots to slip away with the 100-94 win. Shabazz Muhammad came off the bench to lead the Wolves with an impressive 28 points and nine rebounds, followed by rookie Andrew Wiggins with 16 points.

The game was an entertaining one, to say the least. LA and Minnesota exchanged leads five times throughout the game, and it all came down to the wire when Wiggins tied it up 94-94 at the free-throw line with under two minutes remaining. The Target Center crowd was electric, hoping for the Wolves to come away with the “W,” but Bryant stepped back and drilled a long three-point shot to put the Lakers up 97-94. Minnesota was forced to follow in an effort to slow things down, and LA made three out of four shots from the charity stripe to seal the game.

Although not getting the win they hoped for, several Wolves players expressed nothing but respect for Bryant and his career accomplishment. For a few of the younger players on the roster, they were only toddlers when Bryant started in the NBA. Wiggins was just one year old.

“I witnessed greatness tonight,” Wiggins said postgame. “A living legend passed Michael Jordan, who everyone thinks is the best player of all-time. That’s a big accomplishment. I’m glad I was there to witness it.”

Following the game, Bryant gave kudos to Wiggins, comparing the No. 1 pick to himself in earlier years.

“It was a strange feeling because I remember being Andrew Wiggins,” Bryant said. “I remember playing against Michael [Jordan] my first year. And to be here tonight playing against [Wiggins], seeing the baby face and the little footwork or technique thing that he’s going to be much, much sharper at later on, was like looking at a reflection of myself 19 years ago.”

The game stopped for a few brief moments when Bryant hit the milestone; the guard received congratulatory hugs and affirmations from both teammates and opponents, and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor presented Bryant with the game ball before play resumed.

“It was different,” Bryant said. “I’m so used to being the villain all the time on the road it took a minute to kind of adjust. It felt good to be appreciated like that.”

Despite falling short of the win, head coach Flip Saunders called Sunday’s matchup a “learning experience” for the team. There were several glimpses of good things for the Wolves, as they shot 42.2 percent from the field and actually outscored the Lakers 54-38 in the paint.

Muhammad had arguably his best game of the season. The forward’s 28 points came in just over 27 minutes on the floor, and he continued to create shot after shot.

“When [Shabazz] goes in the game I think everyone knows … that when he gets it he’s probably going to look to score,” Saunders said. “They’re really trying to guard him now … and he still finds ways to create opportunities for himself. That’s a positive.”

Corey Brewer and Zach LaVine added that spark of energy for their team, adding 10 points apiece for the evening. Brewer also dished out nine assists and grabbed two steals.

Sunday’s loss dropped Minnesota’s record to 5-18, currently last in the Western Conference.

The Wolves will leave for a two-game road trip to face the Wizards on Tuesday (6 p.m. CST) and then the Celtics on Friday (6:30 p.m. CST).

 

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 8

When will any of these guys return to the Timberwolves lineup? (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

When will any of these guys return to the Timberwolves lineup? (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves head into week eight with a 5-17 record before Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Target Center.  After Sunday’s game the Wolves will head east for two games before returning home to wrap up the week.  The injuries continue to plague the team/roster with little help in sight.  While this should help in the long run, it is frustrating and sometimes painful to watch right now.  The minutes that Flip Saunders is giving to Zach LaVine will help judge where he fits best with this club – which position, role, etc.  Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng are getting heavy minutes and the learning curve would seem to be quickening because of it.

The week ahead has several very winnable games for our Pups.  Here is a brief preview for each:

Game 24: Tuesday, 12/16, 6pm – Timberpups @ Washington Wizards (TV: FSN Plus)

The Wizards may be the surprise team in the league right now with a 16-6 record, with a home game on Sunday against the Utah Jazz.  A win on Sunday would be their fourth in a row.  Washington is .5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks to lead the Southeast division.

Opponent to watch:

John Wall – Wall is having a career year averaging 17.8ppg, 10.5apg, and over 2 steals a game.  This is likely going to be a very rough matchup for Zach LaVine in trying to contain Wall and even if Flip rotates a bit, that would put the Wolves’ rookie on Bradley Beal – who is coming off of a big performance this past week against the Lakers.

Game 25: Friday, 12/19, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ Boston Celtics (TV: FS North)

The Celtics enter the week with a 7-14 record and will face the Sixers and Magic on Monday and Wednesday night respectively ahead of Friday night’s matchup in Beantown.  The Celtics are coming off of an embarrassing loss against the Knicks and will look to recover against two other sub-par Eastern Conference teams ahead of the Wolves.

Opponent to watch:

Jeff Green – While underwhelming on the court to many, I have always liked Green and thought he would have been a good fit on the Wolves’ roster.  Green is averaging over 20ppg this season and has a PER of 16.6.  He isn’t rebounding at a high level but is the clear #1 option on offense for the Celtics.  Mr. Wiggins will have another opportunity to guard the top scoring option of the opposition.

Game 26: Sunday, 12/21, 6pm – Indiana Pacers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The coldest team in the league is the Indiana Pacers, having lost eight games in a row.  They will be in Denver for a game on Saturday night and will have to fly to Minnesota for Sunday’s matchup at Target Center.  Sunday’s game could be a nice return home for the Wolves who have the ability to pull off the victory against a struggling team.

Opponent to watch:

Roy Hibbert – The Pacers are somewhat faceless this year due to injuries.  Hibbert has been up and down but will be a tough test for Gorgui Dieng.  Hibbert is only averaging 11.6ppg and 7.3rpg but should be able to turn it on at any point.  At least one would think that.

Wrap-up:

The Timberwolves could easily win at least two games this week with several struggling opponents from the Eastern Conference.  How many wins do you foresee for the team this week?  Go Pups!

Westbrook Nearly Unstoppable as Thunder Surge Past Wolves

(Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today)

(Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today)

The Wolves weren’t going to beat the Thunder. This much was clear after a disastrous first quarter put Minnesota in an early 18 point hole.

After the Wolves forced a shot clock violation on their first defensive possession, Oklahoma City went on to score on 10 of its next 13 possessions. Per usual, Minnesota struggled to defend inside the paint, giving up a total of 54 points inside the paint. Even with Gorgui playing on of his better games of the year, a lack of healthy bigs made it all to easy for the Thunder to score inside.

The biggest beneficiary of the Wolves poor defense was Russell Westbrook. Simply put, Westbrook was spectacular. His line speaks for itself – 34 points on 12-19 shooting, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.

Westbrook’s fearlessness and and elite athleticism make him nearly impossible to guard. What do you do when he’s driving full speed to the rim?

Option 1: You can collapse on him. The downside is you run the risk of leaving a man open, like the Wolves did in the image below. Westbrook looked to be trapped, but his superior court vision allowed him to find a wide open Steven Adams.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 3.27.24 AM

Option 2: You can play man and elect give Russell space to work with. With the Wolves choosing to switch off screens, this was not ideal. Below, a Steven Adams screen led to Gorgui guarding Westbrook. Gorgui gave Westbrook ample space, and he proceeded to hit the open jumper.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 3.50.43 PM

 

Option 3: Elect not to switch off of screens. LaVine struggles to get around screens quickly, so this didn’t work either. Below, LaVine’s inability to get by a Steven Adams screen leads to Russell Westbrook getting a wide open look, which he promptly drained.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 4.04.14 PM

 

Option 4: Guard Westbrook tight and give him minimal space. This sounds like it would might work, but Russell proves otherwise. His insane speed and ball handling abilities allow him to burn defenders with ease on his way to the hoop.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 4.01.36 PM

 

Russell Westbrook is ridiculous, and there is no way to stop him. And in case you forgot, the Thunder also have reigning MVP Kevin Durant. That’s just unfair.

Notes:

  • Point Brewer was back, and more hilarious than ever. His 8 assists were a career high, but it came at the expense of ball security, as Corey also had 6 turnovers.
  • Shabazz is doing a commendable job battling through injury. It’s amazing how he hustles harder with one healthy ankle than most guys do with two.
  • Sunday should be an historic night at Target Center, with Kobe just 9 points shy of passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. Hopefully, the crowd isn’t all pro-Lakers, however.