Recap – Bobcats 105, Timberwolves 93

 

Big Al vs. Bigger Pek,  Wolves, Bobcats, semi-live from Charlotte (Thanks Xbox) (Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

Big Al vs. Bigger Pek,
Wolves, Bobcats, semi-live from Charlotte (Thanks Xbox)
(Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

 

After a few nights off, the Timberwolves returned to action on Friday night to take on the Bobcats in Charlotte.  Minnesota entered the game with a 32-31 record, while Charlotte was coming in off of a win Wednesday night in Washington, moving their record to 31-34 on the year.  The Bobcats are currently in the seven seed position in the Eastern Conference playoffs and won seven games in a row at home.  What happened … well, you probably saw the title of the article?

The Pups’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Bobcats opened up with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts, and ex-Pup Al Jefferson.

First Half 

In a somewhat slow start to the game, aided by a “clear path” review by the refs, the Bobcats took an 8-7 lead into the game’s first timeout with about 8.5 minutes left in the 1st quarter.  Gerald Henderson had all 8 points for the Bobcats, allowing me to daydream about this past offseason one more time.  I have always liked Henderson’s game and thought he would be a good fit for the Wolves.

Coming out of the first timeout, it looked like both teams decided to wake up and unofficially start playing real NBA basketball. Kevin Martin and Kevin Love led the way for the Wolves in the quarter.  After the timeout, MKG and Big Al stood out for the Bobcats and balancing out the Kevin’s efforts.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the teams were tied at 33-33.

Wholesale lineup changes for Adelman’s club to start out the 2nd quarter and let’s just say that this didn’t start or end well.  I’m not sure what it is going to take to move away from this outside of Flip taking over as coach.  Dear lord … not only did the rotation not work, but Adelman refused to burn a timeout, waiting for the official’s timeout before reinserting Love and Nikola Pekovic into the game.  However, the damage was done, as the Bobcats led 50-41.

Despite having many of the starters back in, the Wolves fell further in the hole, 59-43.  So, to recap what happened here; backups fell behind double digits and when the wholesale changes back to the starting lineup took place, those players were all cooled off and out of the flow of the game.  What team uses this strategy successfully?!  This actually came off my keyboard during the 2nd quarter misery:

While I know this will burn me a year from now, I’m completely OK with Adelman walking away in the offseason.

— john flesta(@jflesta) March 15, 2014

I’m sadly not overstating this, while completely realizing the likelihood that the alternative is better is about one in ten.  At the half, the Bobcats held a 65-53 advantage.  Here are a few thoughts going into the locker room:

  • At the half, the best +/- from the Wolves’ bench was a -11 from LRMAM.
  • Gary Neal, en fuego.  5-7 from the field for 16 points.  Coincidentally, much of his playing time was against … you guessed it, the Wolves’ bench.

Second Half 

The Pups started the 3rd quarter 0-5 from the field and their body language to start the half was poor.  Adelman may have noticed this and took an early timeout, with just over two minutes gone by and the team down 67-53.  Gorgui Dieng checked in for a struggling Pekovic and Big Al took him to school early on a pump fake.  Dieng tried to make up for the lost step but was called for a goaltend.  The rookie spent much of the next few minutes in Jekyll and Hyde mode with positive and negative plays up and down the court.  This ties in nicely with a request for PT for the rookies the rest of the way.  Please and thank you.

The body language for the Wolves got progressively worse as the 3rd quarter rolled on.  As the teams entered the final frame, the Bobcats held a 13 point lead, 88-75.  It could have been worse, but Chris Douglas-Roberts couldn’t get a made 35 foot three pointer out of his hands in time.

As the 4th quarter started, the Wolves official word on Pekovic was a sore ankle and his return was questionable.  Frankly, it probably didn’t matter.  The Wolves couldn’t get the Bobcats’ lead under 10 points and much of the 4th quarter felt like it was just going through the motions.  Final score, 105-93 – moving the Wolves back to .500 on the season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Al Jefferson – 25 & 16 for the ex-Pup
  2. Gary Neal – Lights out shooting when it mattered, finishing with 19 points in 25 minutes
  3. Wolves Twitter – No one on the Wolves roster deserves the slot, and honestly, there isn’t anyone else on the Bobcats either.  So thanks to Wolves Twitter for keeping tonight’s game semi-interesting. 

Key Takeaways

  • Dave Benz pointed this out late in the game, but the Wolves were outrebounded 54-35 in tonight’s game.  When is the last time it was THAT bad with this team?!
  • All eyes should probably stay on Pek’s injury and if he will have to miss any more time over the next week or so.  With the playoffs unofficially, officially out of sight and mind, do the Wolves turn overly cautious with the big man (and his contract)?

Timberwolves Devour Bucks in Second Half, 112-101 Final Score

The Timberwolves appeared sluggish throughout the first half of Tuesday night’s home stand against Milwaukee.  Fortunately for Minnesota, the Wolves rebounded after halftime and played a second half much stronger than their opponents. Coming out on top of the 112-101 final score, the Timberwolves bagged their 32nd win of the season.  Kevin Love led with 27 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Kevin Martin with 26 points. Dante Cunningham and JJ Barea came off the bench for a total of 28 points.

Incredibly, the Bucks didn’t miss a single shot until the 4:35 mark of the first quarter, making all 12 of their first attempts. Not surprisingly after those numbers, the Wolves trailed by five going into Q2.

“I thought [the Bucks] were going to set some sort of record,” said Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman after the game.

Minnesota shot 46 percent in the second quarter, but the Bucks continued to drop almost 60 percent of their shots. Defensively, the Wolves just weren’t on target. Barea came off the bench and added the spark and aggressiveness that his team needed. Barea’s tenacity and better-than-average shooting, combined with Martin’s offense, kept Minny in the game during the first half.

“I love it. I miss it,” Barea said. “I miss playing off the ball a little bit, especially with Ricky. When I’m making shots, it’s great for our team.”

Barea_Milwaukee_edit

According to Adelman, the locker room speech at halftime revolved around defense. “[In the first half] we shared the wealth,” Adelman said. “Every starter [for Milwaukee] had a basket in the first six minutes of the game. We were too soft. They made shots, but we let them go wherever they wanted to go.”

Love scored only nine points in the first half, but the All-Star came alive in the third quarter, hitting two three-point buckets and a jump shot and grabbing a couple rebounds. Love added another three-point shot and 11 total points in the fourth.

Ricky Rubio also delivered a strong performance for Minnesota, grabbing 11 points, 10 assists and three steals.  Rubio has played well the last few games, and his confidence in shooting the ball seems to finally be increasing. The starting PG shared his minutes a bit with Barea, but Adelman played the two in the same lineup several times, as well.

“J.J.’s a great scorer and sometimes he needs to play the (shooting guard),” Rubio said. [...] I like playing with him. He made shots today and he played a lot.”

Rubio_Milwaukee_edit

Milwaukee PG Brandon Knight led his team with 21 points, but in the end it wasn’t enough to regain the lead against Minnesota. The Bucks struggled to keep up after halftime, and their shots didn’t fall the way they did in the first. On the evening, the Wolves shot 48 percent to the Bucks’ 52. While the 13-win team certainly gave a valiant effort during 75 percent of the contest, the fourth quarter proved Minnesota the better team.

Up Next:

Tuesday’s victory marked the first time Minnesota has won 32 games in a single season since 2006-2007, when the squad notched the same number.  The squad will attempt Win #33 when it faces Al Jefferson and the Charlotte Bobcats on the road Friday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.. Fans can view the game on Fox Sports North.

Wolves Can’t Keep Up for Four Quarters, Fall to Raptors at Home

And here we are.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been playing predominantly well since the All-Star break, but faced a tough Toronto Raptors team on Sunday night. The Raptors entered the game as winners of eight of their previous 10 games, allowing only 96 points per game during those contests. Had it not been for a triple-overtime game against the Washington Wizards, in which Toronto allowed 136 points, that 96 opponents points per game would have been closer to 90 — they’re playing pretty good basketball.

Entering the day the Wolves sat five games back of the final seed in the Western Conference. The Dallas Mavericks (37-26) and Phoenix Suns (36-25) are holding down the final two slots with the Memphis Grizzlies (36-26) only a half-game behind the Suns and Mavs, whilst also standing between the Wolves and their highly optimistic playoff aspirations. The Mavericks were hosting the Indiana Pacers and the Suns were in The Bay Area taking on the Golden State Warriors, Memphis had the night off. Each team, minus the Grizz, faced a tough opponent but the Wolves needed a victory before worrying about the outcome of things beyond their control.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and Terrence Ross took the floor for the Raptors while Rick Adelman sent out the usual group of Wolves to start the game. If you’re not familiar by now, that means Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic were the starting five for the Wolves. The pesky, lengthy, athletic core of the Raptors posed problems for the Wolves during their last meeting in Toronto, a game the Wolves did not win.

First Half

The first quarter, well, it seemed sloppy. However, the Raptors made the box score look clean by hitting 13 of 19 shots (68%!!!!). Each Toronto starter scored, but they were led by Ross who scored 10 points and didn’t miss a shot during the opening frame. Love led the way with 12 for the Wolves and the game was all tied up, 33-33.

The second quarter was a game of runs for both sides, and a wave of emotions for fans at the Target Center. Toronto started the quarter off on a 10-0 run, which was really 18-0 dating back to the opening quarter — yikes. However, the Wolves countered with a 17-2 run of their own and before anyone knew anything the game was tied again. The Raptors took a 53-52 lead into halftime, but failed to sustain the momentum they accumulated during the opening quarter and early part of the second. Love lead the way with 13, Pek added 13, Martin scored 11 and the rest of the Wolves managed to score 14 to aid the core in keeping things close.

Second Half

The Raptors started the second half on a 9-2 run, but the Wolves continued to battle. After some nice ball movement around the perimeter, Love found himself open for a three-pointer and buried it; passing Rashad McCants on the list of three’s made by Wolves player. At the 7:00 mark, J.J. Barea missed an easy layup that would have cut the deficit to two. Lowry, thankfully, committed an offensive foul that accounted for Barea’s miss and the game went to a timeout. The Wolves then trailed, 62-64.

Note – Love also broke the franchise record for most three pointers made in a season during this stretch. 

 Through Three Quarters

  • 83-76 Raptors
  • Four Raptors players in double-figures (three Wolves)
  • Love — 21 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists
  • Rubio — 16:38 minutes. Six points, three assists, four fouls

And here we are.

The fourth quarter began and Alexey Shved, who we haven’t seen on the court in a meaningful moment of a game, was playing point guard, albeit he was quickly replaced as Adelman only was trying to get away with what he had done for a small amount of time. Rubio, eager to return, checked in at the 9:21 mark and played — nearly — the remainder of the game, and it made a difference. Although the Wolves weren’t able to keep pace with the Raptors throughout the entirety of the game, the lineups playing when the game is on the line seem to be the combination of players that people want to see. Or maybe that’s just me reading my timeline on the Twitter verse incorrectly.

The Wolves, although narrowing the lead down to as little as two points, were unable to rally and win a game that good teams should expect to win on their home floor.

Three Stars

  • Kyle Lowry — 20 points, 11 assists, 12 rebounds.
  • DeMar Derozan — 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 of 3 from three-point range — he’s a good player. (Great analysis I know)
  • Corey Brewer — 17 points, 6 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 assists.

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 20

 

I feel like this guy trying to predict Timberpups W's & L's (Photo credit: batman.wikia.com)

I feel like this guy trying to predict Timberpups   W’s & L’s
(Photo credit: batman.wikia.com)

Setting the stage: 

For those of you looking for a quick read/preview of tonight’s game against the Raptors, click here.  At worst, the Timberpups will enter week 20 with a .500 record.  From a 30,000 foot view, the week ahead is another great chance for the Wolves to make up some ground on the Mavericks and/or Suns.  However, those teams keep chugging along.  Friday night’s action was a little insane for both the Wolves and Mavs who had 30+ point advantages and almost blew their performances by allowing their opponents to come back into the game.

The Wolves’ defense needs to vastly improve over what they have been doing over the past few weeks.  Only once in the last seven games (again, this is ahead of Sunday’s game) have the Wolves held their opponent under 100 points; and it isn’t like the team has been playing a murderers’ row of opponents on the schedule (like their late November, early December schedule).

The Pups can’t lose a game this week.  There is no room left for a letdown game.  After a Monday night game against the Clippers, the Suns will play six games in a row against Eastern Conference opponents.  Read: the schedule eases up for them.  The Mavs’ schedule looks to be a bit more daunting this coming week with games in Golden State and OKC (as well as Utah).

So here we go with less than 20 games remaining on the schedule.  Can the Wolves pull it off?  It starts off with …

Game 64: Tuesday, 3/11, 7pm – Milwaukee Bucks @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Suffice it to say that the Bucks are not very good.  They are floating around the .200 line in terms of win percentage and are merely 30+ games behind the Indiana Pacers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.  Progress.  Can we please move this team to Seattle under new ownership?  This would also give the Wolves another opportunity to petition the league for switching conferences.  Is anyone reading this against this plan?!

Opponent to watch:

Brandon Knight – Statistically speaking, Knight is having a pretty good season.  Clearly, it isn’t leading to many victories.  We’ll see how Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea look to contain Knight and his new PG brethren, Ramon Sessions.

Predictions:

Bucks in six?  If the Pups lose this one, board up the Target Center and start working on renovations.  Final score: Timberwolves 109, Bucks 95

Game 65: Friday, 3/14, 6pm – Timberpups @ Charlotte Bobcats (TV: FS North)

The Wolves’ home-stand ends with a trip to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats.  Charlotte will be coming in off of a game Wednesday night in Washington so they should be equally rested.  The Pups destroyed the Bobcats in Minnesota in early January and there is nothing to suggest the results should be different for this game – unless you believe in the Bobcats ~.500 record at home this season.

Opponent to watch:

Al Jefferson – Al is back!  Jefferson is putting up the normal 20+ppg/10+rpg … and his team remains under .500.  No, I am not pinning this on Al, it is just an interesting correlation that continues to rear its ugly head.  Will Kevin Love go off when facing his former mentor in Minnesota?

Predictions:

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolves drop this one, and I won’t be surprised if I’m bitching out JJ Barea while it happens.  That said, I’m going to go with … Final score: Timberwolves 112, Bobcats 105

Game 66: Sunday, 3/16, 6pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Sunday’s game will conclude a 7 game road trip for the Kings and they are playing Saturday night in Chicago.  Congratulations Timberwolves, you were finally handed a scheduling “gimme”.  Now, don’t screw this up on your home court like that Knicks game from this past week.

Opponent to watch:

Isaiah Thomas – In two games thus far this season, Thomas has lit up the Wolves to the tune of 24ppg and 7.5apg, while shooting a scorching 59% from the field.

Predictions:

Again, the end of a long road tour for the Kings, who are playing in less meaningful games right now than the Wolves.  (See what I did there?)  Final score: Timberwolves 116, Kings 105

Wrap-up:

This week and the one prior really could have been the time for the Wolves to spark a little more excitement as we go through March.  Unfortunately, that Knicks loss at Target Center was simply deflating.  In any case, let’s go Wolves!

Recap – Timberwolves 114, Pistons 101

The Pistons wouldn't dare hire this man ... would they?! (Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The Pistons wouldn’t dare hire this man … would they?!
(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

 

Coming off a loss that I’m going to try to stop thinking about Wednesday night against the Knicks, The Timberwolves entered Friday night’s affair with a 30-30 record.  The 24-37 Pistons took to the Target Center floor amidst rumors of Isiah Thomas weaseling his way into the Motor City and knocking Joe Dumars out of a job.  Only one of those two thoughts should be a reality (hint: it’s the latter).  The Pistons had lost 8 of 10 coming into tonight’s action, affording the Wolves another opportunity to capitalize.

No surprises for the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Pistons opened up with Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.

First Half 

Perhaps due to their #WolvesKlondike contest on social media (kidding … and I missed by one basket at the end!) the Wolves tried to feed Nikola Pekovic early.  However, it was Kevin Martin who got off to a hot start, scoring six of the team’s first eight points.  The Wolves caught a break early with Greg Monroe picking up two quick fouls.  With that, Minnesota was off and running taking a 17-9 into the first timeout.

Here is what you need to know about the remainder of the 1st quarter: the Wolves only shot three 3PT’ers (hitting two of them) and had 39 points in the first twelve minutes.  How?  They attacked the rim time and time again.  This lead to 9-11 on the FT line and shooting over 50% from the field in the opening frame.  That may have been the best execution I have seen this season, as the Wolves took a 39-21 lead into the break.

As Adelman went further and further down the bench, the Pups managed to maintain their double digit advantage.  I’ve verbally abused (on the internet) JJ Barea over the past two months (note: deservedly) but he had a nice run in the quarter, dropping 4 points and 5 assists in his first stint on the floor.  Going into a timeout, the Wolves held a 61-38 and the Pistons body language was already showing signs of giving up.

With the score 66-45 at the break, here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • The Wolves bench had 24 points at the half, led by Barea, LRMAM, and Chase Budinger.  The team really needs to see Budinger make significant steps over the remainder of the season.
  • He makes it really easy to make fun of him, but who else on the roster is Brandon Jennings going to rely on to score consistently?  Key word, “consistently”.

Second Half 

Things didn’t get any better for the Pistons to start the 3rd quarter.  In fact, it got worse.  From the scoreboard, to their effort, and to their body language, everything looked to be going downhill for Detroit.  The Pistons called their first timeout of the half after falling behind 77-51.

Here is what you need to know about the rest of the quarter: it was great from a Wolves’ perspective and it was mortifying from a Pistons’ view.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wolves held a 97-69 advantage.  Oddly enough, it felt about 1.3 times worse than this.  I spent most of the quarter talking to Wolves Twitter and could barely keep my eyes on the game.

In typical Wolves-bench fashion, they had an opportunity for extended playing time in the 4th quarter and managed to look god-awful in the process.  The Pistons got off to a 13-2 run, forcing Adelman to burn a timeout with about 7 minutes left in the game so that he could bring back the starters.  The Pistons cut it to an 11 point advantage but the Wolves were able to hold on to the victory.

(What you are not seeing here is an epic JJ Barea rant.  He deserves one, but I’m going to check in with Al on how he feels about a full write-up dedicated to this.)

Final score, 114-101 – with the win moving the Pups record to 31-30 on the season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – 28 & 14 and a nice game shooting (10-18 from the field)
  2. Kevin Martin – Had it going early and opened this game up for the Wolves
  3. Ricky Rubio – Closed in a triple-double with 11 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds 

Key Takeaways

  • There are two key takeaways from this game from a Wolves’ perspective … what was a laugher of a game became way too close for comfort due to the struggles of the bench yet again.  Barea and Dante Cunningham are absolute shadows of themselves and what they are bringing to the team this season vs. what they have in the past.
  • The attitude (I’ll keep it PG-rated) of Barea is beyond nauseating.  He could save a family from a burning building and find a way to annoy me at this point.  Fair?  Maybe not.  Deserved?  I think so.

Timberwolves Fall at Home to Knicks, Carmelo Anthony

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary

Having won six out of their past seven games including an impressive 4-1 road trip, the Timberwolves came home to the Target Center to take on a struggling Knicks team that was riding a seven-game losing streak. Entering the game, the 30-29 Wolves looked to take advantage of an inferior opponent at home in order to continue closing in on Memphis and Phoenix in what looks like will be a dog fight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

From the get-go, the game was all Knicks. In the opening quarter, New York converted 8 of their first ten field goals and made 5 of 7 three-pointers to lead 38-24 behind 13 first-quarter points from superstar Carmelo Anthony. The obvious focus of New York’s offense, Minnesota was unable to slow Melo down despite the best efforts from Corey Brewer on the wing.

An impending unrestricted free-agent-to-be, Melo will likely opt out of the final year of his contract in order to test the market this summer. With the Knicks messy cap situation, many have speculated that he may seriously entertain the possibility of joining either the Los Angeles Lakers or Chicago Bulls given the lack of talent and salary flexibility in New York. However, the Knicks will be able to offer Anthony a five year maximum deal while every other team will only be able to offer four years and slightly less money annually, and it will be a very interesting situation to watch unfold in the coming months.

In the second quarter, the Wolves were barely able to chip away at the Knicks’ lead and trailed 66-55 at halftime. Kevin Love was able to contribute 18 points in the first half, but no other Wolves were in double digits. Despite being down by as many as 17 in the second quarter, Minnesota was able to cut the deficit somewhat as they headed into the locker room down by 11 at home.

The Wolves came out hot to start the second half, scoring on nine of their first eleven possessions cutting the Knicks lead to four. The Wolves outscored the Knicks 31-22 in the third quarter which brought the game to 88-86 in favor of New York heading into the final quarter of play. Ricky Rubio scored 9 points in the third quarter while Nikola Pekovic also got hot taking advantage of the minutes Tyson Chandler was on the bench. Despite bringing the game into winnable territory, the Wolves were unable to gain momentum in the final quarter and were ultimately defeated 118-106.

K-Love was held to only 1 second-half point due largely to the impressive defense brought on by the Knicks’ frontcourt of Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire. With Pekovic on a minutes restriction, Wolves head coach Rick Adelman was forced to sit his starting center for much of the final quarter despite Pek playing extremely well while on the court. In 26 minutes, Pek recorded 17 points on 8-12 shooting and 6 rebounds. Chandler and Stoudemire combined for 33 points and 22 rebounds.

Raymond Felton was an unexpected high point for New York on Wednesday night, scoring 18 points and tallying 8 assists in what Knicks head coach Mike Woodson dubbed “his best game of the season.” After struggling with injuries for much of the season as well as being arrested on gun charges late last month, Felton has had his fair share of struggles since rejoining the lineup. However, he was extremely effective and used his bulky frame to muscle his way past Rubio and J.J. Barea for much of the contest.

It was a very tough night for Minnesota’s backcourt. Although Rubio was able to post the line of 11 points (4-6 FG), 8 assists and 6 rebounds, he turned the ball over 6 times while being clearly outplayed by a mediocre player in Felton. Barea had a nightmare of a night, shooting 1-9 from the field in 15 minutes while being exploited on defense. Kevin Martin, still adjusting to playing with his healing left thumb, scored 12 points (3-10 FG) in 28 minutes.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Carmelo Anthony – No deliberation needed here as Melo was the clear star of Wednesday night’s contest. In 43 minutes, Anthony shot 14-27 from the field scoring 33 points to go with 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Pretty impressive when considering he only scored 2 points from the charity stripe.
  2. Raymond Felton – Despite being in the midst of a disastrous season, Felton showed his toughness and determination by playing arguably his best game of the season in a tough road win for the lowly Knicks. He shot 5-8 from the field including 2-4 from three-point range and posted the final line of 18 points, 8 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds.
  3. Amar’e Stoudemire – Chandler had a great game with 15 points and 14 rebounds, but it was Amar’e who showed glimpses of his old self while playing some solid defense on K-Love. In 31 minutes, STAT was a +17 on the floor while recording 18 points (8-18 FG), 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Wolves Escape Denver, Despite Nuggets Late Rally

The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Denver Nuggets on Monday, ending an important streak of road games on a high note.

The Nuggets entered the game losers of 14 of their previous 20 games, but Ty Lawson made his return after missing nearly a month — Denver is an Eastern Conference team without him. The Wolves, on the other hand, entered riding a train of recent success from destination to destination along the West coast. The game, yet again, was another must win for Rick Adelman and his pack of pups.

First Half

The route was on early, or so it seemed, as the Wolves scored 40 first quarter points and led the Nuggets by 15 after the opening frame. A casual 12 point, 8 rebound quarter for Kevin Love laid the foundation for what seemed as if it were going to be a laugher. The second unit, led as always by J.J. Barea also seemed to think little about the outcome, allowing the Nuggets to keep the deficit to a manageable number. Randy Foye, who played all but two minutes during the first half, carried Denver by scoring 10 points during quarter number two. At halftime the Wolves led by 17.

First Half Notes

  • Kevin Love — 16 points, 14 rebound. Wowza. Has — relatively — struggled from the field lately, and that continued (5 of 12 FT, 1 of 4 3PT FG), but converted all five of his free-throw attempts — free points are a good thing
  • Kevin Martin — 12 points (3 of 7 FG, 0 for 4 3PT FG)
  • J.J. Barea — 11 points, 3 assists. Played more minutes during the first half than Ricky Rubio.
  • Randy Foye — 17 points (6 of 12 FG, 3 of 5 3PT FG)

Second Half

The return of Lawson, albeit the expectations of an optimistic Nuggets fan may have higher, hadn’t appeared to be anything that was going help Denver overcome the large deficit during the second half. Lawson scored two points, both earned at the FT line, missed three shot attempts and negated the three assists he did record with the same amount of turnovers. Back in January, a Star Tribune column listed Rubio as one of the Wolves — many — recent draft mistakes, citing Lawson as a player the franchise ‘missed’ on who would have made a difference earlier in the year. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the aforementioned column appeared to look sensical on this particular Monday evening.

Combined, the Wolves and Nuggets scored a walloping 66 points during the third quarter. Led by Lawson, who had been silent most of the way until that point, the Nuggets chipped a mere two points away from the halftime deficit. The short, exciting score-first point guard was efficient at getting good looks at the rim — Lawson also matched his assist total from the first half (3). For the Good Guys, Love added 11 more to game-leading point total and Nikola Pekovic scored seven points in as many minutes to help sustain the lead.

Fourth Quarter

Yes, this one receives it’s own bold+italic label. The final period, Monday, lasted 43 minutes and spotlighted another example of the Wolves inability to finish games down the stretch. Entering the quarter with a 17 point lead, which grew to as high as 21, things started getting interesting as time went along. Adelman plugged Rubio back into the game with a little over 7:00 minutes to play, implementing the Barea-Rubio backcourt most of us are partial to seeing if Martin isn’t on the floor. Here’s how those two performed from the 7:40 second mark (when Rubio checked in) until Rubio checked out (3:25).

  • 7:02 — Rubio grabs a rebound, Pekovic is fouled on the following possession — two points for the Wolves.
  • 6:40 — Shabazz Muhammad collects a rebound, outlets to Barea, who quickly commits and offensive foul resulting in a turnover.
  • 6:22 — Muhammad, again, attains a rebound.
  • 6:07 — Rubio is called for traveling, with no dispute, and chalks up another turnover.
  • 5:00 — Rubio called for a shooting foul
  • 3:58 — Barea misses a 15ft turnaround jumper, with the shot clock winding down, that resulted in turnover.
  • 3:32 — Rubio’s pass stolen by Kenneth Faried.
  • 3:25 — Timeout is called by Adelman, Martin substitutes in for Rubio.

So, if you’re not keeping track at home, during this brief stretch Rubio and Barea managed to turn the ball over four turnovers. What had once been 21 point lead had now been cut to only 10.

Denver initiated the foul-game shortly after the substitution that placed Martin into the game for Rubio. Four Denver three-pointers, some free-throws, a made basket and Kevin Martin stood at the line with five seconds to play in the game — the lead had dissipated to two points. He makes both FT’s and the game ends; Wolves win — 132-128.

Yikes.

“A Win is a Win” — many people, somewhere

Three Stars

  • Kevin Love — 33 points, 10 of 21 FG’s, 11 of 13 on FT’s.
  • Kevin Martin — 22 points, 16 of 17 FT’s — made 8 of 8 within’ the final 30 seconds of the game.
  • Ty Lawson — 31 points, 29 of them coming in the second half.

 

zb.

 

Wolves Defeat Kings, 108-97

Before we get into things I’m going to display a few photos. One of these pictures you might be familiar with, as i’ve used it in recent recaps, but the other is something new.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 2.44.13 PM

Remember this? I determined that 7 of the 10 games following the all-star break were ‘winnable’ games by Wolves standards. Halfway through the stretch, Minnesota is 4-1 with victories over the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, the lone defeat coming at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. On Saturday, the Sacramento Kings became the latest victim of the Wolves recent success. (I’ll get to that other picture in a little while)

First Half

Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic returned to the starting lineup after each played missed notable amounts of time due to injury.

Pekovic left the game against the Chicago Bulls on January 27th and the Wolves went 7-7 during his absence. A short time after Pekovic was sidelined, on the 7th of February, Martin played 34 minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans but fractured a finger at some point during the game. The Wolves played 8 games missing both Martin and Pekovic, but emerged victorious in all but three of those outings.

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Corey Brewer trotted out with Pekovic and Martin and matched up against Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Some could argue that the Kings victory over the Wolves in January, at the Target Center, was the worst loss for Minnesota this season.

So, call it the revenge game if you must. Martin got things going without any further ado, shooting six of seven from the field and scoring 14 first quarter points. Pekovic, playing on a minute limit, was replaced by Dante Cunningham after six minutes of playing time. Despite the outburst by Martin the Wolves trailed the Kings at the end of the opening quarter, 30-31, as Gay nearly matched “K-Mart (K-Target)” basket for basket — Gay scored 12 points in the 1st quarter on five of six shooting from the field. Pekovic found his rhythm in the 2nd quarter, but Gay didn’t skip a beat and the Wolves were outscored by the Kings and trailed at the half; 53-56. Here are some quick notes from the games’ first two quarters.

  • Pekovic and Martin — 29 points on 12 of 18 shooting
  • Love couldn’t get much going but found ways to contribute. He was an abysmal one of six shooting but scored nine points after converting on six of eight free-throw attempts. Love also helped keep the game close with four assists.
  • Rest of team — 15 points
  • Rudy Gay — 22 points 8 of 11 FG, 4 of 6 3PT FG, 2 of 2 FT. This is something that shouldn’t happen.

Second Half

The 3rd quarter was a ‘whole different ball game,’ as the cliche goes. After the game was over, Love and Adelman both mentioned – on the Fox Sports North broadcast – that the team rallied in the locker room to play with a sense of urgency after halftime. Whatever happened in the visiting locker room at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Saturday night should be repeated over and over again for the remainder of the season. The starters trotted out in surefire form and outscored the Kings 31-14 during the third frame. Rubio, who only had three assists by halftime, tallied five ‘dimes’ distributed among the other five Wolves players that scored in the third. However, the offense wasn’t flashy as we’ve known it to be — the Wolves went to the free-throw line 12 times, converting on 9 attempts, and forced the Kings into six turnovers.

The Wolves scored six fast break, and five second-chance, points. The Kings were limited to zero fast break points and didn’t shoot one FT during the third, the home team was beat in almost every aspect of the game on each possession. Things got interesting, as they usually do, during the 4th quarter and after entering the final 12 minutes with a 14 point lead — the score narrowed and fans watching at home began to worry, and had every right to do so. Four minutes went by and the Kings outscored the Wolves 14-6 in the short span.

Albeit his performance since returning from knee surgery has oft been criticized, Chase Budinger performed well in these four — crucial — minutes of the game. Budinger had two key rebounds (one offensive, one defensive) and four pivotal points while the starters rested and waited to get back into the game. Martin, Brewer, and Love entered the game at the 8:34 mark by replacing Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, and Luc Mbah a Moute. J.J. Barea and Cunningham remained on the floor. The Wolves led by nine, 90-81, but the Kings push was imminent. It may have been close to a double-digit lead, but the game was not at all out of reach for Sacramento — the home crowd could sense it and tensions rose during the final minutes. — I’m not sure if Rick Adelman will continue going to Rubio to close out games, but he needs to start doing so — there’s been many, many calling for this to happen — because BareaBall isn’t always the answer. — The lead now down to eight, Rubio checked into the game for Barea with the score at 93-85.

After a string of hair-pulling events, the lead was narrowed down to two. The crowd was on their feet and a streaking Rudy Gay headed toward the basket for what seemed as if it would be a game-tying layup — he did everything but make the easy basket. Love grabbed the defensive rebound, Rubio brought the ball upcourt, dished it back to Love who missed a three-point attempt. Pekovic grabbed the offensive board and was fouled by Cousins. Pek made both free-throws and the lead was extended to four.

After a steal by Rubio, and some ball movement along the perimeter, Ricky fired a three from the right wing, with the shot clock winding down, that fell through the bottom of the net and the Wolves were in business. The dagger put the lead at eight with less than a minute remaining. The Wolves prevailed over the Kings, 108-97.

Here’s that other picture. 1620760_10202709983145019_561495350_n   Currently, Golden State, Phoenix, and Dallas are the teams rounding off the Western Conference Playoff spots. The Wolves, winners of 5 of their last 6, are five-and-a-half games out of the 8th seed in the West. The Warriors, Suns, Mavericks, and Grizzlies are all 2-2 in their previous four games. For the Wolves, albeit the door is slamming shut, have a chance to slide a proverbial foot over the threshold and into the postseason picture. Tonight, Minnesota is in Denver to face the depleted Nuggets, they’ll be 5-1 in games after All-Star Weekend with a victory.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Martin — 26 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Although only going 1 for 5 from three-point land, he converted seven of eight from the charity stripe. The free points were, and are always, important.
  • Nikola Pekovic — 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Pek recorded nearly 27 minutes of action and Adelman can be quoted, saying after the game, that he used the 295 pound center returning from injury — and still playing through pain — more than he would have liked.
  • Kevin Love — why not? 22 points on a horrible shooting night (4 of 12) but 12 of 14 from the FT line, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.

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Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 19

 

(photo credit: StarTribune.com)

Good times are coming for the Wolves?!  (Photo credit: StarTribune.com)

 

Setting the stage:

The past week was pretty kind to the Timberwolves, who took out Phoenix and Sacramento on their way to returning to .500 ball on the season (29-29).  The next two weeks includes a number of very winnable games and this is where the team just needs to get hot and stay hot, if they aren’t already in that area.  The Wolves have one more road game to finish up this road trip and then return to Target Center for a four game stand.

While I have written the playoffs off for this season, that doesn’t mean I can’t suggest a hot streak to bring them a little bit closer to that 8 seed.  The Wolves remain 5 games behind Phoenix, but would also need to leapfrog Memphis, who has a 4 game advantage on our team.  It is certainly going to be an uphill battle, all I ask is that they make it interesting.

Game 60: Monday, 3/3, 8pm – Timberpups @ Denver Nuggets (TV: FSN Plus)

Monday night in Denver will wrap up the five game road trip for the Pups and will give them an opportunity to go over .500.  The team is 4-1 since the all-star break and will have Sunday off in order to rest up a bit for the Denver air.  The Nuggets’ season is a lost cause as they have lost 10 of their last 11 games.  Hopefully that means the Wolves are catching them at the right time.

Opponent to watch:

Randy Foye – With Ty Lawson injured, I might be reaching here a bit.  However, Foye is averaging 19.6ppg in his last five outings and is coming on for the Nuggets.  As Wolves’ fans have experienced, this may not necessarily be a good sign, but hey, it is what it is.

Predictions:

I would normally suggest the Wolves take one on the chin here, closing out a five game road trip in Denver.  However, they had that huge break between games this past week and the Nuggets are looking abysmal of late.  Final score: Timberwolves 109, Nuggets 102

Game 61: Wednesday, 3/5, 7pm – New York Knicks @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Wolves took care of the Knicks at MSG very early on this season and I expect more of the same in this match-up.  Going into Sunday’s match-up with the Bulls, the Knicks have lost 11 of their last 13 games and the team is on the back page of the NY tabloids newspapers for all the wrong reasons.

Opponent to watch:

Carmelo Anthony – Melo is second in the league in scoring at 28.2ppg.  His team is 17 games under .500 and I still believe there’s a strong correlation here.  Fair or unfair, I’ve never been a fan of Melo and feel like he has underachieved in his career.  Despite outstanding statistical performances, he has yet to win much of anything.

Predictions:

While Corey Brewer will have his hands full, I expect the home team to have no problem here in their return to the Target Center.  Final score: Timberwolves 108, Knicks 97

Game 62: Friday, 3/7, 7pm – Detroit Pistons @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Pistons will host the Knicks and Bulls prior to Friday night’s match-up in Minnesota, so they will be equally rested for this game.  Heading into this week they are also on quite a losing streak, having dropped 7 of their last 8 games.  Despite how awful the Eastern Conference playoff picture looks, the Pistons find themselves in the lottery right now, with a 23-36 record heading into the week.

Opponent to watch:

Brandon Jennings – Remember when Jennings made fun of Ricky Rubio several years ago before he was drafted?  Yeah, I barely do too, as that feels about 12 years ago.  Well, Jennings leads the Pistons with 16.8ppg and 7.9apg and you can see where that has gotten the team in the standings.

Predictions:

Why does Joe Dumars still have a job?  Final score: Timberwolves 104, Pistons 95

Game 63: Sunday, 3/9, 6pm – Toronto Raptors @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

Maybe the most surprising team in the NBA this season (sans Portland?) the Raptors head into this week with a 32-26 record, which leads the Atlantic Division and puts the team in the 3 seed in the conference.  Read that entire sentence again.  Good grief.  I have no idea how this team is doing it but it does make me a bit frustrated to think that Dwane Casey could have been the Wolves long-term coach.

Opponent to watch:

DeMar DeRozan – There were times when Wolves fans believed they could steal DeRozan from Toronto for twelve cents on the dollar.  Those days are long gone as the SG is having a banner year with the team, averaging 22.7ppg, while also throwing in 4.5rpg and 3.9apg.

Predictions:

The Raptors took care of the Wolves back in January and this might be a tough one again.  Toronto has a game later today but are then off until Friday against Sacramento, before heading to the Target Center.  In other words, this team should be fresh.  Final score: Raptors 99, Timberwolves 95

Wrap-up:

Taking three out of four this week will go a long way to making the rest of the season a little more interesting.  The first three games this coming week should be W’s for the team.  If they drop any of them, the Pups will need to “steal” Sunday’s game against the Raptors.

Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Defeat Suns 110-101 Behind Shabazz’s Career Night

shabazz Game Summary

On a night where Kevin Love posted another stunning line of 33 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists, he was hardly the focus on the post game analysis of Minnesota’s 110-101 come-from-behind victory in Phoenix. Disregard the fact that he had his fifth straight game of 30+ points (which happens to be a franchise record) and the fact that he also notched his 32nd 20-10 game of the season. When the buzzer sounded and the Wolves were left victorious, the spotlight was on rookie Shabazz Muhammad and his career-high 20 points (10 of which were in the fourth quarter) that helped spark a team who has had glaring problems during fourth quarters this season.

With Love the consistent offensive force that he is, we have become greatly desensitized to his ridiculous stat lines and have come to expect him to get his 25 points and 13 rebounds a game. What we have not come to expect from this team is volume scoring (aside from the rare J.J. Barea outburst) from a bench unit that has had a very inconsistent season. As Alexey Shved has fallen out of favor with Rick Adelman due to his inefficiency on offense and mediocrity on defense, it has opened the door for Muhammad to take advantage of the hole at shooting guard that Kevin Martin left when he broke his left thumb. During this current three game road trip, we are beginning to see the thought process behind as to why Flip Saunders decided to forgo the opportunity of drafting Trey Burke in order to roll the dice on the one-and-doner out of UCLA.

I believe that Zach Harper summed up Shabazz’s play excellently tonight in this post-game tweet:

To keep the recap relatively brief, let’s skip ahead to the fourth quarter at just around the 7:30 mark. After having trailed by as many as 9 points in the third quarter, the Wolves found themselves trailing the Suns 91-83 and desperately needing a spark. As Minnesota began clawing back by scoring on two straight possessions, a Ricky Rubio interception followed by a nice lead pass to Muhammad resulted in a gritty and-1 by the athletic swingman. However, Shabazz failed to convert at the line which put the game at 91-90 in favor of Phoenix. As the two teams continued to trade leads with the game heading down the wire, Minnesota caught a huge break when Goran Dragic, who was in the midst of a tough game, drew his sixth foul after attempting to get his own rebound following a missed shot. With the game being constantly traded between mid-range jumpers from both sides, the Wolves were finally able to gain a cushion thanks in large part to the energy and hustle from Muhammad, who worked his tail end off in order to gain inside position on a missed K-Love three-pointer in order to come down with a key offensive rebound, of which he immediately rallied to a cutting Corey Brewer who put the Wolves up by 5, effectively securing the win for the Pups.

Final Score: Wolves 110 – Suns 101

The Wolves improved to 28-29 and play next on Monday night in Denver. Let’s hope that Shabazz can build on his success as Nikola Pekovic and Martin are both likely to remain out.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Shabazz Muhammad - ‘Bazz truly earned first star as he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter while showing tremendous energy playing without the ball and on the defensive end. All the pre-draft knocks on his work ethic and motor on defense were totally unsubstantiated by Tuesday nights performance and the lack of consistent playing time during the first half of the season apparently has only made him work harder on improving his game. If Shabazz can take the next step and develop a perimeter game, he has the potential of becoming a great scorer in the league.
  2. Kevin Love - It’s pretty tough to give a guy second star when he comes one assist shy of a triple double while scoring over 30 points, but it was truly a special night from Shabazz and I’m sure K-Love did not mind all of the post game attention on the fellow UCLA alum. Love is currently on a torrid pace and is playing arguably the best basketball of his career, as shown by the following tweet from Alan Horton.
  3. Ricky Rubio – Ricky struggled during much of the first half of the game, but came on late to play a very effective fourth quarter and finished the night with 7 points, 11 assists, 3 steals and 3 rebounds. It was good to see Ricky on the court to finish the game as Coach Adelman has often preferred to go with Barea running the offense late in the fourth quarter. I have a sense that we are going to be seeing a lot more of La Pistola in fourth quarters from this point on in the season.