Timberwolves Weekly Preview — Week 19

(photo credit: fansided.com)

(photo credit: fansided.com)

Setting the Stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are continuing to adjust to a new-look roster and starting lineup, but luckily for them, one of the “new” faces—as we all know—is none other than Kevin Garnett. The Big Ticket has played in two home games since joining the Wolves, and he’s notched one win and one loss.

This week promises to be interesting, as Minnesota has three home games. The Target Center has been packed since the news broke of KG’s return. It seems probable that he will play in all of this week’s games, being home, but fans shouldn’t count on too many minutes from the veteran.

 

Game Previews:

Game 59: Monday, 3/2, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers at Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

Minnesota last faced the 39-21 Clippers on Dec. 1, and the Wolves came up short in the 121-101 final score. Performances to note from Minnesota were Shabazz Muhammad (18 points and 10 boards). Andrew Wiggins (14 points), and 13 points contributed by Robbie Hummel off the bench.

Three of the Wolves starters in that game—Thad Young, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams—are no longer with the team, and LA will be facing a whole new lineup. Chris Paul is a tricky opponent, and Jamal Crawford has been scoring a ton of points lately, especially with Blake Griffin out. However, the Wolves have a much better chance at winning this game if they play defense the way they did against the Wizards Wednesday night.

Opponent to Watch:

Chris Paul—The Clippers point guard is averaging 18.1 points, 10 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. In December, Paul scored 12 points and dished out eight assists against the Wolves. All eyes will be on the Ricky Rubio and Paul, as each is considered a top passer and defensive PG in the league.

 

Game 60: Wednesday, 3/4, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

Wednesday will be the fourth meeting of the season for Denver and Minnesota. The Wolves lost their first two matchups, but they grabbed a win in Denver on Jan. 17. All five starters scored in double digits that night as they walked away with the 113-105 win.  Andrew Wiggins went off for a season-high 31 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and four assists, while Robbie Hummel filled in as a starter and added 15 points for the evening.

The Nuggets are currently 20-39 and are allowing their opponents to score an average of 104.2 points per game. They will be playing back-to-back games, as they play the Bucks at home Tuesday night before travelling to Minnesota. The Wolves will need to take advantage of a nice home stretch and fresh legs as they look to grab a second win over Denver.

Opponent to Watch:

Ty Lawson – There’s no way around it; this guy is a huge offensive threat. Lawson is averaging 16.3 points per game, and his most impressive stat is the 9.8 assists he is dishing out per game. He promises to be a good matchup for Ricky Rubio, who is averaging 8.5 assists per night. In Minnesota’s last game against the Nuggets, Lawson led the team with 22 points.

 

Game 61: Saturday, 3/7, 7pm – Portland Trailblazers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves are 1-1 against the Blazers this season, winning their most recent matchup 90-82 on Dec. 10. Both teams shot under 40 percent in that game, and the Wolves should only assume that Portland will have a stronger offense this time around. The advantage for Minnesota, however, is that the Blazers will be coming in after already playing three games this week.

Portland is currently ranked No. 3 in the NBA for rebounding, averaging 45.7 boards per game. KG and the Wolves will certainly have to play tough defense against this squad, and Payne will probably get some decent minutes Saturday as well.

Opponent to Watch:

Damien Lillard – The 24-year-old PG has been the thorn in Minnesota’s side on more than one occasion. In December, Lillard tallied 23 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Wolves. He is explosive offensively, and he often determines the pace of the game. Rubio and Zach LaVine will have their work cut out for them Saturday.

 

Wrap-Up:

This stretch promises to be a busy one for the Wolves, but at least all three games will be at home. The three biggest factors for Minnesota heading into this week are Kevin Garnett, Adreian Payne and Ricky Rubio. Team defense is a must in all three scenarios, and Payne and Garnett automatically set the tempo on that side of the floor. Payne doesn’t have much experience in the NBA yet, but he has shown some real potential in the post. Rubio will also need to be spot-on when facing three great point guards in Paul, Lawson and Lillard. If Rubio cannot move the ball effectively and find a way to make shots, the Wolves will struggle against the opponents’ back courts.

My prediction: The Timberwolves will come out of this week 2-1.

 

In addition: The team will be participating in Minnesota’s Taste of the Timberwolves event at the Target Center Thursday evening. 

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Post All-Star Weekend

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)

 

Setting the stage:

The NBA gets back to the grind Thursday and Friday night after an eventful All-Star Break that saw the young Pups take center stage.  While the season has slogged along, aided by the significant injuries to key players, the Wolves were able to make some noise during the break and put a little bit of spotlight on the young, potential stars on the roster – Andrew Wiggins, as well as Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, and Shabazz Muhammad.

The Timberwolves open up their post-Break with a home game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night and then move into the following week with four more games.  At 11-42 thus far on the season, fans are more interested to see what tweaks might be made to the roster (or future draft picks) as we close in on the NBA trade deadline.  Timberwolves’ fans will then pivot their attention to ping pong balls as the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers continue their tanking ways.

Here is a preview of the next five games:

Game 54: Friday, 2/20, 7pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Suns enter the second half of the season as the 8 seed in the Western Conference but have the OKC Thunder right on their heels.  To make matters worse, Goran Dragic has told the club he won’t be resigning with them this summer.  The team is reportedly looking to move Dragic before the trade deadline so that they don’t lose him for nothing.  It could be an interesting dynamic to watch on Friday night.

The Wolves lost twice to Phoenix in mid-January, one on each team’s court.  However, the game in Minnesota was a nailbiter, with the Suns pulling out a 113-111 victory.  The teams combined to score 75 points in the final quarter, with the Suns outdueling the Wolves 42-33 to take the victory.

Opponent to watch:

Eric Bledsoe – Pick a Guard of your choosing as the Suns have a plethora of talent in the backcourt.

Game 55: Monday, 2/23, 7pm – Timberpups @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

It’s Flip Saunders vs. Kevin McHale night in Houston!  There hasn’t been this many past and present Timberwolves coaches on the same court since … Friday, December 5th when the Wolves lost to the Rockets in overtime.

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden put in 38 points in that OT victory against the Wolves and Wiggins will have his hands full trying to guard one of the very best offensive players in the NBA.

Game 56: Wednesday, 2/25, 7pm – Washington Wizards @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Wait a minute, we’re getting McHale and then Randy Wittman two nights later?  Did Flip make the schedule himself?  If it weren’t for the incredible season the Atlanta Hawks are having, the Wizards would be in serious contention for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference … with Wittman as their Head Coach.

Opponent to watch:

John Wall – 17+ points and 10+ assists per game and you still don’t hear THAT much about Wall.  He’s going to give Ricky Rubio fits.

Game 57: Friday, 2/27, 7pm – Timberpups @ Chicago Bulls (TV: FS North)

The Bulls defeated the Pups on 11/1 earlier this season, 106-105.  Kevin Martin had 33 points and Rubio had 17 assists but the Bulls came through at the end hitting clutch free throws to put the game away.

Opponent to watch:

Jimmy Butler – Butler was the player who hit those two free throws at the end of the game.  Jimmy is also likely target 1A, 1B, or 1C on most Wolves’ fans free agency lists this coming offseason.

Game 58: Saturday, 2/28, 7pm – Memphis Grizzlies @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Timberpups lost the season opener in Memphis but defeated the Grizzlies shortly before the All-Star Break.  You may remember this game as the one where Rubio willed his team to victory, returning to the court after rolling his ankle and causing hearts to skip a few beats.

Opponent to watch:

Zach Randolph – Randolph was a no-show in the Wolves’ victory against the Grizzlies in their last meeting.  It will be interesting to see if his teammates force-feed him the ball to get him involved early and often.

Wrap-up:

The scheduling gods do the Wolves no favors again to start the second half of the season.  Tough opponents and the team continues to travel back and forth from Minnesota after each game.

Here is to staying healthy and not doing anything dumb at the trade deadline!  Let’s go Wolves!

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!

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!

We’re Going Streaking! – Timberpups Week 13 Preview

Will the Wolves go streaking this week?

Will the Wolves go streaking this week?

Setting the Stage:

It’s fair to say that Week 12 was a successful one for the young pups. On Tuesday, the Wolves ended an excruciating 15 game losing streak with a win in Indianapolis over the Pacers. Most notable from that game was the play of Maurice Williams, who scored a franchise record 52 points. Take a look at his shot chart:

Mo baskets

Mo baskets

Minnesota up the victory with a close loss to Phoenix, followed by an impressive victory over the Nuggets in the notoriously tough Pepsi Center. Andrew Wiggins absolutely shined against Denver, putting up a career high 31 points, becoming the first rookie Wolf to score 30 since Stephon Marbury. The kid certainly has a future in this league, and watching him grow has been a real treat.

With this weeks games, Minnesota will reach the halfway point of the season. Although it hasn’t gone according to plan, the Wolves should fare better once the injured start returning. In fact, Kevin Martin has been upgraded from Doubtful to Questionable for Monday’s game, which means there’s a 50/50 shot he ends up playing. And Pek and Rubio shouldn’t be too far behind.

On to the games –

Game 40: Monday 1/19, 1pm – Timberpups @ Charlotte Hornets (TV: None)

No TV for this one, so unless you have league pass, feel free to take take this opportunity to listen to Alan Horton over on WCCO 830 AM. As the Wolves solo radio announcer, Horton is simply fantastic.

In terms of the actual game, Minnesota actual should have a solid chance to pull this one out. Al Jefferson is out, and Kemba Walker is likely to be sidelined as well. Charlotte has underwhelmed so far this season, and it’s no secret that new acquisition Lance Stephenson has already been put on the trading block.

What to Watch:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - The second year small forward out of Kentucky is known for his defense, and will be a solid test for Andrew Wiggins. Gilchrist has struggled on the offensive end during his short career, but has started to find himself. Gilchrist has scored in double figures in 7 of his last 10 games, including a 17 point 12 rebound effort against Orlando.

Game 41: Wednesday 1/21, 7pm – Dallas Mavericks @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Minnesota will return from a four game road trip awaiting a matchup with the revamped Mavericks. Their lineup is a five headed offensive monster. The Maverick’s offensive rating 108.5 ranks second in the league, and each starter averages at least 10 points a game. Defending them will not be easy.

What to Watch:

Rajon Rondo - The ultra-competitive maestro (link is worth a read) known as Rondo is the Mavericks newest piece, and he fits perfectly. He makes the impossible look simple with his passing, and it should be no different against the Wolves depleted backcourt. Expect Rondo to put up a double-double Wednesday.

Game 42: Friday 1/23, 7pm – New Orleans Pelicans @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Wolves end a quick two game home stand with a game against the Pelicans. With the mass amount of talent on the Pelicans, you’d expect them to be better than a .500 team, but that’s where they stand right now (19-20). Most recently for New Orleans was an embarrassing loss to the Sixers,  albeit with Anthony Davis was out with a thumb injury.

In the Wolves last matchup with the Pelicans, New Orleans won 139-91. Lets hope for a better result in this meeting.

What to Watch:

Anthony Davis – The 6’10” forward is on a tear this season, averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks per game. The scariest part? He’s just 21 years old.

Game 43: Sunday 1/25, 5pm – Timberpups @ Atlanta Hawks (TV: FS North)

The best team in the East is the Hawks!? Yes, the 33-8 Hawks on fire. In the midst of a 12 game winning streak, Atlanta is destroying anything and everything in their path. Much like Dallas, Atlanta is doing their damage with the team ball philosophy. None of their players stand out as superstars, but their chemistry is unmatched. All five starters average over 10 points a game, and backup point guard Dennis Schroeder has carved out a spot in the rotation with his playmaking abilities.

What to Watch:

Kyle Korver – DO NOT LEAVE THIS MAN OPEN! Korver shoots 53.6% from 3 point land. No other player in league history has had a higher 3pt% through half a season. It’s not due to small sample size, either. Korver has 125 makes on 233 attempts from deep. It’s mind boggling.

Wrap-Up:

None of the Wolves four games are gimmies, but the return of Kevin Martin (and hopefully Pek and Ricky), could provide a boost to the team. Don’t be surprised to see the Wolves go 2-2 and start the second half of the season on a high note.

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 12

The Timberwolves season has turned into “Turn in to see what Andrew Wiggins does next” and not much more. (Credit: Ann Heisenfelt, The Associated Press)

The Timberwolves season has turned into “Turn in to see what Andrew Wiggins does next” and not much more. (Credit: Ann Heisenfelt, The Associated Press)

Setting the stage:

With a 15 game losing streak (?!?!) in tow, the Minnesota Timberwolves hit the road this week for three games.  The losing streak has moved the Timberpups record to a dreadful 5-31 and puts them in competition with the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks.  In no way, shape or form is that a compliment.

The Wolves open up the coming week on Tuesday night in Indianapolis against the Pacers, a game that Minnesota really needs to find a way to pull out a “W”.  After Tuesday’s game, the remaining schedule for the week and beyond is awfully tough until a match-up against the Celtics on Wednesday, 1/28.  Let’s hope they don’t get to that Boston game with the losing streak still intact.

There has been nothing new reported on the potential returns of Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and/or Kevin Martin.  The Timberwolves obviously miss these guys, but I’m not sure if it makes much sense to put any of them out there until they are 100%.  As mentioned before, it would be nice to move Pekovic or Martin before the trade deadline next month and make the rebuild that much more official.

Here is a preview for each game this week:

Game 37: Tuesday, 1/13, 6pm – Timberpups @ Indiana Pacers (TV: FS North)

As referenced above, it would behoove the Pups to find a way to pull out the victory here and snap the losing streak.  The 15-24 Pacers are coming off of a loss against the Sixers on Saturday night, so they will be well rested.

Opponent to watch:

Roy Hibbert – Hibbert has become a bit of an enigma with the Pacers and is underachieving this season.  Without Paul George and others, Hibbert should be putting up monster numbers.  However, he’s averaging just 11.4ppg and 7rpg.  Tuesday will be another interesting matchup for Gorgui Dieng.

Game 38: Friday, 1/16, 8pm – Timberpups @ Phoenix Suns (TV: FS North)

The Wolves and Suns just played this past week in Minnesota, where the Pups gave up the lead late and fell 113-111.  Andrew Wiggins had a chance to hit a game winning three pointer, but missed it at the buzzer.

Opponent to watch:

Goran Dragic – Dragic lit up the Wolves on 1/7 to the tune of 25 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds, along with a handful of highlight plays.  Zach LaVine and Mo Williams must do a better job of containing Dragic and the Suns’ other backcourt members.

Game 39: Saturday, 1/17, 8pm – Timberpups @ Denver Nuggets (TV: None)

No local television for Saturday night’s game and I’m not sure how that is feasible in 2015.  The teams also just played one another on 1/5 with the Nuggets winning with relative ease.  While the final score was 110-101, it wasn’t really that close, as Denver outscored the Wolves 35-21 in the 1st quarter and had a 62-41 lead at halftime.

Opponent to watch:

Arron Afflalo – Afflalo led the way last week for the Nuggets, putting up 34 points at the Target Center.  Wiggins will likely be asked to check Afflalo in this one and will hopefully be able to contain him.

Wrap-up:

The Wolves need to pull out a victory this week to get out of their current funk.  They would tie the franchise record of 18 straight losses (2011) at the end of the week if they don’t pull one of these off.  Let’s avoid this please.  Go Wolves!

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 11

The coach needs to turn to Anthony Bennett sooner rather than later to see what he can be for this franchise moving forward. (Credit: Jordan Johnson, NBAE via Getty Images)

The coach needs to turn to Anthony Bennett sooner rather than later to see what he can be for this franchise moving forward. (Credit: Jordan Johnson, NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Setting the stage:

Our Minnesota Timberwolves come into the week with a 5-27 record and are coming off of a relatively terrible week that included two losses against the Jazz, pushing their losing streak to 11 games.  The Wolves start the week with a continuation of a four game homestand against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.  Aside from a trip quick to Milwaukee for Friday’s game, the Wolves will remain at home for the remaining three games this week.  Surprisingly, the Pups have a “home game” against the Spurs that takes place in Minneapolis this week.

As we get closer to the return of Ricky Rubio, Wolves fans are left wondering where this team is heading into the trade deadline (February 19th).  With Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin still on the shelf, would any team be willing to take on either contract?  Will Flip Saunders be able to get more than sixty cents on the dollar for either?  Only time will tell.

For now, let’s concentrate on the week ahead.  Here is a brief preview for each game this week:

Game 33: Monday, 1/5, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Denver defeated the Wolves 106-102 the day after Christmas in their first matchup of the season between the Northwest division foes.  Denver remains under .500 and is struggling to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Opponent to watch:

Kenneth Faried – Someone is going to have to contain Faried this time around, as he dropped an overwhelming 26 & 25 on the Wolves in their last meeting.  Again, with Thad Young incapable of grabbing ~10 rebounds a game, Flip Saunders needs to provide more minutes to Anthony Bennett to see if he can be a solid contributor for this franchise moving forward.

Game 34: Wednesday, 1/7, 8:30pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberpups (TV: ESPN)

The Timberwolves make another appearance on national TV with ESPN in town to cover the game.  To be honest, I thought last year was a fluke for the Suns, who finished the season with a 48-34 record.  They are proving me wrong (again) as the team remains in heavy contention for the playoffs and are only a few games behind the Clippers for second place in the Pacific division.

Opponent to watch:

Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe was tied to the Pups in the offseason rumorville but remained with the Suns despite the fact that the Suns’ roster is loaded with backcourt talent.  With or without Rubio, this would make for a tough matchup for the Wolves.  Godspeed Zach LaVine and Mo Williams.

Game 35: Friday, 1/9, 7:30pm – Timberpups @ Milwaukee Bucks (TV: FS North)

A close game through the first three quarters, the Bucks blew out the Wolves in Minneapolis in late November.  Milwaukee received a balanced performance from its roster, with seven players scoring in double figures in the first meeting.  Andrew Wiggins struggled from the floor in his first official meeting against fellow rookie Jabari Parker.  Unfortunately, Parker has since been lost for the season due to injury and the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award is likely Wiggins’ to lose.

Opponent to watch:

Larry Sanders – Sanders had a nice game in Minneapolis putting in 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  The Sanders vs. Gorgui Dieng matchup is probably the most appealing among the starting five on the current, available rosters for both teams.

Game 36: Saturday, 1/10, 7pm – San Antonio Spurs @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The champs hit a rough patch in December, losing nine games in a calendar month for the first time in the Tim Duncan era.  However, the Spurs have lit up the Wolves in the two prior meetings this season, scoring 121 and 123 points in each game, respectively.  While the Spurs remain over .500, they can’t afford to fall too far behind in the loaded Southwest division.

Opponent to watch:

Tim Duncan – Enjoy him while you can Wolves’ fans.  You never know when he may finally decide to call it a career.

Wrap-up:

Our Timberpups face a tall task this week, with three games against tough, Western Conference foes.  The ability to stay close to home may provide some stability for the club but this may be an ugly week in the W-L column and in the box scores.  Nevertheless, Go Wolves!