Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 4

Only one of these Kevin's will be frequenting the Target Center this week (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Only one of these Kevin’s will be frequenting the Target Center this week
(Photo credit: NBA.com)

Setting the stage:

The Timberwolves enter the fourth week of the season with an impressive 7-4 record.  As of Sunday morning, that is good for a sixth place tie in the Western Conference and percentage points away from second in the Northwest Division.  As most expected, the team looks like an offensive juggernaut, averaging 108.5 points per game – 3rd in the NBA.  The team is also 5th in the league in both rebounds and assists per game.

After missing one game with the flu, Kevin Martin returned to form Saturday night and remains one of the most impressive stories early on this season.  Kevin Love continues to play at an All-Star level, averaging 26.8ppg and 13.6rpg, with a PER at 29.7!  While Ricky Rubio continues to struggle with his shot, he continues to do everything else with 9.6apg and just over 3 steals per.  Ricky put up a triple double last Sunday against the Lakers and if he continues to put in ~10+ppg, this team is very dangerous.

Week 4 for the Wolves is going to be tough, with two sets of back-to-back games and travel.  A few old faces will be clashing with the Wolves this week and it is a perfect time for the team to put on some throwback jerseys (#Twolves25)!!  Here are a few thoughts for each game this week.

Game 12: Tuesday, 11/19, 6pm – Timberwolves @ Washington Wizards (TV: FSN Plus)

The Wizards will enter this game at 2-7 and Randy Wittman is the early leader in the “coach most likely to get fired first” category (again).  It would be an understatement to say the Wizards are underachieving.  The Pups will come into Tuesday’s game with two full days of rest (so will Washington).  Hopefully, this game will be as easy as it looks on paper.

Opponent to watch:

Bradley Beal – Beal is off to a great start this season in Washington, playing right around 40 minutes per game and averaging a shade under 20 points.  The second year SG will look to make it tough on Kevin Martin on both ends of the floor.

Predictions:

Despite this game being on the road, do you really think I’m picking a team coached by Randy Wittman that is grossly underperforming to start the season?  Final score: Timberwolves 106, Wizards 99

Game 13: Wednesday, 11/20, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Pups will travel back home from Washington to face the Clippers on Wednesday night and will be looking to avenge the nail biting loss that they suffered back on 11/11.  Love and Nikola Pekovic will look to continue their strong play against the solid tandem of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.  Let’s see if Matt Barnes can talk himself out of the NBA before tip-off of this game too.  (Good grief.)  In an effort to get completely ahead of ourselves, this is actually a pretty big game for the Wolves, who will look to even the season series and keep the Clippers (and others) well within their grasps when thinking about playoff seeds.  (Yep, we went there before Thanksgiving!)

Opponent to watch:

Chris Paul – The queen/king of flopping outplayed Rubio in the first outing and will likely need to do so again for the Clippers in order for them to win.

Predictions:

Quite honestly, the Wolves are dealt a tough deck here.  The Clippers will be off the night prior, and coming into the game off of a four game home stretch.  The Wolves will be flying back from DC and won’t get home until late Tuesday / early Wednesday.  The only reason I’m taking the Wolves is because, well, I hate the Clippers.  Final score: Timberwolves 114, Clippers 112

Game 14: Friday, 11/22, 7pm – Brooklyn Nets @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

A few things about this game and how it relates to the national TV schedule.  First, since this game is on a Friday, how in the world is it not on ESPN?  The young, improving Wolves vs. the star-studded (albeit underachieving) Brooklyn Nets.  Second, this is possibly KG’s last game ever at Target Center – even though his contract goes for one more season.  What brainpower decided that this game wasn’t worthy of ESPN coverage?

Third, and changing the focus on national media, why couldn’t this match-up, in Target Center, be on TNT on a Thursday night with Kevin Harlan in the booth?  Fourth, pivoting again, please, PLEASE, PLEASE make this a throwback jersey night!  I really don’t ask for that much.

Opponent to watch:

Kevin Garnett – I don’t care that he is averaging under 25mpg and his averages are well below what we have all become accustomed to.  This is KG and it might be his last run on the Target Center floor.  If you have the ability to get to Target Center, you should be there.

Predictions:

I’m going to predict a “throwback night” from KG as well, who will come into the game firing on all cylinders.  Assuming Deron Williams plays (D2D with an ankle injury), I’m going to predict my first loss in this weekly column for the Pups.  Final score: Nets 102, Timberwolves 100

Game 15: Saturday, 11/23, 7pm – Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

You can literally take just about everything that I said above in the first paragraph for the Nets game and place it here too.  With Kevin McHale on the opposing sideline, this is another opportunity for the Wolves to throw on a few old school jerseys (cough, ORIGINAL BLUE’S, cough).  Do it!  DO IT!!

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden has picked up right where he left off last season, stuffing the box score night in and night out.  Harden lit up Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin in the playoffs last year.  While Martin had one really bad game (game 5) in that series, he bounced back nicely in game 6 to knock the Rockets out of the playoffs.

Predictions:

The Wolves can’t afford to get that “game 5 Martin” in this one, as they will be on the back end of a back-to-back against a team that will not have played since Wednesday night in another part of Texas (Dallas).  Final score: Rockets 112, Timberwolves 106

Wrap-up:

The Pups don’t catch any breaks this coming week from the scheduling gods whatsoever.  If they can go 2-2 this week, I would be content.  3-1 would be impressive and 4-0 would be glorious.  Let’s go Wolves!

Week Three, Part Two: Cleveland Cavaliers

The Minnesota Timberwolves split the Staples Center Series and are back in action tonight facing the Cleveland Cavaliers at home in the friendly confines of Target Center.

Here are things, they’re for you.

I spoke with David Zavac, editor of Fear The Sword – A Cleveland Cavaliers Community, on yesterday’s Break The Huddle Show with John Meyer from The Daily Wolf and Billy Bohl of A Wolf Among Wolves. Here’s a link to yesterday’s show! (we experienced issues yesterday, so it’s only audio for the first 10:30).

Break the Huddle Show — 11/12.

There’s a great Q&A with Zavac that begins at the halfway point, 30:00 in.

Mr. Bohl and I host this hour long segment to talk about the Wolves every Tuesday, you can follow the show on Twitter -@BTH_Show- where we’ll promote for you guys to call in, ask questions and discuss random nonsense in a segment that’s fun for listeners of all ages.

PHEW, now that I’m out of the Promotion Ocean — we can continue. Read more about the meeting earlier this season between the Wolves and the Cavs, here.

  • Bynum is out for tonight because of family matters. This leaves Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao, and Tristan Thompson to make up for Bynums surprising productivity so far this season
  • Kyrie Irving had 19, 8 assists and 9 turnovers — the Cavs coughed the ball up 20 times
  • C.J. Miles went crazy, he’s the reason the Wolves lost and I’m convinced of it — won’t go on longer

Moving onto Friday.

The Wolves head to Denver to take on the struggling Nuggets.

  • Corey Brewer, who goes into tonight’s game leading the league in fastbreak points per game, played 82 games for Denver last season — he only started once. Brewer has started every game thus far as a Timberpup.
  • The Nuggets are 2 and 4 this season and are at home tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • George Karl, despite being awarded Coach of the Year honors last season, is no longer employed as Head Coach — a puzzling scenario to say the least.
  • Will the Nuggets have the one known as “The Manimal,” Kenneth Faried? Faried is averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds in Denver so far this season, but rumors surfaced today he may be involved in a trade that would send him to the New York KNicks.

News happens fast, so naturally after nearly publishing this post — I found this.

 

WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ANYMORE?!?!

I’ll talk to you guys again on Friday.

Tonight’s game will be aired on FSN North, 7:00 CST. You’ll also be able to hear it on the radio by tuning into WCCO’s 830, Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) will have the call.

 

Also, a Happy Birthday to Mark Remme and Shabazz Muhammad!

Zach.

Wolves at Clippers: A Preview Featuring Trisity Miller

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

Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Here’s a few notes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timberpups Weekly Preview: Part One, Week Three

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

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

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

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

Opponent to watch:

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

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

 

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

Projected Laker Starters:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

For now, #BeatLA.

Zach.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 2

 

Early smiles for the Timberwolves this season! (Photo credit: Kentucky.com)

Early smiles for the Timberwolves this season!
(Photo credit: Kentucky.com)

Setting the stage:

I have never been as excited for the second week of the NBA season as I am for this coming week!  Why?  For the first time, I will be frequenting the Target Center for some Timberwolves action!  Yes!!  I will be in town for the Wednesday and Friday games this week, so if anyone is interested in grabbing a Teddy Bruschi or Charles Brewkowski before or after either game, please do shoot me a note here or on Twitter.

Aside from that shameless promotion, the Timberwolves are coming into the week off of a promising week – going 3-0 with a dramatic home opener, a blowout against OKC, and a solid road win at MSG – despite giving up a big lead – on Sunday.  As it always seems to be with the Wolves, with the good comes a little bad, with the team announcing that Ronnie Turiaf has a fractured elbow and is out indefinitely.  That will put Gorgui Dieng in the spotlight early on in his rookie season and he’ll need to step up and contribute behind Nikola Pekovic.

The Wolves enter the week looking like an offensive juggernaut, averaging 110 points per game through the first three.  The team is also top 10 in the league in rebounds and assists per game, at 43 and 23 respectively.  Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are leading the way in the box score, but it has been solid contributions from the entire rotation that have helped the team to its 3-0 start.

Let’s see if this can continue into week two.  Here are a few thoughts for each game this week.

Game 4: Monday, 11/4, 6pm – Timberwolves @ Cleveland Cavs (TV: FS North)

The Wolves will travel to Cleveland off of Sunday night’s game at MSG, with the opponent having an off day to recover from Saturday’s game against the Pacers.  The Cavs are off to a slow start this season, entering the game 1-2 thus far.  They are near the bottom of the league in scoring at only 85.3 ppg.  Kyrie Irving is leading the team in scoring and assists but his shot is a bit off right now.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Cavs have gotten minutes from Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum, who may make things a little tough in the paint.

Opponent to watch:

Kyrie Irving – While there are a few intriguing storylines with the Cavs (Michael Bennett and Bynum particularly), I’m giving the nod to Irving for this go-round given the overall excitement he can create and the speed in which he can play at.  Hopefully Rubio can contain Irving and/or Kyrie’s shot remains off for one more night.

Predictions:

I’m not predicting a loss until the Wolves drop a game.  I wouldn’t be surprised though if the team falls here, given the back to back schedule.  How is that for hedging bets?  A big game from Kevin Love puts the Wolves over.  Final score: Timberwolves 98, Cavs 92

Game 5: Wednesday, 11/6, 7pm – Golden State Warriors @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

I visit the Twin Cities with the Warriors in tow from Philly.  Not really, they should already be in town.  Wednesday’s game at Target Center is the middle game for Golden State’s three game road swing.  This is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA and we can expect a high scoring affair.  Klay Thompson dropped a cool 38 points on opening night and the Wolves will need to find a way to contain him and Stephen Curry.  The Wolves frontcourt is also going to have to find a way to slow down David Lee, who put up gaudy stats in week one.

Opponent to watch:

Andre Iguodala – Many Wolves fans have clamored for AI2 for years (I’m not one of them) and Wednesday is another opportunity to see him play at the Target Center.  Through the team’s first three games, AI2 has not been scoring much, but that isn’t necessarily what GS needs from him.  He is however, filling out the box score, contributing in all aspects of the game – passing, rebounding, steals, and blocks.

Predictions:

The highest scoring regular season game in NBA history (without overtime) was on 11/2/90 between the Warriors and Nuggets.  The teams combined for 320 points.  The bar is set for this game, make it happen!  Final score: Timberwolves 130, Warriors 122

(I have never, ever predicted 130 points for an NBA team.  This will be a special night all-around.)

Game 6: Friday, 11/8, 7pm – Dallas Mavericks @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Mavericks will visit the Target Center on Friday night, coming off of a nationally televised game Wednesday night in OKC.  The team made several, significant moves in the offseason and to this point, it has paid off.  They finished the first week of the season 2-1, with wins at home against Atlanta and Memphis, and the loss coming on the road in Houston.  Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis are off to hot starts, each averaging more than 20 ppg.

Opponent to watch:

Dirk Nowitzki – My eyes are going to be on Dirk, as I have never seen him play in person.  He may have lost a step, but I’m intrigued to see just how sweet his offense looks in person.

Predictions:

I’m confident that the Twolves will win this game.  That’s never a good thing.  It will likely be the polar opposite of Wednesday’s game against GS though.  Rubio shines in this one and I get to gloat about it all the way back to NJ.  Final score: Timberwolves 96, Mavericks 88

Game 7: Sunday, 11/10, 8:30pm – Timberwolves @ LA Lakers (TV: FS North)

The Wolves head west to take on the Lakers Sunday night to start a back to back against both LA teams.  The Lakers will come into the game off of a three game road trip that took them through two-thirds of Texas and New Orleans.

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

Opponent to watch:

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

Pau Gasol – This will be a tough match for Pekovic, given Pau has returned to the middle of the floor.  Pau is putting up solid numbers early on in the season.  With Kaman as the backup, we might see a little more of Kevin Love at the Center spot, as Pekovic and Dieng will have their hands full.

Predictions:

I expect a big night from Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer going against the Lakers’ wings.  Final score: Timberwolves 103, Lakers 94

Wrap-up:

A pretty busy week for the Wolves lies ahead, with four games in seven nights.  The countdown has already begun for my trip to the Twin Cities.  Looking forward to meeting as many of you as I can over anything but a Martina Navratibrewski (because you can’t have more than ‘ski’ at the end of the root word).

Here’s to hoping the Pups continue their winning ways!  Please don’t let me be there for the first loss.  Please!  Let’s go Wolves!

Wolves at Knicks: The First Road Test

The Wolves venture to the Big Apple to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 CST and will be telivised on FoxSportsNorthPlus where available and on the Wolves radio network, 830AM WCCO (@WolvesRadio on Twitter)

I’ve brought another guest for this one, Brandon Rushie, informally known as Bruce Chillroy (@AyoRush), is a Knicks beatwriter for The Knicks Wall. Rushie and myself both write for www.5thRowJoe.com

The Knicks Wall was founded in January 2012. Since then, the site has grown into the largest independent Knicks site on the web. The Knicks Wall’s main goal is to keep Knicks fans up-to-date on all things Knicks.”

I’ve asked Rushie to provide us with some perspective from the opponents side of things, which should be interesting considering it’s a New York team. Always fun to see what those in the big city think about us here in one of the ‘flyover states’.

Tonight the Knicks take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the West’s young upstarts full of talent. An inexperienced yet still improving core, the promising duo of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love have the Wolves entering the Garden as 1 of the 6 undefeated teams left in the league. Rubio is coming off an ACL tear that ended last year’s campaign prematurely, and Love looking to ready to finally give the Wolves a full 82-game season, it would be a mistake to take Rick Adelman’s squad lightly; especially considering the last three meetings between these teams have been decided by an average of 4 points.

 

The Knicks enter tonight with a record of 1-1 after a tough loss in Chicago, though their defense has been a bright spot — allowing a league low 82.5 points per game. Despite a 6th consecutive loss to the Bulls, New York did a solid job of containing Derrick Rose, holding him to 7-of-23 shooting and more turnovers (4) than assists (3). Perimeter defense was a major issue for the Knicks last year, especially when attempting to deny opposing guards entry into the paint. Head coach Mike Woodson’s switch-happy defensive philosophy, while sound in theory, is easy to attack once the pick and rolls start. Look for Rubio to put on show.

 

Although they’ve been defensively impressive, generating points has been difficult for the Knickerbockers — they’re last in points per game and 27th in pace (points per possession) this season thus far. The Wolves put on a superb defensive performance in their last game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, throwing the kitchen sink at the 3-time scoring champion and forcing someone else to beat them. It worked, as Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka both struggled, and the Wolves pushed the pace, forced turnovers and converted them to easy points on the other end.

 

How does the Turiaf injury play to the knicks favor?

The Wolves were thin in their frontcourt even before Turiaf’s unfortunate injury. I loved watching Gorgui Dieng play at Louisville, however he was unimpressive in limited burn against the Thunder, can’t imagine Adleman wants him spending a majority of his 18 or so minutes tonight against a former DPOY, but his options are limited. Look for New York to attack the young big man and try to get to the line early.

 

What are things that the Knicks do on both ends of the floor that Wolves people should look for? How do they run their offense?

Woodson isn’t the most imaginative fellow on the offensive side of the ball, the bare bones version is get Melo the ball in the post and look for the open man once the double comes. The Knicks can make teams that double hastily pay dearly with their outside shooting, so rotations better be crisp. Defensively the Knicks show good intensity but the challenge is maintaining the mentality for all four quarters. For instance — Opening night the Knicks porous defense almost blew a 20+point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks. They must be able to close out and shut the door on an opponent if the Knicks hope to be a legitimate threat in the East, especially in games at MSG.

 

Your concerns, or lack of concerns about the game.

New York lacks frontcourt depth. Offseason acquisition Andrea Bargnani has underwhelming performed in his first two outings and Tyson Chandler, though a monster, has propensity to rack up silly fouls in a hurry. Banging around with the 290-pound Nikola Pekovic will be a tough test for him. Amare Stoudemire has been officially ruled out for tonight, so Chandler must stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble at all costs.

 

What do you believe the wolves do well (offensively or defensively) that will be effective?

While the Knicks have been doing a solid job defensively, there’s still been instances that display susceptibility to defensive breakdowns against the pick and roll. Rubio is one of the best passers in the NBA, don’t be surprised if Woodson assigns Iman Shumpert -lockdown specialist- the task of corralling the young Spanish point guard. The Knicks are guilty of becoming stagnant on the offensive side of the ball so if the Wolves come with the same level of help defense as they did against OKC, the Knicks won’t have the luxury of passing the ball to Melo and expect a blind double-team to come. The blue and orange must have solid ball movement; they must make the opponent work defensively.

 

On behalf of Timberpups I’d like the thank Rushie for contributing to the preview for this game.

Here’s a few notes of my own.

J.R. Smith will not play for the Knicks tonight, he’s serving a five-game suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy during the offseason.

Minnesota has scored 72 points, combined, in the first quarter of games this season and 159 in the first halves. The Wolves have yet to work out all the kinks to Adelman’s offense, there’s room to improve in terms of efficiency but it’s certain — these guys can score in bunches. They’ve scored 72 first quarter points in the first two games, combined but the Knicks have only allowed 34, also through two games, in the opening quarter. The Wolves scored 34 against OKC on Friday night.

It’s going to be two strengths battling tonight, something’s gotta give.

As a reminder, if you’re interested in more Knicks news go to TheKnicksWall.com and follow Rushie on Twitter (@AyoRush).

Keep in touch with us via @thetimberpupsblog and be sure to comment in tonight’s forum, we’ll post the link in a tweet later.

 

Zach.

Game One: Orlando Magic Preview

For the season opener against the Orlando Magic, Timberpups welcomes Zach Oliver! Oliver is a good friend of mine who covers the Magic for www.BallerMindFrame.com. The link to his author profile is here (http://www.ballermindframe.com/author/zoliver8812/) and you can follow him on Twitter for more Magic News, NBA chatter and some of the finest nonsense on the internet today — his handle is @ZOliver8812   .

 

Zach, hope all is well — I have a few questions about tonight’s game.

First, there was lots of hope and little speculation the Wolves would trade up to try and land guard Victor Oladipo out of Indiana University, how is he doing?

 

Oladipo just picked up playing point guard in the Orlando Summer League, after playing mostly the two guard spot throughout college at Indiana. His game is better suited playing off-ball guard but he’s developing ball handling skills and won’t hurt the current rebuilding process in Orlando. If he works out, great! We’ll have the point guard for the future and If not — he’ll be a fine secondary ball handler and continue growth as a two-guard.

How’d he play last night? How did the Magic perform in games played on back-to-back nights last season?

 

In his debut last night, Victor Oladipo looked good. While his stat line may not be something that makes you say “wow,” he was very solid. He struggled some with his shot, but he looked comfortable out there. Kid’s going to be special, he brings such high energy and physicality to the game each time he steps on court. Once he finds his niche, and a comfort level, he’ll be stuffing the stat sheets and growing in Magic fans hearts night in and night out.

 

As for back-to-backs… It wasn’t pretty for the Magic last season. They went an abysmal 3-9 in the second game of back-to-backs. The team opened up last night in Indiana against a tough Pacers squad, so thing’s could be rough early on. Remember, the Magic made their sole trip to Minnesota early last season on the second night of a back-to-back and lost 90-75.

 

What matchups will you be watching closely?

There’s two different matchups that I’ll be watching closely tonight. The Magic have a lot of intriguing young players who will be challenged night-in and night-out. The two I’ll be watching closely tonight is the battles at power forward, and when the aforementioned Oladipo is on court.

 

Kevin Love vs Enter Magic Power Forward

 

With Glen Davis out, the Magic have a question as to who will be the starting power forward throughout the season. Tobias Harris finished last season as the starter after he was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline. Harris showcased his scoring ability and versatility in his short time with the team. While it’s hard to not start your best scorer, it might be the best for the team to bring him off the bench in a backup role at both forward positions.

Last years first round pick, Andrew Nicholson, showed some promise on the offensive end last season. However, he struggled mightely on the defensive side, and is a below average rebounder. While center Nikola Vucevic can help mask his poor rebounding numbers, there will be times when Love gets away from him and is able feast on the boards. Love would be a matchup nightmare for the youngster, so he might be best suited in the second unit.

 

Possibly the best matchup and healthy defender at the position for the team, Jason Maxiell, could slide in and grab the start. The team brought him in to add toughness to the teams soft interior defense, and while he might be better off coming off the bench, he’d be the best one to bang down low with Love.

 

The final candidate to see some minutes at the four would be second year big Kyle O’Quinn. The team experimented with him starting at the four next to Vucevic, but it’s less than ideal to start both together. O’Quinn is not afraid to go down low and bang his body around, but he has a problem with fouls, and he’s really the best option to play center with the second unit.

 

Victor Oladipo vs Ricky Rubio

 

Two exciting young guys going head-to-head. How could you not want to watch this!? Rubio could be the best passer that Oladipo is forced to guard this season, and it’s an early matchup for the possible defensive stopper. He’s got a good IQ while out there and is possibly the team’s best perimeter defender also. Will Oladipo take advantage of his size and take Rubio into the post more and try to score with his back to the basket or will he try to take him off the dribble more? There’s a lot of intriguing storylines to watch with this matchup.

 

Now, Zach, I have some questions about you and your Timberwolves.

How important is it for the Timberwolves to get a win tonight?

 

For those in attendance tonight, including myself — it’s very important. The Timberpups have high expectations this season, not only here in Minnesota, but around the league. If this club wants to a be a threat to make the postseason, they’ll need to beat the weaker teams in both conferences — tonight’s a chance to take care of business against a weaker Eastern Conference foe playing the tail end of back-to-back road games.

 

What can we expect out of the small forward position with Chase Budinger out for the foreseeable future?

 

Derrick Williams, Robbie Hummel and Dante Cunningham started the final three preseason games at the 3 spot, respectively, for the Wolves. Tonight’s the first chance any of us will get to see how Adelman addresses the SF position. Provided coach doesn’t go completely unorthodox, Corey Brewer will get the nod and will be relieved by Williams, Cunningham and maybe rookie 14th overall draft pick -Shabazz Muhammad- gets out there tonight. There’s so many groups of five that we could see, tonight’s game may tell us a lot about the Wolves future regarding the SF position.

 

How does Budinger fit in with the team once he returns?

 

If and when ‘Bud’ returns he’ll be eased back into the lineup, slowly, because that’s how basketball injuries go. It’s a tough question to answer simply because he had his knee repaired but during training camp, things started swelling again, leaving us with the question — did he ever really recover? Dr. James Andrews removed around 75 percent of the meniscus and a hopeful timetable for Budinger’s return would be Christmas, but I’m just unsure. He’ll be part of the small forward by committee with Brewer, Williams and Muhammad and Adelman will use him where he thinks is best.

 

In terms of matchups, Zach, you’ve hit it right on the head. I’m going to keep an eye on Oladipo because of the speculation and the ambitious thought that he could have ended up in Minnesota. Whether he’s up against Kevin Martin or Rubio, he’s got his hands full defensively. Rubio will give him more fits on the offensive side of the ball than Martin will, ‘K-Mart’ will be less to handle defensively for V.O., Ricky might shred him up, if he’s not up to the task.

 

What’s your expectations from Ricky Rubio, not only tonight, but going forward this season?

 

Numbers wise, I hope he can average 15 points and 10 assists per game but I’m not big on predictions. If he’s healthy, he’s a threat to lead the league in assists, steals and possibly the non-existent ‘comeback player of the year award’ — that’s if Love doesn’t steal away all the spotlight from the Spanish Unicorn.

Production wise, Ricky’s going to do what it takes to win basketball games. He’s not afraid to take the big shot, as we saw last year against the Clippers when he tied the game with less than a minute remaining after hitting a corner-three, he’s a relentless defender and, half, of the face of this Timberwolves franchise. He needs to stay healthy, more than anything — that’s the key. (edit reminder)

 

Zach, this has been fun, do the Magic and the Wolves play any more times this season?

 

Yes, Saturday April 5th in Orlando.

 

The game will be aired at 7:00PM CST on FSNorth and 830AM WCCO Wolves Radio. Follow @TimberpupsBlog for live-tweets but JUST COMMENT IN THE FORUM BECAUSE IT’S GOING TO BE FUN.

Phew, sorry.

Wolves are going to win tonight, not only on the court — but which one would you rather have? Seriously?