Timberwolves Battle, Fall to Washington on the Road

(photo credit: foxsports.com)

(photo credit: foxsports.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Westbrook Nearly Unstoppable as Thunder Surge Past Wolves

(Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today)

(Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Timberwolves Break Losing Streak, Top Trailblazers 90-82

(photo credit: blogs.columbian.com)

(photo credit: blogs.columbian.com)

The Timberwolves snapped a six-game losing streak and came away with the “W” over Portland Wednesday night. Rookie Andrew Wiggins led the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds, notching his first career double-double. Corey Brewer followed with 19 points. On the opposing side, Damian Lillard tallied 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists in an effort to keep the Wolves at bay. In the end, though, the young Wolves squad pulled together for the 90-82 victory.

Minnesota came out looking familiarly weak in the very beginning, but the squad soon turned things around. Wiggins played well right out of the gate, and Shabazz Muhammad came off the bench in the first quarter to add six points in less than six minutes on the floor. The Wolves improved their shooting percentage to 41 percent in the second quarter—compared to just 35 in the first—and found their groove much quicker than their opponents.

Wiggins and Muhammad had already combined for 22 points going into halftime, and the Wolves held a nine-point lead. Fans may have felt that not-to-comfortable feeling with only a single-digit advantage, but the team came out charging to start the second half, and things only got better as Minnesota pulled away to extend the gap to 20.

Besides executing good ball movement and making their shots, the Wolves performed much better on defense than they have since Ricky Rubio was injured. Minny held LaMarcus Aldridge to only 10 points on the evening, an accomplishment for any team. Aldridge is averaging 21.7 points per game, and the Timberwolves shut him down. Wednesday marked Aldridge’s only scoreless first half since 2008. Overall, Minnesota blocked three shots and got away with an impressive 13 steals, five of those takeaways credited to Brewer.

“[The defense is] much improved recently,” said head coach Flip Saunders after the game. “In the last two games against two of the best offensive teams in the league we’ve come out and we’ve played hard and we’ve challenged.”

Portland did work to cut the deficit to four points near the end, but it wasn’t enough. Wiggins led the charge to hang onto a lead, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter alone.

“I feel comfortable and I know my team is always going to be there,” Wiggins said.* “We made plays together. It wasn’t just me. Without them executing the plays, helping me get open, I wouldn’t have found my shots.”

“Wiggins looked like the No. 1 pick tonight,” Saunders said post-game. “He got his shots, took things over, took big shots late, had 10 rebounds, got on the floor for a couple loose balls, had a couple steals […] He came and he delivered.”

Thaddeus Young added 13 points to the Wolves’ effort, and rookie Zach LaVine came off the bench to grab 10 points and dish out five assists. Newest addition Jeff Adrien also made an impact. The 28-year-old tallied eight points and 11 rebounds in just his fifth game with the team.

Brewer voiced the Wolves’ general feelings following the win, expressing that it was a much-needed win and will hopefully serve as a “stepping stone” moving forward.

As Saunders said, “the baby Wolves grew up a little bit.”


Up Next:

The Timberwolves will remain at home to host Oklahoma City on Friday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.


*Listen to Wiggins’ post-game interview here.

Timberwolves Fall to NBA-Best Warriors in Blowout

The Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. (Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports)

The Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. (Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports)

Game Recap

On Monday night, the Timberwolves played host to red-hot Golden State who rode a 12-game winning streak coming into the Target Center. The dynamic Warriors proved too much for Minnesota on both ends of the floor, and exploited the injury-riddled Wolves en route to a final score of 102-86.

Remember when Golden State refused to trade Klay Thompson for Kevin Love? And everyone thought they were crazy? While the verdict is still out on that personnel decision, Warriors fans are not complaining that the splash brothers are still together.

Thompson and Stephen Curry netted 21 points apiece and extended the Warriors’ franchise-record 13th straight victory. Curry managed a +22 on the floor despite shooting just 1-7 from three-point range, demonstrating that he is far from just a one trick pony. The Golden State bench outscored Minnesota’s hapless second unit 46-27, while holding the Wolves to only 36% shooting. [Read more…]

Wolves Improve in Loss to Rockets

(Source: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

(Source: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

It’s amazing how much of a difference effort can make.

Just 48 hours after a humiliating defeat at the hand of the previously winless Sixers, the Wolves found themselves with a four point lead over the Rockets in the final minute. Leading the charge was Corey Brewer and Shabazz Muhammad. Their energy was infectious, and their nonstop rambunctiousness woke up a lethargic crowd that didn’t seem to be expecting much after the mess that was Wednesday’s game.

In the end, the Wolves were unable to hold on, but last night showed the Wolves possessed a crucial trait: resiliency. Finding themselves down by a score of 33-24 once the first quarter came to an end, Minnesota went on an 18-4 run in the next 6:51, retaking the lead. During the run, Muhammad scored six points, while Brewer added 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists and a block

Muhammad’s effort was difficult to ignore. At one point during the Wolves 18-4 run,  Muhammad grabbed a rebound while sandwiched between two Rockets. His effort gave the Wolves another chance but the ball ended up going out of bounds off a Houston player.

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Off the ensuing inbound, Muhammad tips a missed Budinger layup to Jeff Adrien, who is fouled.

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About a minute later, Muhammad grabs another rebound, this time with the help of Bennett (below). The ball eventually landed in the hands of Bennett, who made the ensuing layup.

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Muhammad helped Minnesota bring a toughness the Wolves severely lacked on Wednesday, and there’s no denying he’s been the most impressive player on the team over the last handful of games.


  • James Harden was his usual efficient self. He had 38 points on 17 shots, but his night ended early when he fouled out after Corey Brewer drew an offensive foul with 1:20 left in regulation.
  • Chase was given nearly 28 minutes of action, and did ok producing on the offensive end. After looking shaky early in the game, Budinger rebounded, finishing with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He’s still shaking off plenty of rust, but you can see him becoming increasingly more comfortable on the floor.
  • LaVine had one of his best all-around games of the season. He put up 17 points to go along with his 6 rebounds and 4 assists. He made a few rookie mistakes, but he attacked the rim without worrying about contact. Plus, he’s good at that dunking thing.

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Timberwolves Hand Sixers First Win of the Season


Philadelphia entered the Target Center Wednesday night desperately hoping to find its first win. After starting the season 0-17, the Sixers were set to tie with New Jersey for the NBA record of longest loss streak to start a season. Luckily for Philly, the Timberwolves could not get anything going. At the end of the night, Minnesota scored just 77 points to its opponents’ 85, and the Sixers walked away with their first victory. Thad Young led the Wolves with 16 points against his former team, and Gorgui Dieng grabbed a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds. On the other end of the floor, Michael Carter-Williams tallied 20 points and nine rebounds for Philadelphia.

Perhaps foreshadowing of the poor play ahead, the game got off to a weird start when both teams lined up incorrectly at tip-off. The confusion led to Philly heading the wrong direction upon possession, and in a very rare instance, the game was restarted. From that point on, both teams struggled immensely.

Neither squad could seem to find the basket, and ball handling proved sloppy on both sides. In the first quarter alone, 12 turnovers occurred. Minnesota shot just 27 percent from the field for a total of 13 points in the first period.

Young made the biggest difference in the second quarter, finally finding his groove and grabbing six points to help the Wolves back into the contest. The game was one of several runs, and the teams exchanged the lead a few times. Despite coming back from behind and playing more consistently after the first quarter, however, the Wolves looked completely lost on offense.

Head coach Flip Saunders said following the game that Philadelphia switched up its defense several times, and that generated confusion for the Wolves offensively. While providing this semblance of an explanation, though, Saunders emphasized it was no excuse.

“When they [switch up defense] on you, you have to just play basketball.”

Despite Dieng and Young stepping up, a flashy slam dunk from rookie Zach LaVine, and improved shooting in the fourth quarter, it was too little too late. Minnesota shot just 35.7 percent and turned the ball over 19 times in the Wolves’ 11th loss in 13 games.

Tension clogged the air of the Wolves locker room following the game. Perhaps the loss would have been easier to take had the Sixers simply played good basketball all. They didn’t. At the end of the game, Philadelphia finished with 39 percent from the field and only 64 percent from the free-throw line.

“That’s what makes it bad,” forward Corey Brewer said. “They play that bad and we still lose? We have to look at ourselves, man. It’s tough. We can’t lose that game, period.”

Saunders echoed Brewer’s sentiments in a very quiet post-game presser: “We’re not a very good team right now. We’ve all got to get better. We’ve got to work with our guys more to get them to do what we need to do.”

The upcoming schedule for Minnesota can only get more difficult from this point, and rookie Andrew Wiggins (4-for-12 on the night) said he hopes that this game will serve as an eye opener for the team.

The Wolves will remain home to face Houston Friday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff before flying to San Antonio for a Saturday night game.