Suns Defeat Timberwolves 110-99

Will Thad Young be in a Timberwolves uniform much longer?  How much does he care to be? (Brace Hemmelgarn, USA Today Sports)

Will Thad Young be in a Timberwolves uniform much longer? How much does he care to be? (Brace Hemmelgarn, USA Today Sports)

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves returned to action on Friday night after breaking their 15 game losing streak this past Tuesday in Indianapolis against the Pacers.  The story of the night was of course Mo Williams52 point effort.  Could the Pups ride the ‘wave of momentum’ into Friday’s action in Phoenix?  The Suns opened up the night with a 23-18 record, which would slot them into the 8 seed in the Western Conference if the NBA Playoffs started today.  With the Wolves giving up a league worst 108ppg and the Suns scoring 107ppg (4th in the NBA), you would expect a run and gun type of game.  Here is how the action went down this evening … as the teams celebrated Halloween a little late, with both teams in short-sleeved jerseys, the Pups in black and the Suns in orange.

The Wolves opened up with a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Andrew Wiggins, Chase Budinger, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  (News of course has broken that the Wolves are open to dealing Thad before the deadline, which makes all the sense in the world given that he can opt out of his contract.  Quite frankly, he hasn’t panned out and he isn’t the answer for the Wolves at PF for the next five seasons.)  The Suns opened up Friday’s game with the following starting five: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, PJ Tucker, Markieff Morris, and Alex Len.

Both teams got off to a hot start, with the Wolves taking a 13-12 lead into the first timeout with about 7.:43 left in the opening quarter.  Minnesota opened up 6-6 from the field for their 13 points and each member of the starting five had a basket.  That’s how you open the game on the offensive end of the floor!  Dragic and Len each had six points heading into the timeout for Phoenix.  After the timeout Dragic continued to pick apart the Wolves, scoring the Suns seven of the next nine points, leading to a 21-17 advantage for the Suns and forcing Flip Saunders to call a timeout.

At the end of the first quarter, the Suns held a 32-27 advantage.  The teams played at the expected, fast pace and neither team seemed interested in taking a charge or knocking someone down in the paint.

The second quarter reminded me of the legendary 1990’s video game NBA Jam.  It felt like every Wolves’ bucket was a three pointer or dunk/layup in the paint.

Christian Laettner and Chuck Person - dominating NBA Jam for over two decades

Christian Laettner and Chuck Person – dominating NBA Jam for over two decades

The Wolves were able to cut the Suns lead to three points, 59-56, at the half.  Wiggins, Dieng, and Williams were all in double figures in the scoring department.  Meanwhile, the only player that got on the floor for the Suns and not score in the first half was PJ Tucker.

In the third quarter I got my first look at Miroslav Radjujica and it wasn’t too pretty.  In five minutes he was 0-1 from the field with a turnover and two personal fouls.  His missed FG was a “below-the-rim” layup attempt and all I could do was shake my head.

The remainder of the Wolves’ roster seemed to follow suit in the 3rd quarter, as the team seemed to hit a bit of a wall.  The Suns built a double digit lead, while the Wolves’ shooting percentages dropped and they started turning the ball over more frequently.  At the end of the third quarter the Suns held an 86-75 advantage.

The Wolves weren’t able to do much in the 4th in terms of going on an extended run and cutting into the Suns lead.  Wiggins left the game in the 4th quarter and didn’t return.  The Wolves announced that he had a sickness.  Keep your eyes on that news as the Wolves play again Saturday night in Denver.

The final score: Phoenix 110, Minnesota 99.

 

One Shining Mo-ment; Mo’s 52 Ends Losing Streak

(Thomas J. Russo/USA Today)

(Thomas J. Russo/USA Today)

If there’s a better way to end a 15 game losing streak, I sure can’t think of it.

Making their only visit to Indiana this season, the Wolves struggled in the early going. A combination of sloppy shooting and careless defense meant the Wolves would go to the locker room trailing by six.

Enter Mo Williams. The 12 year vet from Alabama was Mo-lten hot, scoring 52 points on 19-33 shooting, including 6-11 from deep. His 7 assists and 4 rebounds didn’t hurt, either. The 52 points is a franchise single game record, surpassing the previous mark of 51, set by both Corey Brewer and Kevin Love.

Mo didn’t just walk the walk, he talked the talk.

Even with Mo scorching from the floor all game long, the Wolves still needed several breaks. The biggest of which came late in the third, with the Pacers leading by seven. That’s when Pacer big Roy Hibbert bit on a shot fake by Gorgui Dieng. Finding himself out of position, Hibbert decided to pull Dieng down by his shoulder. Dieng hit the ground with a thud, and Hibbert was given a Flagrant 2 and ejected. It may not have been an intentionally dirty play by Hibbert, but it was certainly careless, and Dieng was lucky to come out of the play unscathed.

Without Roy Hibbert, Indiana began to unravel. Minnesota outscored the Pacers in the fourth by a score of 41-26, with 37 of the 41 coming from just three players: Mo Williams (21), Andrew Wiggins (9), and Robbie Hummel (7). The end result was a Minnesota victory – their first victory since December 10th.

Now the skid is over, the Wolves will have a chance to do something  they haven’t done since last season – go on a winning streak. In the meantime, enjoy Mo Williams spitting hot fire.

Unlucky 13 as Wolves Drop 14th in a Row to Bucks, 98-84

Look who isn't attacking the ball on the defensive end Friday night.   (Photo credit: 2015 NBAE - Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Look who isn’t attacking the ball on the defensive end Friday night.
(Photo credit: 2015 NBAE – Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

A thirteen game losing streak was on the line as the 5-29 Minnesota Timberwolves took the short road trip to Milwaukee to take on the 19-18 Bucks Friday night.  What was originally scheduled to showcase the two top rookies in the NBA, Friday’s game fell a little flat on high expectations given the season ending injury that Jabari Parker suffered earlier in the season.  However, Andrew Wiggins has been nothing but impressive of late, averaging about 40 minutes of action a night and putting in 22.6ppg over the past five games.

The Pups opened up with Zach LaVine, Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  Milwaukee opened up with with Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokoounmpo, Khris Middleton, Johnny O’Bryant, and Zaza Pachulia.

Zach LaVine got off to a nice start for the Wolves, filling up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, and a steal in the early minutes.  It could have been even better if the Wolves hit a jump shot or two off of a LaVine pass.  The game had a slow feel to it as the Milwaukee crowd was pretty quiet in the early going.  The first timeout of the game wasn’t taken until 5:13 remained in the opening quarter, with the Timberwolves holding a 13-10 advantage.

At the end of the first quarter the Wolves held a 22-19 lead.  Two major takeaways that need to be discussed – 1. What does Flip Saunders believe he has in Thad Young? and 2. Will the real Chase Budinger please stand up?  Young is an incredibly frustrating player to watch.  The lack in consistency is probably the most pertinent issue.  As for Budinger, he entered the game in the first quarter and responded with 5 points on 2-2 shooting in three minutes.

OJ Mayo answered the call in the second quarter, opening up with two quick three pointers to give the Bucks a 27-24 lead and forcing a Timberwolves timeout.  It didn’t stop there for Milwaukee as they went on a 22-8 run to start the second quarter and opened up a ten point advantage, 41-31.  Unfortunately, the Wolves looked lost throughout the second quarter.  It seems like this has happened every night and the Wolves shoot themselves in the foot at some point each and every time.  The Bucks built a 15 point advantage heading into the locker room, 53-38.  Here’s how bad the second quarter looked:

The defensive effort and intensity was missing to start the third quarter and Flip wound up burning a quick timeout to presumably try to light a fire under the Wolves’ collective asses.  The strategy worked for a few minutes as the Wolves cut the Bucks’ lead to single digits.  However, the Bucks fought back and rebuilt the double digit lead with a few minutes left in  the quarter.  Jerryd Bayless hit a jumper to close out the quarter as the Bucks reclaimed a 14 point advantage heading into the final 12 minutes, 72-58.

The Bucks signed Kenyon Martin to a 10 day contract and he made his first appearance as the 4th quarter got started.  Martin and Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd were of course teammates when the New Jersey Nets went to back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.

The familiar story of the losing streak continued Friday night.  Too many turnovers, porous defense, and poor shooting percentages were all on display for the Pups.

The final score: Milwaukee 98, Minnesota 84.

Game Notes:

  • Every Bucks player that got on the court scored at least four points in tonight’s game
  • Thad Young had a season high 5 steals
  • Glenn Robinson III entered late in the 4th quarter and added a bit of nostalgia, as his dad was the #1 pick for the Bucks back in 1994

Suns Sneak by Wolves, Losing Streak Reaches 13

(Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune)

(Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune)

Not even a career night from Andrew Wiggins could end Minnesota’s current futile streak. The rookie phenom put on a show for the ESPN cameras, scoring 25 points on 10-16 shooting. He nearly became a hero, too, as his 3 point attempt at the buzzer was just long, giving Phoenix the 113-111 victory.

Wiggins was aggressive all game long, looking for the ball and taking advantage whenever he was being mismatched on defense. He flew in for rebounds, made smart, precise passes, and held his own defensively. You can’t ask much more from a rookie.

The strong play of Wiggins, along with Mo Williams, Anthony Bennett, and Shabazz Muhammad, and Gorgui Dieng, produced positive results, and the Wolves actually led by seven entering the fourth.

The Suns started the fourth quarter blazing hot, particularly Gerald Green. In span of 5 minutes and 6 seconds, the former Wolf scored 15 points, shooting 5-6 from the field and giving Phoenix the 90-88 lead.

Green quickly returned to earth, and eventually to the bench, but the Suns didn’t. Their hot shooting, combined with several costly errors down the stretch for Minnesota, was too much to overcome, and the Suns held on to win.

With the defeat, Minnesota’s losing streak has reached 13, tied for the sixth longest losing streak in franchise history. Try and look at the list of Wolves losing streaks below without shedding a tear.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 2.57.45 PM

The Wolves next chance to end the skid comes Friday night in Milwaukee, and it doesn’t get any easier from their. After traveling to Milwaukee, the Wolves play the Spurs at Target Center on Saturday before embarking on a 4 game road trip. If the Wolves go winless over that stretch, a new franchise record would be set with 19 consecutive losses. Here’s to hoping the Pups can pull one out soon.

Notes:

  • The race for 8th in the West could get interesting if Phoenix can keep up their current pace. The Suns sit in 8th at 22-16, 3.5 and 4 games up on New Orleans (17-18) and OKC (17-19), respectively. If Durant and Westbrook can’t find their rhythm soon, they may find themselves at home come playoff time.
  • ESPN announcer Jon Barry was guilty of at least two faux pas during the broadcast. Not only did he call Wiggins “Anthony,” he also blamed a slippery court on there being a Wild game the day before. There is no ice rink under Target Center court, and the Wild don’t even play in the same city as the Timberwolves.
  • A day after waiving Jeff Adrien, Minnesota has announced the signing of 7’1″ center Miroslav Raduljica. The 27 year old Serbian played 48 games with Milwaukee last season, averaging 3.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. Raduljica last played for the Shandong Lions in China, where he was bought out of his contract in anticipation of an NBA deal.
RubioHelp

“Help us Ricky Rubio, you’re our only hope.”

Timberwolves Continue to Struggle in Home Loss to Utah

(photo credit: nba.com)

(photo credit: nba.com)

The Timberwolves extended their loss streak to 11 in one of the more embarrassing performances of the season for a short-handed Minnesota squad. The Wolves did make a strong effort in the fourth quarter, but they came up short in the 101-89 final score. Mo Williams and Andrew Wiggins led the team with 20 apiece, but a lackluster defense proved inadequate against Trey Burke and the rest of the Jazz lineup.

Minnesota fans undoubtedly felt the irony of Burke’s 28-point performance at the Target Center Saturday night. In the 2013 NBA Draft, the Timberwolves drafted Burke at No. 9 before immediately trading the pick to Utah in a deal that brought Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng to Minny. Although Dieng and Muhammad have both proved to be nice returns for the Wolves, it was especially painful as the young squad saw Burke score 28 points on the evening.

Head coach Flip Saunders expressed a seemingly new level of frustration following the game. He emphasized disappointment in the starting five’s performance, stating that a lineup adjustment is needed. Saunders said the following:

“That’s probably about as bad of a loss as we’ve had in a long time, from the perspective that we’ve lost a bunch of games in a row […] to come out the way we did is uncalled for. We talked to our team afterwards just about what it is to be professional. […] It was just really disappointing.”

The Wolves cannot seem to get away from slow starts to games; it wasn’t until the 4:27 mark of the first quarter that they reached double-digit points to tie the game at 11.

Utah struggled a bit early on as well, and neither team could get their shots to drop. Following halftime, however, the Jazz found the spark they were looking for, and the Timberwolves clambered to find any sort of groove. Despite a nice effort from Wiggins and a trio of three-point buckets from Williams, nothing clicked.

The Jazz shot 50.7 percent, including 55 percent from behind the arc. They also out-rebounded Minnesota 47-37.

The worst part of Saturday’s loss was how avoidable it should have been. Utah is just as injury-plagued as its opponent, and the team had only 11 wins entering the game.

“We’re playing in the NBA,” Muhammad said. “We have to turn it around because the energy just isn’t there. It’s embarrassing.”

At this point, fans can only hope that starters Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, all sidelined with injuries, will return to the court sooner rather than later. Until then, it will be interesting to see if—and how—Saunders follows through with his promise to shake things up within the roster.

The Wolves will remain in town to host the Denver Nuggets Monday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Wolves Drop a Close Game, Fall 110-107 to Sacramento

(photo credit: fansided.com)

(photo credit: fansided.com)

Close, but no cigar.

This was the story once again for the Minnesota Timberwolves when they fell just short to the Kings Thursday night. The New Years Day game was a big one for rookie Andrew Wiggins, who led the team with 27 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad each added 15 points in the effort. On the other end, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison scored 21 points apiece for the Kings.

Minnesota delivered an impressive first quarter, shooting 57 percent from the field and grabbing 29 points. Unfortunately for the Wolves, though, Sacramento came out even stronger. Gay led the way with 10 points as the Kings landed 77.8 percent of their shots and entered the second quarter with 37 points.

Despite falling behind early on, the Wolves worked their way back with a lot of help from Wiggins. The youngster tallied 15 points in the second quarter alone, including one bucket from behind the three-point line.

“[Wiggins has] been playing really well,” Saunders said.

Just after halftime, Minnesota tied the score at 66-66. It seemed that the Wolves might be gaining momentum, but the excitement was short lived as the Kings went on an 11-0 run.

One of the weakest spots for the Timberwolves proved to be the free-throw line. The team missed some crucial opportunities late in the game, landing only 16 of its 22 attempts from the charity stripe.

Saunders knew the team needed a spark in the second half, and he implemented newly acquired guard Troy Daniels. Daniels added 11 points over 12 minutes of play time, including three baskets from behind the arc. The former Houston Rocket seems to be finding his groove with a new team, and Wolves fans hope he will be another piece to the puzzle.

“I know my job is to shoot the ball,” Daniels said postgame. “If I’m open, just shoot it. I’m just trying to help the team any way I can.”

If the Wolves hope to increase their win totals, the team needs more consistency from its starting five. Thaddeus Young had a quieter night than usual with just nine points, and rookie Zach LaVine finished with a mere six points and three assists.

Sacramento did almost everything right on the evening; each one of its starters scored in double-digit points, and the squad shot 54.1 percent from the field.

“We’ve been so close,” head coach Flip Saunders said. “We just can’t seem to get over the hump.”

It seems that a lot of good things have been happening in games over the past few weeks—significant developments for Wiggins and Muhammad and the addition of Daniels—but so far the young team just can’t get the wins to show for it.

Thursday night’s loss dropped the Wolves to 5-26 on the season. They will remain at home for the week to face Utah Saturday night and Denver on Monday.

Wolves Lose Both Games in Back-to-Back, Fall to Nuggets, Warriors

Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Weekend Recap

In the second and third games of their current 4-game road trip, the Timberwolves extended their losing streak to eight games while dropping to 5-24 on the season. As things currently stand, only the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers have worse records than your Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic. $23,552,979. Those are the three Wolves starters that are still out with injury, and that’s how much money they are combining to earn this season. After spraining his ankle on November 7, Rubio remains out and will likely need another 10 days before being considered to suit up. Pekovic, who looks like a fearless monster, apparently has the pain tolerance of a cuddly teddy bear. Pek has missed the last 20 games with a sprained wrist, and will likely be out until mid-January. Since signing his monster contract two offseasons ago, it is clear that re-upping on Pek was a major mistake for a team that already has enough trouble fielding a respectable group of healthy players year-in and year-out. Lastly, Martin has been slow to return from wrist surgery after breaking it on November 19, but is set to be reevaluated in two weeks.

After falling 125-104 in the highly anticipated first matchup against Kevin Love in his new home of Cleveland, the Timberwolves played a much more competitive game in Denver as they lost 106-102. However, they did not fair as well against the NBA-best Warriors who made mincemeat of the inexperienced and injury-riddled Pups, ultimately defeating them 110-97.

For Minnesotans looking for silver linings and consolation from the past two defeats, it may be best to look elsewhere. Although Andrew Wiggins gave fans plenty to get excited about in his 27-point outburst against the Cavaliers, which included 9-16 from the field and 3-3 from beyond the arc, his inefficiency on offense (8-18 FG) against Denver was a large reason for the Wolves’ struggles and defeat down the stretch.

When faced against premier wing defenders in Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala, Wiggins looked complacent and attempted a mere 6 field goals in 24 minutes on the floor. Questions concerning Wiggins’ motor certainly carry merit, as the 19-year-old rookie has not yet shown consistency in his aggressiveness and intensity mainly on the offensive end.

Now is also the appropriate time to call out Anthony Bennett for his many shortcomings this season. After a historically awful rookie season, Bennett looked to rejuvenate his career in Minnesota and impressed many by showing up to camp in significantly better shape and carried his new confidence into the 2014-15 NBA season by getting into a rhythm early. However, it is clear that the young sophomore has already hit a wall as his efficiency rating has fallen from above 20 to just 12.29 while shooting just 8 for his last 31 field goals while falling behind Robbie Hummel in the forwards rotation. If Flip Saunders has a doghouse, Big Daddy Canada is in it.

One Hot Minute

The Timberwolves need a coach. Not Flip Saunders, but a real coach. This is not a deliberate knock on Flip, as I believe he can continue to be apart of the Timberwolves’ long-term future, albeit in upper management and not at the end of the bench. The Wolves’ hired him as a personnel guy, and did everything last offseason to convince Dave Joerger to come and be their new head coach for many good reasons, one of them being so that Flip would not have to be in the same sticky situation that once before led to his firing.

Minnesota needs someone who is going to work these players tirelessly in order to help them squeeze out any and all potential from them, not someone who is there to be their buddy and to tell them it’s going to be alright during the tough times. This team has grown incredibly soft, and needs a dose of reality. If Flip is still the coach of the Wolves’ by the beginning of the next season, then I don’t like his odds of his second stint in Minnesota lasting as long as the first one.

I am done being the kind of fan that is going to wait for half of the season to be gone so I can then start to get excited for the NBA draft. There is no honor in playing for a top draft pick every season, and it is time for this fan base to start demanding more from this franchise.