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.

Notes:

  • 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

MINvsPHI

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.

Timberwolves fall to Clippers, 127-101

Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE

Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE

After losing to the Trailblazers in Portland, the Timberwolves arrived in Los Angeles with hopes of pulling out a victory. The Wolves started out strong, finishing the first quarter with a 34-31 lead. As the game headed into the second quarter things got ugly pretty quickly. Until Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Nikola Pekovic return this type of pattern will probably be fairly common.

During the first half, Andrew Wiggins was the leading scorer for the Wolves. He managed to score 14 points on 4-9 shooting, and made 6 of his 7 attempts at the line. Nobody else managed to reach double digits for the Wolves during the first half. Thaddeus Young’s struggles continued, as he only managed 4 points in the half, but only played 9 minutes because he was dealing with foul trouble early. On the Clippers side of the ball, J.J. Redick was easily the star. He finished the first half with 17 points, with 9 of those points coming beyond the arc. At one point in the half, the Clippers went on a 25-4 run, and during that run the Wolves missed eleven consecutive shots.

After a fine performance in the first half, Wiggins all but disappeared in the second half. He was held scoreless as he missed both of the shots that he attempted, and missed both of his free throw attempts. Shabazz Muhammad was impressive off the bench, to say the least. He scored 10 pts, and also grabbed 5 rebounds. He finished the game with 18 points, and 10 rebounds. Zach LaVine and Robbie Hummel also managed to score double digits during the second half, and overall had solid performances offensively. For the Clippers, Blake Griffin scored 12 points and picked up 4 rebounds in the second half, finishing the night with 23 points and 8 boards. DeAndre Jordan also did nice work on the glass, as he finished with 13 rebounds.

While this is good experience for the younger guys, it’ll be nice to see the veterans get healthy so that they can get back on the court. It’s hard enough with such a young squad, but they’ll get through this stretch in time. The Wolves next game is back at home against the Philadelphia 76ers, and hopefully they manage to pull off a win in front of the home crowd.

Timberwolves Sink Lakers, 120-119

Zach LaVine had his breakout game Friday night, returning to the Los Angeles area. (Danny Moloshok, AP Photo)

Zach LaVine had his breakout game Friday night, returning to the Los Angeles area. (Danny Moloshok, AP Photo)

The 3-10 Minnesota Timberwolves hit the road to take on a struggling Los Angeles Lakers team that is off to the worst in franchise history at 3-12.  Despite the return of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference with our Pups.  The Lakers lottery pick, Julius Randle broke his leg in the season opener and things have gone from bad to worse for Los Angeles.  As you might expect, the Lakers would receive zero pity points from the Wolves, who continue to take the court with a ton of missing pieces.

The Wolves opened up with a returning Mo Williams at PG, Corey Brewer, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Lakers came out with Jeremy Lin, Kobe, Wesley Johnson, Carlos Boozer, and Jordan Hill.

Mo Williams started off the game with the shooter’s touch, scoring 8 of the Pups’ first 13 points.  Unfortunately for the Wolves, Kobe was in the zone to begin the game as well.  Bryant was all over the court, putting up 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals in the 1st quarter.  In the final 4-5 minutes of the opening quarter, the Wolves turned the ball over entirely too much (7 in the first quarter) and it led to the Lakes taking a seven point advantage into the second quarter, 30-23.

After falling behind by as many as eleven points, the Wolves went on a small run to cut the Lakers lead down to three, 52-50.  The Wolves were led by Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett, who were the only two players doing much of anything on the offensive end of the court.  Heading into a timeout, LaVine had quickly become the Wolves leading scorer with 16 points on 6-7 shooting from the field.

At the half of a relatively exciting and certainly entertaining game, the Lakers held a 58-54 advantage.  While the Wolves were heavily relying on Mo Williams, LaVine, and Bennett, the Lakers were getting contributions across the board.  Six of the ten players that entered the game had scored at least six points for the home team.

The Timberwolves came out and scored the first four points of the second half to tie the game at 58.  From there, the two teams went toe to toe and bucket for bucket throughout an amazing show of offense in the third quarter.  Basketball purists may also suggest that NBA team defense regressed 25 years as well.  When Wes Johnson is going off, you know there are issues on the defensive end of the court.  The Timberwolves outscored the Lakers 39-38 in the third quarter but trailed 96-93 after three quarters.

It looked like the Wolves were in trouble when Nick Young started to get hot and brought the crowd alive in the 4th quarter.  However, Mo Williams answered the call with eight straight points for the Wolves and tied the game at 117.  The play/sequence of the game followed Williams’ last bucket as Kobe got Andrew Wiggins to bite on a few up-fakes and drew a foul.  However, Bryant missed both free throw attempts allowing the Wolves to take a two point lead on a Thad Young bucket.  Kobe tied the game at 119 with another basket but the Wolves had five seconds on the clock to get a shot off.  Flip Saunders drew up a play for Thad and he drew a foul on Nick Young to go to the free throw line.  After missing the first, Young made the second to give the Wolves a 120-119 lead with two seconds left in the game.

Fortunately for the Wolves, Kobe Bryant missed a relatively open three pointer as time expired, giving the Pups the victory, 120-119.  After losing 22 straight to the Lakers, the Timberwolves have now won four of the last five.

Game Notes:

  • The Lakers wore an alternative black t-shirt jersey this evening, which led to the Timberwolves wearing their home white jerseys.  The NBA is confusing.
  • While Wiggins probably had his worst game of the season Friday night, fellow rookie Zach LaVine finished with a career high 28 points on 11-14 shooting.  LaVine of course was returning to the Los Angeles area after his one season at UCLA.
  • If it weren’t for LaVine, Mo Williams would easily be considered the player of the game, finishing with 25 points and 11 assists.

Demarcus is good and Wiggins will be; A Late Wolves-Kings Recap

(Courtesy Star Tribune)

(Courtesy Star Tribune)

“Psycho”

“Crybaby”

“Crazy”

All of those words, and dozens more, were thrown at Kings center Demarcus Cousins Saturday night at Target Center. A year ago, they may have been fitting, but now, they seem more silly than anything else. Demarcus has put his infamous temperament aside and has become the leader the Kings need, and the leader the city of Sacramento deserves.

Throughout the game, Demarcus bullied his way through the post. He finished with ridiculous numbers; 31 points on 11-15 shooting, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 assists. All the Kings had to do was pass it to Cousins-and he did the rest. Cousins didn’t just look like an All-Star Saturday night, he looked like an All-NBA player. If his play keeps up, the Kings could see an end to their 8 year playoff drought.

The only team with a longer playoff drought than Sacramento, however, is Minnesota, who have failed to make the playoffs every season since 2004. The last time the Wolves were in the playoffs, the Vikings starting quarterback was Dante Culpepper, and the Twins starting outfield consisted of Jacque Jones, Shannon Stewart, and Torii Hunter. Unfortunately, the Wolves impressive streak of futility seems unlikely to end this season, due in large part to an early rash of injuries that has completely depleted Minnesota’s rotation.

Even if playoffs aren’t in the Wolves plans this April, there is hope for the future, and thy name is Andrew Wiggins.

On both sides of the ball Saturday, Wiggins displayed extended glimpses Wolves fans have been waiting for. Wiggins was the aggressive force Minnesota hoped for when they aquired him. He played a career high 41 minutes scoring a career high 29 points., and never slowed down. When he drove, he did so with a purpose, going right into contact and drawing fouls.

On defense, Wiggins was just as impressive. He intercepted passing lanes to the tune of 4 steals, and didn’t commit his first foul until late in the fourth quarter.

When Wiggins starts putting together games such as Saturday, where he dominates both sides of the ball, the NBA better watch out.