Without Martin, Pekovic, Timberwolves Fall to Houston Rockets

Monday night’s homestead was a game of runs. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they came up on the wrong side in the fourth quarter, and they watched Houston pull away with the 107-89 win.  Wolves starters Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (finger) viewed the loss from the sidelines–Minnesota felt their absence in a very big way. Head coach Rick Adelman also missed the game due to personal reasons, and assistant coach Terry Porter stood in at the helm.  Kevin Love played through an upper thigh contusion and tried to carry the team with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Chase Budinger followed with 15 points and seven rebounds.

The first few minutes looked a bit rough as the Rockets went on a 19-8 run. However, the Wolves found their groove and fought back, going on a 6-0 run of their own that was highlighted with a nice JJ Barea layup. The two teams battled back and forth for most of the game, but a “W” just wasn’t in the cards against the 35-17 Rockets.

Houston is a challenging opponent on any night, plain and simple. For Minnesota, facing the team with a less-than-complete roster made the task even more difficult. The Rockets have now won six games in row, led primarily by James Harden and Dwight Howard–the duo is averaging 23.6 and 18.8 PPG, respectively. The Wolves stayed with them for the remainder of the game, though, holding on for the first three quarters. Minnesota struggled a bit to defend in the first half, allowing the Rockets to put 67 points on the board. Porter addressed the issue during halftime and the Timberwolves held Houston to 40 points in the second half. But although their defense improved, Minny just couldn’t get shots to drop.

“I thought our guys had great effort tonight,” said Porter post game. “… Unfortunately for us, we just couldn’t make shots.”

budinger_houston

 

The Wolves lessened the deficit to just four points to end the third, trailing 82-78.  Unfortunately for Minnesota, everything fell apart in the final period. No starters were on the floor to start the fourth quarter, and Houston went on an 11-0 run  as Wolves players missed shots left and right.  Alexey Shved had 11 points off the bench and made a significant impact earlier in the game, but the guard made several poor passes in the fourth and committed three turnovers. Howard proved a nagging force against Minnesota, blocking three shots and grabbing 11 defensive rebounds.  Ronny Turiaf started in Pek’s absence, and he just wasn’t an even matchup against Howard. Turiaf tallied 10 rebounds on the night, but he scored only two points in 30 minutes of play. Gorgui Dieng played 11 minutes to give Turiaf a break, and he failed to make a single bucket.

Porter called a timeout and adjusted the lineup at the 8:55 mark, but Minnesota couldn’t regain its footing. Timberwolves fans watched Houston pull away with the win. In the end, the Wolves scored just 11 points in Q4, dropping their shooting percentage of the night to 35.6 (24 percent from the three-point line).

Monday night’s loss brought the Timberwolves record to 24-28, and the team falls to No. 11 in the Western Conference standings. They will have to pull things together in a hurry if they hope to making the playoffs. Minnesota will remain at home to play Denver Wednesday night before enjoying a week off for the All-Star break.  Following the break, the Wolves’ next game will be Feb. 19 against the No. 1 Indiana Pacers.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing,” Turiaf said. “Regardless of if we feel it or not, we got to keep pushing. And that’s what basketball is about. You have tough stretches like that, you give in or you just keep your head above water… WE know at the end of the day, things need to turn around eventually.”

Rubio_Houston

Timberwolves Play of the Game: 

With 6:19 remaining in the second quarter, Alexey Shved drove down the lane and came up with a monster dunk over Terrence Jones.

You can view the play here.

 

 

Trail Blazers drop injury-depleted Wolves 117-110

(Photo: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

Game Summary

The shorthanded Timberwolves hosted the Trail Blazers on Saturday night in the first game of a four game home stand without three of their starters and approximately 60% of their total offense. With both Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Love (quad) already sidelined, matters were made much more difficult after Kevin Martin sustained a broken left thumb against the Pelicans on Friday night. The Blazers, having lost six of their past ten games, faced off against an impotent Minnesota offense of which included Dante Cunningham, Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf in the starting lineup.

The lack of offensive weapons opened the door for Ricky Rubio to assume a much greater role in the teams scoring efforts and he began the game very aggressive on the offensive end. The early returns were fruitful for the Spanish point guard as he hit four of his six shot attempts while not shying away from mid-range jump shots. It was very encouraging to watch Rubio gaining confidence in creating his own shot and he did a very nice job with both his elevation and release point on his shots. For Rubio, he will need to find consistency in his release in order for him to begin to take the next steps as a scorer.

The Timberwolves kept the score close during most of the first quarter until allowing an 8-0 Trail Blazers run to end the quarter. Portland led 28-23 after one.

During the second half, Coach Rick Adelman called on rarely-used rookie Shabazz Muhammad to inject some energy into a stagnant Minnesota offense, and he did not disappoint. Within a few minutes, Muhammad had already eclipsed his former career-high points total with 7 first-half points while demonstrating an ability to go to work on the low block. The first-round pick out of UCLA was criticized for his back-to-the-basket play during the draft process, and it was immediately evident that he has been putting in time on his post moves. He strongly favored a left-handed hook shot and cleared space through the use of a couple of crab dribbles followed by a sharp right pivot, but went to the move almost predictably down the stretch of the game. Regardless, Muhammad lifted Minnesota’s bench and looked confident while on the floor and he will be needed during this current stretch of misfortune for the Wolves.

The Wolves trailed 55-54 at the half despite being clearly overmatched in terms of talent. Cunningham and Turiaf provided reasonable interior defense and helped keep LaMarcus Aldridge to 10 points. Rubio led Minnesota with 14 points while Shabazz  brought good energy to Wolves players and fans alike.

Against all odds, Minnesota continued to fight for any points and rebounds they could and jumped ahead 82-75 with 1:50 left in the third quarter, despite having trailed for much of the first half. However, another late-quarter run by Portland put the game tied at 83 heading into the final period.

Leading 87-85 with just under ten minutes to play in regulation, the Wolves soon ran out of steam hanging onto the fleeting offensive production of Rubio and Corey Brewer. The surging Blazers proceeded to go on a 13-1 run, effectively putting the game out of reach for the battered Wolves.

Perhaps the most pivotal play of the game occurred with just under seven minutes remaining with the Timberwolves on a 2-on-1 fast break advantage that initially appeared to culminate in an and-1 layup by Shabazz. However, the young swingman was instead called for a questionable offensive foul for swinging his right arm into the chin of Wesley Matthews. The opportunity for Minnesota to cut the score to 92-90 was denied, and Portland subsequently kept the momentum and quickly extended their lead to 10 points. Budinger’s third three-pointer of the night cut the game back to a 5-point differential at the 4 minute mark, but that was as close as the game would come for the Wolves as they fell to the Blazers 117-110.

Leading the way for the Wolves was Rubio with a career-high 25 points (8-19 FG, 2-4 3pt) and 9 assists in 39 minutes. Both Brewer and Budinger enjoyed arguably their best performances of the season as Brewer recorded 26 points (11-23 FG, 0-1 3pt) and 7 rebounds in 39 minutes while bringing tremendous energy on the defensive end. Budinger netted 19 points (6-12 FG, 3-6 3pt) to pair with 5 rebounds in 29 minutes. Turiaf added 8 points (4-8 FG), 13 rebounds and 3 blocks in 38 minutes.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. LaMarcus Aldridge - Aldridge scored 16 second-half points giving him 26 points (12-16) and 9 rebounds in 34 minutes and was the key for Portland’s late victory on Saturday night. Combined with his 6-foot-11 stature and high release point, Wolves defenders had no answer for the Blazers’ All-Star power forward. Aldridge’s ability to consistently drain 18 to 20-foot jumpers makes Portland’s high-low offense lethal when clicking.
  2. Wesley Matthews – Matthews got the most out of his matchup against Budinger and posted 21 points (6-14 FG, 3-5 3pt) and 6 assists in 33 minutes. Portland’s starting shooting guard is now shooting 41.7% from long range and poses a serious threat whenever playing against the defensively-incompetent Minnesota shooting guards.
  3. Ricky Rubio - Despite shooting a poor percentage yet again, Rubio scored a career-high 25 points and tallied 9 assists while looking the part of a scorer in the first-half.

Recap – Pelicans 98, Timberwolves 91

pelicansmascot

The Timberwolves entered Friday night’s game at 24-25 and are looking at the next four games before the all-star break as an opportunity to get a few games above the Mason-Dixon Line.  That sounds like a good plan, no?  The team traveled to New Orleans for Friday’s encounter with the 21-27 Pelicans.  While under .500 for the season overall, the Pelicans were 12-12 going into the action Friday night.

The Wolves got back a few starters after they missed Wednesday’s game, opening up with: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Turiaf.  Nikola Pekovic remains out with his injury.  The Pelicans are dealing with a slew of injuries of their own, but their starting lineup Friday night was: Brian Roberts, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, and Alexis Ajinca.  Added bonus for future trivia: tonight was the first game in the “Smoothie King Center”. Let’s just move on …

First Half 

Game got off to a slow start in the scoring department. As an added “bonus” for Wolves fans, Kevin Love seemed to tweak something early and looked slow and banged up. Going into the first timeout with just over 5 minutes left in the opening frame, the Pelicans held a 14-12 lead, led by the Unibrow, who got it going early with 8 points on 4-5 shooting. (Congrats to the ‘Brow on being named to the Western Conference All-Star team – more than deserved!)

Kevin Love picked up a quick second foul and that led to Dante Cunningham’s early arrival in the game. For the record, Love probably should have taken a seat when he couldn’t get past half court to play defense, but you know … Adelman. (I’m quickly turning to the dark side.) Before I get in trouble, the Wolves held a 26-25 lead over the Pelicans at the end of the quarter. Corey Brewer led the Pups with 9 points and creating chaos, including one of the ugliest fast-breaks you will ever see in NBA history; however, it ended with a Kevin Martin three pointer, so no complaints here.

The early minutes of the second quarter can be summarized with this:

It isn’t like we signed this guy to a new contract this past summer or anything, right? (Crickets) Beyond this little tidbit, the Wolves played a Pelicans-inspired slowed down pace, outscoring the home team 21-17 in the quarter and taking a 47-42 into the locker room.

Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Despite not scoring in 14 minutes of action, Dante Cunningham had a nice half of basketball with 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal
  • Kevin Love had 10 & 8 at the half and was solid offensively, but Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 17 points at the same time – interesting match-up!
  • Ronny Turiaf – defensive presence!  (3 blocks by halftime!)

Second Half 

Despite Kevin Love looking like a broken body multiple times in the 3rd quarter, the Wolves played a solid final few minutes to increase their lead a bit.  Love was fouled (but not called) by Greg Stiemsma and looked like he was going to need to be scraped off the floor after a few attempts in the paint on the ensuing possession after not being able to get back on defense.  There is going to be a time when we are going to regret this.  However, it wasn’t through the third quarter, as the Wolves built a 71-61 lead going into the final frame.

All of the good from the 3rd quarter came to a screeching halt with the Pelicans going on a massive run to begin the 4th quarter, going up 78-77 – a 17-6 run before Adelman finally called a timeout.  The onslaught continued as the Pelicans poured it on in the 4th quarter, while the Wolves found ways to increase their deficit – bad defense, terrible shot selection, and overall bonehead play.  With about 2.5 minutes to go, the Pelicans held an 89-82 lead, outscoring the Pups 28-11 to this point in the quarter.  Let’s hit the fast forward button because nothing positive happened the rest of the way for our Pups.  They continued to fall flat on their face and wound up giving up 37 points in the 4th quarter, losing to the Pelicans, 98-91.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Anthony Davis – great game for the ‘Brow, 26 & 10 and looked like a leader on the floor
  2. Eric Gordon – huge second half for Gordon, who finished with 20 points and it felt like he threw two or three daggers at the Wolves
  3. Kevin Love – who I am somewhat expecting to hear “trade request” from this all-star break.  26 & 18 for the starting PF in the Western Conference … 

Key Takeaways

  • The Wolves continue to shoot three pointers for no apparent reason other than “it’s flashy” … 4-17 in tonight’s game, including a 0-6 from Love.
  • Huge advantage for Minnesota at the FT line, going 31-37 on the evening, compared to NOLA’s 12-16.  Somehow, someway, the Wolves still managed to lose this game.
  • Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer create havoc on both ends of the floor … however, their lack of fundamental defense (along with Kevin Martin’s lack of any defense) is killing this team.  This already feels like a very long second half of the season.

Short-Handed Timberwolves Fall 106-97 to Thunder

The Timberwolves faced the 40-11 OKC without the help of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer. Despite playing without some of their top scorers, the Wolves gave a valiant effort. Minnesota actually held the lead a few times during the first half, and the teams battled back and forth. It was the Thunder that held the upper hand, though, and came away with the 106-97 win. Ricky Rubio led the team with 19 points, while Dante Cunningham filled in as a starting forward and added 18.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said head coach Rick Adelman. “They busted their tails the whole game.”

TWolvesTweet

OKC’s Kevin Durant scored 26 points on the evening, but he surprisingly didn’t become the deciding factor in the fourth.  The star forward scored only two points for the Thunder in the final period, but his teammates still managed to pull away from Minnesota for the win.  Reggie Jackson added 20 points (seven in the fourth quarter) and dished out nine assists.  Wednesday marked the Thunder’s 12th win in 13 games, and they are the first team in the league to hit 40 wins this season.

Minnesota scored 54 points in the first half but only 43 in the second, shooting an overall 47 percent from the field.  Rubio and Cunningham really stepped up offensively in the absence of Love and Brewer, and JJ Barea delivered another strong performance with 11 points and four assists off the bench.  Where Minnesota felt a loss the most was in rebounding. With both Love and Pek sidelined, the Wolves only grabbed 39 boards to OKC’s 49.

“I knew they’d play scrappy with three starters out,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.  ”A wounded team generally steps up. But I thought we played good defense for only about four minutes in the first quarter and then in the fourth quarter. Other than that we didn’t play the kind of defense we usually do.”

The Timberwolves held their own through three quarters of basketball. At the end of the third quarter, Derek Fisher hit a buzzer-beating three and led a 16-4 Thunder run, growing the deficit to 12. From that point on, Minny found itself unable to catch up.  Robbie Hummel came off the bench to hit a three at the 3:45 mark, and that brought the score to 95-89, but that was the closest the Wolves got to regaining their footing.

Rubio said the following after the game: “We came into the game aggressive and we fought all the way through, but in the last five minutes, I think we missed too many free throws and easy shots while they made shots at the end.”

(photo credit: washingtonpost.com)

(photo credit: washingtonpost.com)

The tough loss dipped Minnesota’s record below .500 once again. The Wolves currently sit at No. 11 in the Western Conference, falling to five games out of the No. 8 playoff spot. They will continue on to New Orleans to face the Pelicans Friday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline and Injury Notes

Brewer missed the game with Family Leave after the birth of his son on Tuesday.  Coach Adelman says he expects Brewer to rejoin the team for Friday’s game.

Pekovic remained sidelined with a nagging ankle injury, and Love was listed as a “sore neck” after taking a nasty fall against the Lakers Tuesday night.

 

Timberwolves Take Down LA Lakers, 109-99

Minnesota welcomed an injury-riddled Lakers squad Tuesday night, and the Wolves rolled over LA in a 109-99 final score. Minny had a huge first half and then struggled a bit to land its shots in the third quarter. The team hung on, though, and pulled out the win in the end. The Wolves have now won six of their last nine games, and last night’s “W” brings the team back to .500 and two spots out of the current playoff race. Kevin Martin led the evening with 32 points, followed closely by Kevin Love with 31.

Martin and Love proved unstoppable from the beginning, scoring 14 and 11 points, respectively, in the first period. Everyone hit their shots, and the team kept up a fast pace that kept LA from finding its groove.

Ronny Turiaf filled in for the injured Nikola Pekovic. Although Turiaf isn’t a top scorer in the game, the big man created a spark on defense that Minnesota needed. Turiaf added five rebounds and two blocked shots on the evening, and his single bucket came off a powerful slam dunk at the 6:18 mark of the first quarter.

The Timberwolves scored 38 points in the first quarter, and the second quarter went just as smoothly. The Lakers were completely disorganized in the first half, suffering from an injury bug the Wolves have experienced themselves. LA took the floor without Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or Jordan Farmer, and Jodie Meeks went down early in the game with an ankle injury. The Lakers did, however, welcome back veteran point guard Steve Nash, who has played only six games this season with a back injury.

“I feel a bit selfish in that we lost, but it felt great just to play in the NBA again,” Nash said post-game. “Obviously the game didn’t go as we hoped, but for me personally that’s pretty cool to be back out there.” Nash finished the game with seven points and nine assists.

(photo credit: espn.com)

(photo credit: espn.com)

After going into halftime with a 68-52 lead, the Wolves found themselves floundering in the third quarter. A couple missed shots gave the Lakers a chance to come back, and LA quickly cut the deficit to eight. Despite missing so many players, LA’s reserves proved an athletic bunch that worked to tire the Wolves starting lineup. Minnesota refused to give up the lead, however, and never allowed its opponents to get closer than six points behind.

“It seems like the game is never going to be as easy as you like it, so you just have to persevere,” head coach Rick Adelman said. “That’s a scrappy team. I’ve looked at their games recently [...]. They don’t go away.”

The “Kevins” weren’t the only ones scoring, as a few role players made a significant impact in the win.  Corey Brewer had a strong with 11 points and three steals.  JJ Barea also came up big, driving for a couple key layups in the third quarter and tallying 11 points on the evening.

Overall, Minnesota shot 44.6 percent from the field to LA’s 41.8 percent. Perhaps the team’s most impressive stat, the Wolves went 47 percent from downtown, knocking down eight three-point shots. Martin claimed four of the long balls, and Love had two.

Love’s performance marked his 25th game with 30+ points, which broke the record previously held by Kevin Garnett. It was fitting for Love to break KG’s record in this game, as it was an especially physical one for the power forward. Love took several bumps and bruises en route to this 31 points, including a play in the fourth quarter in which he took a frightening fall.  As Love drove to the basket and went up for a shot, Robert Sacre hit him hard, knocking his legs out from under him midair. The forward crashed to the floor, his head audibly connecting with the hardwood.  The All-Star stayed down for a few minutes but ultimately came back to finish leading his team to victory.

“I got real bad whiplash,” Love said after the game. “I haven’t seen the play, but it felt like my head snapped back pretty good and hit the floor [...]. I’ve taken a few shots here and there, but I just wanted to stay in the game.”

“[Kevin] has incredible toughness,” said Martin. “That’s why we pay him the big bucks. That’s why he’s an All-Star starter.”

(photo credit: nba.com)

(photo credit: nba.com)

The Wolves schedule won’t let up much, as they head to OKC to take on the Thunder Wednesday evening and then on to New Orleans for a Friday night game.  Saturday, the Timberwolves will be back at the Target Center to welcome Portland for a 7 p.m. matchup.

 

In-Arena Moment

Target Center fans received an entertaining halftime show Tuesday night. Tag Team was in the house, and the hip-hop duo rolled out their classic hit, “Whoomp! (There it Is).”

Grizzlies grind-it-out, defeat Wolves at home

The Wolves hosted the Memphis Grizzlies last night in what a notable amount of buzz considered a, “must win,” for the home team. The Grizz have been one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference, Memphis entered as winners of four-consecutive while also emerging victorious in 9 of their last 10 games. They’ve been surging since the return of Marc Gasol, and it makes sense — he’s one of the most versatile centers in the league.

A few beat-writers focused on the Grizzlies head coach, Dave Joerger, returning home to Minnesota. Joerger is from Staples, also known as Cabin Country to Suburban Folk, and it would be his first time coaching in the Target Center. But during morning shootaround I caught up with the other Minnesota native playing with Memphis — Jon Leuer.

Leuer told me he was excited to be back in Minnesota, this was the place he grew up watching the Wolves and dreaming about playing in the NBA. He returned to his home in Long Lake the evening before for a dinner with his family, cooked by Mom of course. Leuer said he had about 20 tickets for family and friends and was hoping to get some playing time. In preseason of his rookie year, Leuer went toe-to-toe with Kevin Love (as much as a rookie can, anyway) by scoring 18 in a loss to the Wolves at Target Center back in January of 2011.

Admittedly, it was my first time covering a Wolves game as a member of the media and things were somewhat nerve-wracking.

First Half

It was a rugged, grizzly, start for both clubs — the difference? This is the way Memphis plays. Adelman said during the postgame that the ball-movement was awful and I am going to go ahead and confirm that. The Wolves offensive motion was putrid and the only reason things were close was because of Kevin Martin. Martin was five for eight from the field and scored 10 of the Wolves 22 first quarter points and the Grizz were ontop after the opening quarter — 30-22.

By the end of the second Gasol and Zach Randolph, aka Z-Bo, had combined for 18 points (nine apiece) but it was Courtney Lee – who isn’t a decaying skeleton, afterall – that lead the way for Memphis with 12. The absence of Nikola Pekovic was apparent and the Wolves weren’t getting production, scoring wise, in his absence. Ronny Turiaf was held scoreless and Gorgui Dieng turned the ball over three-different times and things were ugly, real ugly. The Grizzlies led 50-37 at the halfway point. The brutal, physical, and however else you wish to describe the type of basketball Memphis plays was taking it’s toll.

I didn’t give you any of the Wolves first-half numbers on purpose because they weren’t very good, at all.

Second Half

It must have been a Rick Adelman speech, or something, that motivated the Wolves to play tougher; though I sincerly doubt it. Maybe it was just Love’s superhuman talent that rallied the troops, you decide. Nah, don’t worry about it — the answer to any problem during the first-half caused by the Grizzlies was indeed K-Love. The tweet from Wolves PR below really just says it all.

Nearing the end of the 3rd quarter momentum was in the home team’s favor in a proverbial must-win conference game a few games prior to the halfway mark of the season. After, yet another, Love three-pointer the game now a one-possession affair. Yet, as a defeatists fate would have it, Grizzly reserve Nick Colathis drained a cold-blooded three that extended the memphis lead to five. Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea would both make critical baskets at the end of the quarter and the Wolves – surprisingly enough – had the lead going into the final frame — 67-66.

Kyle Ratke, Timberwolves’ Web Editoral Assistant and Friend of the Program (Also a huge help in ensuring I didn’t get lost during my rookie night as a media member) summed up how I feel about recapping the way things ended, this tweet describes how he felt during the final battle at Target Center. Yes, that was a Mortal Kombat reference.

Love and the Wolves really just ran out of gas at the end of the game, the controversy during the final eight-minutes was something fans are familiar with — Adelman went with Barea, and not Ricky Rubio, as the PG that would close the game. Barea hit two-huge three’s between the 8:00 and 7:00 minute mark that kept things close. A voice echoed from the bleachers, “PUT IN RUBIO.” When, earlier, a voice similar in sound and from seemingly the same area could be heard saying, “BAREA YOU SUCK!”.

Give the Puerto-Rican some credit, he was playing well. Barea assisted on a Love turn-around jumper that put the Wolves up three with a little over 5:00 to play. After a Randolph jumper and Mike Miller layup (Yes, Mike Miller was trying to score on the Target Center floor. Many fans remember his distribution phase that convienently came in his time with the Timberwolves) the Grizzlies went up by one, 80-81, but Barea found Cunningham – who hit a jumper – for two and the Wolves regained the lead.

Z-Bo hit another jumper, this time from 17 feet, and the Grizzlies never looked back. Insert debate.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Love — Dude, you are a beast. The numbers Love posted in the first half don’t display how well he played, defensively, against the Grizzlies tandem of Gasol and Randolph. That third quarter, man — quiet a performance to witness live.
  • Zach Randolph — Played 40 minutes and scored 26 points. The guy didn’t hardly even participate during shootaround and drank a hot chocolate beforehand, it’s true — I saw him at the Starbucks. He made Pekovic laugh, beasted down-low, and was the Grizzlies closer down the stretch.
  • J.J. Barea — People are going to hate me, and I don’t care. He shot four of seven from the field and scored 10 second half points, didn’t turn the ball over once, and kept the Wolves in the game by hitting big-time shots and making passes when he needed to. The Wolves are 0-5 when Barea finishes the game at PG and last night was another one of those times, but other things contributed to the loss also.

Takeaways

You guys seem to want to talk about it, so here it goes. This quote is from Adelman’s post-game press conference regarding why he played Barea over Rubio during the final minutes of a close game, again.

I thought he (J.J.) was the best option for us to win. I asked people around me and they felt the same way.

Sure, that’s fine and even if this was justifiable and accepted by fans — Adelman needs to start playing Rubio at PG because that’s how R.R. is going to learn how to succeed in those situations. Not only does he need to learn them now, Rubio must know how to execute or this club won’t sniff the playoffs.

In Adelman’s defense, Mike Conley was went down with a leg-injury in the waning moments of the game and the Grizzlies had a lengthy lineup on the floor in his absence. Part of Adelman’s thought process, and I can only speculate, may have been that Barea could penetrate and create better at that point in the game. Love, Turiaf, and the rest of the Wolves were tanked (out of energy) and having someone that can create off-the-dribble and collapse the defense wasn’t all that bad of an idea — in theory.

Yes, Rubio should be playing at the end of games. Yes, I think we can all agree — live and die by your future leader. We’ll see what happens going foward. The Wolves are in Atlanta to face the Hawks and tip-off is only a few minutes away.

 

zb.

 

Timberwolves Sail Over Pelicans, 88-77

It was not the most graceful of games, but a win is a win. The Timberwolves held New Orleans to a season-low 77 points at the Target Center while tallying 88 to take their fifth win in six games. Kevin Love led the Wolves with 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Kevin Martin added 18 points.

Both teams played without a major starter. Nikola Pekovic was listed inactive for Minnesota with the ankle injury, and the Pelicans missed forward Anthony Davis due to a dislocated finger.

Davis tends to hit the mid-range shots in addition to being a threat on the inside; New Orleans struggled in his absence, shooting just 35 percent from the field and an ugly nine percent from behind the arc.

Ronny Turiaf replaced Pekovic for most of the game, and his defensive game certainly cannot be criticized. With Turiaf being a lower-scoring player (he grabbed four points on the evening), though, Love absorbed some pressure to compromise offensively.

“With Pek out, we really have to find a way to relieve the pressure off [Love], move him around and stuff,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We know teams are going to come at him. … So we have to find ways to figure it out.”

Turiaf_Pelicans

Love proved unstoppable, playing more aggressively than has been seen of late. He covered all areas of the floor, even dishing out five assists when Ricky Rubio went to the bench with four fouls.

JJ Barea and Dante Cunningham came off the bench to score 10 and 12 points, respectively, which helped give some relief to Minnesota’s starting lineup.

Al-Farouq Aminu worked to keep his team afloat, grabbing 18 points and 12 boards, but it wasn’t enough. New Orleans’ Greg Steimsma, who played with the Wolves last season, scored just three points as the starting center, and point guard Brian Roberts added only nine.

In all honesty, both teams looked terrible in the second half. Turnovers were a regular occurrence on each side, and players looked lackluster across the board.

Minnesota kept the upper hand, though, capitalizing on second-attempt buckets and free throws to stay in the lead. Defensively, the Wolves played better than they have most of the season, and they held New Orleans to 15 points in the fourth quarter.

“This is when you have to step up, and we just didn’t do it tonight,” said Pelicans coach Monty Williams. “That happens.”

Rubio_Pelicans

Wednesday’s win brought the Wolves to two games over .500 for the first time since November, and fans certainly hope the team has turned a corner on the season.

“We’ve been playing great over these past six games and we just want to continue doing whatever we’ve been doing,” Martin said post-game.

Minnesota will host the Memphis Grizzles Friday night at the Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline Moment: 

(from NBA.com): During a second quarter break, the Wolves played a video tribute to Love for being named an All-Star starter. The video also encouraged fans to put the pressure on the All-Star coaches to name Pekovic a reserve by tweeting to #pekgoestoo, claiming the bruising duo doesn’t like being separated. The two big men stood together and watched, sharing a laugh while Love pointed at Pekovic and gave his shoulders a shake.

“[Nikola's] one of my best friends in the world,” said Love, “and I want to make sure he goes too.”