How to Cope With Losing; A Wolves-Hawks Recap

"Hold me back, son!" - Flip Saunders (Photo Credit - Curtis Compton)

“Hold me back, son!” – Flip Saunders (Photo Credit – Curtis Compton)

The Wolves tried to shake things up, going with a starting lineup featuring three bigs (Thad Young, Gorgui Dieng, Nikola Pekovic). For Young, being moved to small forward produced positive results. He had one of his best performances of the year, posting 26 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. As a whole, the three combined for 50 points, and 12 assists, but were only able to corral 16 rebounds, not nearly enough when you’re trying to beat the best team in the East.

After the game, the Wolves received even more unfortunate news, when they learned Robbie Hummel, who left the game in the third quarter, suffered a “non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand.” In Layman’s terms, Hummel dislocated his finger. He’ll be out anywhere from 4-6 weeks, which is not something fans were hoping to hear.

As it stands, Minnesota sits at 7-35, alone in the cellar of the NBA. Losing 80% of games not only takes a toll on the team, but the fans, too. So I wanted to know – How do Wolves fans cope with all of the losing?

Like any normal person, I went to twitter, where the responses ranged from as low as the pits of despair to as high as the peak of the mountains of optimism.

C’mon @iPhonemuscle, watching the Wolves can be quite fun, even with all of the losing. Remember Ricky Davis, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic? Those were some hilarious times. Don’t think of it as wasting your life, think of it as dedicating yourself to a lifetime subscription of hope. Hope – It’s that thing that keeps you from going insane™.

If you’re looking to find a silver lining, you should take heed to the advice of Joel Bischoff.

Ah, yes, overeating. What Wolves fan hasn’t downed an entire pint of ice cream after watching the Wolves come up short on the court. Because sometimes all you can do is down some Cherry Garcia and keep on truckin’.

I love this suggestion. It combines hopeful optimism with and creativity, while providing a distraction from the product currently on the floor for the Wolves. This method is something anyone can do; just go to a mock draft site like DraftExpress, find a name that you like, and come up with a catchy hashtag. Some examples: #OferForOkafor, #SuckForStanley, and #CantGetStopsForKristaps.

If simply making hashtags isn’t enough to take your mind off the pups, you can try Phillip Moore’s tried and true solution – watching highlights. There’s plenty of options – you could watch D’Angelo Russell make ridiculous passes, Jahlil Okafor destroy everyone in his path, or Karl Towns dominating the paint. The craziest part- it’s more likely than not one of those three players are wearing a Wolves jersey come October!

But if none of those work, you can go with nick’s strategy, and remember the good ol’ days of the 2003-2004 season.

The 2003-2004 season was a great time for Wolves fans. Minnesota won a team record 58 games, Latrell and Cassell were balling, and KG won MVP. And thanks to youtube and the occasional NBA TV replay of the game, you can relieve that glorious season for all of eternity, or at least until the draft in June.

It’ll be pretty hard for the Wolves to ever top game 7 against the Kings, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. So as you go to bed tonight, think about Andrew Wiggins in his prime, along with Ricky Rubio and Jahlil Okafor, dominating teams on both ends and leading the Wolves to the promised land. Because, as The Big Ticket once said, “Anything is possible.”

Happy Birthday Crunch – Wolves Lose to Pelicans 92-84

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter - @WolvesCrunch)

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter – @WolvesCrunch)

 

The 7-34 Minnesota Timberwolves completed their brief homestand on Friday night against the 21-21 New Orleans Pelicans.  Both teams reside at the bottom of their respective divisions but one is clearly still playing for something this season while the other continues to receive more bad news.  Reports have surfaced that Ricky Rubio’s ankle injury is worse than originally thought.  That quickly took all of the steam out of Nikola Pekovic’s return to action on Wednesday night.  The Pelicans have been struggling with their own injury news of late with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday missing time recently.

The two teams met early on this season in New Orleans, with the Pelicans undressing the Wolves to the tune of 139-91 – the worst loss in Wolves’ franchise history.

Looking for a reason to celebrate Wolves’ fans?  The Wolves celebrated Crunch’s birthday Friday night at the Target Center.  So at least there’s that for those in attendance.

Let’s take a look at how Friday night’s action went down at the Target Center.  The Wolves opened up with a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Andrew Wiggins, Robbie Hummel, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Pelicans countered with the following starting five: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, ex-Pup Dante Cunningham, the aforementioned Davis, and Omer Asik.

The one Pup that I have consistently laid into this season (Thad) started off a house of fire, accounting for 7 of the Wolves first 11 points, which led to NOLA Coach Monty Williams to call a very quick timeout with his team down 11-1.  While the Wolves continued to hustle and play relatively well coming out of the timeout, the shooting percentage came back to earth and the Pelicans were able to tie the game at 18, forcing Flip Saunders to burn the Wolves first timeout with just over three minutes left to play in the 1st Quarter.

With Wiggins and Pekovic a combined 1-8 in the opening quarter for the Wolves, the Pelicans took a 24-20 lead into the break.  As time expired in the 1st, Chase Budinger drew a foul on a three pointer, only to see the referees swallow their whistles.  It has been a rough enough season for Chase, he doesn’t need any help from the zebras.

After taking a 32-29 lead in the 2nd Quarter on a beautiful post move from Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves turned the ball over on consecutive series and quickly gave up their lead.  Concentrating on the positive for a moment, Dieng’s offensive game continues to grow stronger as the weeks continue to pass by.  If for no other reason, and I can’t think of another one, Pekovic’s injury has had at least one benefit for the Wolves and that is the improvement in Dieng’s all around game (and likely his confidence).

At the half, the Wolves trailed 45-44.  Halftime notes/stats:

  • Thad Young with a team high 11 points on 5-8 shooting … but 0 rebounds
  • Conversely, Dieng finished the half with 8 points and 7 rebounds
  • The Wolves shot 44% from the floor in the 1st half, while the Pelicans shot 59%
  • Pups only got to the free throw line six times in the half – as did the Pelicans – but only made two of their attempts

The 3rd Quarter seemed to slog along with some ugly basketball being played.  Through the first four minutes of the quarter, the Wolves had one made basket and two free throws.  After Dante Cunningham made two long range jump shots, Flip Saunders called a timeout to try to straighten the ship.

The Pelicans opened up a double digit lead but the Wolves were able to cut it back down to four.  Nate Wolters scored as the clock was running down in the quarter, giving the Pelicans a 69-63 lead heading into the final frame.

There were several mini-runs for each team to start the 4th Quarter, with the Wolves trimming the Pelicans lead thanks to some strong offensive play from Chase Budinger, who scored all but two of his ten total points in the 4th.  However, the Wolves could never get over the hump and fell to the Pelicans.

With about :40 seconds to go in the game, the Pelicans were inbounding the ball up by six.  With a foul to give before going into the penalty, the Wolves scrambled to try to trap an opponent defensively.  It didn’t work but with under ten seconds on the shot clock, the Wolves then commit the foul.  That resets the shot clock to 14 seconds and the Wolves then have to commit another foul before forcing the Pelicans to the line.  In no way, shape or form was this a defensive strategy worth repeating.  Ever.  Either foul early and stretch the game as much as possible or play and hope they miss the shot.

The final score: New Orleans 92, Minnesota 84.

Game Notes:

  • Happy birthday Crunch!  You don’t look a day over 26 …
  • If the Wolves have any interest in winning games the rest of the way, a Pekovic-Dieng frontcourt is going to need to be used
  • Mo Williams had a quiet double-double on Friday night, tallying 12 points and 10 assists
  • In fact, the Wolves assisted on 27 of their 35 made baskets (77%)

Timberwolves Drop Brutal Game to Dallas, Fall to 7-34

(photo credit: cbs.local.com)

(photo credit: cbs.local.com)

The Timberwolves started out strong against Dallas, but gradually the well-oiled Mavericks pulled away and took control of the game. Despite having a healthy Nikola Pekovic back in the huddle, the Wolves came up on the short end of the 98-75 final score. Andrew Wiggins had yet another double-digit game, leading Minnesota with 18 points. On the other side of the floor, Chandler Parsons tallied 22 points for the Mavs.

The first quarter started out well for Minnesota, with more aggressive defense than fans have seen in awhile. Gorgui Dieng had a couple of nice rebounds, and Robbie Hummel was able to battle for a put-back early on in the game.

The headline (and silver lining) for the evening was Pekovic. After missing 31 games this season, the big man returned to the Wolves lineup Wednesday night. Although he came off the bench, Pek had a decent 14-point game after sitting out for over two months.

When No. 14 checked in at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter, Target Center fans delivered a large ovation for the center. Pekovic immediately grabbed a bucket, tying the game at 21 and increasing the crowd noise.

Mavs veteran Dirk Nowitzki hit a long 3-point shot to close out the quarter 24-21, and from that point on the Wolves struggled to keep up. Slow second and third quarters are starting to become the unfortunate trend for Minny, and this game proved no different. Dallas went on a 25-9 run to finish up the half, and the Wolves entered the locker room trailing 59-38.

Thaddeus Young has been playing well lately, and he had another solid game against the Mavericks, despite grabbing all 14 points of his points in the first half. The forward seemed to be the only one able to find successful shots after the first quarter. The game dragged on, with Minnesota simply unable to match up well against its opponents.

Dallas entered the game shooting 40 percent from behind the 3-point line, and the team absolutely killed Minnesota from downtown. Parsons tallied 12 points from behind the arc, and the team made 11 of its 27 long-range attempts.

Prior to the half, the Associated Press‘ Jon Krawcynski reminded Wolves fans of the following:

Parsons wasn’t the only Maverick to play well, though. Dallas shot 51.3 percent from the field, in stark contrast to Minnesota’s 34.8 percent. The brutal loss dropped the Wolves’ record to 7-34 on the season, and it seems as if the second half of the season will be incredibly long for a very young, very tired squad.

After going off for an incredible 52 points against Indiana last Tuesday, Mo Williams never found his groove against the Mavs. The guard started out the game 0-10 from the field and did not find the basket until late in the third quarter. He finished the evening with just five points.

Although it was rumored that Kevin Martin might return, he remained sidelined with a wrist injury. Ricky Rubio also continues to sit out, and Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner shed a little more light on the subject.

According to head coach Flip Saunders, Gellner explained that Rubio suffered torn muscles and also a bone bruise in addition to the sprained ankle. The injury is more complex than maybe originally detailed, and Saunders said the team is taking every precaution to make sure Rubio is at 100 percent before returning to action.

Up next, the Wolves will face New Orleans at the Target Center Friday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

Timberwolves Big Men Have Off Day in Loss to Hornets

(photo credit: dunkingwithwolves.com)

(photo credit: dunkingwithwolves.com)

The Timberwolves had two quarters in which they failed to reach 20 points, and that sort of offense is not enough to defeat the Charlotte Hornets—especially a Charlotte Hornets squad with Al Jefferson in back in the lineup.  The center returned from a groin injury and came off the bench to add eight points and five rebounds against his former team. Thaddeus Young led the Wolves in scoring with 18 points, followed by Andrew Wiggins with 12. In the end, Minnesota wrapped up its road trip with a 105-80 loss.

Wolves fans have seen a glimmer of hope over the past several games, with victories coming against Indiana and Denver—both on the road. Monday afternoon’s game proved a different story, however. While Charlotte’s big men Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson combined for 27 points (not to mention Jefferson as a reserve), Robbie Hummel and Gorgui Dieng combined for only nine. Since Corey Brewer was traded to Houston and Shabazz Muhammad is sidelined due to injury, Hummel has been implemented into the starting lineup. Unfortunately for Minny, “Always Ready Robbie” proved he isn’t always ready. The sophomore played just over 24 minutes and couldn’t find a single bucket.

Hummel was not the only one to struggle, though. Across the board, the Wolves squad had a hard time hitting their shots and contesting shots on the other end. Minnesota allowed Charlotte reserves P.J. Hairston and Gary Neal to contribute 22 points, including five 3-point buckets between the two of them.

“They mauled us, really,” head coach Flip Saunders said postgame. “They’re a very good defensive team. We did not react the right way to their physicality.”

The first half really set the tone of the game, and Minnesota struggled from the get-go. No matter what the team tried, the Wolves looked sluggish and disjointed compared to Charlotte. In the second quarter, they made just 28 percent of their shots and tallied only 13 points.

With so many injuries plaguing the Wolves this season, especially to their starters, the young players are facing many more minutes than would have been expected, and the level of fatigue is becoming evident. Overall, the team shot 36.2 percent from the field and struggled to control the ball. Minnesota committed 17 turnovers, an alarming five of those coming from the hands of Dieng.

The Hornets defense proved insurmountable by the Wolves. Charlotte extended its lead to 30 in the third quarter, and it was all the tired squad could do to claw the deficit to the 20s. Over two games, the Hornets have forced 37 turnovers and held their opponents to under 90 points.

At this point the in the season, fans can only hope that Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin return to the floor sooner rather than later, and that Wiggins continues to be patient. The rookie has tallied double-digit points over the past 14 games, and one wonders how long his positive attitude will last with this sort of record.

Monday’s game dropped Minnesota to 7-33 on the season, while increasing Charlotte’s record to 17-25. The Wolves will return home to the Target Center to face Dallas Wednesday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Click here to listen to postgame audio from Monday’s game. 

Timberwolves Grab Another Road Win, Defeat Denver 113-105

The Timberwolves won their second of three road games in an impressive offensive performance over the Nuggets Saturday night. Minnesota shot 53.8 percent in the 113-105 victory, and Andrew Wiggins led the squad with 31 points and nine rebounds. On the opponents’ side, Ty Lawson contributed 22 points for Denver.

For the past several weeks, the young Wolves squad has looked lackluster and worn out. Minny is still without starters Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, and Shabazz Muhammad is also sidelined due to injury. Perhaps a result of Tuesday night’s win over Indiana, the team had a renewed energy Saturday.

Minnesota scored 37 points in the first quarter, and it was clear the team was ready for a win.

Wiggins delivered yet another impressive game for the Wolves, keeping the tempo extremely high against a struggling Denver offense. The No. 1 draft pick seems to improve with every game:

Wiggins was not the only one with a solid Saturday performance, however. All five of Minnesota’s starters scored double-digit points, and second-year forward Robbie Hummel had a career night.

Hummel, affectionately nicknamed “always-ready Robbie” following an earlier interview, started in place of Muhammad. He tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds in almost 43 minutes on the floor.

Thaddeus Young also looked like the player Timberwolves fans saw early in the season. Young’s mother lost her battle to cancer several weeks ago, and No. 33 hasn’t seemed quite himself since returning to the team. However, Young rebounded against the Nuggets. Aggressive beneath the basket, he finished the night with 22 points, five assists and five defensive rebounds.

The Timberwolves started the second half down by one, and Denver battled hard during the third quarter. Lawson scored eight points, and Nuggets reserves Jameer Nelson and JJ Hickson combined for 10 points off the bench.

In the final period, Minnesota pulled away to seal the win. Over the final 5:30, the Wolves outscored Denver 19-10. Minny led 96-95 just before that point, but Hummel’s protection of the rim and seven points from Mo Williams kept the Nuggets from closing the gap.

Overall, the 18-22 Nuggets struggled to keep up with the win-hungry Timberwolves. Denver shot 41.3 percent from the field and grabbed only 39 rebounds on the night. Minnesota, on the other hand, seemed to hit its shots from all over the floor for one of the first times this season. At the end of the night, the Wolves shot 53.8 percent overall and an impressive 90.5 percent from the charity stripe. Their 3-point game was not too shabby, either. Wiggins landed 4-of-5 long balls, and the team ended with 42.1 percent from behind the arc.

Timberwolves fans are certainly feeling cautiously positive about the team’s performance this week, but buzz continues to grow surrounding Rubio’s impending return. Head Coach Flip Saunders gave little reassurance, saying they are taking every precaution and will not play the point guard before he is at 100 percent.

“Are we being cautious? Yeah. We just signed the guy to a $55 million contract,” Saunders said. “When he’s ready to go and the doctors say that he’s ready to really go, that’s when he’ll go.”

Saturday’s win improved Minnesota’s record to 7-32.

Up next: The Timberwolves will stay on the road for one more game, facing the Charlotte Hornets for a 1:00 p.m. tipoff on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Hornets are currently 15-25.

*Click here to hear Wiggins’ post-game interview.

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.