Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 16

The NBA’s top teams visit the Target Center this week ahead of NBA All-Star Weekend. (Credit: via Mashable - Marcio Jose Sanchez / Todd Kirkland, Associated Press)

The NBA’s top teams visit the Target Center this week ahead of NBA All-Star Weekend. (Credit: via Mashable – Marcio Jose Sanchez / Todd Kirkland, Associated Press)


Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to turn the corner and come into the final week before All-Star Weekend with a three game winning streak.  With a 11-40 record, the Wolves are staring down ping pong balls and not much more but they are playing well within the past week.  The Wolves have two more games ahead of All-Star Weekend and while both are at home, they may be the toughest two opponents in the league.  The Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors are this week’s match-ups and should provide the Wolves’ faithful a glimpse of solid fundamentals and exciting team basketball.

Here is a quick preview for both games:

Game 52: Monday, 2/9, 7pm – Atlanta Hawks @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

Owners of one of the longer winning streaks you will find in recent NBA history (19 games) the Hawks look to enter the All-Star break with the best record in the Eastern Conference and, potentially the entire NBA.  Atlanta beat the Pups back on 1/25, 112-100.  All five starters scored in double figures for the Hawks in that affair, as they shot 56% from the field.

While the Wolves were without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin for that game, it will be tough to beat one of the league’s strongest team defenses and best overall teams.

Opponent to watch:

Al Horford – One of the league’s best big men, Horford had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in the game against Minnesota, shooting 8-9 from the field in 31 minutes.  As Nikola Pekovic continues to round into form, he will need to use his muscle and punish Horford on both end of the floor.

Game 53: Wednesday, 2/11, 7pm – Golden State Warriors @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The most exciting team to watch in the NBA frequents the Target Center just ahead of All-Star Weekend.  The Warriors put up over 110 points per game on average and this game could lead to a 240 points plus combined.  Don’t miss this game if you like offense!

Opponent to watch:

Stephen Curry – Are we beyond the statute of limitations on “what could have been?!” here?  I can’t decide.  Curry has been lights out this season, leading the team in points, assists, and steals.  I hate to even say it, but most importantly, Curry hasn’t missed a game all season.


A short, but very tough week for our Pups.  Hopefully everyone can stay healthy and get the necessary rest and relaxation during the All-Star break so that the team can come back with a positive attitude and finish the season on some type of strong note.  Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 96, Atlanta Hawks 104

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Another fourth-quarter lead, another fourth-quarter lead squandered. Following their emphatic victory over Houston on Saturday, the Minnesota Timberwolves got off to another fast start in Atlanta, possessing at one time an 18-point lead in the second-quarter and leading the Hawks at the half 58-44. With Rick Adelman still on personal leave due to family matters, the Pups were outsmarted in the second half and ultimately fell in Atlanta by a score of 104-96.

Al Horford scored a game-high 28 points and Minnesota had no answer for him defensively. Still without Nikola Pekovic who continues to sit due to a right thigh contusion, the Timberwolves desperately missed their bruiser in the middle. In his place, Greg Stiemsma got another start at center and played well despite his limited offensive game. For the second straight game, Stiemsma recorded 5 rebounds and 2 blocks, but this time he was able to provide 11 points as well. In 28 minutes, he was the only Timberwolves starter with a positive plus-minus (+5).

After stealing the show with his impressive Timberwolves debut against the Rockets, recently signee Chris Johnson committed 5 fouls in a mere 10 minutes and was held to only 4 points. Johnson, who hit both of his field goal attempts, has still not missed a field goal attempt for the Wolves.

The other 10-day man, Mickael Gelabale, played very well but only received 16 minutes of playing time despite making all 3 of his field goal attempts, including 1 of the teams combined 5 three-point conversions. After receiving fourth-quarter minutes over the likes of Derrick Williams last game against Houston, D-Will was on the court during crunch time while Gelabale watched the Wolves blow another late-game lead. I understand that Williams was playing very well up until the fourth-quarter, as he scored all of his 17 points through the first three quarters before being shutout in the fourth. I also understand that the team may be giving D-Will more minutes in order to potentially showcase him to other teams, but the decision to keep Gelabale on the bench when he was one of our only players drilling perimeter shots was a very confusing decision to me.

Dante Cunningham returned from illness and scored 13 points (6-10 FG) with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and only 1 turnover in 26 minutes. It was nice to get DC Hustle back to the roster, and he provided good energy in his time on the floor. Andrei Kirilenko once again did a little bit of everything, scoring 13 points (3-8 FG) with 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in 35 minutes. However, he turned the ball over 6 times and was out of control on many of his drives to the basket.

Having received 30 minutes of playing time on Saturday, Ricky Rubio played 25 minutes and looked timid to shoot the ball all night. Despite tallying 6 assists, Rubio scored 5 points on only 4 shot attempts, choosing to defer to a teammate even when presented with plenty of scoring opportunities. His partner in the starting backcourt, Luke Ridnour, played pretty well in 34 minutes of playing time, scoring 12 points (5-13 FG) with 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and 3 steals.

JJ Barea had a nice game up until the end, when he made yet another crucial turnover with the game seperated by only 4 points with a few minutes remaining in the fourth-quarter. JJ was a team-high +6 on the floor and dazzled Atlanta fans with a few fancy finishes in traffic at the rim. Barea finished with 14 points (6-11 FG), 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 turnovers in 23 minutes.

Keys of the Game

  • Three-point Shooting: ATL 10-16, MN 5-14 – Minnesota did a poor job of making in-game adjustments to cover Atlanta shooters Kyle Korver and Jannero Pargo, and each shooter had plenty of open looks which contributed to Atlanta shooting 62.5% as a team from deep. Korver has been drilling open three-pointers year after year, and he will continue to punish teams that do not close out properly. Former Pup Anthony Tolliver scored all of his 6 points drilling both of his three-point attempts.JJ Barea led the Pups with 2 three-pointers, and the rest of the team managed to convert on only 3 more. Depending on what the Timberwolves’ strategy for the rest of the season is, it may be time to start to put serious consideration into trading for a player like JJ Redick.
  • Passing (Team Assists): ATL 32, MN 24 – Ball movement was crucial to Atlanta’s second-half success in the half court offense, and their passing into the interior helped establish Al Horford on the low block and around the rim. One of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, Atlanta’s offense depends on a series on screens designed to get their shooters open, and starting PG Jeff Teague did a very good job of finding open teammates on the perimeter. Teague led the Hawks with 10 assists.
  • Bench Scoring: ATL 55, MN 38 – This game came down to a battle of depth, and Atlanta took advantage of the Wolves’ injury-depleted roster with help from Pargo, Korver, and Mike Scott. Scott, a rookie out of Virginia, scored a career high 11 points and pulled down 7 rebounds while bringing good energy off of the bench for a Hawks team that got off to a slow start.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Al Horford: Quite a productive night on both ends of the floor for Horford, who was the beneficiary of some impressive high-low passing from his teammates, particularly Josh Smith. The Florida product made mincemeat of what remains of Minnesota’s depleted frontcourt, and hit 12 of his 20 field goal attempts on his way to a game-high 28 points. On the defensive end, Horford swatted 3 shots and recorded 2 steals while pulling down 10 rebounds in 38 minutes. The oft-injured center for Atlanta has found a way to stay healthy this season having now played in 39 of the team’s 41 games so far.
  2. Jannero Pargo: Minnesota is not the only team getting help from their 10-day players. After being signed to a 10-day contract on Monday morning, Pargo returned to Atlanta and hit 4 of his 5 three-point attempts, helping to fuel a fourth quarter comeback and securing the win with some clutch shooting. The 33-year-old veteran came through for a Hawks team in desperate need of backcourt help, and finished with 16 points (6-11 FG), 4 assists and no turnovers in an impressive performance off the bench.
  3. Josh Smith: J-Smoove put on full display the evolution of his game since his earlier years in the league with his passing and shot selection against the Timberwolves, scoring only 10 points (5-8 FG) but tallying 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Smith was a master at finding Horford moving around in the paint, and established a dominant high-low game with Horford which dissected the Timberwolves defense in the second half. In 34 minutes, Smith was a game-high +18 on the floor.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Atlanta Hawks, 1/21/13

MLK DaySetting the stage:

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Timberwolves will play against the Atlanta Hawks.  In what has become a longstanding tradition for the NBA, Monday’s game will be played in the afternoon given the Martin Luther King holiday.

The Wolves travel to Atlanta off a … baffling (?) astonishing (?)  miraculous (?) … surprising win on Thursday night against the Rockets, moving their record to 17-20 on the season.  Despite being severely undermanned, the Pups completely outplayed the Rockets throughout the game and were led by AK47 and two players that weren’t even in the NBA 24 hours prior to tipoff.  Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson played significant minutes and made significant contributions in the team’s win.

January has not been kind to the Hawks.  They have lost 8 of their first 11 games this month, including the loss in Minnesota on 1/8.  They have dropped to the six seed in the East and their record coming into Monday’s game is 22-18.  This past Friday the team announced that they have lost Lou Williams for the season with a torn ACL.  This puts more pressure on Jeff Teague and Devin Harris to come through and carry their backcourt the rest of the way.

Player to watch:

Josh Smith – Which Josh Smith shows up is likely the key to this game.  Will we see the efficient player that can look like an all-world athlete or we see the player that falls in love with jump shots and long range bombs?  Josh has the potential to be a double-double machine but takes nights off and isn’t always “there” when on the court.  We’ll probably see AK47 on Smith much more than DWill.

Match-up to watch:

Greg Stiemsma vs. Al Horford.  Horford is putting up approximately 15 & 10 this season and will be a handful for Stiemsma to try to contain.  A “small”, quick center like Horford could give the Greg fits around the basket.  With Nikola Pekovic sidelined, it will be important for Stiemsma to be able to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble.


I have no idea what to expect night in and night out anymore from the Wolves, so take this with a grain of salt.

Final score prediction: Twolves 96, Hawks 91

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Derrick Williams
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Al Horford

Let’s go Wolves!