Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 1 of 2014/15

Flip's the man in charge!  (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

Flip’s the man in charge! (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

Setting the stage:

The Timberwolves are back and fans have their #EyesOnTheRise!  Welcome to the start of the 2014/15 NBA season and our weekly preview here at Timberpups.com.  While this is very likely to be a year of transition, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine joining the club and being paired with Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, and Gorgui Dieng.  With other pieces remaining in the mix from last season, the Wolves have a decent balance of youth and veteran experience.  Who remains with the club throughout the season, past the trade deadline and into the next few years is a bit of question mark.  However, there is excitement in the air and that should be carried over to the crowds filling into the Target Center in the days and weeks ahead.

Below you will find a brief preview of each game on the schedule, along with who to watch for and a prediction on the outcome.  The quest for an 82-0 season begins soon and we’ll see how long the team can stay at that pace.

Game 1: Wednesday, 10/29, 7pm – Pups @ Memphis Grizzlies (TV: FS North)

Look at this – the Wolves don’t open another season against the Sacramento Kings!  The Grizzlies are coming off of its second 50+ wins season.  The Grizz took the OKC Thunder to a seventh game in the first round of the playoffs but failed to advance.

Memphis has added several interesting pieces to their roster this season, including Vince Carter and Earl Clark.  While the Wolves turned the corner and gave up on the failed and flawed ‘playoffs or bust’ philosophy, the Grizzlies continue to look for ways to advance in the postseason.

Opponent to watch:

Mike Conley – Conley is entering his eighth season in the NBA and with the Grizzlies.  Conley really beat up Rubio and the Wolves’ backup Point Guards last season, averaging 17.5ppg and 6.3rpg.

Predictions:

This is a tough start for the Wolves, playing on the road and against a veteran club that looks to make some noise in the Western Conference this season.  Final score: Grizzlies 95, Timberwolves 84

Game 2: Thursday, 10/30, 7pm – Detroit Pistons @ Pups (TV: FS North)

The Wolves’ home opener is against a team that has struggled to build an identity over the past handful of seasons and has thrown free agency money around with no sense of direction.  Enter Stan Van Gundy as the new coach and a new philosophy.

While there are players that can fill up the box score in the Pistons lineup, there doesn’t seem to be much chemistry with the club.  Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are all interesting players for your NBA fantasy team, but they aren’t leading to many victories for the Pistons.

Monroe had an interesting offseason in which he was charged with a DUI and suspended two games, so he won’t be in uniform against the Wolves.  He also turned down a contract extension from the club and is playing on the one year, qualifying offer.

Opponent to watch:

Andre Drummond – Drummond enters his third season in the NBA and has shown signs of continued improvement in the preseason.  Andre averaged 13.5ppg and 13.2rpg last season, starting all 81 of the games he played in.  It will be a nice litmus test for both Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng to see how they match up with the Pistons big man.

Predictions:

With the absence of Monroe and a fired up Target Center, the Wolves have a good chance to pull off the victory.  The Pistons will also be flying into Minnesota off of a Wednesday night game, having to face the Nuggets in Denver less than 24 hours prior to tip-off of Thursday’s action.  Final score: Timberwolves 95, Pistons 91

Game 3: Saturday, 11/1, 7pm – Chicago Bulls @ Pups (TV: NBA TV & FSN Plus)

Assuming they can stay healthy – and that is a big assumption to make – the Chicago Bulls are one of a handful of legitimate contenders for the NBA Championship this season.  The team will be looking to fix what looked to be broken at the end of last year, after losing the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs (without Derrick Rose).

Opponent to watch:

Pau Gasol – One of, if not the most underappreciated players in today’s game, Gasol left the Lakers to join the Bulls for a chance at another run at a ring.  Gasol will team with DPOY Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to make for one of the more dominant frontline rotations in the NBA.

Predictions:

The Wolves will have a hard time keeping pace with the Bulls.  Final score: Bulls 113, Timberwolves 96

Wrap-up:

The Wolves face two very tough teams to open the season in the Grizzlies and Bulls.  I am hoping they are able to showcase their young talent in the home opener and get the fanbase excited early.  A win against the Pistons club would mean “a lot”.

Let’s go Wolves!

Recap – Timberwolves 114, Pistons 101

The Pistons wouldn't dare hire this man ... would they?! (Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The Pistons wouldn’t dare hire this man … would they?!
(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

 

Coming off a loss that I’m going to try to stop thinking about Wednesday night against the Knicks, The Timberwolves entered Friday night’s affair with a 30-30 record.  The 24-37 Pistons took to the Target Center floor amidst rumors of Isiah Thomas weaseling his way into the Motor City and knocking Joe Dumars out of a job.  Only one of those two thoughts should be a reality (hint: it’s the latter).  The Pistons had lost 8 of 10 coming into tonight’s action, affording the Wolves another opportunity to capitalize.

No surprises for the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Pistons opened up with Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.

First Half 

Perhaps due to their #WolvesKlondike contest on social media (kidding … and I missed by one basket at the end!) the Wolves tried to feed Nikola Pekovic early.  However, it was Kevin Martin who got off to a hot start, scoring six of the team’s first eight points.  The Wolves caught a break early with Greg Monroe picking up two quick fouls.  With that, Minnesota was off and running taking a 17-9 into the first timeout.

Here is what you need to know about the remainder of the 1st quarter: the Wolves only shot three 3PT’ers (hitting two of them) and had 39 points in the first twelve minutes.  How?  They attacked the rim time and time again.  This lead to 9-11 on the FT line and shooting over 50% from the field in the opening frame.  That may have been the best execution I have seen this season, as the Wolves took a 39-21 lead into the break.

As Adelman went further and further down the bench, the Pups managed to maintain their double digit advantage.  I’ve verbally abused (on the internet) JJ Barea over the past two months (note: deservedly) but he had a nice run in the quarter, dropping 4 points and 5 assists in his first stint on the floor.  Going into a timeout, the Wolves held a 61-38 and the Pistons body language was already showing signs of giving up.

With the score 66-45 at the break, here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • The Wolves bench had 24 points at the half, led by Barea, LRMAM, and Chase Budinger.  The team really needs to see Budinger make significant steps over the remainder of the season.
  • He makes it really easy to make fun of him, but who else on the roster is Brandon Jennings going to rely on to score consistently?  Key word, “consistently”.

Second Half 

Things didn’t get any better for the Pistons to start the 3rd quarter.  In fact, it got worse.  From the scoreboard, to their effort, and to their body language, everything looked to be going downhill for Detroit.  The Pistons called their first timeout of the half after falling behind 77-51.

Here is what you need to know about the rest of the quarter: it was great from a Wolves’ perspective and it was mortifying from a Pistons’ view.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wolves held a 97-69 advantage.  Oddly enough, it felt about 1.3 times worse than this.  I spent most of the quarter talking to Wolves Twitter and could barely keep my eyes on the game.

In typical Wolves-bench fashion, they had an opportunity for extended playing time in the 4th quarter and managed to look god-awful in the process.  The Pistons got off to a 13-2 run, forcing Adelman to burn a timeout with about 7 minutes left in the game so that he could bring back the starters.  The Pistons cut it to an 11 point advantage but the Wolves were able to hold on to the victory.

(What you are not seeing here is an epic JJ Barea rant.  He deserves one, but I’m going to check in with Al on how he feels about a full write-up dedicated to this.)

Final score, 114-101 – with the win moving the Pups record to 31-30 on the season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – 28 & 14 and a nice game shooting (10-18 from the field)
  2. Kevin Martin – Had it going early and opened this game up for the Wolves
  3. Ricky Rubio – Closed in a triple-double with 11 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds 

Key Takeaways

  • There are two key takeaways from this game from a Wolves’ perspective … what was a laugher of a game became way too close for comfort due to the struggles of the bench yet again.  Barea and Dante Cunningham are absolute shadows of themselves and what they are bringing to the team this season vs. what they have in the past.
  • The attitude (I’ll keep it PG-rated) of Barea is beyond nauseating.  He could save a family from a burning building and find a way to annoy me at this point.  Fair?  Maybe not.  Deserved?  I think so.