Recap – Timberwolves 111, Nets 81

Friday night's "Battle of the Kevin's" at Target Center (Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

Friday night’s “Battle of the Kevin’s” at Target Center
(Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

The Timberwolves were back on the Target Center floor Friday night and welcomed in a few familiar faces, as Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko returned to Minnesota with their Brooklyn Nets teammates.  Kirilenko was ruled out because of another problem with his back, while the Nets were also missing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Jason Terry.  It hasn’t been a fun start to the season for Nets fans, that’s for sure.

There were no surprises or changes in the Pups’ starting five – Mr. Selena Gomez (I kid), Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Nets threw out Shaun Livingston (who has been quite the story), Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, KG, and Reggie Evans.

Game Summary

Despite falling way behind (2-0), the Timberwolves pulled out Friday night’s game against a beaten down Brooklyn Nets team.  With an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game, the Wolves woke up and played lights out basketball for the rest of the night.  This was a laugher by midway through the third quarter, with the Wolves winning by a cool 30 points.

First Half 

You really couldn’t ask for a better storybook opening, as KG won the tap and posted up Kevin Love in the paint.  He quickly turned around and hit the short jumper to give the Nets the 2-0 lead.  That concludes all Nets highlights from the first half, as the Timberwolves poured it on.  Despite two quick fouls and a trip to the bench for Ricky Rubio, the Pups were able to jump on the Nets early and often.  The game got off to a slow start offensively, as the Wolves held an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game … after six-plus minutes of action.

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 30-14 lead, as Love hit a short jumper at the buzzer after JJ Barea drove to the basked as the clock wound down, lost control of the ball and flipped it behind his back, only to find Love’s hands.  Love finished the quarter with 9 points and 11 rebounds.  Again, we’re talking about the 1st quarter only.

The good times continued to roll for the Pups throughout much of the 2nd quarter.  Barea and Rubio both played well and ran Adelman’s offense.  Love and Nikola Pekovic were dominant in the paint.  Had the Wolves’ wings shot the ball a little bit better, the game would have looked even worse than the halftime score would suggest.  At the break, the Wolves held a 57-37 advantage at halftime.

Here are a few additional notes at half-time:

  • Kevin Martin’s shooting is a little off this past week.  At halftime, Martin was 2-11 from the field for 6 points
  • Corey Brewer also put up 11 shots in the first half, including 5 three pointers.  Honestly, that might be a bit too much
  • KG finished the half with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block – old-school KG in the house!

Second Half

We’re going to make this really easy – the Nets never made the game interesting and the Wolves blew away Brooklyn.  With the starters playing throughout the 4th quarter – more on this later – the Pups simply ran away.  They outscored the Nets 33-21 in the quarter and took a 90-58 lead into the 4th quarter.

After some Twitter pleading, Adelman finally went to his bench (read: doghouse) and put in Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, and company.  Gorgui Dieng looked the most promising in the 4th quarter, blocking three shots and active on the offensive end of the floor as well (5 points & 3 rebounds).  The final score in this monstrosity of a game was 111-81.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – Dominant on the boards, Love finished with 17 and 16 in only 28 minutes of action.
  2. Nikola Pekovic – 15 & 7 for the big man, who really dominated the paint early and often.
  3. Kevin Garnett – This should go to Brewer, but just in case this is KG’s last game at Target Center, his 8 & 8 put him in our “Three Stars”.

Need another reason, here you go:

Key Takeaways

  • The Nets had a lot of injuries, but that was an effortless showing.  Jason Kidd probably won’t be fired this season, but he probably deserves to be.  This team has “Washington Redskins” written all over it – big contracts, no continuity … changes every single season.
  • Hopefully Kevin Martin’s shooting comes back real soon … as in, tomorrow in Houston soon.
  • The rest the starters received tonight should bode well for tomorrow’s game – thankfully they didn’t have to play big minutes going into a relatively big game tomorrow night (on NBA TV).

Analyzing How The Timberwolves Stack Up In The Western Conference

Is a core of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic strong enough to carry Minnesota to the playoffs? (Brace Hemmelgarn, Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Is a core of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic strong enough to carry Minnesota to the playoffs? (Brace Hemmelgarn, Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

So far this offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves have made a splash in both the draft and free agency. The Wolves started things off by drafting first-round picks Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, both of whom could provide solid minutes off the bench this next season while being potential  future starters. Shabazz has a high ceiling due to his play-making abilities on offense and Dieng has the body to become an elite defender in the NBA.

In free agency, the Timberwolves were able to sign UFA Kevin Martin to a four year, $28 million deal to fill the void as the new starter at shooting guard. The former sixth man from OKC brings perimeter shooting that the Wolves desperately need as he shot a tremendous 43% from behind the arc last season. In addition, the Wolves were able to bring back RFA Chase Budinger who also brings strong perimeter shooting and an extensive knowledge of Rick Adelman’s corner offense. In addition, former Timberwolves lottery pick Corey Brewer is also back to help replace some of Andrei Kirilenko‘s defensive versatility after playing an integral part to Denver’s terrific season in 2012-13. It is safe to say that Flip Saunders has assembled a very talented offensive roster that could very well make a playoff push come next spring.

Remaining on the agenda is the status of RFA Nikola Pekovic, who has still not found common ground with Timberwolves brass on a long-term deal that could keep the Montenegrin in Minnesota for another four seasons. Despite the current lack of a deal, it remains unlikely that Pekovic decides to leave millions on the table and instead signing his one year tender that would pay him around $6 million this season while allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. It remains very unlikely that Pek signs his one year tender as he would be taking a significant risk walking away from a $50+ million contract, especially considering his injury history. It will be very important for Flip to find common ground with Pek’s camp in order to find a mutually beneficial resolution to the extended negotiations, given how important of a piece he will be for Minnesota this season and in the future.

Is it be possible that this may be an inopportune time for the Wolves to significantly improve? As ridiculous as that may sound, let us take a peek at next season. With the hard cap created in the latest CBA, there are significant ramifications that result from the luxury tax largely as it applies to small market franchises. As it stands right now, the Timberwolves will have very little flexibility going forward for adding any more high-impact players. If their free agent additions fail to produce or if injuries continue to plague the team as they have in previous seasons, the Pups may miss out on both a playoff spot and a high spot in the draft. That would not bode well for the future of the team as the 2014 NBA Draft is considered by many experts to be the best draft in the past decade. The draft boasts high-end talent that includes Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Chris Walker, Aaron Gordan, Gary Harris, and the Harrison twins. There is a chance that multiple teams may draft their next superstar with a high selection, but having a pick in the 10-14 range would mean missing out on both a postseason run and a top end talent. With all of the talent and depth the Wolves have accumulated, it is very likely that Minnesota will miss out on players that could fundamentally change the franchise. As Minnesota is in clear win-now mode, it is somewhat unfortunate that the first time in a decade that the team does not appear in the NBA lottery may very well end up being the most important lottery to be apart of.

It is interesting to note that the last time the Timberwolves made a significant run in the playoffs in 2003, it ended up being arguably the greatest draft class in NBA history. Just look at some of these names: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and David West were some of the players selected before Minnesota who held the 26th overall pick. They ultimately selected Ndudi Ebi, who proved to be a completely useless asset for the franchise. While it is not guaranteed that 2014 will bring as many studs as 2003 did, it is initially alarming to think about history repeating itself.

The Western Conference currently boasts a highly competitive group of teams that will make it increasingly difficult to make it to the postseason. At the top there are the unquestionable contenders, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. The Thunder have arguably two of the top five best players in the NBA with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.  The Spurs are coming off of an NBA Finals defeat in which they played the Miami Heat incredibly close despite ultimately coming up short. However, they will be returning all of their core players and should be a force yet again next season. The Grizzlies have only added pieces around their core and remain one of the most defensively oriented teams in the NBA, a strength that makes them one of the most unique teams in the league. Coming off of their memorable playoff run, Golden State was able to add a new starting small forward in All-Star Andre Igoudala to complement their sharp-shooting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Clippers took care of their offseason priorities by re-signing Chris Paul while also addressing their needs at shooting guard by signing sharpshooter JJ Redick away from Milwaukee. Los Angeles also gained depth at small forward after trading for swingman Jared Dudley. Houston made arguably the biggest addition of the summer after signing Dwight Howard and have now positioned themselves as a championship contender with the addition of the best center in the NBA. Pairing Dwight with Chandler Parsons and James Harden will be interesting to observe to say the least.

Fighting for the final spots in the West with the Wolves will likely be between the Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and the Denver Nuggets. The Portland’s young lineup is set to make a playoff run this season as they are bringing back their entire starting five. Dallas and New Orleans have both completely revamped their rosters and should be the biggest wildcards of the Western Conference, while Denver has undergone a complete turnover of their management and coaching staff while losing a number of key players. Obviously, as shown by the Los Angeles Lakers last season it is nearly impossible to predict the playoff standings. It is no guarantee that even with their improved roster and a full season of good health from both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, there is enough competition and talent in the West to keep Minnesota from snapping their streak of missing the postseason.

In the end, I am happy that the Wolves are going to be a competitive ball club next season. It’s about DAMN time! But there is always a price to being competitive that could negatively impact our future, just as it did in 2003.

Timberwolves 2013-14 Schedule Released!

Timberwolves 2013-14 Schedule Decisions, Decisions ...

Timberwolves 2013-14 Schedule
Decisions, Decisions …

After a few weeks’ worth of delays, the NBA finally unveiled the 2013-14 schedule/calendar.  You can find the full Timberwolves’ schedule here on Timberwolves.com.  On Monday, the team released their preseason schedule as well.

The preseason officially begins on 10/7 with a game at the Target Center against CSKA Moscow.  Who will Alexey Shved, Vladimir Putin, and Eric Snowden be rooting for?  Tune in to find out.  The Wolves will actually travel a good amount during the preseason, playing in Toronto, Montreal, South Dakota, Philadelphia, and Detroit.  They will only have one other preseason game at the Target Center (10/12 against Toronto). [Read more...]

Timberwolves Sign Ronnie Turiaf

Flip Saunders remains heavily involved in free agency, as agent Mark Bartelstein announced that his client, Ronnie Turiaf, has agreed to a two year deal with the Timberwolves.  The deal is reportedly worth $3.2 million over the two years.

Ronnie Turiaf is an eight year veteran who most recently played with the Clippers last season.  The Timberwolves will be his seventh team in those eight seasons.  While his stats may be unimpressive, Turiaf is a player that knows and accepts his role on a team and is willing to do what is needed of him.  Most specifically, that role is play strong defense in the middle and grab a few rebounds, allowing the starting frontcourt to get a breather.

What does this mean for the Timberwolves?  Quite honestly, I can’t remember an offseason when they have been so active.  Assuming Nikola Pekovic is back and the team can stay relatively healthy over the course of the season, the Wolves are a virtual lock to make the playoffs.  The roster has never been this deep before.  While the ‘03/’04 team was more talented at the top, this coming season’s roster is stronger from top to bottom in my opinion. [Read more...]

Corey Brewer to Sign with Timberwolves, Pekovic Still Working on Deal

Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Wolves are close to signing both free agent swingman Corey Brewer and RFA center Nikola Pekovic. Pek’s deal is an extension that is pressumed to be in the four-year, $50 million range and Brewer’s new contract is expected to be around $15 million over three years.

Brewer was drafted by the Wolves in 2007 and played 3+ seasons with the team before being included in the three-team trade that sent him, Carmelo Anthony and pieces to the Knicks while bringing Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota. Brewer was immediately waived by the Knicks before playing a game and ultimately signed with the Dallas Mavericks in March of the 2011 season. Even though Brewer played in only thirteen games, he became an NBA Champion as the Mavs defeated the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Following the season, Brewer was traded to the Denver Nuggets where he averaged 10.7PPg in 141 games. The 6-foot-9 SG/SF is a lengthy and pesky perimeter defender who has a knack for releasing quickly for easy transition buckets. [Read more...]

Does Alan Anderson Make Sense for the Timberwolves?

RON TURENNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

RON TURENNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Who is Alan Anderson?

As some Minnesotans may recall, Anderson was Minnesota’s 2001 Metro Player of the Year playing for DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis. After accepting a full ride scholarship to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Anderson became an immediate contributor as he appeared in every game during his freshman year averaging 24.5 minutes per game. A four-year starter in East Lansing, he appeared in the 2005 Final Four and was voted co-team MVP during his senior season by his teammates.

After not hearing his name called in the 2005 NBA Draft, Anderson lingered between Charlotte and Tulsa playing for the Bobcats and their D-League affiliate 66′ers for two seasons before eventually signing with VidiVici Bologna in Italy. He became somewhat of a journeyman playing with four European teams in the next three years, but made his return to the states in 2010 after being selected 2nd overall by the New Mexico Thunderbirds in the NBA Developmental Draft. In only ten games, Anderson averaged 21.1 points – the third best scoring average in the league – while also contributing 5.8 rebounds and 5 assists per game. He shot 53.1% from the field, 38% from beyond-the-arc and 81.8% from the charity stripe during his time with the Thunderbirds. [Read more...]

Timberwolves Free Agency Plans

Will OJ Mayo "rejoin" the Timberwolves?

Will OJ Mayo “rejoin” the Timberwolves?

At midnight, July 1st, the circus known as NBA free agency begins.  The Timberwolves are looking to be very active this offseason and clearly have a few priorities to take care of over the next few days.  Here is one perspective on what the Timberwolves free agency plans should or could be.

First, some quick housecleaning.  There were two moves announced over the past couple of days that play a pivotal role in what Flip Saunders and company do in free agency.  This past Friday, the team announced that they have picked up the option on Dante Cunningham’s contract for this coming season.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as Dante played a key role for the team this past season and is a welcomed face and presence on and off the court for the team. [Read more...]