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.

Predictions:

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!

Minnesota Timberwolves 92, Houston Rockets 79

Newly signed Timberpup Chris Johnson received "M-V-P" chants from a Timberwolves fan base in need of optimism (Photo credit; David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Newly signed Timberpup Chris Johnson received “M-V-P” chants from a Timberwolves fan base in need of optimism (Photo credit; David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Game Summary

What a difference a few more healthy bodies can make. Coming into the Target Center on a 5-game losing streak, the Timberwolves fended off a slumping Houston Rockets team that has now lost 7 straight games. Playing without Dante Cunningham (illness), Alexey Shved (left ankle sprain) and Nikola Pekovic (right thigh contusion), the Wolves saw huge contributions from newly signed players Mikael Gelabale and Chris Johnson, both of which recently received 10-day contracts to fill in for the numerous injured bodies the Pups have this season.

The Timberwolves got in front early thanks to some poor shooting by the Rockets. After scoring 30 points in his previous matchup against the Pups, James Harden was ice cold last night and was 5 for 18 from the field, including a miserable 0 of 7 from three. Given a mismatch playing opposite of Timberwolves starting SG Luke Ridnour, Harden was unable to use his size advantage to exploit the 6-foot-2 Ridnour. To the Timberwolves credit, they did a very good job helping on defense and effectively neutralized the Rockets’ new superstar.

Leaving his Spanish league team in Valencia, Spain, Mikael Gelabale played 21 minutes in his first game for the Timberwolves and did what was asked of him despite not being familiar with the offensive or defensive sets. The long and athletic French small forward previously played two seasons for the Seattle Supersonics before a torn ACL suspended his NBA career. With Minnesota more injury-riddled than ever, the swingman was once again given an opportunity to earn an NBA contract and I have to say he made a good case for a rest of year contract with his performance last night. Gelabale finished his Wolves debut with 11 points on 3-6 shooting, 4 rebounds and 1 assist without turning the ball over.

Ricky Rubio was able to contribute 30 minutes last night, which marks the most minutes he has played in a game this season. Having Ricky on the floor for the fourth quarter drastically improves the Pups’ ability to manage games, and a few torn knee ligaments were not enough to take away from his late-game poise. It is still blatantly obvious that Rubio’s knee is continuing to give him trouble in his acceleration and on his cuts, but he is undoubtedly improving. If Ricky can avoid any setbacks and get back to nearly full strength following the All-Star break, I completely believe that the playoffs are by no means out of reach. Tricky Ricky ended the night with 7 points on 1-3 shooting, 6 assists, 1 rebound and 2 turnovers.

Facing against a weak opposing frontcourt due to Omer Asik being in foul trouble, Minnesota’s starting frontcourt of Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma played very strong defense holding Houston’s starting frontcourt to only 5 points. Stiemsma, a defensive specialist, was +20 on the floor and contributed 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in nearly 22 minutes. Williams was inconsistent on the offensive end and highlighted his struggles finishing at the rim with a missed layup in transition that infuriated the Pups’ coaching staff. However, he did provide 11 points and 5 rebounds and was +12 on the floor. Williams’ inability to finish at the rim continues to baffle anyone who watches the Wolves play, and I simply do not understand why someone so athletic and coordinated cannot get the ball in the hoop from 5 feet and in. Relatively speaking, Williams’ problems are not as concerning as other problems he may have in his transition to the NBA game, because I think that with time it is totally fixable. In the meantime, his struggles around the rim are hurting the Timberwolves chances in closer games, and he needs to begin to knock down his high percentage chances if the Wolves are to make a legitimate run at the playoffs.

Last night saw huge performances from both Andrei Kirilenko and……Chris Johnson?! Yeah, I was just as shocked as everyone else watching last night by the play from the virtually unknown D-Leaguer who recently signed a 10-day contract with Minnesota. For those who did not see the game, Johnson reminds me of an Anthony Randolph without the “sad dog” face. Standing at 6-foot-11 and weighing in at a thin 220ish pounds, Johnson is very athletic and showed off his bounce with some very fun-to-watch slam dunks coming off screens and off offensive rebounds. Despite his lack of great strength, he held his own on defense and literally brought Minnesota fans to their feet on multiple occasions last night. I am excited to see his next game, because I hate getting overly optimistic from such a small sample size. Regardless, last night’s performance was encouraging to say the least. Oh yeah, and he even received a “M-V-P” chant during a pair of free throws.

Keys of the game

  • Personal Fouls - Houston 29, MN 19: Foul trouble was a big factor in the second half, especially the third period as Minnesota was in the penalty for much of the third period and took advantage of their chances at the free throw line. As a team, the Pups shot 29 for 36 from the charity stipe, good for 81%. After having a big night against the Timberwolves in the previous matchup of the two teams, Rockets center Omer Asik had a very quiet night due to foul trouble which limited him to just under 16 minutes of playing time. And although the Wolves did not have Nikola Pekovic in the lineup to take advantage of Asik being on the bench, newcomer Chris Johnson contributed a tremendous debut performance on both ends of the floor.
  • Turnovers – Houston 20, MN 15: Too many unforced errors for the Rockets who are clearly out of rhythm offensively in the midst of a 7-game slide. With James Harden struggling to produce offensively, there has been increased strain on secondary players to make plays, which has in turn led to too many turnovers. As Ricky Rubio continues to get stronger and play more minutes, the Pups have done an increasingly better job of securing the basketball and making smarter passes.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Chris Johnson: Johnson was the spark that fueled not only the Timberwolves players, but also a home crowd that was in desperate need of optimism. In a home environment that almost sounded eerily quiet at times, Johnson gave Minnesotans a reason to stand up and scream due to his emphatic slam dunks and timely defense. Although it was only one game, Johnson gave the Timberwolves a reason to smile. In only 18 minutes played, the big man out of LSU recorded 15 points on 4-4 shooting (7-8 FT), 6 rebounds and 1 block.
  2. Andrei Kirilenko: It is very difficult to properly put into words what AK-47 has meant to this ballclub this season. With a track record for being injury-prone, Kirilenko has been the team’s rock and most consistent player up to this point in the season. AK held opposing SF Chandler Parsons to 7 points on 2-10 shooting, while netting 21 points on 8-11 shooting with 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in 42 minutes.
  3. Luke Ridnour: Ridnour has seen big improvement in his game ever since being moved to starting SG with Rubio starting alongside him at PG. It is very evident that at this point in his career, Luke is much more suited to play the SG position. In 36 minutes, he finished with 16 points on 6-13 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves 92 – New Orleans Hornets 104

We’re live from a couch in New Jersey for tonight’s game “recap”.  The Wolves finally play on a Friday night and it happens to come from one of my favorite cities in the US, New Orleans.  Throw in a week in Mexico City and we’ve decided to go with a running diary of tonight’s events.  Let us know what you think about this style of game recap as it is something I would be willing to do for future Friday night games.  As an added bonus, I’ll timestamp everything using the Central time zone.  “You’re welcome America!” – Will Ferrell

7:00pm (CT):  We’re live from the couch with our friend Arthur Guinness.  NBA LP is providing the Hornets/Pelicans broadcast, which allows me another opportunity to complain about how poor LP is relative to MLB.TV and the NFL’s Sunday Ticket.  MLB.TV allows you to pick the broadcast you want to listen to every night.  This really can’t happen for NBA LP?  What year is it again?

7:05: The Hornets broadcast highlights that their team is fully healthy tonight and they have everyone available.  Conversely, earlier tonight the Wolves reported that Lazar Hayward is also out with the flu and the team is down to 9 players for tonight’s game.  We’re probably two weeks away from plucking someone from the stands to play a few minutes.

7:09: Twolves starters = Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Cunningham, and Pekovic.  Hornets starters = Vasquez, Gordon, Aminu, Davis, and Lopez.

7:11: Pekovic opens the game with a ridiculous up and under that falls for the big guy and gives the Twolves a 2-0 lead.  Don’t worry I have no intention of recapping every point.

7:12: Pekovic is off to a huge start with three straight baskets against Lopez and we’ll probably see Anthony Davis move over to guard him in a few seconds.  Wolves lead 6-0.

7:14: The Hornets broadcast cover the Wolves’ injuries and is going in depth on Brandon Roy.  “Hi Arthur, how are you this evening?”

7:15: AK47 with four straight points via running the baseline and we have our first timeout of the game with the Pups up 13-9.

7:20: Real sloppy basketball for the past few minutes, followed by a couple of nice passes from Shved and Ridnour on the break leading to two FT’s for Kirilenko.  Who bricks the first and makes the second.  Wolves go up 16-9.

7:22: Shved with another nice pass to Pekovic for another bucket in the paint.

7:23: All 2,000 Hornets fans in the building didn’t like the foul called on Gordon against Pekovic.  That puts the Hornet in the penalty already and the Wolves up 20-9.

7:26: The Hornets finally score a bucket, breaking a 16-0 run by the Wolves, who hold a 25-11 lead going into the second timeout of the game.

7:29: Hornets broadcast shows Café du Monde coming back from a commercial break, immediately reminding me that I need to get back to New Orleans sooner rather than later.  If you haven’t been there … go!

7:34: At the end of the first quarter, the Pups lead by 15 points, 29-14.  That was a very ugly quarter from the Pelicans who turned the ball over way too much and gave up way too many points in the paint.

7:37: Derrick Williams just made a double pump layup driving to the basket off of a Rubio behind the back pass.  Read that sentence again and let’s hope that happens a lot over the next few weeks.

7:39: DWill!  That was his third basket in a row and goes to the line to make it a three point play.  The Wolves lead 36-19 and this diary may become a superstition for Friday games if this keeps up.

7:41: Jason Smith just leveled Rubio on a pick and just became the number one villain in the NBA … for at least a few hours.

19412_10151252295419261_1053462112_n7:44: Andre Kirilenko just faked Anthony Davis out of the gym for an easy bucket.  Beautiful post move there from AK47.

7:48: Anthony Davis tried to dunk the ball from about seven feet away and gets called for an offensive foul.  Yikes.

7:50: The Hornets are on a little bit of a run, cutting the lead to 13 points, 39-26, with a fast break layup leading to a Twolves timeout.

7:55: The Hornets continue their run before Pekovic gets an easy basket in the paint.  The Wolves lead 41-32.

8:02: At halftime, the Wolves lead 46-40 after a sloppy second quarter with too many turnovers.  I’m not sure what happened, but it seemed like Porter lost track of DWill on the bench after a very nice stint on the floor early in the second quarter.

8:17: We’re back for the second half!

8:18: The Hornets score the first four of the half and have the lead down to two.  Ugh!

8:21: Luke Ridnour just pulled up for a three pointer on the break and threw up an air ball.  Side note: I just did a few 12 ounce curls to finish my halftime workout.

8:24: Thankfully, Eric Gordon is still a little rusty and is missing a number of open looks.

8:25: With that said, the Hornets still tie the game at 50, leading to a Pups timeout.

8:31: We have the first lead of the night for the Hornets, 57-56.  Consider this your warning for the rest of the diary, as things could get ugly here.

8:33: Obviously, I hope everything is OK with Adelman’s wife and his personal life, but please return as soon as you can.  Terry Porter sitting on the bench throws his legs up in the air and yells at his players from his seat as Ryan Anderson flails his arms and gets a tip-in layup, giving the Hornets a 64-58 lead.

8:39: Dear Ricky Rubio, please start looking to take a jump shot a lot more often.

8:41: At the end of another abysmal third quarter from the Wolves, the Hornets lead 70-61.  Yes, that is a 27 point swing in this game.  (Walks to refrigerator…)

8:42: Apparently “The Rock” has a new movie coming out soon, as they just aired a WWE commercial coming to the New Orleans area with Dwayne in the promotion.

8:46: AK47 just drove to the lane and tried to windmill dunk over Jason Smith and missed.  However, he got the foul called and made them both.  The Wolves are still down 76-65.

8:48: Shved holding his arm after being fouled on the fast break as the game goes to a timeout.  At this point, they could announce “bone chips in his elbow, will not return” after the commercial break and I wouldn’t be surprised.

8:51: Shved is alive and makes both free throws to cut the lead to 9 points.  Let’s go Wolves!!

8:52: Why do arenas still play Kris Kross’ “Jump” going into jump balls?  There really hasn’t been a song since 1992 that is more or of equal fitting?

8:55: Driving DWill is much more appealing when compared to jump shooting DWill.

8:56: I’ll say it – Greg Stiemsma has been regressing since the third week of the season and looks awful these days.

9:00: Ridnour just launched a three pointer in transition, missed it, and then picked up a dumb foul on Jason Smith on the rebound, putting New Orleans in the bonus on the next foul.

9:07: The Pups cannot hit a three pointer to save their lives (2-16 for the game at this point).

9:08: Ridnour throws the ball away and seals the fate of this game with two minutes to go with the Hornets up 15.

9:10: Naturally, Ridnour just hit a three pointed to cut the lead to 10, which is virtually meaningless in the grand scheme of things (unless he gets hot over the next week).

9:12: Kirilenko hits another, meaningless three pointer for the Wolves.

9:13: Ridnour increases his shooting percentage as the buzzer sounds, but the Wolves lose in New Orleans 104-92.

This was a terrible loss for the team.  I can’t use injuries as an excuse anymore because the team is going to be dealing with significant injuries for the next two months.  For the first time this season, and note that I have missed the last few games, I don’t believe the Pups will make the playoffs this season.  There has to be a point where you say “mercy” on the injuries and I think that time has come.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Greivis Vasquez – 18 points and 13 assists.  The Hornets broadcast pushed for his candidacy for ‘Most Improved Player’ in the NBA and I have a hard time finding a rebuttal.
  2. Al-Farouq Aminu – 12 points and 13 rebounds to go with quick hands and athleticism.  He really outplayed AK47 tonight.
  3. Nikola Pekovic – 18 points for the Wolves and really just gets the nod because no one really stood out for either team in this game beyond Vasquez and Aminu.

Minnesota Timberwolves 108 – Atlanta Hawks 103

Photo Credit: (Hannah Foslien/Associated Press)

Photo Credit: (Hannah Foslien/Associated Press)

These Timberwolves know how to battle through adversity. With the news that Kevin Love may be facing season-ending surgery on his injured right wrist surfacing in the media, the Wolves battled past the 20-12 Atlanta Hawks 108-103 backed by strong offensive performances by Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko and Derrick Williams. With Rick Adelman missing the game due to personal reasons, Terry Porter coached the Timberpups in a decisive victory that rejuvenated Target Center fans in need of a lift.

Game Summary

Atlanta presented favorable matchups for Minnesota, as the Hawks’ offense is heavily dependent on three-point shooting and struggles in the interior. Luckily for the Pups, Atlanta turned the ball over 15 times to only 9 by Minnesota.

This game was won on the low block, where the Wolves scored nearly half of their total points (50) in the paint. The Hawks saw strong offensive performances from both Josh Smith and Al Horford, but received only 12 points from their second unit frontcourt. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s bigs led by Pekovic, Kirilenko and Williams did work in the half-court offense while Dante Cunningham and Greg Stiemsma provided excellent interior defense in 27 and 13 minutes, respectively.

A statistic that pops out to me is the Timberwolves 29 assists as a team on 40 made field goals, exclipsing their season average of 21 assists per game by 8. This is not meant to be a knock on K-Love, but the fact remains that the ball tends to move much quicker laterally without Love’s one-on-one offensive mindset on the floor. Obviously, this team misses Love’s versatility and ability to score one-on-one, but it is very nice to see this offense clicking through effective cutting and ball movement. Ricky Rubio led the team with 8 assits and Alexey Shved notched 7 dimes.

One may not have noticed from watching the game, but the Hawks actually out-rebounded the Pups 44-43 despite coming into the game as one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. Granted, many of their boards were the result of long rebounds of missed three-point attempts, but K-Love’s absence in the paint was definitely felt by Minnesota.

Entering the game as the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, the Wolves initially appeared to be at a great disadvantage against the 6th ranked Hawks from deep. However, Derrick Williams stepped up and knocked down 3 of his 5 attempts from range, including 7 of his 13 attempts from the field. D-Will leads the Timberwolves in three-point shooting percentage and is now sitting at 40%. Pretty impressive improvement from the 21-year-old.

Following his 18-point fourth quarter against Portland, Williams scored 17 points in only 21 minutes and now owns a PER of over 16. Although he has failed to provide a large sample of sustained efficiency, the trends of late cannot be ignored. I like the current rotation of Cunningham as starter and Williams as the 6-man, but if Derrick continues to shoot as well as he has been, it will be hard for coach to keep him out of the starting lineup.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Nikola Pekovic: With Kevin Love injured, Nikola continues to keep this team competent on the low block and used his brute strength and footwork to dominate opposing center Al Horford. Pek thrived when rolling off of screens and did a tremendous job of catching and shooting quick looks near the rim leading to 25 points on 9 for 15 shooting. Facing a relatively soft Atlanta frontcourt, Pek made the most of his chances and did a good job of staying out of foul trouble which allowed him to record 35 minutes of playing time. Not to mention he hauled in 18 rebounds (6 offensive) while turning the ball over once, Pek took everyones minds off of Love with his superior play.
  2. Andrei Kirilenko: Despite failing to record his 1,000th career steal, AK-47 enjoyed a hyper-efficient night shooting due to a favorable matchup against the defensively-incompetent Kyle Korver. Kirilenko operated well cutting weak side and finding open teammates on backdoor cuts. Statistically, AK was nearly perfect: 21 points (7-11 FG, 2-2 3FG, 5-5 FT), 6 rebounds and 5 assists while not recording a single turnover or personal foul. He was also extremely active on the defensive end and closed out his three-point shooting opposition effectively.
  3. Ricky Rubio: I have gravely missed watching Ricky put on performances like he did tonight. Playing only 19 minutes given his recovery from not only knee surgery but most recently back spasms, Rubio put on a passing clinic as he tallied 8 assists in as short of a time while also swiping 4 steals. A game-high +10 on the floor, Tricky Ricky was a large factor in Derrick Williams’ success as he continually set him up for open looks and fed his confidence shooting the ball. A remarkable thing to note is that while Rubio held the highest +/- of any player on the floor, he was 0-0 from the field and scored only 4 points (points are superficial, right?). The key for our favorite Catalan going forward will be staying healthy and gradually building up his minutes on the floor, because it will not help anybody if he reinjures himself by pushing too hard when he shouldn’t (see: Kevin Love).

 

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets

Photo Credit: Carlos Gonzalez, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Photo Credit: Carlos Gonzalez, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Setting the stage:
For the third time already this season, the Wolves face the Nuggets on Thursday night in Denver. This will be the second game of a back to back and the Wolves will once again be without Ricky Rubio. The thin air of Denver for a team that barely has enough healthy bodies to fill a rotation. Not to mention, the Wolves have had very few back to back experiences thus far in the season. This may not end well.

The Nuggets beat the Wolves at Target Center on 11/21, 101-94. The Wolves returned the favor on 12/12/12 (sorry, couldn’t resist), beating the Nuggets 108-105. Minnesota is coming off a bad loss Wednesday night in Utah where they looked lifeless, being blown out 106-84. Conversely, Denver is coming off of a win Tuesday night against the hottest team in the NBA, the Clippers.

The Nuggets are 18-15 on the year, good for second place in the Northwest division and seventh in the Western Conference. They remain one of the strongest offensive teams in the league, averaging 101.6 ppg (8th in the league) and 23.1 apg (5th). The Nuggets lead the league in rebounding at 46.3 per game, a slight advantage over the Lakers and Wolves.

As mentioned in Wednesday’s preview for the Jazz game, tonight is another important game for the Wolves against a division and conference opponent with similar playoff aspirations.

Player to watch:
Kevin Love – It is no secret that Love is struggling mightily from the field this season. Broken hand or not, he is letting these struggles negatively affect other elements of his game. His jump shot looks broken. As suggested during last night’s game in Utah, it might be worth creating a little bit of a wake-up call to Love and the rest of the locker room to challenge him to work more in the paint, particularly when Pekovic is out of the game. The Wolves need Love to get going … quickly.

Match-up to watch:
Andrei Kirilenko vs. Danilo Gallinari. Much like this Nuggets team in its totality, Danilo’s night in and night out performance continues to be a head scratcher for me. The volatility in how he performs from game to game is pretty amazing. In four games in five nights during Christmas week, Danilo put up 7, 19, 39, and 7 points respectively. You could understand the latter 7 point game as fatigue, but he has thrown up eight games in single digits thus far this season.

It will be interesting to see how Kirilenko responds to not only playing on back to back nights, but the 30+ minutes he put in on his emotional return to Utah. He has had his problems stopping Danilo in the two earlier meetings this season.

Predictions:
No Rubio, the end of a back to back, and the Denver air = Twolves loss.
Final score prediction: Twolves 102, Nuggets 108

Three stars of the game predictions:
1. Ty Lawson
2. Andre Iguodala
3. Nikola Pekovic

Hope the Pups can prove me wrong. Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 84 – Utah Jazz 106

Photo Credit: lebasketbawl.com

Photo Credit: lebasketbawl.com

The Pups opened up an important back to back series against division rivals in Utah Wednesday night Andrei Kirilenko made his return to Utah for the first time since leaving the Jazz before last season’s lockout. The bad news for the Wolves was that Ricky Rubio didn’t travel with the team due to his back spasms from the past weekend and will also miss Thursday’s contest in Denver.

The Pups started the game with Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic. The Jazz announced an injury to Mo Williams earlier in the day and he will miss quite a bit of time (months, not weeks). Given the needed adjustment here, the Jazz starting lineup consisted of Jamaal Tinsley, Randy Foye, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson.

After the Utah faithful gave AK a nice ovation during introductions, they seemingly left the building because it was virtually silent for the first few minutes of the quarter. Halfway through the first quarter and the Jazz held a 15-10 lead going into a timeout. The Wolves defensive effort was porous at best. Despite their defensive struggles, the Jazz managed to go cold towards the end of the first quarter, allowing the Wolves to take a 24-23 lead into the second.

The only player worth noting for the Wolves is/was AK47’s strong performance in the opening quarter; 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist. The Jazz frontline put in all but 6 of their points, with Tinsley scoring the balance. Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward combined for a donut on 0-5 shooting from the floor. Finally, a team with a worse rotation of SG’s than what the Pups have right now. (To be fair, Randy has had a very decent first two months of the season.)

The Jazz opened up the second quarter on a 9-2 run, leading to an Adelman timeout. The Wolves lack of firepower when Love is off on the offensive end is starting to get a little concerning. That said, Love’s outside shooting continues to be atrocious and Adelman needs to rein this in immediately. The green light needs to be taken away until he starts to improve his offensive game in and around the paint.

At the end of the half, the Jazz held a 53-45 lead, putting up 30 points in the second quarter. Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • The Pups were very lethargic on the defense to start the game and that carried over to the defensive end pretty quickly
  • Kirilenko and Pekovic performed well, while Love, the starting backcourt, and the Pups bench all looked bad
  • It is probably time to stop throwing in little insults on opposing players in the game previews; Jamaal Tinsley led the Jazz in the first half with 10 & 5, ugh!
  • Sidney Lowe sighting! Sidney is on Ty Corbin’s coaching staff
  •  
    The third quarter started but you could make the argument that the Wolves didn’t come out of the locker room. The Jazz opened up with a 9-0 run to increase the lead to 17 points. Kevin Love picked up a technical foul and the Jazz built a 20 point lead off of more lackadaisical play.

    The Wolves were able to cut into the lead a bit to close out the third quarter, as the Jazz took a 79-66 lead into the fourth quarter. Love came alive a bit, finishing the third with 13 & 10 for the game. However, he and Shved continued to struggle from the field, going a combined 6-23 from the field, including 1-10 from three point range.

    For the second time over the past few weeks, the Wolves bored me into casual watching by the time the fourth quarter really got going. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, yes you are reading this correctly, helped the Jazz increase their lead back to 19 points halfway through the quarter. Adelman threw in the towel right around this time, sitting many of the starters. Worth noting quickly, Lazar Hayward saw the court for the first time this season for the Wolves after being brought back to the club on Monday.

    The Wolves dropped tonight’s game 106 – 84. Three Stars of the Game:

    1. Jamaal Tinsley
    2. Paul Millsap
    3. Derrick Favors

    Not an enjoyable game to watch or cover and certainly not how the Wolves wanted to start the New Year.

    Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz, 1/2/13

    Kevin Love meets his former teammate Al Jefferson in Utah on Wednesday.

    Kevin Love meets his former teammate Al Jefferson in Utah on Wednesday.

    Setting the stage:

    The Timberwolves come off another extended break and haven’t played since beating Phoenix Saturday night in front of a packed Target Center.  Am I the only one who enjoyed the lockout condensed schedule where teams definitively played at least three games a week and many times four or more?  I can’t be.  The Wolves seemingly have had these extended layoffs every other week.  In any case, the victory vs. the Suns kept the Pups above the Mason-Dixon Line and moved them to 14-13 on the year.

    Ricky Rubio should be back in action on Wednesday night vs. the Jazz after missing Saturday’s game with back spasms.  Not to understate this too much, but he’s desperately needed given the inconsistent to weak performances the team is getting from anyone not named Alexey Shved in the backcourt.  Adelman has all but waved the white flag at this point, using Derrick Williams at the SG position on Saturday night.  That’s right the guy that can’t or won’t be a SF for this team was moved to SG.  Can we please sign a wing player before Shved and Kirilenko literally crumble?

    The Jazz come into the game on a three game losing streak, moving the team to 15-17 on the season and into the cellar of the Northwest Division.  For what it is worth this early on, they are 1.5 games behind the Pups (and Blazers) for the 8th seed in the conference.  The Jazz are in the bottom third (22nd) in the league in team defense, giving up 99.6 ppg so far this season.  Former Pup, Big Al (Jefferson, not our very own) “leads the way” for the Jazz, averaging 17 & 10.

    In our Western Conference Preview before the season we had the Jazz ranked as the 9 seed in the conference, just behind the Twolves and hinted that their frontcourt was a little too crowded.  This seems to be coming to fruition, as Jefferson and Millsap lead the team in scoring and rebounding, while Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Marvin Williams struggle to find extended minutes and their roles in the rotation.

    This is yet another game against a Western Conference opponent that the Pups will be fighting with over rights to go into the playoffs and/or seeding.  It would be nice to hold a few tiebreakers over these teams and we get our first chance to do so against Utah on Wednesday.

    Player to watch:

    Ricky Rubio – Rubio will be coming off a full week of rest given the back spasms he was experiencing before Saturday’s game.  The Jazz offer up a good opportunity for Ricky to shine in his 24 minutes or so, given their depth chart currently looks like this: Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, and Mo Williams.  Rubio needs to get going and quite honestly, the Twolves need him to as well.

    Match-up to watch:

    Nikola Pekovic vs. Al Jefferson.  I have always liked Big Al but he has always looked like an above average player that puts up nice stats and can lead a team to mediocrity.  This hasn’t changed since being traded by the Twolves for $0.14 on the dollar.  Pekovic should be able to push Jefferson off the block and keep Al from having a big game down low in the paint.  Actually, since calling Nikola out in early December for inconsistent play, he has been on a tear.  He has scored at least 18 points in 8 of the last 9 games with the Houston game on 12/26 being the one outlier.  He’s also thrown up double digit rebounds in 6 of these same 9 games.  If the NBA hadn’t gotten rid of the “Center” position in the All-Star game, you would probably start to hear some rumbling about Pekovic warranting a spot on the roster.

    Predictions:

    Given the extended time off and the lack of guard play for the Jazz, this feels like it should be a victory for the Pups and we see big games from Rubio and Shved.

    Final score prediction: Twolves 104, Jazz 97

    Three stars of the game predictions:

    1. Alexey Shved
    2. Andrei Kirilenko
    3. Ricky Rubio

    Let’s go Wolves!