Minnesota Timberwolves 111- Phoenix Suns 107

Michael Beasley returned to the Target Center, only to shoot 1-8 from the field in 10 minutes off the bench. (Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated)

Michael Beasley returned to the Target Center, only to shoot 1-8 from the field in 10 minutes off the bench. (Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated)

In the National Basketball Association, you take a win in any way, shape or form. The Minnesota Timberwolves did just that, and their sloppy defeat of the Phoenix Suns tonight was just another reminder of how much this team needs to grow before they can be seriously considered a contender in the Western Conference. After playing arguably his worst game of the season in the Wolves latest fourth-quarter collapse against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, Kevin Love regained rhythm in his shooting stroke and sparked Minnesota with his scoring and rebounding. Despite shooting just 16 of 26 from the free throw line as a team, the Timberpups managed to escape with a narrow 111-107 victory in Michael Beasley’s return to the Target Center.

Game Summary

Regardless of the victory, it felt as if there were more negatives than positives to take from this game. To begin, the Pups were absolutely exploited in their pick-and-roll defense and did a very poor job on their defensive switches and in hard hedging screens. This allowed Phoenix to consistently penetrate the lane, leading to high percentage looks and wide-open kick outs to the perimeter. The Pups were virtually nonexistent in the passing lanes, as they managed only 2 steals while allowing effective lateral ball movement for the Suns.

This win belongs to the Timberwolves starting frontcourt, as they shot a collective 31 of 53 from the field scoring 71 of the teams 111 points while pulling down 34 rebounds. On the other end of the floor, the Wolves had their hands full from a spectacular offensive performance from Luis Scola who managed to score 33 points without turning the ball over once. Scola converted on 16 of his 26 field goal attempts, and amazingly did not attempt his first free throws until late in the fourth quarter, making one of two. The Love-Scola matchup is always an interesting one to watch ever since K-Love’s infamous “stomp”, and Scola truly brought his A game in what must have been a tough loss for him to swallow.

Free throw shooting continues to be a struggle for a Timberwolves team that ranked 22nd in the NBA coming into tonight’s game. As highlighted by Jim Petersen’s commentary, great teams are great from the free throw line and the Pups will have to sharpen up at the charity stripe if they are to move forward in their growth as a ball club.

The Timberwolves witnessed virtually no offensive or defensive production out of their guards tonight, and the lack of depth at PG has posed a significant problem for a team that is currently heavily relying on a successful recovery from Ricky Rubio. Luke Ridnour, in my opinion, has had a very poor season to this point and was an absolute non-factor directing the offense. Ridnour has had a lot of trouble when faced with double teams, as his court vision seems to have diminished to this point in his career. Currently playing through injuries, Ridnour has been unable to knock down threes and continues to settle for contested long twos. In 31 minutes, Ridnour recorded 4 points (2-7 FG), 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 turnover.

JJ Barea was not much better, as he constantly complained and argued with referees, receiving a technical foul at the culmination of the third period. Barea was in full tunnel vision mode, dribbling far too much and doing very little to initiate offense. While he made a few nice plays in the fourth quarter, I was largely unimpressed by JJ’s demeanor and sportsmanship in a game that Minnesota barely escaped. Barea posted 10 points (5-13 FG), 5 assists, 1 rebound and 2 turnovers in 27 minutes of action.

The only guard worthy of notice for the Pups was young Alexey Shved, who assumed the role of distributor by dishing out 10 assists to pair with 12 points (3-6 FG) and 4 rebounds. As I have mentioned all season, Shved has thrived in the pick-and-roll with Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love, being so good at finding his bigs on the roll while possessing the ability to get to the rim if given enough space.

Ricky Rubio, who was expected to see his minutes increase in tonight’s matchup, did not play due to back spasms. Timberwolves training personell worked on Rubio all day in hopes of loosening his back up, but the team ultimately decided that it was best not to risk further injury. With the Timberwolves slated to have three days off, we should see Ricky return to action in the Wolves next matchup in Utah.

Derrick Williams deserves a shout out for his strong play of late, increasing his percentage from three-point range to 37.8%. While he faces a very skeptical head coach in Rick Adelman, Williams has earned his minutes since Love returned to the Pups starting lineup and deserves strong praise for his hard work. There was an odd moment tonight when Williams – yes, Williams – played SG for a few minutes of the first half with the Wolves trying out a very big lineup. After continuously receiving criticisms about his play as a SF, it came to the shock of many to see D-Will playing 2-guard. In a very efficient 14 minutes, Williams finished with 10 points (3-6 FG, 2-3 3FG), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block and 1 turnover.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – Impressive bounce-back performance for K-Love, who posted 23 points (8-20 FG, 2-6 3FG) and 18 boards after scoring only 7 against the Rockets on Wednesday. Love reportedly stayed after practice to work on his game this week and it sure looks like it paid off. While he was once again exploited on the defensive end as displayed by a 33-point outburst by Luis Scola, it was great to see Love hitting his shots and pleasing the Target Center crowd.
  2. Nikola Pekovic – If Pekovic is looking for a max contract this summer, he is sure making a good case for himself. Entering tonight’s game averaging 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, Pekovic exploded for 28 points (13-20 FG), 11 rebounds (6 offensive rebounds), 1 assist, 1 block and 1 steal in 34 minutes. Although I am not completely sold on the idea of Pek receiving max dollars, it is great to see how far he has come as a player.
  3. Andrei Kirilenko – It is beginning to feel repetitive in the ways that I describe AK-47s play night after night. The most consistent Pup this season in my mind, Kirilenko continues to provide a little bit of everything for the Wolves. AK ended the night with 20 points (10-13 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 turnover in 34 minutes of action.

The return of Super Cool Beas was as uneventful as they come, with Beasley’s only points coming off a Greg Stiemsma goal tend. Beasley shot 1-8 from the field in 10 minutes, and Wesley Johnson received another DNP-CD as a part of his brutal first season with the Suns. The Pups now have three days of rest before their Wednesday night game as they will square off against the Jazz in Utah.


Minnesota Timberwolves 92 – Miami Heat 103

LeBron StuffThe Timberwolves finished off their trip to Florida on Tuesday night with a loss to the Miami Heat.  As mentioned before the team even left Minnesota (i.e. please do not fine us Commissioner!), the Wolves played without Ricky Rubio tonight in order to avoid aggravating his knee and putting the stress of back-to-back games on it.

The Wolves opened up with the same starting five from last night – Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  The Heat opened up with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, some guy named LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, and Chris Bosh.  The Heat had been playing LeBron at the PF spot, but they went big to open the game to better match up against the Pups, or at least that is what I’m telling myself to feel better about the game.

The Wolves played solid basketball in the first quarter.  Pekovic and Kirilenko were playing well on both sides of the ball.  Unfortunately, Alexey Shved met the wrath of D Wade, who was probably the first opponent this season to make Shved look like a rookie.  Going into the first timeout, the Wolves held a 14-12 lead thanks to a Ridnour jumper.

With just under a minute to go in the quarter, AK47 hit a three pointer to give the Wolves a 27-21 lead.  Unfortunately, despite two additional trips down the court, the Wolves couldn’t build the lead any further, as Ridnour missed two three pointers to end the 1st with the same 27-21 advantage.  Thank goodness for AK47, who led the Wolves in the 1st with 11 points and terrific defense on LeBron.

The 2nd quarter started in a similar back and forth mode with neither team capable of making a large run going into the official timeout and the Wolves holding a 33-29 advantage.  It was also nice to see Mike Miller make an appearance on the court.  (I loathed every second of the Mike Miller era with the Pups.  I’ll stop here.)

After an offensive rebound for the Wolves, Kevin Love drew a loose ball foul on the Haslem, who then drew a technical foul for himself to boot.  After hitting a FT and making a layup seconds later, the Wolves held a 41-32 lead.  If fans started to feel good about the advantage it must have quickly evaporated as the Heat went on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to a single point before Shved made a jumper to bring the score to 44-41.

After a few rounds of throwing punches, Mario Chalmers hit what felt like could have been the knockout uppercut punch at the buzzer to give the Heat a 52-49 lead going into the locker room.  Even though the game was still very close, this felt like something that could deflate the Wolves team and build momentum for the Heat going into the start of the 2nd half.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Kevin Love’s shooting percentages will even out over the course of the season.  (Keep repeating this to yourselves)
  • The Wolves were dominating the paint against the Heat
  • Without AK47, I don’t think the Wolves have six wins on the season

The first four-five minutes of the 3rd quarter continued the competitive spirit and balance that was seen in the first half.  Despite struggling with his shot in the game, Shved made a few real nice passes to Kirilenko and Pekovic for dunks, giving the Wolves a 63-62 lead.  Then, it all came crashing down.

Dwyane Wade somehow convinced the officials that the Wolves were committing fouls on the defensive end and hit two FT’s to give the Heat the lead.  In succession after this we saw a Wolves turnover, a Bosh from James layup, another Wolves turnover, and a Wade from James layup.  This gave the Heat a 68-63 lead and the Wolves fell apart from here.

The Wolves went cold from the floor and missed a number of short jumpers despite numerous offensive rebounds.  This coincided with LeBron coming to life and hitting a few jump shots and suddenly the lead was up to 10 points, 78-68.  For the final two minutes of the quarter, there was little to no offense, with both teams only scoring points from the FT line.  At the end of three quarters, the Heat held an 80-72 lead.

The Pups opened up the 4th quarter very cold as they were held scoreless (by themselves) for the first 2+ minutes.  By this point, the Heat built their lead to 14 points, 86-72.  To be perfectly honest, I basically threw in the towel a few minutes later when Adelman did … with about 7 minutes left in the game, Stiemsma and Amundson entered the game for the Wolves and that about did it for me too.  This was preceded by a Shane Battier three pointer that increased the Heat lead to 97-78.  The only item worth noting from the extensive “gah-bage” time was Derrick Williams’ time on the floor which felt productive, but again, it was during a stretch of game action where the game was already decided.

The final score looks a lot closer than this one felt, with the Wolves falling to the Heat 103-92.  The Wolves return home for Thursday night’s game against the other defending conference champion, the OKC Thunder.  (Mercy!)

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. LeBron James
  2. Dwyane Wade
  3. Andrei Kirilenko good defense, and the only starter that didn’t turn the ball over

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami Heat

Lebron & D-Wade

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell – US Presswire

The Timberwolves fell asleep last night in the second half in Orlando and ended their four game win streak.  The reward for this is having to play again Tuesday night in Miami against the NBA champions from last season.  Now for the really bad news; the team is going to likely play tonight’s game without Ricky Rubio.  The Wolves staff is trying to limit his minutes this early in his return and is looking to sit him down in back to back games.  After struggling in last night’s game in Orlando, it might be a good idea to continue this plan of attack with Ricky.

It seems like the one force that can stop the Heat are in fact, the Heat.  Perhaps they will take a mental health day and the Wolves can steal a victory.  Perhaps they won’t.  Either way, this should be an entertaining game to watch.  The Heat are 15-6 on the season, including 11-2 at American Airlines Arena.  They are 4th in the league in scoring at 103.1 ppg.  If Tuesday’s opponent has a flaw, it is in their rebounding and lack of a big man / bruiser in the paint.  The Heat have moved Lebron over to the PF spot and Bosh to Center this season, given their lack of talented big men.  That said, we’re talking about the greatest player on the planet right now and he’s still playing with two guys that are in the top thirty in the league.

Player to watch:

Alexey Shved – The rookie has been seeing extensive minutes over the past few weeks and was performing at a high level prior to last night’s stinker (1-8 from the field for 3 points, 5 assists, and 4 turnovers).  He has moved up to 5th place among rookies in scoring (10.6) and 2nd in assists (4.0).  Why is he the player to watch?  It will be interesting to see how he fares against Wade, Allen, and/or Chalmers.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. Chris Bosh.  Without Rubio (or a severely limited Rubio) the only way the Pups can pull this one off is if Pekovic can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor and get Bosh in foul trouble.  This is absolutely feasible but still wouldn’t guarantee a win.  Pekovic missed last season’s sole matchup against the Heat, which likely aided in Bosh’s 20-9-4 performance.


Sorry Pups fans, I can’t see how the team pulls off the upset without a fully healthy roster.

Final score prediction: Twolves 98, Heat 105

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Dwayne Wade
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. LeBron James

Let’s go Wolves!

Preview: T’wolves at Magic 12/17/12

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Setting the stage:

The Pups are coming into Monday’s game with a four game winning streak and have two very tough games after Monday’s matchup against the Magic (@ Miami and then home vs. OKC).  Hopefully, they do not underestimate the Magic who are clearly rebuilding but playing much better than many expected, with a 10-12 record on the year and winner’s of their last two.

The two teams that joined the NBA in 1989 met at the beginning of the season, with the Wolves hammering the Magic 90-75 at the Target Center.  The Magic continue to be led by Arron Afflalo and Big Baby Davis.  Jameer Nelson and JJ Redick also help lead the charge for the overachieving roster.  If you look beyond these four players, you see a lot of question marks and a few “Who?”’s.  Sorry Orlando.  The Magic are near the bottom of the league (26th) in PPG at 92.6 but this is by design, slowing the game down and trying to grind it out.

In case you missed my weekend drooling, Ricky Rubio returned to the Pups lineup on Saturday night and provided the needed spark to improve the team’s current win streak against Dallas in OT.  Nikola Pekovic continued his strong play over the past few games and Team Russia continues to highlight the team continuity that is growing on the court.  While Kevin Love sat out Saturday’s game with the flu, we should expect to see him back on the court on Monday.

Player to watch:

Kevin Love – It will be interesting to see how Love performs on Monday night given not only Rubio’s performance on Saturday night, but the reception he received from the Target Center.  Love has been terribly “off”, shooting the ball at a 31.6% clip from the field and 65.1% from the FT line in the month of December.  The Yahoo! article certainly didn’t help matters and we’ll see how Love can respond with a few days rest given his absence from Saturday’s game.  The matchup against Glen Davis should provide a boost, unless Love lets Big Baby get underneath his skin.  (I can’t think of too many other players – beyond the entire Spurs roster (boom!) – that complain to the refs as much as these two PF’s do.

Match-up to watch:

Ricky Rubio vs. Jameer Nelson.  It has been documented all season thus far; the Pups have given up huge offensive games to opposing PG’s more often than not.  The return of Rubio should help end this trend over the next few weeks.  It would be a good time to start on Monday night, given the lack of firepower the Magic display down on the block.


The Wolves will avoid overlooking the Magic and move the win streak to five games!  They have been scoring more in the past week and will continue to do so on Monday.

Final score prediction: Twolves 106, Magic 92

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Nikola Pekovic
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Kevin Love

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 113 – New Orleans Hornets 102

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Timberwolves visited Cajun Country on Friday night and walked away with their third straight win putting the team at 11-9 on the season.  The team has successfully treaded water despite all of the injuries in the first quarter of the season and is expected to announce that Boy Wonder, Ricky Rubio will make his return on Saturday night against the Mavericks.

If it were not for a career high in points from Austin Rivers, this game wouldn’t have been very close (or good).  This seems to be a product of my questioning his ability and pointing to his struggles in the game preview.  One would think I would have learned my lesson by now.  In any case, here’s how the Wolves put away the Hornets in New Orleans Friday night.

Due to Malcolm Lee’s injury, the Pups were forced into a new starting lineup, opening up with Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  While Shved has been the team’s best performing SG this season, I wholeheartedly agree with Adelman’s decision to keep him in the sixth man role and as a closer at the end of the game.  That said, desperate times call for “desperate” measures.  The Hornets opened up with Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson, and Robin Lopez.  This past year’s number one pick, Anthony Davis, continues to come off the bench for the Hornets as he rehabs his ankle.

The game got off to a slow start with the Hornets holding a 13-12 lead going into the first TO of the game, with more than six minutes gone by in the quarter.  Kirilenko opened up the game with a nice pass to Ridnour for an easy layup and then made his own baseline cut for an easy basket.  Pekovic had a few easy baskets as well as the Wolves were dominating the paint.

At the end of the first quarter, the Wolves held a 28-23 lead.  The homer in me would point out said domination in the paint.  The pessimist would mention the Wolves’ struggles from beyond the arc across the entire roster.  The highlight of the quarter was actually seeing Greivis Vasquez stand in the way of Pekovic coming down the court and trying to give him an elbow.  Pek turns around to see who it is, just shakes his head and dismisses the kid.  That was hysterical.

The Pups opened up the 2nd quarter and extended the lead to as many as 9 points, largely led by the second unit, including the efforts of JJ Barea.  Barea hit a couple buckets and threw a beautiful lob to Derrick Williams.  However, while this was happening, Austin Rivers started heating up for the Hornets.  His performance was aided by Adelman’s need to play the dreaded Ridnour/Barea backcourt.

At the half, the Wolves and Hornets were tied at 50.  Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Since the publishing of the Yahoo! Article with Woj, Kevin Love has been abysmal.  He missed entirely too many chip shots in the first half.  Please make this end stat.
  • The Wolves need Rubio to avoid the Ridnour/Barea backcourt.  He and Shved can play with these two to have more size on the court.
  • Pek and AK47 picked up Love’s slack big time.

The Wolves opened up the 3rd quarter with the same five that started the game.  The same could be said for the Hornets.  The Hornets opened up the quarter with the first 5 points, but Luke Ridnour ended the run with a 3 pointer.  That seemingly woke up the Wolves who started to push the ball a bit and led to a 9-2 run.  For the next few minutes, the teams went back and forth, including some impressive play from Greivis Vasquez, who had a double-double halfway through the 3rd quarter; just another Wolves game where the opposing PG lights things up on the offensive end.

With a few minutes to go in the quarter, the Hornets broadcast finally announced that Josh Howard was back in the locker room and was questionable to return.  Less than five minutes (in real time) passed and the Hornets sideline reporter came back to announce that Howard hyper-extended his knee and would not return.  Seriously?!  What did this team do to somebody’s family to deserve this?

In the final minutes of the 3rd quarter, the Pups went on a little bit of a run to build an 82-73 lead going into the 4th quarter.  This was largely due to the play of AK47, Shved, and Pekovic.  It was looking like the Wolves were going to be able to pull away with this one, as they should, despite the strong efforts of Vasquez and Rivers for the Hornets.

Instead of pulling away in the early minutes of the 4th quarter, the Wolves let the Hornets stick around maintaining a lead that was within striking distance.  The Wolves second unit was pretty underwhelming in the second half, including the first six minutes of the 4th.  Thankfully, AK47 was around for the Wolves tonight as he continued to cut to the rim for easy baskets and rebound the ball.

With just over a minute to go and the Wolves up by 16 points, Austin Rivers drove to the basket and Kevin Love got his right hand get tangled up with him.  This led to an immediate TO with Love walking right off the court.  I rewound the game just to make sure this actually happened.  It did.  So now the Wolves are losing two players per game apparently, with Howard and Love going out this evening.  Seriously?!?!

The final score was 113-102 with the Wolves pulling away in the final minutes again.  Similar to last Friday’s game against the Cavs, the Wolves took care of business against a team that they should beat.  I’m not even going to mention the injuries again … onward to the return of the Unicorn!

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Nikola Pekovic
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Greivis Vasquez (15 points & 17 assists)

Minnesota Timberwolves 108 – Denver Nuggets 105

Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien, The Associated Press

Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien, The Associated Press

Fresh off four days of rest, the Minnesota Timberwolves fought off a late game charge by the Denver Nuggets and watched as Ty Lawson’s potential game-tying three-pointer roll off the rim, giving the Wolves a 103-100 win at home. Tonight’s win put the Timberpups at 10-9, which gives them their best record through the first 19 games since the 2006-07 season.

Timberwolves-Nuggets Game Notes

Despite receiving negative publicity for his recent comments regarding his future with the Timberwolves, Kevin Love was greeted with cheers after his name was announced tonight. However, Love had what was probably his worst of the season tonight as he shot an ice-cold 3-17 from the field and was noticeably outplayed by backup Dante Cunningham. Playing a relatively short 31 minutes, Love scored just 8 points while grabbing 14 rebounds, all the while committing 2 turnovers and 5 personal fouls. From the get-go K-Love looked out of rhythm, as he began the game 0-6 while his matchup of Kenneth Faried scored 14 of the Nuggets first 27 points.

Kenneth Faried established himself early and got the better of the matchup against Kevin Love in the first half. Faried, the all-time rebounding leader in NCAA history, lived up to his nickname of “Manimal” by dominating the boards and relentlessly creating second-chance opportunities for himself and his teammates. Although still an unpolished scorer, the second-year pro plays with such an evident fire that his teammates feed off of, and he has been a big reason why Denver has been so effective at running the floor this season.

Coming into tonight’s contest, the Timberwolves were averaging just 71% from the free throw line as a team. However, free throw shooting was not an issue for the Pups as the sank 30 freebies on an impressive 37 trips to the charity stripe, which was good for 81% as a team. On the opposite end, the Nuggets struggled with their free throw shooting and converted on only 14 of their 24 chances.

This game was a tale of two halves in the paint, as the Nuggets were seemingly unstoppable in the lane in the first half. The Wolves made excellent adjustments nearing the end of the first half and into the break, and were able to effectively gain inside position mainly behind Nikola Pekovic. With Love clearly having an off-game, Pek ultimately became the team’s top option on the low block and he responded very well. Facing a very strong defensive frontcourt, Pek established himself on the offensive glass and showed off his soft touch around the rim.

Due to a strong defensive effort, the Pups caused the Nuggets to turn the ball over 19 times compared to only 13 by Minnesota. The Wolves recorded 11 steals as a team and did an excellent job of anticipating passes and getting hands into passing lanes.

Malcolm Lee got the start at SG tonight, but left the game late in the second quarter due to a hyperextended right knee. Lee was not able to return, and his status is questionable for the remaining 5 games in the next 8 days. In his place, Alexey Shved may very likely become the team’s new starting SG.

Despite being the constant focal point of ongoing trade rumors, Derrick Williams has continued to play hard and provided 13 solid minutes. D-Will continues to get very spotty minutes but refuses to complain, and for that I applaud his professionalism. In his short span on the floor, Williams scored 6 points (2-6 FG) and grabbed 1 rebound.

It was a tough decision, but I left Dante Cunningham off of tonight’s Three Stars. Regardless, “DC Hustle” provided production on both ends of the floor on a night where K-Love could not buy a basket. In 23 minutes, Cunningham recorded 12 points (5-5 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and only 1 turnover while bringing tremendous defense against Faried.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Nikola Pekovic: As I mentioned earlier, Pek did a fantastic job of establishing inside postion and attacking the offensive glass. What a great insurance policy the Wolves have for when K-Love is off, as Nikola drained 7 of his 10 FG attempts including shooting 8-8 from the free throw line on his way to 22 points and 11 rebounds. Pek was a game-high +8 on the court and even provided 2 blocked shots and 2 assists.
  2. JJ Barea: With Ty Lawson on the other end, Barea did a much better job keeping his body in front of Lawson than did Luke Ridnour. JJ was at his best tonight, finding holes in the Nuggets defense and shooting efficiently around the rim. With the game on the line, Barea effectively managed the game and even sunk clutch free throws down the stretch. Our favorite Puerto Rican ended the night with 17 points (6-12 FG), 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and only 1 turnover in 27 minutes.
  3. Andrei Kirilenko: Last but not least, AK-47 was a vital part of Minnesota’s success on the offensive end tonight and even provided a transition dunk which proved to be the dagger with only seconds to play. Despite missing both of his three-point attempts, Nuggets defenders did not sag off on Kirilenko, making his shot-fakes even more effective. AK sank all 6 of his free throws and finished with 18 points (6-12 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 assists, 1 block and 3 turnovers in a game-high 36 minutes for the Pups.

Good win for the Wolves, and they are set to take on the Hornets in New Orleans beginning around 7PM on Friday night. Still no word on Ricky Rubio, but many rumors are indicating he will make his season debut on Saturday when the Pups take on Dallas at the Target Center.


Minnesota Timberwolves 91 – Cleveland Cavaliers 73

Friday night’s game against the Cavs was set up perfectly for the Timberwolves – they had an off night the day before to rest after their quick trip to the East coast.  They also don’t play again until next Wednesday.  Therefore, it was an opportune time to try to get AK47 back on the court to test his back.  The time off after this game was a good reason to keep Ricky Rubio off the court for one more night.  As an aside, I fully expect the Unicorn to be in action next week and the Wolves announcers did virtually nothing to temper those expectations.

The Wolves starting five consisted of Ridnour, Lee, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  The Cavs opened up with Jeremy Pargo, Boobie Gibson (sorry, had to), Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao.  As expected, the Cavs were without Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving.  “Supremely overconfident” could be used to best describe how I felt about this game and the Wolves getting the win.

The Mayans might be right because I actually had this one correct.  Less than three minutes into the game and this felt appropriate:

Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour led the way for the Pups with real strong first quarters.  Love finished with 15 points and 4 rebounds, while Luke did a little bit of everything – 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 points, and 1 steal.  (Given it is December, here’s the obligatory “and a partridge in a pear tree” wit.)  The Wolves had a nine point lead (25-16) after the quarter and it didn’t really feel that close at all.  The only watch-out worth mentioning is the continuation of sub-par free throw shooting, with the team going 7-11 in the quarter.

At the beginning of the game, Jim Pete offered up his three keys to the game and they all had to do with “2nd” stages; “2nd chance points”, “2nd half performance” and “2nd effort”.  Unfortunately, that second one should or could have said “2nd quarter woes” as the team struggled once again in the quarter.  The Cavs were able to cut the lead to a single point about half way through the quarter.  Going into a timeout, it was time for Adelman to bring back a few starters as the second unit was not working, putting up only 2 points in the quarter with several minutes already gone by.

After the Cavs tied the game at 35, the Pups woke up and finished the quarter on a 9-2 run to go into the half with a 44-37 lead.  Thank goodness for Kevin Love and his 20 points because no one else on the Wolves was scoring.  The second leading scorer for the team at the half was Ridnour with 6 points.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Pekovic and Varejao were both scoreless in the half.  That deserves a kudos to both guys’ efforts on the defensive end
  • Paging healthy wings … the Pups were 1-11 from three point range in the half
  • Paging a FT consultant to come into practice over the weekend; the Wolves were 13-19 in the half.  They continue to get there but continue to struggle from the line
  • Alonzo Gee had 8 points at the half but was a -9 in +/- for the half and did virtually nothing else on the court.  However, he’s the biggest call-out for the Cavs at half time.  This is going to be another tough sports season for Cleveland

The Wolves built their lead going into the first time out of the 3rd quarter, finally getting to the fifty point mark, while still holding the Cavs to under forty points.  Luke Ridnour continued to impress with a few assists that gave AK47 a few easy buckets in the early minutes.  This was just as much about Kirilenko’s ability to see the court and be in the right spot at the right time.

Aside from when the Wolves were running in transition, it was surprising at how little they went into the paint to feed Kevin Love.  They tried to feed Pekovic quite a bit, but it wasn’t working against Varejao.  Conversely, Love owned Tristan Thompson when given the opportunity to post up.  This really could have and should have been a set play every trip down the floor when they ran the half court offense.

At the end of the 3rd, the Wolves maintained their nine point lead, 66-57.  This wasn’t exactly a free flowing, offensive game by any stretch of the imagination.  The Cavs were shooting 34% from the field, while the Wolves were at a 42% clip.  Love already collected his double-double for the evening with a quarter to go, finishing the 3rd with 30 & 10.  The only Cavs player worth noting (sorry Cleveland fans) was Alonzo Gee, who had several highlight reel dunks in the quarter and leading the Cavs with 16 points.

The 4th quarter got a little interesting as the Cavs cut the lead to just six points.  However, similar to every other run that was made the Pups were able to answer with their own small run to increase the lead to right around double digits.  As the quarter wore on, the Cavs wore down.  The Wolves built the lead thanks to … well, frankly, the same players that you’ve read about multiple times throughout this summary + JJ Barea.

I don’t have evidence of this, but I feel like JJ plays under more control when he’s on the floor with AK47.  This may just be Kirilenko’s overall presence on the game and the team.  He simply makes the game look easy and makes everyone else look that much better.  AK’s final line of the night is quite impressive: 8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.  Seriously?

The final score of the game was 91-73 with the Wolves continuing to run away with the game as the minutes wound down in the final quarter.  This was a good team win against a team that the Pups should beat and need to beat if they have playoff aspirations.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Kevin Love
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Luke Ridnour