Rockets Blast Past Timberwolves, 120-110

Wolves fans only have to keep their eyes on Andrew Wiggins to enjoy what should be a great future. (Credit: Scott Halleran, Getty Images)

Wolves fans only have to keep their eyes on Andrew Wiggins to enjoy what should be a great future. (Credit: Scott Halleran, Getty Images)

 

Our Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Houston to take on the Rockets Friday night.  Both teams are dealing with a slew of injuries, but only one of them was clinching a playoff spot with a victory on Friday.  Dwight Howard returned to action in the Rockets’ last game, but Houston also lost Patrick Beverley.  With that, Kevin McHale’s starting lineup included Jason Terry, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith, and Howard.  Flip Saunders countered his coaching buddy with Lorenzo Brown, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Gorgui Dieng.

As you may have been able to predict given those starting lineups, the Wolves were overmatched largely throughout.  The Rockets came out flying all over the court, opening up a quick 11-2 run and leading to an early timeout from Flip.  Minnesota scored the next six points, but the Rockets answered with a few three pointers.  It turned into a playground game for the final eight minutes of the first quarter – a good number of turnovers, steals, loose balls, etc.

Looking for a bright spot on the Wolves (outside of Wiggins) and look no further than Chase Budinger, who was 2-2 from the field for five points in five minutes on the court.  Entering Friday night’s action, Chase had scored in double digits in each of the past seven games.

At the end of the first quarter, the Rockets held a 31-22 advantage.  At the end of the first half, the Rockets held a 10 point lead, 60-50.

Halftime highlights:

  • Rockets’ announcer on Wiggins, “He’s the future of the league”.  (True story)  Wiggins got to the line 12 times (9 makes) in the first half.  That’s unreal!
  • Ugly basketball, as the Rockets had 13 turnovers and the Pups had 8 of their own
  • Wolves were killed on the boards, as Houston held a 22-10 advantage

After struggling from the field in the first half, James Harden exploded in the third quarter, hitting his first four three point attempts coming out of the locker room.  When it looked like the Wolves might pack it up, a spark from LaVine and Payne led an 11-3 run to cut the lead to single digits, forcing Kevin McHale to get out of his seat while on the sideline … the horror.

At the end of the third quarter, the Rockets maintained a ten point lead, 90-80.  Both teams put up 30 points in the quarter, led by James Harden who had already gone over 30 points in the game before the final quarter even began.

Every single, small run that the Wolves went on was met with a barrage of three pointers from the Rockets.  In the end, the Timberwolves simply didn’t have enough firepower to stay with one of the better teams in the NBA.  With the victory, the Rockets are now officially in the playoffs.

The final score, Rockets 120 – Timberwolves 110

A few notes from the game:

  • A somewhat quiet double-double for Gorgui Dieng, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds
  • Wiggins finished with 31 points, while Budinger finished with a season high 23 points
  • The Rockets attempted 44 three point field goals (ridiculous) and they made 20 of them (also ridiculous)

 

Good Half, but Raptor Crept Away on Win


(AP Photo by Nathan Denette)

It’s not who you play, it’s when. Though the season it mostly over, the Wolves have not faced the Raptors yet this season. Earlier this year, the Raptors were the talk of the league. Lately, they’ve cooled off. #Opportunity

The Raptors and their fans were excited to finally host the Wolves. It is a homecoming for Wiggins and Bennett. Though Bennett was out, he and Wiggins were celebrated tonight #CanadaPride

For the Wolves who have been very short-handed lately, they received great news. Ricky is back! It makes all the difference. #RickyMatters

Highlight!
K-Mart was open in Toronto tonight. The first quarter was unbelievable. Martin was a great first quarter, especially from long distance! It was oddly contagious as even Buddinger nailed a 3 in the first quarter. #NeedDeepMakes

The Wolves played a great first half. Rubio and Brown both played guard well and you can see that Brown was a great pickup in a team needed a boost.

The Wolves were down, but battled back repeatedly. At halftime, it was tied with Martin chipping in 22 of the team’s 54 points.
Budinger scored the last bucket of the half by running in from out of bounds and catching an off-guard defense off their game.

At half, there was much to like. The game was tied, Wiggins was playing decently, and the rest of the Wolves could easily make the difference.

The third quarter was truly an opportunity. The Wolves missed open threes and had great down-low shots that didn’t drop. It was sloppy at times. The Wolves kept close, but the Raptors crept ahead and created a gap that Minnesota couldn’t close. When the quarter ended, the Wolves were up 7 (after an offensive turnover on LaVine’s carry followed by a close miss by Toronto).

The 4th was a great battle. Toronto extended the lead to 10 and the Wolves countered cutting the deficit to 4. A big 3 made it 7 and the Wolves responded with 2 buckets to make it 3. I’m pretty sure Wolves fans felt it wasn’t meant to be when Rubio leads the fast break and gives Budinger the ball on the left only to travel. I’m sure cursing and hair-pulling ensued.

Overall, the Wolves had opportunities, but are not able to translate those chances into buckets. In a close loss, those missed opportunities are key.

This game featured fouls which did not help Minnesota. The Wolves shot 67% making 10 of only 15 while the Raptors shot 85% making 23 of 27 from the free throw line. #GottaMakeTheFreebies

Highlights of the night? There were plenty.

  • Many great shots by Martin #HighlightReel
  • LaVine’s double-pump dunk with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd #SlamDunkChamp
  • Budinger was a contributor and had a couple nice drives to the hoop #NeedGingerProduction

Who’s Boarding?
I’m still lost by the lack of rebounding #NoDoubleDoubles. The Wolves are not an offensive rebounding team. Heck, they are not a good rebounding team at all. Tonight Wiggins led the Wolves with 3. Yes, 3.

That actually isn’t bad, but in the League it is not good. The leading rebounders were Rubio and Budinger. Yes, Rubio, who had 7 defensive rebounds. #TakeThatIn

Missing Ham
Unfortunately, newest Wolf Hamilton was missing tonight due to illness. The game I watched really looked like it needed some of his presence. At the last home Wolves game, I sat next to a fan who was excited about Hamilton’s impact. This game needed his presence. Paul called it saying that Hamilton IS getting a double-double, but we’ll have to wait and see when. I’ll hold onto the hashtag ‪#‎PaulisCorrect‬ for a future game report.

Congrats to Dwayne Casey
I have to say congrats to Raptors coach Dwayne Casey. The ex-Wolves Coach #Underappreciated is leading the Raptors to the #2 seed in the East. Though the East isn’t the West (the Raptors’ record would put them in the 8 spot in the West), the Raptors are still a nice surprise this season.

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 20

The Wolves’ youngsters have a few more weeks to absorb everything from KG. (Credit: NBAE/David Sherman Getty Images)

The Wolves’ youngsters have a few more weeks to absorb everything from KG. (Credit: NBAE/David Sherman Getty Images)

Setting the stage:

If nothing else, the Timberwolves have my attention the rest of this season due to the Kevin Garnett and Gary Neal trades.  To say that the team is playing more enjoyable basketball over the past couple of weeks would be an egregious understatement.  While players have returned from injury, the two that have mattered the most are Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio.  Everything else is just gravy along the rest of the way through this season.

With the Pups playing better, there are several chances for the team to walk away with a few victories this week.  Here is a brief preview for this week’s four games:

Game 66: Monday, 3/16, 7pm – Brooklyn Nets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

It may not be too surprising to see the Nets’ season go down the tubes since the trade deadline.  The team essentially threw in the towel and the results since have the team looking below them in the standings to see if anyone else in the Eastern Conference will pass them by.

Opponent to watch:

Thad Young – This will probably be the last time I ever mention Thad on this board, so might as well take the opportunity.  The former Pup takes on his former team at the Target Center.

Game 67: Wednesday, 3/18, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ Toronto Raptors (TV: FS North)

The Wolves and Raptors have yet to play this season, but the crowd should be engaged in this one as Andrew Wiggins (and Anthony Bennett) return to the homeland.  Toronto has a double digit lead on every other team in its division and has run away with the Atlantic division.  However, the standings are tight and they can’t afford to drop a home game against the Wolves.

Opponent to watch:

Kyle Lowry – Lowry is having a career best year, leading the Raptors in steals and assists, while second on the team with over 18 ppg.  He will give Wolves’ PG’s fits, particularly if he can get Rubio into foul trouble.

Game 68: Thursday, 3/19, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ New York Knicks (TV: FSN Plus)

Tankapalooza takes its next step as the Wolves head to Madison Square Garden to take on the (dreadful) Knicks.  A win by the Wolves should lock up a better season record vs. New York, as Minnesota already defeated the Knicks in early November.

Opponent to watch:

Alexey Shved – Welcome back to Timberpups.com Alexey Shved!  Someone is likely telling him to “change your face” on a nightly basis having to play for this awful franchise.

Game 69: Sunday, 3/22, 6pm – Charlotte Hornets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Al Jefferson may be destined to never play meaningful minutes in the playoffs.  There is no reason for the Hornets to miss the playoffs and lose a spot to the likes of the Pacers.  This team is going to continue to underachieve until Michael Jordan is forced out of retirement again, aren’t they?

Opponent to watch:

Mo Williams – Williams has played incredibly well for the Hornets since being traded by the Wolves.  Consistently seeing over 30 minutes per game may not be a great way to keep Williams fresh for the end of the season, but the Hornets have no other option at this point.

Wrap-up:

It is a week of returns for ex-Pups players and facing their former team.  The Wolves should be able to pull at least two victories out of this coming week.  Let’s go Wolves!

Thunder Pull Away From Timberwolves, 113-99

Andrew Wiggins consistently found a way to make the Thunder pay on Friday night! (AP Photo, Sue Ogrocki)

Andrew Wiggins consistently found a way to make the Thunder pay on Friday night! (AP Photo, Sue Ogrocki)

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Oklahoma City to take on a Kevin Durant-less Thunder squad who continues to fight for their playoff lives.  The Wolves gave their own big gun, Kevin Garnett, the night off as well.  Enough foreplay, let’s get to the action!

The Timberwolves opened up with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Gorgui Dieng (i.e. still no Nikola Pekovic).  The Thunder mixed things up a bit in an effort to get more offensive firepower in the starting lineup, going with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, and Mitch McGary.

Both teams came out firing on the offensive end, putting up points with very little regard for the defensive side of the ball.  Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins put the Wolves on their shoulders in the first quarter, with the rookie drawing fouls and going to the line 10 times and making all 10!

However, the Wolves frontcourt defense left more than a little to be desired.  Adreian Payne struggled to cover his man or rotate when necessary.  The lack of prowess led to a quick timeout from Flip Saunders in the quarter, but he pretty much gave up hope shortly thereafter, allowing play to continue throughout a few rough patches.  While the future Rookie of the Year kept his team in the hunt, the Thunder took a 31-26 lead into the second quarter.

Zach LaVine had another “I’m not a PG and stop making me play one on TV” start to the second quarter, with a missed 23 footer, a turnover, and allowing DJ Augustin go off to build the Thunder’s lead to 39-28.  With that, Flip burned another timeout and brought back in the Unicorn.  This sparked a 12-0 run to give the Wolves a 40-39 lead.

As goes the Wolves season, Kevin Martin blew a layup on the next possession and bricked a three-pointer after a nice block from Dieng.  That seemed to give OKC some life as they went on a 5-0 run and were consistently beating the Wolves on the boards.  The Thunder scored 11 points in the final 2:45 of the half and took a 55-49 lead into the locker room.

Halftime highlights include:

  • Gorgui Dieng already amassed a double-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds … to go with 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 assist.  Please stop “tinkering” (PG-rated) with Gorgui’s minutes and role.  He should be a part of the long term plan.
  • Adreian Payne … I don’t see it.  11 minutes and a game low -14.  I know he has shown a few sparks, but to give up a future 1st rounder for the guy is not likely to end well.
  • Aided by Wiggins’ 10-10, the Wolves finished the half 13-13 at the FT line, while the Thunder went 8-8.  Nice, fundamental basketball there!

Aside from a few Justin Hamilton highlights (pick-and-pop made jumper, emphatic dunk) the first six minutes of the third quarter were an abomination for the Wolves.  The Wolves had four points in the first five minutes of the quarter before realizing that the second half started.  After trailing by as many as 14 in the quarter, the Wolves fought back to cut the lead in half heading into the final frame – 79-72.

With the Wolves continuing to trail by seven points, 87-80, the Wolves PR crew sent out the following:

(Insert stomach punch / game over)

As you might expect, this was the actual end of the game as the Thunder pulled away quickly thereafter.  While the Thunder announcers praised the potential for the Wolves, at some point this needs to turn a corner.  Here are a few thoughts from Twitter …

The final score, Thunder 113 – Timberwolves 99 

A few notes from the game:

  • Russell Westbrook barely missed a quadruple-double – 29 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds and 8 turnovers
  • Following up on the halftime notes – Dieng finished with 21 and 14, while Payne finished with a -22 in 20 minutes of action
  • Justin Hamilton finished with a career high 17 points and added 10 rebounds
  • Enes Kanter continues to be a thorn in the Wolves’ side, finishing with 23 points and 15 rebounds

Poor Shooting Leads to Timberwolves Loss to Clippers

(photo credit: therepublic.com)

(photo credit: therepublic.com)

Minnesota shot only 37.3 percent Monday night in its first of four road games this week. The team held its own throughout the first half, but in the end the Clippers pulled away with the 89-76 win in LA. The Wolves’ big men each had solid nights: Newbie Adreian Payne led the team offensively with 16 points and 15 rebounds, followed by Nikola Pekovic with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Clippers were without All-Star Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, and Chris Paul was restricted to only two points in a supporting role, his injured knee clearly bothering him. The point guard went only 1-for-6 from the floor and committed four turnovers. While Paul couldn’t get to the rim, however, he still effectively ran the ball and dished out 15 assists to his teammates for automatic points. JJ Redick and Deandre Jordan stepped up to the plate, combining for an impressive 46 points.

“I couldn’t be as aggressive as I would like to,” Paul said after the game. “It just shows the depth of our team. … I’ve just got to be smart about it. I don’t want to hurt the team, but if I can contribute and help the team, we need all the bodies we can get.”

The first quarter went extremely well for Minnesota, as Pekovic and Andrew Wiggins scored eight points apiece and led their team into the second quarter tied with LA.

 

Following halftime was when the Timberwolves really began to struggle, specifically against defending the wing. At the end of the third quarter, the Clips had tallied seven buckets from behind the 3-point line, while the Wolves found themselves unable to sink a long-range shot. Minnesota was given a chance in the final quarter to regain its footing as LA scored 15 points, but Minny answered with only 14 points of its own and watched the clock drain with little to show for it.

Kevin Garnett sat out Monday’s game to rest, and his presence was missed below the basket on defense. Payne did a decent job filling in, though, and continues to show a lot of upside for the Wolves.

“We just didn’t come out with enough energy today,” Payne said. “We’ve just got to continue to keep fighting and keep playing through the whole game. We have a lot of talent, and we’ve got a high ceiling.”

Ricky Rubio, who has been notching solid numbers as of late, finished the game with only two points on nine attempts. The point guard did have 12 assists on the evening, but he said after the game that they had played “selfishly” and didn’t do a good enough job defending the basket.

The loss drops Minnesota’s record to 14-48 on the season. Up next, the Wolves will face Phoenix Wednesday night, OKC on Friday and San Antonio Sunday. Wednesday’s game is a 9 p.m. (CST) tipoff.

Listen to Payne’s post-game here.

Wolves cruise past Portland for second time this season at Target Center

Target Center has been a House of Horrors for the Blazers this year

Target Center has been a House of Horrors for the Blazers this year as the wolves completed the home season sweep of the blazers Saturday night.

The Blazers came to town on the heels of a five game winning streak, and looking to make it six. However the big news out of Portland this week has been the loss of Wesley Matthews, one of three starters that seem to compliment each other greatly.  Lamarcus Aldridge, and Damian Lilliard were the two stars remaining in the line up. Rounding out Portland’s starting five were Nicholas Batum , Robin Lopez, and Arron Affalo. The wolves brought out Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett, and Nikola Pekovic.

The first quarter was a rather uneventful stretch in the game. The only thing to note from the first was that Kevin Garnett’s rebounding was definitely on key. The first came and went with the game being tied at the end.

The second quarter was a bit rough for the wolves until the last minute where a combination of a Wiggins put back on a Pekovic miss, Alonzo Gee  missing two free throws, and a Kevin Garnett long two helped the wolves claw back from eight down to make it a four point deficit heading into half.

Half Time Notes

  • Gary Neal who in the last three games has averaged 16 points a game continued his stretch of productiveness with 10 points in the first half.
  • Portland was deadly from three at 7/10.
  • Ricky had seven assists in the first half, again showing us how fun he is to watch, also No turnovers!

 

The third quarter began with the wolves on a 8-0 run promptly taking the lead 59-55 in two minutes. Portland would take a timeout to regroup, and try to combat Minnesota’s quick third quarter spurt. Over the next several minutes the wolves and trailblazers battled it out to the tune of an eight point wolves lead with four minutes left in the third. With the score 75-69 Zach Lavine hit an awesome rainbow jumper to bring the lead back to eight. Ricky got through the third quarter with no turnovers, which left a lasting impression on the crowd when lavine came in the game. The blazers rallied a bit at the end of the quarter to cut their deficit to four going into the locker room at 81-77 wolves.

As the fourth quarter began the stat the Blazers were 12-3 when going into the fourth trailing looked bad for the puppies considering the blazers out played them at the end of the third, and had the momentum. The quarter began with a 6-2 run for Portland to tie the game at 83 a piece. Zach Lavine scored Minnesota’s first two buckets of the quarter and the wolves were clinging to two point lead a couple minutes into the quarter. Gary Neal hit a three to finally get on the board in the half, and got to 13 for the game. Gary would score the wolves next 11 points, ya 11! That would help the wolves pull out to a 98-93 lead. As the last minute of the fourth quarter came Ricky Rubio hit a big time three to seal the win for the wolves, and help them improve to 2-1 against the blazers this year.

Reaction

  • We might need to rethink this Gary Neal kid, because he has been straight balling these last few games.
  • The fans are still showing up as a crowd 19,000 strong came out to support the wolves.

Next

The wolves travel to L.A to face the clippers  to try to make a streak out of this winning thing, What?

On an unrelated note my hometown Hermantown Hawks lost in the state final in hockey for the sixth straight year in overtime after scoring two goals in 30 seconds in the last minute of regulation to tie it. It seems they get closer every damn year.

 

 

 

Timberwolves Drop Disappointing Loss to Denver at Home

Wiggins2

The Timberwolves jumped out to a fiery start Wednesday night, but the energy was short-lived as the last three quarters proved a constant battle of “catch-up.” The 100-85 loss to a less-than-impressive Denver squad made it that much more disappointing. Andrew Wiggins led the team with 20 points, followed by Gary Neal who added 13 off the bench.

Minnesota had an early spark when Ricky Rubio dished the perfect pass to Wiggins for a slam dunk at the 6:00 mark. The play was part of an 8-0 run by the Wolves, and things seemed to be going their way. After a reactive timeout by Denver, though, the momentum shifted and from that point on the game ran in the Nuggets’ favor.

In the second quarter, Minnesota shot only 21 percent from the floor for 16 points, in comparison to Denver’s 34 points.

“In the last two months this is probably the most disappointing loss we’ve had just because we’ve been playing pretty good,” said head coach Flip Saunders. “We just didn’t play with any sense of urgency.”

Kevin Garnett added 11 points, six rebounds and a block in 21 minutes on the floor. Minnesota’s defense looked rough all night, but it was abysmal when Garnett was on the sideline. The young team just could not keep up with Denver, and they struggled to find a groove on either end of the floor.

No matter how many times the Wolves grabbed a bucket or two in an attempt to cut the deficit, the Nuggets answered with points of their own. Following the game, Rubio took ownership for some of the problems.

“We’ve got to bring more energy every night and tonight we didn’t,” he said. “We’ve got to start the game with energy. I blame myself. I didn’t bring enough energy tonight.”

Both Rubio and Kevin Martin have been averaging double-digit points over the last stretch of games, but the pair looked entirely out of sorts, combining for only 15 points on 7-of-28 shooting. As a team, Minnesota shot 39 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from behind the arc. Denver shot 40 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Kenneth Faried took control of the game, tallying 18 points and 14 rebounds on the night, notching his 16th double-double on the season. Will Barton added 17 points and six rebounds.

The Wolves biggest downfall Wednesday was in the paint, as they allowed the Nuggets to outscore them 52-28 points in that zone.

Despite the tough loss, Garnett continues to express a positive and motivated attitude since returning to his original team. The veteran spent the entire game coaching his teammates on the sidelines, offering encouragement, and handing out fist bumps as the guys came off the floor.

“This is a team that will fight for 48 minutes,” said Garnett. “This is a team where everyone will give what they have every night. That’s a good sign.”

Minnesota fell to 13-47 on the season, and the team will remain in town for the last of a three-game home stretch. The Wolves will welcome Portland for a 7 p.m. tipoff Saturday night.