Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 23

 

Kevin Love & LeBron James ... Olympic buddies Timberwolves head to Miami as part of a tough week ahead (Photo credit: John W. McDonough/SI)

Kevin Love & LeBron James … Olympic buddies
Timberwolves head to Miami as part of a tough week ahead
(Photo credit: John W. McDonough/SI)

 

Setting the stage:

It feels like it has been a while since I wrote a weekly preview.  Despite calling it a season on Super Bowl Saturday, I was still posing the “Can the Timberwolves do it?” question here in this column just a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately, we have answered that question with erratic play and an inability to consistently beat teams that we should and occasionally pull off a few more victories to go on a prolonged winning streak.

Throw in the rumors that are floating around Twitter that Rick Adelman will not be returning to the sidelines next year and you have a pretty dull remaining of the season for our Pups.  Sorry, I can’t sugarcoat this one.  If you are looking for a sliver of hope, look no further than the product Gorgui Dieng has been giving the team while in the starting lineup during Nikola Pekovic’s recovery.  If nothing else, at least it proves that I’m not wrong 100% of the time?

As Warner Wolf used to say, “Let’s go to the videotape” … only there is no video here, just a preview for this week’s games.  I digress …

Game 74: Monday, 3/31, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Clippers have been pretty hot of late and find themselves as the three seed in the Western Conference.  Their stars are performing and Jamal Crawford and JJ Redick have formed a nice combination at the SG position.  I still want to see this team win a playoff series before they receive the accolades.

Opponent to watch:

Blake Griffin – After Monday night’s game, the next time Wolves’ fans see Blake, he may be wearing the Pups’ jersey.  Wait, who said that?!  Griffin is having another solid season, putting up about 24 & 10.

Predictions:

The Wolves play in Brooklyn on Sunday night and come home for this affair.  Even if the season wasn’t over, I don’t think they would have pulled this one off.  Final score: Clippers 112, Timberwolves 102

Game 75: Wednesday, 4/2, 7pm – Memphis Grizzles @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Memphis has also been playing very solid basketball of late and has leapfrogged Phoenix and Dallas in the Western Conference to join the playoff fray.  Wednesday night will be the final game of a five game road trip for the Grizzlies.  Their last home game was, ironically, against the Wolves, where they absolutely hammered our guys, 109-92.

Opponent to watch:

Mike Conley – Conley beat up Minnesota’s PG’s in that meeting, shooting 9-12 from the field for 23 points, while adding 5 rebounds and 6 assists.  The Wolves’ defense from the PG position has been, who do you say “less than desirable” (in Spanish)?

Predictions:

This could be a make or break game for the Grizzlies when all is said and done with the regular season.  They need this game and it really doesn’t matter for the Wolves.  Final score: Grizzlies 107, Timberwolves 101

Game 76: Friday, 4/4, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ Miami Heat (TV: FS North)

Who made this schedule?!  After two tough games at home against Western Conference foes, the Wolves take the show on the road to face the Heat.  This game probably won’t matter to the Heat unless they make up at least a game and a half on the Pacers beforehand.  However, we’re talking about the best player on the planet and the two-time defending champs.

Opponent to watch:

LeBron James – He’s good.  You may want to watch him play.  Godspeed Corey Brewer.

Predictions:

This isn’t exactly how you draw up closing the season, is it?  Final score: Heat 115, Timberwolves 109

Game 77: Saturday, 4/5, 6pm – Timberpups @ Orlando Magic (NO TV)

The one game the Wolves are more than likely to win this week and there is no TV coverage for the locals.  The Wolves will finish their rough week by finishing up the journey through Florida.  The Wolves beat Orlando very early on this season, 120-115 in OT, and should be able to carry out the season sweep.

Opponent to watch:

Nikola Vucevic – In recent weeks, Vucevic is battling an extreme disorder like the entire Wolves’ roster.  There are nights when he looks awesome and there are others where you have no idea what to think.

Predictions:

Despite being the tail end of a back-to-back, I can’t have the Wolves go 0-4 this week.  Final score: Timberwolves 104, Magic 95

Wrap-up:

We’re closing in on the end of the season and it the streak of non-playoff seasons has hit a decade.  What do you want to see from the Wolves over the few remaining weeks?

Let’s go Wolves!

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 17

 

Kevin Love in NOLA for All Star Weekend (Photo: Timberwolves Facebook Page)

Kevin Love in NOLA for All Star Weekend
(Photo: Timberwolves Facebook Page)

 

Setting the stage:

While we wait with baited breath for tonight’s All-Star Game (…), let’s take a look at the week ahead for the Timberwolves as they will have to come out of the break swinging.  With the win against the Nuggets before the break, the Wolves moved to 25-28 on the season and jumped percentage point(s) ahead of Denver, good for 10th place in the Western Conference.  The team is a full six games behind the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns for the 8 seed.

If you haven’t given up on the Wolves yet, you definitely want to keep an eye on the Suns, as they are seemingly more likely to come back to earth after the break.  The Suns did however win at the Target Center back on 1/8, so the Wolves are in that much more of a hole to dig out of.  The teams will face off two more times this year: 2/25 in Phoenix and 3/23 at Target Center.

Let’s get to this week’s games …

Game 55: Wednesday, 2/19, 7pm – Indiana Pacers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North & ESPN)

Tough way to begin your post all-star break for the Wolves, who will host the Eastern Conference leading, 40-12 Indiana Pacers this coming Wednesday.  The most complete team in the NBA in my opinion and proving it night in and night out.

Opponent to watch:

Paul George – Do I need to go there again?  You know what, I won’t.  George’s coming out season, after last year’s playoff run, has been a joy to watch.  22ppg, 6.4rpg, 3.4apg, and 1.79spg.  Imagine if this guy was on the Wolves?  Wait, he could have been?  (KAHNNNNN?!?!?!)

Predictions:

Even though the Pacers have a game on Tuesday night against Atlanta, they are too deep and too talented.  If the Wolves get back Nikola Pekovic and/or Kevin Martin, I still don’t think it is enough.  Final score: Pacers 96, Timberwolves 89

Game 56: Saturday, 2/22, 8pm – Timberpups @ Utah Jazz (TV: FS North)

The Wolves won a home-and-home against the Jazz in late January and there isn’t much to suggest this game should be any different.  The Jazz will be in Portland Friday night for a road game and will then have to fly back to Utah to take on our Pups … who should be well rested for this game.

Opponent to watch:

Derrick Favors – Favors is pretty quietly having a decent year now that the logjam in the Jazz frontcourt has worked itself out – maybe too much though.  Favors is averaging 12.9ppg, 9.0rpg and over 1 block per game.  Favors injured his hip this past Wednesday night and we’ll see how quickly he can get back to 100%.

Predictions:

All games moving forward for the Wolves are “must-win” – they cannot afford to lose one like this whatsoever.  Final score: Timberwolves 108, Jazz 92

Game 57: Sunday, 2/23, 8pm – Timberpups @ Portland Trailblazers (TV: FS North)

The Blazers are a ridiculous 19 games over .500 (36-17) at the all-star break and that is only good for the 5th seed in the Western Conference.  As a team, they are first in scoring and rebounds per game in the NBA, and fourth in assists per game.  Their defense is a liability and I still don’t see how this team is this good.  I must have a mental block on the Blazers, but I just don’t see them doing anything in the playoffs.

Opponent to watch:

LaMarcus Aldridge – Get ready for your now weekly, “who is the best power forward in the NBA?” rhetoric.  It seems like whoever has the ESPN game that night is anointed the best for 24-48 hours.  I like Aldridge as a player … if Love is going to be traded, I would highly prefer that LMA comes back to the team vs. Blake Griffin.  But neither is as good as Kevin Love.  Period.  Period!

Predictions:

Blazers will have Saturday night off to prepare for the Wolves and rest.  Final score: Blazers 114, Timberwolves 110

Wrap-up:

My predictions above aren’t exactly how you want to come out of the break and make your run towards the playoffs.  However, I just don’t see the Wolves making ground this week with two very tough opponents sandwiching what should be a victory in Utah.  Doh!

Let’s go Wolves!

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 4

Only one of these Kevin's will be frequenting the Target Center this week (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Only one of these Kevin’s will be frequenting the Target Center this week
(Photo credit: NBA.com)

Setting the stage:

The Timberwolves enter the fourth week of the season with an impressive 7-4 record.  As of Sunday morning, that is good for a sixth place tie in the Western Conference and percentage points away from second in the Northwest Division.  As most expected, the team looks like an offensive juggernaut, averaging 108.5 points per game – 3rd in the NBA.  The team is also 5th in the league in both rebounds and assists per game.

After missing one game with the flu, Kevin Martin returned to form Saturday night and remains one of the most impressive stories early on this season.  Kevin Love continues to play at an All-Star level, averaging 26.8ppg and 13.6rpg, with a PER at 29.7!  While Ricky Rubio continues to struggle with his shot, he continues to do everything else with 9.6apg and just over 3 steals per.  Ricky put up a triple double last Sunday against the Lakers and if he continues to put in ~10+ppg, this team is very dangerous.

Week 4 for the Wolves is going to be tough, with two sets of back-to-back games and travel.  A few old faces will be clashing with the Wolves this week and it is a perfect time for the team to put on some throwback jerseys (#Twolves25)!!  Here are a few thoughts for each game this week.

Game 12: Tuesday, 11/19, 6pm – Timberwolves @ Washington Wizards (TV: FSN Plus)

The Wizards will enter this game at 2-7 and Randy Wittman is the early leader in the “coach most likely to get fired first” category (again).  It would be an understatement to say the Wizards are underachieving.  The Pups will come into Tuesday’s game with two full days of rest (so will Washington).  Hopefully, this game will be as easy as it looks on paper.

Opponent to watch:

Bradley Beal – Beal is off to a great start this season in Washington, playing right around 40 minutes per game and averaging a shade under 20 points.  The second year SG will look to make it tough on Kevin Martin on both ends of the floor.

Predictions:

Despite this game being on the road, do you really think I’m picking a team coached by Randy Wittman that is grossly underperforming to start the season?  Final score: Timberwolves 106, Wizards 99

Game 13: Wednesday, 11/20, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Pups will travel back home from Washington to face the Clippers on Wednesday night and will be looking to avenge the nail biting loss that they suffered back on 11/11.  Love and Nikola Pekovic will look to continue their strong play against the solid tandem of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.  Let’s see if Matt Barnes can talk himself out of the NBA before tip-off of this game too.  (Good grief.)  In an effort to get completely ahead of ourselves, this is actually a pretty big game for the Wolves, who will look to even the season series and keep the Clippers (and others) well within their grasps when thinking about playoff seeds.  (Yep, we went there before Thanksgiving!)

Opponent to watch:

Chris Paul – The queen/king of flopping outplayed Rubio in the first outing and will likely need to do so again for the Clippers in order for them to win.

Predictions:

Quite honestly, the Wolves are dealt a tough deck here.  The Clippers will be off the night prior, and coming into the game off of a four game home stretch.  The Wolves will be flying back from DC and won’t get home until late Tuesday / early Wednesday.  The only reason I’m taking the Wolves is because, well, I hate the Clippers.  Final score: Timberwolves 114, Clippers 112

Game 14: Friday, 11/22, 7pm – Brooklyn Nets @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

A few things about this game and how it relates to the national TV schedule.  First, since this game is on a Friday, how in the world is it not on ESPN?  The young, improving Wolves vs. the star-studded (albeit underachieving) Brooklyn Nets.  Second, this is possibly KG’s last game ever at Target Center – even though his contract goes for one more season.  What brainpower decided that this game wasn’t worthy of ESPN coverage?

Third, and changing the focus on national media, why couldn’t this match-up, in Target Center, be on TNT on a Thursday night with Kevin Harlan in the booth?  Fourth, pivoting again, please, PLEASE, PLEASE make this a throwback jersey night!  I really don’t ask for that much.

Opponent to watch:

Kevin Garnett – I don’t care that he is averaging under 25mpg and his averages are well below what we have all become accustomed to.  This is KG and it might be his last run on the Target Center floor.  If you have the ability to get to Target Center, you should be there.

Predictions:

I’m going to predict a “throwback night” from KG as well, who will come into the game firing on all cylinders.  Assuming Deron Williams plays (D2D with an ankle injury), I’m going to predict my first loss in this weekly column for the Pups.  Final score: Nets 102, Timberwolves 100

Game 15: Saturday, 11/23, 7pm – Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

You can literally take just about everything that I said above in the first paragraph for the Nets game and place it here too.  With Kevin McHale on the opposing sideline, this is another opportunity for the Wolves to throw on a few old school jerseys (cough, ORIGINAL BLUE’S, cough).  Do it!  DO IT!!

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden has picked up right where he left off last season, stuffing the box score night in and night out.  Harden lit up Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin in the playoffs last year.  While Martin had one really bad game (game 5) in that series, he bounced back nicely in game 6 to knock the Rockets out of the playoffs.

Predictions:

The Wolves can’t afford to get that “game 5 Martin” in this one, as they will be on the back end of a back-to-back against a team that will not have played since Wednesday night in another part of Texas (Dallas).  Final score: Rockets 112, Timberwolves 106

Wrap-up:

The Pups don’t catch any breaks this coming week from the scheduling gods whatsoever.  If they can go 2-2 this week, I would be content.  3-1 would be impressive and 4-0 would be glorious.  Let’s go Wolves!

Wolves Clipped by Clippers, 107-109

For the second time this season the Minnesota Timberwolves watched a shot fall-short that would have won, or tied, the game at the buzzer. The loss, though tough to swallow, doesn’t prevent Earth from continuing to spin. In yesterday’s recap I used the term fatalism; the belief that what will happen has already been decided and cannot be changed, and unfortunately, it’s what we may have seen in Staples Center last night. However, there’s still plenty season remaining and the Wolves have made it clear they’ve arrived as a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. The game was the second straight sellout, in back-to-back nights, in Los Angeles. Not bad for a small market franchise from the midwest.

BREWERDUDLEY

Brewer drives by Jared Dudley, both wearing the NBA issued headbands worn over the weekend and Monday night in honor of Veteran’s Day

First Half

Compared to Sunday’s meeting with the Lakers Monday’s opening quarter was frustrating although the Wolves led the Clippers at the end of the first; 26-23. Blake Griffin led all scorers with 11 points and it was apparent he was going to be allowed to shoot the 15 foot jumpers facing the basket, he was defended by Nikola Pekovic and not Kevin Love — the Wolves sacrificed strength for speed guarding the Clippers’ high-flying forward. Love and Kevin Martin, Team Kevin, scored seven point each, Ricky Rubio scored two points and had as many assist to go along with three points from Corey Brewer and five from Pek. It was a balanced effort showing Rick Adelman’s Princeton offense is starting to operate on all cylinders.

The starting unit this season has been remarkable and entered last night’s game scoring 80 percent of the team’s points, they needed to bail out the bench -again- Monday. Love, who played just over seven minutes in the first, played eight-and-half during the second quarter and scored nine points. Pek lumbered his big body around for over 10 minutes in the first, but did his heavy lifting over second minutes in the second — scoring 12 points on 5 of 5 from the field and 2 of 3 from the free-throw line. However the Clippers balanced scoring came to life, by halftime, every player that stepped on the floor before halftime had scored; the home team led at the half, 59-58.

First Half Notes

  • The Clippers bench outscored the Wolves 21-10
  • Rubio had only two points, but had five assists
  • Love, Martin and Pek scored 43 of the team’s 58

Second Half

The Clippers expanded their halftime lead in the third by outscoring the Wolves, 26-22. Griffin added 10 to his total and Paul showcased his midrange game after fancy crossovers that, although Rubio defended well, were just too much for the 23 year old to handle. At the end of the third quarter the deficit had grown to five, the resilience of the starting unit was keeping it close — the bench failed to score in the opening period of the second half.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Love   are two players that make Clippers-Wolves one of the NBA's most exciting new rivalries.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Love are two players that make Clippers-Wolves one of the NBA’s most exciting new rivalries.

Martin was relatively quiet in the first half and went to charity stripe only four times thus far. He matched that output in final quarter and made good on all four attempts, asserting himself offensively during the game’s final minutes. The lack of productivity from the bench was taking it’s toll on the starters, Rubio failed to record a rebound in the second half, scored zero points in the final quarter but -as only he can- found a way to distribute four assists down the stretch. Love despite dominating the boards, snagging eight rebounds, scored only two points in the final quarter. The Wolves, again, had a chance to run a play with a chance to win on the road. Here’s a breakdown.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.03.39 PM

 Martin throws the ball in to Love from the far sideline, Love sets a screen on Matt Barnes and hands it back to Martin who dribbles to his left toward the top of the key. Because it’s this late in the game, the Clippers will undoubtedly switch on the pick-n-roll — leaving DeAndre Jordan to defend the smaller, quicker Martin.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.07.09 PM

Here, Martin can either pull up from behind the three-point line and go for the win if Jordan decides to sag and defend against dribble-penetration. Martin chooses to continue driving to his left, that’s the side of the court he’s most comfortable shooting the ball.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.10.19 PM

The play is well defended, Jordan recovers well and Martin is forced to shoot an awkward jumper; however, Pek has bullied Griffin almost completely under the basket Love is crashing the boards with the smaller Barnes on his hip. This puts both players in position to obtain the offensive rebound.

 Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.14.19 PM

Pek gets the offensive board because of his positioning, has a look at a baby hook to win the game. Barnes instinctively jumps to defend the shot, Love slips behind him toward the rim in front of Paul.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 2.17.44 PM

THIS, THIS IS HOW CLOSE THE WOLVES WERE TO SENDING THE GAME TO OVERTIME. Love’s putback sits on the rim for what felt like an eternity before falling off in the Clippers favor.

“When Kevin [Martin] had shot the ball, I knew we had 11 seconds left. Pek got the rebound, shot it up, so my natural instinct was to try and rush and put it up there. It sat on the rim and, like I said, 99 times out of 100 times, that goes in.” – Love said after the game.

He told fans the same thing he told his teammates just moments after the buzzer rang at Staples.

As he walked toward the bench, Love smiled. Despite the outcome, the game was fun — the Wolves have no reason to hang their head after this one, well, the starters don’t anyway.

 

Three Stars (Do we include Clippers players? I’m new at this)

  1. Nikola Pekovic – Pek scored 25, his highest output of the season, on 11 of 15 shooting and had 10 rebounds.
  2. Kevin Love – Mr. Double-Double scored 23 and grabbed 19 rebounds, he has a double-double through every game this season
  3. Blake Griffin – Silently matching Love’s scoring output with 25 points on 11 of 22 shooting in addition to 10 rebounds. He had zero turnovers.

The Wolves have today off but face the Cavs tomorrow at home. More on that one to come.

Minnesota Timberwolves 90, Los Angeles Clippers 96

Eric BledsoeAfter missing the past 11 games to tend to his wife Mary Kay who is suffering from seizures, Timberwolves Head Coach Rick Adelman returned to the bench only to witness the Pups suffer their fifth consecutive loss as Minnesota fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 96-90. While the Wolves nearly knocked off the third-seeded team in the Western Conference, there is little consolation for dropping yet another game at home and falling for the fifth time in as many games.

Game Notes

I am going to skip the traditional game recap format and simply offer some game notes, as I feel like I continue to recycle the same thoughts concerning the Timberwolves’ struggles:

  • Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic returned from injury, and Pek got the start at center while Shved came off the bench. Shved, who was recently added to the Rising Stars rookie roster over All-Star weekend, played fairly well and was +3 on the court and scored 12 points on 5-13 shooting with 3 assists in 21 minutes. Pek added 17 points and 12 boards.
  • Ricky Rubio really struggled last night, contributing just 9 points and 4 assists in 27 minutes. He had a tough time hanging with Clippers PG Eric Bledsoe, who finished with 10 points, 10 assists, and 6 steals as he continues to fill in for the injured Chris Paul.
  • Derrick Williams played only 13 minutes and it appears as if Adelman’s frustration with the former number-2 overall pick has not swayed, despite his long absence from the team. The Timberwolves NEED to figure out what they are going to do with Williams, because as his minutes begin to shrink, so does his trade value.
  • Blake Griffin ravaged the Wolves front line with 26 points and 13 boards in 36 minutes. Minnesota clearly lacks athleticism on their front line, and it was very apparent last night against arguably the most athletic player in the NBA.
  • The Timberwolves need a shooting guard (what’s new?). The absence of a knock-down shooter has crippled the Timberwolves this season, and it must be their number one priority heading into this summers free agency. I cannot see this team going very far with Luke Ridnour as the team’s starting 2-guard, and Alexey Shved is a few years of strength training away from being a bonafide starter.
  • Matt Barnes is the enforcer that the Clippers need. Say what you will about Barnes, but he has brought a swagger to the Clippers that have fueled the teams transformation into a legitimate championship contender. After a scuffle with Wolves center Greg Stiemsma in the second period, Barnes was ejected from the game. Despite his tendencies to allow his emotions to dictate his play, his “never back down” mentality brings confidence and physicality to a team that desperately needed it following last season
  • Eric Bledsoe is awesome. Who would have thought that the relatively unknown 2-guard from the 2009-2010 Kentucky Wildcats team would end up being arguably as effective in the NBA as fellow teammate and former number-1 overall draft selection John Wall? Bledsoe has been perfect insurance for CP3 this season but this will likely be the last season he plays for the Clippers. The up-tempo PG is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, and will likely receive very generous offer sheets from teams desperate for a starter at the point. I hope he gets a chance to start somewhere next year because he has a chance at becoming a very, very good player.

I apologize for the brevity of this recap, but hopefully you got a good idea about last nights match. The Wolves will now take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at the Target Center. The Lakers are coming off a loss to the Phoenix Suns in which former Pup Michael Beasley dropped 27 on the Lake show. Keep the faith, Wolves fans.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 1/30/13

rickyrubio_blakegriffinFor the third time this season and for the second time in two weeks, the Timberwolves will be playing the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.  The game begins a much needed, six game home stretch for the Pups as they look to right the ship that sails into the second half of the season.

The good news: it looks like Rick Adelman will be returning to the sidelines for the Pups!  The team was 2-9 during his extended absence in January to be with his ailing wife.  Let’s just say that it is good to have Coach Adelman on the sidelines.

Bonus good news: Pekovic and Shved returned to practice this week and may be available to start this stretch of home games!  Please cross your fingers.

The bad news: The Wolves have been beaten by the Clippers in each of their meetings this season, with the latter game on 1/17 being a complete dress-down for the Pups.  The only reason that game was remotely close (90-77) is because the Clippers looked like they took a few minutes off from time to time.

Player to watch:

Ricky Rubio – Rubio had his best performance of the season on Saturday night in Charlotte, finishing a game high +23 for the evening with 14 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals.  Let’s build on this!  Hopefully, Ricky is becoming more comfortable with his legs and his teammates so that we can start to see more of these types of performances much more frequently.  (Side note: the team desperately needs them.)

Match-up to watch:

Andrei Kirilenko vs. Caron Butler.  Without knowing who is in and who is out at the time of writing (Monday night) here is the match-up to watch.  Caron had a miserable performance against the Wolves back on 11/28, going 1-8 from the field for 2 points.  However, Andrei missed that game due to injury.  Two weeks ago Butler fared a little bit better with 12 points and putting in a few rebounds and assists going against AK47.  That said, Kirilenko got the better of him, finishing the game with 15 points on 7-12 shooting and adding in 5 rebounds and 4 steals.

Predictions:

With the return of Coach Adelman and the extended break between games, I say the Pups take Wednesday night’s game at home against the Clippers!

Final score prediction: Twolves 104, Clippers 97

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Blake Griffin

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 77, Los Angeles Clippers 90

Love game winnerGame Summary

(We didn’t have the opportunity to see a repeat performance of the lead picture here, so let’s live in the past for a few seconds!  Man that was a fun night!)

The Timberwolves returned home for Thursday night’s game against the LA Clippers, arriving with a four game losing streak in tow.  The Clippers came in with a two game winning streak and holding the second best record in the league.  Adding a little bit of drama (see what I’m doing there?) to tonight’s game, Kevin Harlan returned to the Target Center to call Thursday’s game for TNT’s national broadcast!

There were a few changes to the starting lineup for the Pups this evening.  This is likely due to a number of factors: able bodies, terrible losses, some type of spark being needed.  The Wolves opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  Prior to tipoff, the Clippers announced that Chris Paul would miss his third straight game.  The Clippers opened up with Eric Bledsoe, Willie Green, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.

The first quarter was flying by as the first timeout wasn’t called until there were under five minutes left to go in the period.  The Wolves found themselves down 14-9.  Unfortunately, and stop me if you have heard this before, the team struggled to hit a jump shot.  The four offensive rebounds the team already collected to that point couldn’t make up for the 4-16 (25%) shooting.

After the TO, the Pups went 3-5 from the field to cut the Clippers lead to two points, 19-17.  This was preceded by a few nice defensive plays in the paint by DWill, including a blocked shot that led to a layup, which forced the Clippers to burn a TO.  DWill clearly plays better with Rubio on the floor and while they both struggled shooting the ball, they were clearly very active.  Pekovic also struggled from the floor, going 0-5 while not getting to the line.  Clearly, he wasn’t paying attention to my comments in the preview.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Clippers held a 27-22 lead.

The Pups opened up the 2nd quarter in a rut, as the Clip-Joint went on an 8-2 run and opened up a 35-24 lead, forcing Terry Porter to burn another TO.  There were too many easy buckets for the Clippers and the Wolves fell back into “another” shooting slump.  Somehow (read: the Clippers taking a few minutes off), the Twolves slowly made a comeback to cut the lead to three points with less than two minutes to play in the half.  However, with a chance to cut the lead to one, Rubio missed a wide open layup and then turned the ball over the next time down the court, leading to a Jamal Crawford three pointer.

With the last possession of the half, Ridnour had a chance to cut the lead to one possession and missed a floater.  At halftime, the Clippers held a 47-43 lead.  Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • That missed layup and TO from Rubio felt like a major opportunity lost and seemed to deflate the building a bit.
  • Help might be on the way for the Wolves, as the expected signing of Mickael Gelabale might become official tomorrow when Lazar Hayward’s contract runs out.  Thanks to Jon K on this one …

To be perfectly honest, for the first few minutes of the 3rd quarter I found myself just listening to Kevin Harlan and Mike Fratello.  For the record, that is a complement to Harlan and Fratello.  I usually find myself trying to drain out the noise of the broadcast but really enjoy listening to the two of them.  In any case, the Wolves and Clippers went back and forth for the first six minutes but the home team continued to trail.

With less than four minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, TNT panned to the Pups bench.  Sadly, what they were showing was Pekovic walking to the locker room with a trainer.  Seriously?!  Seriously.  Pek was injured when he fell to the floor after being tied up with Griffin.  Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.  Before the end of the quarter, it was reported that Pek had a right quad contusion and his return was questionable.  (He never returned to the court.)

For the first time in at least a week (Atlanta game on 1/8?), the Wolves played a pretty decent 3rd quarter and kept the game well within striking distance.  Going into the 4th quarter, the Clips led 68-63.

File this under “this is really getting depressing”: Halfway through the 4th quarter Alexey Shved came down on Lamar Odom’s foot wrong and twisted his ankle.  Shved walked directly to the locker room after the play and didn’t return.  I’m relatively positive this season must be the last piece of bad karma from the Joe Smith signing.

By the way, the Pups fell apart in the 4th quarter and it is hard to find a reason to blame them for doing so.  If the building wasn’t deflated after Pek’s injury, it certainly was after Shved left the game.  The Clippers outscored the Wolves 22-14 in the 4th to pull away and win, 90-77.  The loss was the Pups 5th in a row and there are many more questions right now than answers.  We’ll see what the injury report looks like for Saturday’s game in Houston.

Keys of the Game

  • Nikola Pekovic – Pekovic was having one of his weakest games of the season, shooting 1-8 for 4 points.  Then he went down in the 3rd quarter and didn’t return.
  • Shooting – I’m “dumbing” this down to the most basic summary feasible.  You aren’t going to win many games when you shoot 36% from the field, 21% (4-19) from 3PT range, and 65% (13-20) from the FT line.  All systems are broken right now.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jamal Crawford – Led the Clippers in scoring with 22 points, with a few rebounds, assists, and steals sprinkled in.
  2. Blake Griffin – While by no means dominant, Griffin had a decent game with 20 points and decent defense.
  3. Luke Ridnour – Moved over to the SG position tonight with Rubio at PG and looked much more comfortable.  Finished with 21 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds.