Minnesota Timberwolves 100 – Washington Wizards 104

Bradley Beal

Photo Credit: Washington Post

The Timberwolves traveled to Washington on Tuesday night for a matchup with a healthy Wizards squad. Minnesota witnessed first hand the Wizards’ impressively refined offense and saw glimpses of greatness from both Bradley Beal and John Wall. Beal led Washington with 25 points (9-21 FG) and Wall himself tallied 14 points (5-17 FG) to go with a game-high 16 assists and 5 rebounds as the Wizards defeated the Wolves 104-100.

The first quarter was very evenly played by the two teams. Washington focused on running their offense through the post, cycling Nene to the high post where he hit a few jump shots right off the bat. On the opposite end of the floor, Kevin Love had himself quite a first quarter. Coming into tonight’s game, Love ranked third in the NBA in first quarter scoring with just under 9 points. He nearly doubled his first quarter points average as he finished the period with 16 points on 5-6 shooting.

Into the second quarter, Minnesota’s bench (which has been particularly problematic this year) helped to extend the Wolves lead putting it at 53-37 with nearly 6 minutes left in the first half. The Wolves were able to maintain around a 10-point margin until the 2:30 mark, when a Nene layup brought the game back to single digits. However, the Wolves came right back and headed to the locker rooms with a 63-51 lead.

The second half consisted of absolutely spectacular play from the young Beal. The former number-3 overall selection put on a shooting clinic beginning with around 8:00 in the quarter when back-to-back three-pointers by the former Gator brought Washington to within one point of the Wolves. Behind more hot shooting from the Eric Gordon clone, Washington knotted things up at 81 heading into the final quarter.

The Wolves missed countless opportunities in the fourth quarter and ultimately fell 104-100, despite a strong bench performance from rookie Robbie Hummel. Hummel, who fought for and won a roster spot back in training camp, looked very sharp as he tallied 7 points (2-2 3pt) and 6 rebounds without turning the ball over once in 22 minutes. K-Love really cooled down in the second half and ultimately posted a casual 25 point (8-17 FG) and 11 rebound line while Ricky Rubio was largely ineffective throughout much of the game, finishing with only 10 points and 2 assists. Martell Webster deserves a lot of credit as he hit the go-ahead three-pointer which effectively won the game for the Wizards.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Bradley Beal: The 20-year-old shooting guard showed us why he was taken with such a high pick as he shot lights out despite facing fairly decent close outs by Timberwolves defenders. The backcourt of Wall and Beal should be fun to watch for many years to come.
  2. John Wall: With a game-high 16 assists, Wall is proving that he knows how to play the point guard position extremely well and knows when to act as facilitator and when to attack the rim. And while he may need some work done to his jump shot, he is currently a much more developed all around player than La Pistola.
  3. Kevin Love: It has become customary to see Love put up ridiculous numbers in games that aren’t necessarily considered great games for the big fella. Love did a lot with little support from his teammates tonight and provided sparks when the team needed them. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t Minnesota’s night.

Key Takeaways

  • Marcin Gortat was a nice offseason pickup for Washington. He adds a defensive presence to Washington’s frontcourt to help compensate for the rebounding deficient Nene.
  • What’s up with Nikola Pekovic? He seems to disappear for long periods of time during games so far this season and I am seriously wondering if it has something to do with Bill Bayno being gone as an assistant coach. Pek and Bayno clearly had a solid connection and it is a real bummer they were unable to retain him. One thing is clear: Pek needs to regain his confidence if the Wolves are to seriously compete later on this season.
  • It was a very nice game for the former Pup Webster, who shot 5-10 from beyond the arc on his way to 17 points and 9 rebounds. Webster, who is finally healthy, enjoyed a breakout season for Washington last season shooting over 40% from three.
  • Was it just me, or was Jan Vesely pretty impressive out there tonight? The former 6th overall pick just a few seasons ago who has largely been considered a bust shot 4-4 from the floor while grabbing 6 rebounds and even being the beneficiary of a couple of sweet alley-oops in transition.
  • Off night for Rubio. Wall played solid defense and did a good job at not allowing Ricky much penetration, effectively containing him.

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!

Minnesota Timberwolves 101, Washington Wizards 114

Wall blocking RickyGame Summary

The 17-22 Timberwolves travelled east to take on the 9-31 Washington Wizards on Friday night.  Hope everyone set their DVR’s.  The Pups opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Stiemsma.  The Wizards countered with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene Hilario, and Emeka Okafor.  Wall was making his first start of the season in his eighth game of the year, as if the Wolves have not been pummeled enough by opposing PG’s.

The early minutes of the game was played at warp speed.  However, it was also terribly sloppy.  Going into the first timeout, the Wizards held a 17-9 lead.  Washington was 7-9 from the field but had three turnovers.  The Wolves were only 4-12 from the field and matched the Wizards three turnovers.

Despite struggling mightily from the field for much of the quarter and falling down by as many as eleven, the Wolves closed the quarter on a 9-2 run.  Jordan Crawford hit a floater at the buzzer to give the Wizards a 29-25 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.  Going back to Wednesday night’s game, it would be nice to see the Wolves execute in the closing seconds of any quarter.

The second quarter was full of mini-runs by both teams and the Pups drew the short straw when all was said and done.  After building their lead to nine, the Wizards allowed the Wolves to cut it back to a two possession game.  Then, both teams set NBA basketball back about thirty years with some awful play in the middle of the quarter.  As soon as that train of thought started popping into my mind, the Wizards went on a nice run to close out the quarter.

After one half of basketball, the Wolves trailed by 14 points, 60-46.  When would you like me to mention how the Wolves performed to close out the quarter?  Right here (it was awful) or through my Wolves lens and halftime thoughts …

  • At halftime, it had been at least six quarters since the Pups closed out a quarter well
  • The only reason the Wolves weren’t losing by 20 or more points is because of how well they were rebounding the ball on the offensive end, holding a 13-3 advantage over the Wolves
  • The coaching staff needs to rein Dante Cunningham’s jumper in a bit – 16 feet and in until he gets things going again (1-6 from the field in the first half)
  • FG and FT shooting are killing the Pups right now.  But other than that …

In the interest of not looking like a maniac, let’s agree that the second half was atrocious and just move on, fair?  The Wolves didn’t do anything right in the half, with Terry Porter leading the charge and just about every member of the roster following suit.  Derrick Williams finished the game with a double-double (18 & 11) but it felt completely irrelevant.  Luke Ridnour had a nice game shooting but he probably gave up double that on the other end of the court.  The Pups ten day contractors continued to put up positive results, but I’m not sure if this is actually a good thing or bad thing at this point.

Outside of rebounding the ball on both ends, the Wolves did virtually nothing well on Friday night.  The Wolves shot 44% from the field, while their defense, or lack thereof, aided in the Wizards shooting a lights out 58%.  As an added bonus, the Wolves missed thirteen (?!) free throws Friday night, going 20-33 from the “charity” line.

To complete the trifecta, the Wolves were 3-14 from 3PT range again tonight and there might be a need to ban three point shooting tomorrow night in Charlotte.  I wish I were joking, but if I were coaching this team I would consider fining anyone that shoots a three pointer tomorrow night.  The team really needs to focus on an inside out game even if their post players don’t fit the bill.

The Wizards go to ten wins on the season, beating the Pups 114-101 and it didn’t really feel like that close of a game at all in the second half.  The loss is the Wolves third in a row and eighth in their last nine.  Thankfully, Big Al is covering Saturday night’s game in Charlotte …

Keys of the Game

  • FT Shooting – I’m not sure I’ve done a recap where this hasn’t been a problem for the Wolves.  The cynic in me would point out that if the Wolves were perfect from the line, the game would have been tied and gone into OT.  I’m not that ridiculous though.
  • Energy – This might sound a little ridiculous, but the difference in energy levels and body language was very telling.  This Wolves team is obviously struggling and it is starting to show all over the place.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Bradley Beal – 16 points and a game high+24 in the box score, but more impressive was the 4 blocked shots, including one on a Wolves fast break that was probably the play of the game
  2. John Wall – Wall only played 20 minutes but he broke down defenders consistently and hit what became open jumpers.  Breaking: John Wall is good.
  3. Chris Johnson – Struggling to find a third star, so I want to give kudos to Chris Johnson, who put up 9 & 5 in a little over 20 minutes.  What I want to commend him for is banging in the paint and being some type of “presence” for the team.  Doogie sent out the note below that should be of interest to Pups fans …

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards, 1/25/13

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

This Friday’s game sends the Timberwolves to the nation’s capital to face the Wizards.  The Pups enter the game with a 17-22 record and are coming off a loss at home to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.  Ricky Rubio was not pleased with sitting the entire 4th quarter in Wednesday’s game, so we’ll see where this season goes next with this news. It probably isn’t a good thing for an assistant coach to tick off the number one draw for the franchise.  Just a thought…

While the Wizards have the worst record in the league, their season has seemingly turned the corner with the recent return of John Wall to the lineup.  At 9-31 on the season, the team is clearly playing for pride and to show fans what the future may have in store.  Friday’s game also allows Pups fans to catch another glimpse of their former head coach, Randy Wittman.

For tonight’s preview we’re working with Abdullah Sharif from the WizardsExtreme.com team blog.  As you may have seen here on Timberpups.com, we have put together Q&A sessions with a writer from the opposition in an effort to get some inside perspective on what to expect on Friday night game nights.

Here’s our Q&A …

Wizards Question #1 for Abdullah:

First and foremost, John Wall is back in action and looks like he is close to 100% already.  What have you noticed thus far in his play – strengths, potential weaknesses, where he may be struggling, etc.? 

Abdullah:

Wall’s return has posed an immediate impact on the team, as the Wizards find themselves playing with a refreshing sense of aggression and fluidity that’s been rare to the Wizards faithful up until his recovery from the stress fracture in his knee. Over the past week and a half, the Wizards have won 5 of their last 7 games, including wins over Oklahoma City, Denver and Portland. Wall has defied several concerns regarding his conditioning, physical strength, and his overall rust from being away from the game for so long. While he displays the same speed and agility we’ve been used to, Wall has also been facilitating the offense in a more disciplined manner.

However, Wall has also proven that he still has some improvements to be made. His mid-range jump shot remains questionable, although his form has clearly improved. At times, Wall finds himself underestimating his speed down court, which usually results in making the wrong decision in transition, leading to a charging foul or a turnover. But overall, Wall’s long absence has proven his worth, as the Wizards now find themselves in the midst of newfound success, with John Wall being the catalyst.

 

Pups Question #1 for John:

How frustrating has the health of Kevin Love been this season and how have the Timberwolves been able to fill the void with the absence of his inside presence as well as threat as a shooter around the perimeter?

John:

Kevin Love’s broken hand from knuckle push-ups essentially set the tone for what was yet to come this season for the Timberwolves.  This freak accident started off a stretch of terrible luck in the injury department that has hit the vast majority of the lineup.  To be honest, before losing Budinger, Roy, Pekovic, and/or Shved (not to mention Josh Howard or the random games that JJ Barea and Andrei Kirilenko have missed … yes, this is all in a half a season) the Wolves were doing “OK” and treading water in Love’s earlier absence from the team.

However, the roster is far too deep in the water at this point and it is hard seeing this team stay afloat while Love recovers from the surgery and extended amount of time he’s now scheduled to miss (8-10 weeks after the surgery, which happened about a week after the injury occurred.  This was due to … the surgeon being sick and out of the office.  You can’t make this stuff up with how the season is going.)

At this point, they aren’t able to make up for Love’s absence.  Earlier in the season, Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, and Derrick Williams were filling in admirably and rotating nicely based on match-ups.  Unfortunately, that isn’t happening anymore.  To your last point, the team is abysmal from beyond the arc.  Love’s hand injury led to a lot of his own struggles here when he was playing, but there really isn’t another player on the current roster that can consistently hit a three pointer right now.

 

Wizards Question #2 for Abdullah:

Tell us how you feel about Randy Wittman, but please keep it PG-13.  As a former coach for our Pups, I remember Wittman driving fans criminally insane in Minnesota.  Has he made any improvement whatsoever?  Would you like to see him return as coach next season? 

Abdullah:

Wittman’s tenure in Minnesota is very similar to his current one in DC. Besides the short stint he had coaching Kevin Garnett in 2006 and then-rookie Kevin Love in 2008, Wittman’s basketball teams have been sorely untalented. When his predecessor Flip Saunders was fired 17 games into the season last year, Wittman was called upon to take over a squad in complete disarray and misdirection. If you follow DC sports, you’ll clearly notice the blame for the team’s failure is directed more towards the men in upper management, as opposed to the coach himself. While Wittman does endure scrutiny for his questionable player rotations and strategies, many consider Wittman to be a victim of a bad culture and a coach who has had very little talent to work with. Wittman’s Wizards finished the season last year riding a six-game win streak, but several key injuries and managerial mishaps led to an underachieving lineup and the worst start in franchise history.

As mentioned in my previous answer, the Wizards are now back at full strength with John Wall back in the lineup, along with a healthy Nene and a vastly progressing rookie in Brad Beal. In his short time as Wizards coach, Wittman has proven that with the right tools and personnel, he can make for a respectable coach in the NBA.

 

Pups Question #2 for John:

What are the general outlook and opinion of Ricky Rubio and his potential success as a member of the Timberwolves? How much of a difference maker is he when on the floor and how does his game compare to John Wall’s?

John:

(Disclaimer: I’m a huge Rubio backer)

Rubio is struggling to find his form right now as he continues to fight his way past the torn ACL injury from last season.  He is passing up too many open shots and then when he is taking them, they are consistently falling flat and drawing iron.  He has shown flashes of brilliance, but you won’t see it in the box score on most occasions, as the team has been very strict in limiting his minutes and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Ricky is very clearly who David Kahn and company want to build around.  Assuming he shakes the rust off over the course of the rest of this season and comes back to form (and beyond) to what was seen in his rookie year, you can expect a maximum offer on the table waiting for Ricky to sign.  There are a lot of “what if” scenarios to play out between now and then though, so it is impossible to say whether or not he remains with the team through all of that.

His potential success is off the charts.  On the court, his vision is bar none.  He almost singlehandedly made the bounce pass cool again in the NBA last season.  From what is seen from afar, teammates love playing with him.  You can sense his leadership on the court and it seems to carry over to practice and the day to day life with teammates.

I believe he is more “valuable” than Kevin Love.  I’m not saying he is “better”, but I do believe he is more valuable to winning games for this franchise.  Frankly, they need each other to succeed in Minnesota, but Rubio definitely makes everyone else around him better and I can’t necessarily say the same thing about Love.

 

Wizards Question #3 for Abdullah:

Rumors swirled recently that Bradley Beal might be available for the right price.  What do you think of the rookie and his play thus far?  What does he need to improve on to become a complete player for this franchise (or another)?  Can the team build a contender with both Wall and Beal? 

Abdullah:

Bradley Beal got off to a bit of a slow start to his NBA career. As a player who was touted for his deadly shooting and abilities to create scoring opportunities, Wizards fans initially observed a player who lacked aggression and shot poorly from the field. Just a few weeks later, Wizards fans observed a player who was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December. During that span until now, the 19-year old has found his comfort on the floor and is no longer shy about attacking the rim. Beal shows great poise and confidence. His skill set is starting to take great shape as he has shown his ability to create offense and find open space for high percentage jumpers. These factors all led to the dismissal of potential trade offers and the decision to keep him in DC with the pursuit of eventually constructing one of the more dangerous backcourts in the league along with John Wall.

 

Pups Question #3 for John:

With the halfway point of the season approaching, the Wolves are just a few games out of the final playoff spot. What areas do the Wolves need to address in order to make their second half push and secure that spot?

John:

Simply put: Health and good luck.  Unfortunately, the former is nowhere to be found and it isn’t coming back to this roster anytime soon.  With Budinger out until February/March, Love out until March or so, Roy out indefinitely (and probably done), and Rubio still working out the kinks, it just seems like too much to overcome.  The team’s recent play suggests that they have finally hit that threshold where enough is enough.  They have not looked very good over the past few weeks and I fear that there isn’t an end in sight to this.

It also doesn’t help that Rick Adelman has left the team to be with his ailing wife and the sidelines have been left to Terry Porter.  (To clarify this so it isn’t interpreted incorrectly – Adelman needs to do whatever it is he feels best for his family.  The point I’m making here is we are very clearly “trading down” when going from Adelman to Porter on the sidelines.)  While a tremendous amount of the current situation is due to injuries, you will likely get a chance to see a few head scratchers from the coach in Friday night’s game.

To be honest, I’ve already talked myself into the fact that this team is not going to make the playoffs again this season.  Going into the trading deadline, I don’t expect to see a significant move made.  However, I wouldn’t be shocked if JJ Barea or Luke Ridnour is moved for more of a true SG.  In the offseason, I do expect at least one of them moved, potentially with Derrick Williams, as the former #2 pick in the draft will have a new home for the ‘13/’14 season.  Hopefully, those one or two moves provide the team with a significant upgrade at the SG or SF position to move into next season with.

 

We hope you enjoyed the preview for this Friday’s match-up between the Pups and Wizards.  Again, you can read more from Abdullah at WizardsExtreme.com and/or follow them on Twitter.  You can read more from John on Timberpups.com and/or follow him on Twitter as well.