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!

Minnesota Timberwolves 83 – Brooklyn Nets 91

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Wolves returned to the Target Center against the Nets Wednesday night and opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Stiemsma.  Earlier in the day, the team announced that Pekovic and Shved would both miss the night’s festivities.  So, there’s that.  The Nets opened up with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans, and Brook Lopez.

There are slow starts in the NBA and then there are starts that look like the following: blocked shot, opponent basket, turnover, defensive foul, turnover, opponent basket, turnover, opponent basket, turnover … OK, I think you get the point and that is only the first two minutes of the 1st quarter for the Wolves.  Going into the first timeout of the game, the Nets led 16-7.

Unfortunately for the Wolves and their fans, the remainder of the first quarter didn’t turn out much better.  Every time I pay DWill a compliment he returns the favor with a sub-par game.  He looked completely “off” in the 1st quarter going 0-2 from the field and 1 rebound.  At the end of the quarter, the Nets held a 24-17 lead.

The bench mob, specifically Barea, Cunningham and 10 day contractor Chris Johnson, helped the Pups cut the lead to one point (26-25) over the first few minutes of the 2nd quarter.  Chris Johnson is about to end Lou Amundson’s stint with the Wolves I believe.  We’ll see what the FO decides to do here.

After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Nets started to come to life.  While never taking the lead, the Pups played an entertaining few minutes of basketball.  Unfortunately, that couldn’t be sustained over the final minutes of the period, as the Nets started to open things up, specifically with Andray Blatche (?!), Deron Williams, and then Brook Lopez at the very end of the half.

What has become all too common over the past few weeks, the Wolves failed to execute in the last few seconds of the quarter/half.  The Nets held an eleven point lead at the half, going into the locker room up 53-42.  Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • It pains me to say this, but I’m not sure what the best course of action is for using Rubio right now.  Does it make sense to increase his minutes?  Should he take more nights off?  Why is this happening?!
  • The Pups starting five looked nothing short of awful in the first half.

After the 3rd quarter got off to a real slow start, Ridnour found AK47 for an alley-oop to bring the Pups back to within twelve points.  That seemed to ignite the team a bit, as over the next few minutes the Wolves chipped away into the lead, but once again could not get over the hump.  Terry Porter was called for a technical foul after biting off a bit more than he can chew with the referees.

Naturally, after typing up my halftime thoughts, Rubio came to life a bit in the quarter, creating a few steals and dishing out a few assists.  However, each time the Wolves had a chance to cut the lead to a single basket, the Nets made the necessary defensive play or the Wolves found a way to shoot themselves in the foot.  The Nets took a 68-62 lead with ninety seconds to play in the 3rd, and neither team was able to do anything more for the remainder of the quarter.

The early minutes of the 4th quarter led to the most intriguing moments of the game.  CJ Watson and JJ Barea went head to head to see who had the better acronym for a first name and the better overall skill set on the court.  In short, CJ Watson won the latter battle.  At one point, he scored nine straight points for the Nets.  While this was happening, JJ Barea decided to try to take the game over for the Wolves and failed, picking up several fouls and missing shots on the offensive end.  This is exactly when the Pups coaching staff needs to pull JJ off the court.  Rather than doing this however, Porter let him sit out there on the court with five fouls and a ton of time left in the game.

This leads me to another key take away from this evening.  After the whole CJ vs. JJ debacle, I think Terry Porter forgot that he was the head coach of the team and could make substitutions.  Right before Rubio was about to check in (for presumably Barea), JJ made a three pointer and Porter apparently called Rubio back to the bench.  Ricky never saw the court in the 4th quarter.  The same could be said for DWill.  While the latter had a poor 1st half, his 3rd quarter was average to above average and he deserved a few minutes in the 4th – if for nothing more than to get this kid on the court in “crucial” moments and the experience in closing games.

In the final few minutes, the Pups seemingly threw in the towel.  They didn’t bother fouling with under a minute to go and down by eight points.  Again, I’m not sure why Porter didn’t extend the game at least one more trip up and down the court.  I’m going to leave it with this: I don’t think Terry Porter is going to be putting this head coaching stint on his resume.  Despite the injury problems, there are a number of head scratchers seen each night.

The Nets walk out of Target Center a 91-83 winner, moving the Pups record down to 17-22 and falling further into the cellar of the Northwest division.  The Pups will now travel to the southeast with games in Washington DC and Charlotte on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Keys of the Game

  • Coaching – Since PJ Carlesimo has taken over the Nets head coaching duties, the Nets hold a 12-2 record.  Carlesimo made all of the right substitutions and moves tonight and as covered above, Terry Porter did not.
  • Guard Play – The Nets “big three” in the backcourt (Williams, Johnson, and Watson) combined for 50 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds.  The Pups “big three” of Rubio, Ridnour, and Barea combined for 29 points, 17 assists, and 9 rebounds.  I’m not sure that disparity really suggests how one-sided this felt all evening.
  • Free Throws – While the Wolves have been one of the best teams in the NBA in getting to the FT line, they failed miserably to do so in Wednesday’s game.  Six attempts in the entire game (and only making four of them) lends itself to blaming the Wolves players on the court, the scheme the team is running (too many jumpers & three pointers), as well as some blame on the officiating crew.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Deron Williams – 18, 8, and 6 to go with 3 steals in over 30 minutes of action tonight for the Nets PG.  This was predictable, given the preview we put together for tonight’s game.
  2. CJ Watson – Not only did he have a great offensive game going tonight, he completely took JJ Barea out of the game by getting him rattled, which led to a string of bad decisions on JJ’s front.
  3. Brook Lopez – A very efficient 22 points and 7 rebounds, shooting 10-16 from the field in just 26 minutes.  Lopez dominated Stiemsma early and often.