Timberwolves Sink Lakers, 120-119

Zach LaVine had his breakout game Friday night, returning to the Los Angeles area. (Danny Moloshok, AP Photo)

Zach LaVine had his breakout game Friday night, returning to the Los Angeles area. (Danny Moloshok, AP Photo)

The 3-10 Minnesota Timberwolves hit the road to take on a struggling Los Angeles Lakers team that is off to the worst in franchise history at 3-12.  Despite the return of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference with our Pups.  The Lakers lottery pick, Julius Randle broke his leg in the season opener and things have gone from bad to worse for Los Angeles.  As you might expect, the Lakers would receive zero pity points from the Wolves, who continue to take the court with a ton of missing pieces.

The Wolves opened up with a returning Mo Williams at PG, Corey Brewer, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Lakers came out with Jeremy Lin, Kobe, Wesley Johnson, Carlos Boozer, and Jordan Hill.

Mo Williams started off the game with the shooter’s touch, scoring 8 of the Pups’ first 13 points.  Unfortunately for the Wolves, Kobe was in the zone to begin the game as well.  Bryant was all over the court, putting up 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals in the 1st quarter.  In the final 4-5 minutes of the opening quarter, the Wolves turned the ball over entirely too much (7 in the first quarter) and it led to the Lakes taking a seven point advantage into the second quarter, 30-23.

After falling behind by as many as eleven points, the Wolves went on a small run to cut the Lakers lead down to three, 52-50.  The Wolves were led by Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett, who were the only two players doing much of anything on the offensive end of the court.  Heading into a timeout, LaVine had quickly become the Wolves leading scorer with 16 points on 6-7 shooting from the field.

At the half of a relatively exciting and certainly entertaining game, the Lakers held a 58-54 advantage.  While the Wolves were heavily relying on Mo Williams, LaVine, and Bennett, the Lakers were getting contributions across the board.  Six of the ten players that entered the game had scored at least six points for the home team.

The Timberwolves came out and scored the first four points of the second half to tie the game at 58.  From there, the two teams went toe to toe and bucket for bucket throughout an amazing show of offense in the third quarter.  Basketball purists may also suggest that NBA team defense regressed 25 years as well.  When Wes Johnson is going off, you know there are issues on the defensive end of the court.  The Timberwolves outscored the Lakers 39-38 in the third quarter but trailed 96-93 after three quarters.

It looked like the Wolves were in trouble when Nick Young started to get hot and brought the crowd alive in the 4th quarter.  However, Mo Williams answered the call with eight straight points for the Wolves and tied the game at 117.  The play/sequence of the game followed Williams’ last bucket as Kobe got Andrew Wiggins to bite on a few up-fakes and drew a foul.  However, Bryant missed both free throw attempts allowing the Wolves to take a two point lead on a Thad Young bucket.  Kobe tied the game at 119 with another basket but the Wolves had five seconds on the clock to get a shot off.  Flip Saunders drew up a play for Thad and he drew a foul on Nick Young to go to the free throw line.  After missing the first, Young made the second to give the Wolves a 120-119 lead with two seconds left in the game.

Fortunately for the Wolves, Kobe Bryant missed a relatively open three pointer as time expired, giving the Pups the victory, 120-119.  After losing 22 straight to the Lakers, the Timberwolves have now won four of the last five.

Game Notes:

  • The Lakers wore an alternative black t-shirt jersey this evening, which led to the Timberwolves wearing their home white jerseys.  The NBA is confusing.
  • While Wiggins probably had his worst game of the season Friday night, fellow rookie Zach LaVine finished with a career high 28 points on 11-14 shooting.  LaVine of course was returning to the Los Angeles area after his one season at UCLA.
  • If it weren’t for LaVine, Mo Williams would easily be considered the player of the game, finishing with 25 points and 11 assists.

Timberwolves Wrap up Road Trip with 95-86 Win Over Chicago

Photo: Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY Sports

It’s been five years almost exactly since the Timberwolves have beaten the Bulls, and Monday night’s performance snapped that streak when Minnesota came up with a 95-86 win in Chicago. The victory wrapped up a four-game road trip for the Wolves and brought them back to .500 with a 22-22 record. Kevin Love led his team with 31 points and eight rebounds, followed by Ronny Turiaf with a season-high 14 points and seven rebounds.

Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 20 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, and D.J. Augustin added 19 points in an effort to tame the Wolves.

Minnesota looked to be the better team from the point of tipoff, shooting an impressive 54 percent in the first quarter. The Wolves were better shooters cross the board, and the Bulls couldn’t keep up with their opponents’ fast-break points. Minny also outscored Chicago at the free-throw line, coming away with 22 points to the Bulls’ 14.

“It’s a matter of playing to a certain level, and then we are going to win our share of games,” said Wolves head coach Rick Adelman.

The Bulls played without starting center Joakim Noah, and they also continued to miss Kirk Hinrich on the floor. Taj Gibson filled in for Noah and scored 10 points, but Turiaf proved the stronger big man.

“They had some people out too, but we knew it was going to be a physical game,” Adelman said. “We knew how they were going to play, and I thought we responded pretty well.”

The Timberwolves played tough defense against their opponents, grabbing eight steals and 35 defensive rebounds. Minnesota held Chicago’s bench squad to only 11 points total, while the Wolves’ reserves tallied 35 points.

Turiaf was part of that bench team, and he was called on when starting center Nikola Pekovic left the game early on with an Achilles injury. Turiaf stepped up to the plate, not only adding points but also blocking three shots. He added the energy the Wolves needed to wrap up the road trip, and he proved a real leader on the floor.

“My goal this year, regardless of the situation, is just to go out there and have some fun,” Turiaf said. “No matter how much or how little I play, I just want to have fun.”

Turiaf_Bulls

Although Minnesota’s shooting slowed down a bit throughout the game, the Wolves still finished with 46.6 percent from the floor, whereas Chicago shot only 37.6 percent.

Chicago’s Augustin made a three-pointer with 1:29 remaining to bring his team to within five, but the Wolves answered right back. Love turned around to score an easy layup, and Corey Brewer came up with a big dunk inside the final minute.

Coming Up Next:

Monday night’s win brings Minnesota back to .500 before finally heading home.  The Timberwolves’ next two games will be at the Target Center, when they host New Orleans Wednesday night and the Grizzlies on Friday. Both tipoffs are set for 7 p.m.

Minnesota Timberwolves 97 – Chicago Bulls 104

Source: Timberwolves Facebook page

Source: Timberwolves Facebook page

Game Summary

After a quick trip out west, the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the Target Center for a Sunday evening game against the Chicago Bulls.  The Wolves were victorious Friday night against a hapless Phoenix Suns team.  The Bulls were coming off a big victory Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers.

The Wolves opened up with the following lineup – Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  The Bulls continue to miss Derrick Rose, while Joakim Noah missed his second straight game.  They were also without Rip Hamilton.  Given all of this, the Bulls starting lineup consisted of Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Nazr Mohammed.

Going into the first timeout of the game, the Wolves held a 12-10 lead.  The only Bulls player doing anything positive for the team on the offensive end was Hinrich, who had 8 of the team’s 10 points.  Each of the Wolves’ starters contributed at least 2 points.  However, coming out of the timeout, the Bulls came alive, going on a 9-2 run to take their first lead of the game.

At the end of the 1st, the Bulls held a 23-16 lead, continuing their run for the remainder of the quarter.  They dominated the Pups on the offensive boards, with 11 offensive rebounds in the 1st quarter.  By comparison, the Wolves had 1 offensive rebound and 10 total rebounds in the quarter.  Chicago was led by Hinrich and Deng, while the Ricky Rubio was doing his part to lead the Wolves.  Unfortunately, the Wolves frontline looked completely overmatched.

The 2nd quarter got off to a rough start for the Wolves as well.  Adelman had to burn a timeout within the first three minutes, as the Bulls doubled up the Wolves on the scoreboard 12-6 to start the quarter and took a 35-22 lead.  Nate Robinson provided a spark for the Bulls in the quarter, with 9 points and 6 assists during his time on the floor.

The Bulls do an excellent job of slowing down a game and frustrating their opponent.  The Wolves fell victim on both accounts in the 1st half.  The body language was not good and the amount of complaining to the officials was overdone.  The only Pup that really stood out in the half was Dante Cunningham, who had 8 points in the half, but didn’t have a single rebound.

At the half, the Bulls held a 56-43 advantage after a wild final seconds.  The Bulls grabbed a defensive rebound and Nate Robinson threw a beautiful lob to Taj Gibson for a slam.  However, with about four seconds on the clock, the Wolves had enough time to get up the court, leading to a Derrick Williams rainbow three pointer that went in as time expired.  Williams was overheard calling glass.  (OK, not really)

Here are a couple of halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • The Wolves broadcast announced during the 1st quarter that Kevin Love would send x-rays to NY on his hand later this week and he could be cleared to play thereafter.  Love said his shooting has improved greatly.
  • It was 80’s night at the Target Center Sunday night.  However, the team wore their current uniforms?  Would have liked to have seen the original uniforms from 1989.
  • There were a number of Bulls fans in the crowd, as they could clearly be heard over the TV broadcast.

Ricky Rubio came out of the locker room and was fired up.  He was creating havoc on the floor in the early minutes of the 3rd quarter.  With a little over five minutes to play in the quarter, the Wolves were finally able to get the lead down to single digits, forcing a Chicago timeout.  Rubio was doing everything in his power to get the team back in the game and it looked like it was finally starting to rub off on the other Pups.

Chicago was able to counter every mini-run the Wolves made and at the end of the 3rd quarter, maintained a double digit lead, 78-68.  Carlos Boozer came alive in the quarter and had already amassed a double-double (15 & 10) by the end of the 3rd.  On the Wolves’ end, Pekovic and Williams had decent 3rd quarters, but Andrei Kirilenko was MIA.

Minnesota tried to claw back into the game multiple times in the 4th quarter as well.  Completely against the season long trend, the team caught fire from long range, with three’s from Budinger, Shved, and Williams to cut the lead to single digits again.  Carlos Boozer clearly had other plans on the night, as he continued to put the Bulls on his back and end each Wolves run.

Despite their efforts in the 2nd half, the Wolves were never able to overcome the deficit and fell to Chicago 104-97.  Overall, it was an enjoyable game to watch, just didn’t have the outcome Wolves fans would want.

Keys of the Game

  • Rebounding – The clear differentiator in tonight’s game.  The Bulls owned the offensive boards, grabbing 20 of them Sunday night, while the Wolves were only able to grab 6.  Those advantages carried right over to total rebounds as well, with the Bulls holding a 52-32 advantage on the night.
  • Effort – The Pups looked incredibly flat in the 1st half.  Ridnour, Pekovic, and Kirilenko all looked worn down (and were virtually non-existent).  Despite playing Saturday night, the Bulls came out as the more aggressive team and that helped them build and maintain their lead throughout much of the game.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Carlos Boozer – Always seemed to have the answer when the Wolves made a run and owned the boards throughout the evening.  Boozer finished with 19 points & 12 rebounds.
  2. Nate Robinson – Chicago’s sparkplug helped build the lead in the 1st half and drove home a dagger three pointer in the 4th quarter.  Robinson finished with 22 points & 10 assists.
  3. Jimmy Butler – A very strong performance from Butler tonight; 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals.