Recap – Raptors 94, Timberwolves 89

raptor mascot

Strangely, this makes me laugh every time I look at it (Ron Turenne/Getty Images)

Two pretty average NBA teams came together at the Air Canada Centre Friday night for the first time this season, with the 18-20 Timberwolves taking on the 19-18 Toronto Raptors.  The Wolves play again on Saturday and that will be game number 41 on the season.  You know what that means?  We will be halfway through the NBA season and I’ll be putting together some thoughts on the team, its (blah) performance, and more in the coming days.  Expect a few write-ups to hit the site between now and Tuesday.

Despite the underwhelming performances in the past few weeks, no changes to the Wolves starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  (For the record, I don’t believe there should be any changes in the starting lineup.)  Speaking of underwhelming, the Raptors opened up with: Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valaciunas. [Read more...]

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 12

Turiaf expresses my thoughts on how this season is going so far ... (Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

Turiaf expresses my thoughts on how this season is going so far …
(Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

Setting the stage:

The Pups come into the forthcoming week with an 18-19 record, falling to the Spurs last night and failing to get above .500 for roughly the 98th time this season.  As I have stated a number of times in recent weeks, this team must go on a run and put together a string of victories and make up some ground on the teams ahead of them in the Western Conference.

The Wolves are currently in tenth place in the Conference, a game and a half behind the ninth seeded Denver Nuggets and three and a half games behind the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks for the seventh and eighth seeds.  They have beaten the Mavs in two of three games this season, but have lost two already to the Nuggets and just lost to the Suns this past week.  I’m no rocket scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night … but that isn’t good.

Coach Adelman’s crew continues to put up points and allows their opponent to do the same.  The team remains second in the league in scoring at 107ppg, but is giving up 102.4 points a night.  It is more than a little concerning that the team either blows opponents out or loses close games.  Some of this goes on the coaches, but the players have to find a way to execute and close out games.  The returns of Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger may help this a bit, but the Wolves’ starters are really the ones accountable. [Read more...]

Recap – Timberwolves 119, Bobcats 92

Spinning the Twolves wheels ... KG, to Big Al, to KLove

Spinning the Twolves wheels … KG, to Big Al, to KLove.

The 17-18 Timberwolves, “good” for 10th place in the Western Conference, hosted the Charlotte Bobcats / Hornets Friday night.  I am going to skip over my thoughts on the Kevin Love soundbytes for the time being.  I don’t have the will right now to tackle it from both sides or angles and it deserves both.  However, know that I’m not happy that it happened publicly or where this team currently sits in the Western Conference.

Here is how things went down Friday night.  No surprises or changes in the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The 15-21 Bobcats (currently residing in 7th place in the Eastern Conference?!) opened up with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Josh McRoberts, and (Big) Al Jefferson.  Nice to see Big Al back on the Target Center floor! [Read more...]

Timberpups Weekly Preview | December 9th

This is the Timberpups weekly preview for the week of December 9th.

It’d be nice to have strong performances from the Minnesota Timberwolves this week. Looking ahead at the schedule, which is becoming fairly easier, there are some decent opportunities to get momentum moving in the right direction.

The Wolves have the opportunity to be, on paper, a better team than their opponent three of four times this week.

The Wolves have the opportunity to be, on paper, a better team than their opponent three of four times this week.

 

Tuesday December 10th. 

Wolves at Detroit Pistons. 

These two met at the Palace in Detroit during the preseason, this time the game counts. If you can remember the preseason meeting was a dramatic loss, Josh Smith hit a three at the buzzer and the Wolves lost a ‘heartbreaker’. The Pistons, like the Wolves, are hovering around .500 with a record of 10-11. Detroit had five players averaging double figures and enjoy a moderate paced game, picking-and-choosing when to run in transition — mobile big men; Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe aren’t slouches moving up and down the floor. The Pistons rank 14th in pace per game (the number of possessions a team uses per game) while the Wolves rank second.

Chauncey Billups and Wil Bynum are out indefinitely, Rodney Stuckey missed Sunday’s game with left knee tendinitis and it’s unsure if he’ll be ready to go for Monday’s game.

Prediction (and I’m no good at these): Wolves punish Pistons — 117-98.

 

Josh Smith whining, about something -- who cares?

Josh Smith whining, about something — who cares?

 

Wednesday December 12th.

Wolves -happily- welcome Philadelphia 76ers. 

There couldn’t be a better time to play the, less than stellar, 76ers — especially at Target Center. Philadelphia is allowing more points per game than any other team in basketball and are considered one of the favorites in the race to “Tank for Wiggins”. Former ‘potential’ Timberwolf Lorenzo Brown will be in the building, the Sixers recently signed him to fulfill the void that was created at point guard due to multiple injuries. One of those injuries was suffered by Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers rookie has been a glimmering bright spot so far this year averaging 18 points and 7 assists per game but his status for this game is uncertain. “MCW” has a bacterial infection in his right-knee. Evan Turner will need to do a LOT for the Sixers to have a chance in this one.

Prediction: Wolves scoff at the Sixers — 110-89.

Barea drives hoping to score during a meeting with Sixers in the preseason

Barea drives hoping to score during a meeting with Sixers in the preseason

Friday December 13th.

Wolves at San Antonio Spurs.

This would be a rematch between these two teams, but because of the inexplicable generator fire in the Arena at Mexico City last week it’s the first meeting between these two this season. It’s no surprise that the Spurs are one of the best team’s in the Western Conference, this is the Wolves toughest challenge for the week. San Antonio is 11th in the league in offensive rating and 3rd on the defensive side of things. I’ll take the Gregg Popovich approach on this one by not saying much more; The Wolves have work cut out for them against a premier NBA franchise on the road.

Prediction: Wolves slip-up against the Spurs, late — 96-101

Rubio finding a way to pass around Danny Green to someone open in the lane for a dunk, probably.

Rubio finding a way to pass around Danny Green to someone open in the lane for a dunk, probably.

Sunday December 15th. 

Wolves at Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies may have proved a more difficult challenge than the Spurs were, but this matchup is a bit more even. Marc Gasol and Quincy Pondexter are sidelined indefinitely because of their respective injuries — a huge bonus for the Wolves. Tony Allen is also uncertain as of now, but his condition may be updated during the course of the week. The Grizz are 10-11 on the season thus far, but have suffered 20+ losses in their last two games; falling by 20 to the Los Angeles Clippers and 27 at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless and Nick Calathes are now the key components to success in Memphis, hopefully the Wolves are able to take care of business against a team wounded by injuries.

On a lighter note, it’s likely we’ll see Jon Lauer. He’s a Minnesota native (Orono) and a University of Wisconsin Graduate (Something Alex knows very well). It’s always fun seeing guys I’ve watched in high school play at the professional level, though it doesn’t do much for my self-esteem.

Prediction: Wolves go Walkin’ in Memphis and leave victorious — 100-86.

Mike Conley is good, that's pretty much what I got -- but can he carry an injured Grizz roster passed the Wolves at home?

Mike Conley is good, that’s pretty much what I got — but can he carry an injured Grizz roster passed the Wolves at home?

 

Wrap Up: Wolves begin the week in Detroit, head back home for a cake-walk (or what should be), venture down south to hostile territory and hit Beale Street for a team suffering the blues. The travel continues, though it’s dispersed and there will be NO -I REPEAT ZERO- back-to-backs this week. That means there’s no excuse, other than being out played for at LEAST a 3-1 week.

 

That’s all for now.

Zach

Recap – Timberwolves 124, Cavs 95

 

Corey Brewer got the Timberwolves off to a strong start & they never looked back! (Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

Corey Brewer got the Timberwolves off to a strong start & they never looked back!
(Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

For the second and last time this season, the Timberwolves played the Cavs Wednesday night at the Target Center.  The Cavs edged the Wolves on their home court a week and a half ago.  To make Wednesday night’s game a little bit tougher, Kevin Martin came down with the flu and was a late scratch for the Pups.  With that announcement, the starting lineup looked like this: Rubio, Hummel, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  For the Cavs, no real surprises: Irving, Waiters, Gee, Thompson, and Varejao.

Game Summary

I’m taking a page out of Zach’s playbook for the overall Game Summary, as this wasn’t very close just a few minutes after the opening tipoff …

 

First Half 

Once again, the Timberwolves opened up strong.  Corey Brewer scored the first 9 points of the game for the Pups and they were off and running.  Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving seemed to go back and forth with one another on dribble drives … with Rubio creating for his teammates and Irving trying to shoulder the scoring load.  Note the word “trying” here, as the Wolves continued to put points on the board and pressure on the Cavs.

With a little under 5 minutes to go in the first quarter, Kyrie took what appeared to be an elbow to the cheek from Brewer, who was sweeping in for an attempted layup.  Kyrie went down and checked out of the game.  This led to a significant run from the Wolves, including a second three point field goal from Robbie Hummel.  At the end of the first quarter, the Wolves held a 38-24 lead.

The Wolves kept the pressure on throughout the second quarter.  This time, it was Kevin Love who was doing a lot of the damage.  Love put in 11 of his 19 first half points in the second quarter, continuing to get the charity stripe.  While Irving returned to the floor, it felt like the damage was already done.  At half-time, the Wolves held a commanding 70-47 lead.

Half-time notes:

  • During the 2nd quarter, Benz and Peterson talked about a little bit of news in that there is a bit of a hope that Chase Budinger could return by the time Christmas rolls around.  (Fingers crossed)
  • Every Wolves player that entered the game in the first half had a double digit + in the +/- box score at halftime.
  • Bored with a big lead?  Yes!  So bored in fact, I wound up putting together a mini-post in the Forum for Derrick Williams trade ideas, including running the Trade Machine for an updated deal for Evan Turner.

Second Half

I’m not going to lie, the 3rd quarter was amazing for the Timberwolves, but also wound up leading to a lot of looking around and fishing for some bit of news.  The Wolves completely dominated the Cavs again in the quarter, outscoring the Cavs 38-29 and building their lead to 108-76 … at the end of only THREE quarters.  What more do you really want me to say?  If you happened to miss last night’s performance, go watch a replay.  If the Wolves have an off night over the course of the next week or two, revert back to this game.  Zach sums things up pretty nicely here:

As one would expect, Rick Adelman sent in the reserves to play the 4th quarter, with AJ Price, Alexey Shved, Shabazz Muhammad, Derrick Williams, and Gorgui Dieng in it for the long haul (or those 12 minutes).  Naturally, this puts Williams at the PF position, thereby proving (again) that we aren’t even going to try with the SF experiment … because it isn’t going to work.  You know what, I’m just going to end that here as it isn’t the right night.

The reserves did not play well, but largely maintained the advantage that the regular rotation had built in the first three quarters.  The Cavs outscored the Wolves 19-16 in the quarter.  Williams and Dieng looked relatively good down low, but the guard/wing play wasn’t very strong.  Shved hit on the Wolves final shot of the game and hopefully that is something to build off of.  ?

Mercifully, this one ended with the Wolves moving to 6-3 on the season and a final score of 124-95.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Corey Brewer – Beyond opening up the game with the team’s first nine points, Brewer was awesome!  27 points on 10-17 shooting, which includes a 5-5 from beyond the arc.  Perfect time to step up, given Kevin Martin’s absence.
  2. Ricky Rubio – It is Ricky Rubio’s world and we are just living in it.  16 points, 16 assists, and 6 rebounds.  I’m not even going to try to describe how amazing he was with the ball in his hands Wednesday night.
  3. Kevin Love – His double-double streak ended, but I am going to assume that isn’t going to be the headline from the game.  Love finished with a cool 33 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.

 Key Takeaways

  • This Wolves team is really exciting to watch.  However, there are still major concerns about the bench play beyond the 7 man rotation (which would contain Cunningham and Barea)
  • The Cavs are a mess and I don’t see how people view them as an up and coming team.  They have one really good player and that’s about all.
  • Good teams have players step up when adversity hits.  A golf clap goes towards Corey Brewer for his offensive game today in Martin’s absence.

Game Notes:

Shabazz Muhammad went 0-4 from the field for 0 points and 4 rebounds on his birthday.  (There is a rookie hazing comment here somewhere, right?)

Attendance for the game tonight was reported at 14,978.  Let’s see if that can go over 15,000 for a Saturday night game and coming off of this impressive victory.  (That was a challenge fans)

 

Recap: Wolves Drain Lakers, 113-90

Scattered about the web during, and before, the season — one phrase in particular lingers about the Minnesota Timberwolves fanbase; Wolves are Coming. Against the Los Angeles Lakers, under the lights and in front the sold out crowd of 19,000 at Staples Center, the Minnesota Timberwolves arrived on Sunday night.

The streak is over. Prior to last night, December 5th, 2005 was the last time the Wolves left Staples with a victory over the Lakers, they lost 22 consecutive games. Think about your life then, compare it to now. Yea — shocking. Because coaches and players are professionals it’s less likely that the streak continued because of failure to overcome a mental hurdle, however, this is Minnesota. Because pessimism and fatalism run rampant in the minds of Twins, Vikings, Wild and Wolves fans alike, the expectation of imminent failure and eventual disappointment lingers like gnats on the summer night of a beer-league softball game; will it be the Wolves that start to break the trend of negativity throughout the state? If something this monumental were to ever begin, the ball started rolling last night in L.A. It’s like the Lakers didn’t exist in the opening quarter.

Corey Brewer caught and finished an 85 foot outlet pass from Kevin Love.

Corey Brewer caught and finished an 85 foot outlet pass from Kevin Love.

 

Kevin Martin and Kevin Love ‘put on a clinic,’ as the cliche goes, shooting a combined 12 of 14 from the field, six of seven from downtown en route to scoring 34 of the team’s 47 points points in the first. Ricky Rubio, quietly (if it was possible for him to be low-key), assisted on seven baskets while snatching two rebounds and three steals. Rick Adelman and the Wolves offensive gameplan exposed Lakers’ center Chris Kaman, who was forced to defend Love on the perimeter, which isn’t easy, and K-Love had an easy time hitting 4 of 5 three-point attempts. K-Love, from the L.A. area, is outspoken whether it’s positive or negative and has been frank with his feelings since coming to Minnesota.

During the second quarter the bench continued it’s struggles and the Lakers outscored the Wolves 25-20, though many were still riding the high from the game’s first 12 minutes. Corey Brewer scored four, Nikola Pekovic had five, Martin added three and Love scored two as the J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved combined to score only four points; we’re left only to scratch our head and wait until the second-unit figured things out, it may not be until Chase Budinger returns.

The halftime lead was 67-48 and feelings of worry, unease and excitement continued to argue on the Twitter Machine. It’s as if nobody knows how to feel when the Wolves are beating the Lakers on the road. Love and Martin combined for 39 points including six more triples on nine attempts in addition to Brewer’s 10 points he obtained doing his usual thing in transition by the half. The Lakers made a push in the third behind the three-point shooting of Steve Blake. Again, the Wolves were outscored in a quarter, 23-28 and Blake converted three of four from downtown to continue fueling any pessimistic fire fearful of an eventual Minnesota Sports letdown. Dante Cunningham and Barea played just under four minutes each and the starting-five stayed on the floor, hinting at Adelman’s lack of confidence in anyone sitting to his left.

“We’re trying to establish ourselves, I don’t want to get our guys playing 45 minutes a night but I wanted to win” Adelman said after the game.

 

At the start of the final quarter his bench had only amounted to four, seemingly meaningless, points and the Wolves led 90-76. Blake and Jodie Meeks led the way for the Lakers, if there was a place to go, with 19 and 14 respectively. The crowd began to clear during the final quarter close to the eight minute mark, the show was over and it was time to head home. Rubio earned his second-career triple-double and took a seat shortly after, ending with a stat line of 12 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists and 5 steals — nobody gave a ‘quadruple double alert,’ though it had been mentioned throughout the second half. The Wolves defeated the Lakers, 113-90 in a 23 point, no-doubt, show-stopping performance under the lights and accolades hanging in the rafters at Staples — success that started in the state represented by the visitors.

It’s a franchise guy, potential MVP and league superstar like Love that needs to perform well in order to change the culture of a city and it’s fans. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s MVP last season, is an example of an athlete that optimists in the Twin Cities hold tight to in ‘turning perspective around,’ he’s not due to be a free-agent until 2018. Love’s situation, and dominance, isn’t proven to be the same as “All Day’s” yet, K-Love will be a free-agent in the summer of 2015 — fans of the Lakers twisted his performance last night into ‘The Audition” for his eventual arrival back to the City of Angels.

How long will Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love be the All-Star Tandem in Twin Cities?

How long will Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love be the All-Star Tandem in Twin Cities?

 

It’s about winning, period. Players, fans, coaches and even writers such as myself want to see local teams succeed whether it’s against or with the odds. Heading into last night the Wolves were the better team on paper, during the game they were on the court but Laker faithful and even some local skeptics refuse to accept one thing — the Wolves are here. They’ll play the Los Angeles Clippers tonight, 9:30 CST (Fox Sports North)

 

Zach.

 

 

(Photos are from the Minnesota Timberwolves website and may be found in the photo gallery)

Chase Budinger Injures Left Knee

Well, here we are again. Per @Twolves_PR: Chase Budinger has sustained a cartilage injury to his left knee. Budinger signed a contract extension worth an estimated $18-million dollars for his services over the next three-years —   he was excited about returning this season.

 

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Dr. Andrews is arguably the most renowned orthopedic surgeons in the country, he’s worked with multiple famous athletes —  Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter to name a few.

Budinger has been optimistic about the knee during the offseason. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune wrote a column July 13th regarding Budinger’s excitement for the upcoming season, in the article Budinger tells Zgoda —

 “I want to come back and show everybody the kind of player I’m capable of being.”

“The best thing this summer is I’m able to jump again, which I couldn’t do at the end of last season,” he said. “I’m happy to be able to jump and dunk again.”

Until this point, Budinger has been optimistic about the knee this offseason. I don’t believe him or the Wolves would warrant a visit to Dr. Andrews, founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute, unless it is worth his time — the injury could be devastating.

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We’ll keep you in the know.

 

Get better, Chase. Stay healthy, Wolves.

David Sherman: Getty Images

David Sherman: Getty Images