The Whoa Nelly Recap – Timberwolves 143, Lakers 107

Kevin Garnett vs. Kobe Bryant, i.e. the good ole days for these two franchises! (Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

Kevin Garnett vs. Kobe Bryant, i.e. the good ole days for these two franchises!
(Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

 

At 35-35 the Timberwolves have essentially been eliminated from the playoffs, although this isn’t official.  The original basketball team from Minneapolis paid a visit to the Twin Cities Friday night, coming in with a 24-47 record and a team whose season was over before it really began.  With Kobe Bryant remaining on the shelf, Mike D’Antoni has apparently been busy floating his name in the college ranks.  There aren’t many more dislikeable head coaches in the NBA, are there?  That said, Wolves Twitter had their own little news today with a little more meat to the potato of Rick Adelman’s departure.  (In short, we’ll cover this at the end of the season when it becomes official, but this could be filed under “no surprise”.  You could also argue that Adelman has mailed it in since the beginning of 2014 … but I won’t … here/yet/now.)

So, with all of those tidbits out of the way, let’s talk about Friday night’s action at Target Center.  Nikola Pekovic returned to action and the starting lineup, which also included Rubio, Martin, Brewer, and Love.  The Lakers started the game with Kendall Marshall, Kent Bazemore, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman.  Good grief Charlie Brown … no Pau Gasol for the Lakers.

First Half

The Wolves welcomed back Pek in a big way, as the Serbian scored the first six points for the Wolves, giving the home team an early 6-2 lead.  After a quick timeout by the Lakers, the Wolves continued to dominate the early stages of the quarter, building a 20-4 lead.  Pekovic played the first seven minutes and was replaced by Gorgui Dieng.  Early minutes for the rookie and I’ll ignore that the Wolves had already built a ~20 point advantage.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 41-24 lead, thanks to Pek’s aforementioned efforts and Kevin Love’s 15, 5, and 4 in the first twelve minutes.

The story of the 2nd quarter was “more of the same”.  The Wolves’ bench played well and helped double up the Lakers to the tune of 60-30 with under 5 minutes to play in the half.  That breaks down to a 19-6 run in the first ~7 minutes of the quarter.  Dante Cunningham had a nice stint on the floor, with 6 points and 3 rebounds during that span.

If there were a mercy rule in the NBA, I think it would have been called at the half.  The Wolves held a 74-43 advantage as the teams went into the locker room.  It was 50/50 if the Lakers would come back out for the 3rd quarter.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • The Wolves put up a season high 74 points in the 1st half, with the bench really contributing.  Fantastic!
  • Conversely, the Lakers are really, REALLY bad.
  • Someone should clip the box score out of the local newspapers tomorrow and tape them to Love’s locker.

Second Half

To answer the question “Did it get any better for the Lakers in the second half?” … the answer is “NO”!  Tonight’s game could not have gone any better for the Pups.  They reached 100 points with about five minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.  Kevin Love had 19, 9, and 9 in the same amount of time.  At the end of the 3rd, the Wolves held a 111-77 lead, and as an added bonus, Love tracked down a last second rebound to give himself a triple double for the evening.

I’ll save you the suspense, the Wolves managed to hold on to win this one.  The members of the end of the rotation (Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved, etc.) all played heavy minutes in the 4th quarter and everything wound up A-OK.  Final score, Timberwolves with a big win of 143-107 over the Lakers.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Nikola Pekovic – Welcome back the big guy!
  2. Kevin Love – Triple double alert!
  3. Wolves Bench– I could easily make the case for Kevin Martin here but I think this one deserves to go to the group of guys who I have personally thrashed much of this season.  Tonight they played with passion and near flawless execution.

 Key Takeaways

  • Tonight’s 143 points were a franchise high in points for the Timberwolves
  • The Lakers are really, really bad.  There is absolutely nothing on this roster that would warrant trade rumors of Kevin Love going to this team via trade.  Repeat, NOTHING!
  • I hope the Wolves enjoy this one because they now enter a four game streak of potential doom (Nets, Clippers, Grizzlies and the Heat).

Preview: Wolves/Mavs – The Return of Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio returns to game action since he fell to a torn ACL on March 9 against the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo Credit: Fox Sports)

Ricky Rubio returns to game action since he fell to a torn ACL on March 9 against the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo Credit: Fox Sports)

Setting the stage:

First and foremost, if all goes to plan, allow me to start with the following: He’s baaaaaaaack!!!  Ricky Rubio is scheduled to make his season debut tonight for the Pups against the Mavs!  Boy wonder will look to test his leg and self-confidence for the first time and I couldn’t be happier.  If there is a late change in this plan and Rubio doesn’t suit up the Wolves, pretend this paragraph never happened.

The Pups are back in Minnesota after a quick trip to New Orleans for Friday night’s game, which stretched the team’s winning streak to three games and puts them two games over .500 and in 6th place in the Western Conference.  The Wolves have shown a better ability to put the ball in the hoop this week and have gone over 100 points in each game.  Their team defense remains very strong when AK47 is in the lineup and maintains its 4th place ranking in the NBA in points allowed per game at 93.1.  At the time of this writing, there is no new news on Kevin Love’s right hand.  The x-rays taken last night were negative, so unless something pops up when the players arrive at Target Center, I would expect him to play tonight.  (We’ll keep you updated in the Comments section below once an announcement is made, one way or the other.)

The Mavs come into Target Center off of an embarrassing loss in Toronto on Friday night, losing 95-74, scoring less than 20 points in each of the final three quarters.  Ouch.  I very clearly overrated the Mavs this season, even without Dirk Nowitzki.  Maybe this is an overstatement, as they are also treading water, just not as well as the Pups have thus far.  The Mavs are only one game below .500 right now.

While Dirk Nowitzki continues to sit, the Mavs are being led by OJ Mayo and several old timers, particularly Vince Carter and Shawn Marion.  Mayo is, of course, the one player that I would have liked to have seen David Kahn and company pursue this past offseason.  When he signed his two year contract with a player option, I wasn’t sure why or how we missed out on him.  While turning the ball over a bit too much, his overall play this season has been superb.  While we wait and see how and when Brandon Roy will return to action, one can only continue to wonder if the Wolves will go after Mayo a bit harder this coming offseason if he does in fact opt out of his contract.  (Please!)

Player to watch:

Ricky Rubio – Seriously, did you think it would be anyone else?  Rubio’s return should light a spark on this club and move beyond this week’s negative headlines and sound bytes from its other cornerstone.  It will be interesting to see how Adelman handles Ricky’s time on the court.  You want the guy playing enough to get into a groove and to start improving his conditioning.  At the same time, you still need to be careful of overworking him too soon.  Much of Ricky’s performance will depend on his self-confidence with the knee, particularly on cutting to the basket and horizontal movement and shifting on the defensive end.  I would love to see him drain a three pointer on his first shot attempt just to get everyone up and out of their seats (again).

I’m not sure I’m adequately detailing how exciting it is to have Rubio back in the lineup.  Just know that I’ll likely be giving a standing ovation from a living room in New Jersey tonight.  Don’t judge me.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. Chris Kaman.  Pek has had his ups and downs so far this month, with a few quiet games on the offensive side of the ball.  It will be important for Pek to get going early and often.  He’ll need to control the paint and try to draw a few fouls on Dallas to get them in trouble, as they lack depth at the Center position.  Despite limited minutes and an off night on Friday, Kaman is on an incredibly productive run for the Mavs, shooting the ball at an efficient clip (53% on the season) and putting up a career high PER right now at 17.4.  He might be a tough matchup for Pek given his desire to face up to the basket and hit short jumpers in and around the paint.

Predictions:

The Mavs will be looking for revenge after we beat them in Dallas earlier in the season, but there is no way the Pups lose at home on the night Ricky Rubio returns to the court.

Final score prediction: Twolves 104, Mavs 98

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Ricky Rubio (I’m a complete homer on this one, only once though, I promise.  Maybe.)
  2. Alexey Shved
  3. Chris Kaman

Let’s go Wolves!