Minnesota Timberwolves 100, Cleveland Cavs 92

Photo Credit: MN Timberwolves

Photo Credit: MN Timberwolves

Game Summary

Finishing up the second half of a back-to-back series in Cleveland, the Pups came into the game a team on the ropes taking a flurry of punches from the opponent.  The latest four game skid moved the team’s record to 18-30 on the season and aspirations for the playoffs are essentially dead.  While the Wolves stumble, the Cavs look to be heading in the opposite direction, winners of six of their last nine heading into Monday night’s match-up.  So naturally those two trends came to a crashing halt for an evening as the Wolves picked up an impressive win in Cleveland (just like I predicted in our preview … or not).  Here’s how things progressed over the evening.

No changes for the Wolves starting lineup Monday night – Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Pekovic.  The Cavs opened up with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller.  You weren’t going to see this game nationally broadcast to the masses, that’s for sure.

The Pups got off to a real slow start, as they were held scoreless for the first two and a half minutes of the game.  The lowlights included multiple turnovers on bad passes by the back court, Derrick Williams picking up two quick fouls, and Pekovic missing a number of FG attempts due to going up soft around the rim.

Thankfully, the Cavs looked almost as bad early on.  They did show an ability to get easy points on the fast break and in transition.  Going into the first timeout of the game, the Wolves held a 14-10 advantage.  The remainder of the quarter was filled with turnovers and missed shots on both ends.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Cavs held a 27-25 lead.

Midway through a poorly played 2nd quarter, the score was only 37-33.  Thinking about this in another way, the Cavs and Wolves combined for 18 points through six minutes of basketball.  With under four minutes to go in the half, the Wolves got a little hot going with a three guard set, led by Rubio and Shved.  After taking a 47-41 lead in the quarter, the Wolves let down their guard (again) as the final minute of the quarter ticked away.  I continue to be amazed at how poorly this team is at closing quarters.

At the half, the Wolves held a 49-46 lead.  Here are my HT thoughts through a Wolves lens:

  • The Wolves seemingly made the commitment of getting Pekovic the ball in the paint tonight and he didn’t reward the team with a lot of points.  Very active half for Pek, but he missed a lot of shots in the paint, including having a few blocked by the Cavs.
  • Same thought again tonight – why doesn’t Chris Johnson get any early burn?
  • I would like JJ Barea off this team.  Have I mentioned this before?

In the 3rd quarter, the Wolves were led by Derrick Williams offensively.  After picking up the two early fouls in the 1st, Williams made a few nice adjustments to stay on the court and helped lead the offense.  This felt like a nice response from the 2nd year pro.  (Naturally, Williams didn’t see the floor in the 4th quarter …)

Not to be outshined by the player selected immediately after him in the ’11 draft, Kyrie Irving did most of the damage for the Cavs in the 3rd quarter.  The Cavs scored 19 points in the quarter and Irving either scored or assisted on all but one basket for the team.  At the end of the 3rd, the Wolves held a 72-65 lead.

The 4th quarter couldn’t have been much more different than the first three quarters.  Both teams executed on the offensive end of the floor and were hitting their shots, leading to an entertaining final twelve minutes.  The Wolves were able to build a 9 point lead with four minutes left in the quarter.  In their quest to make every game interesting, the Pups let the Cavs cut the lead down to 3 points with just a few minutes left in the game.

Losing streaks be gone, as the Wolves were able to close out Monday’s game and win on the road in Cleveland!  The team shot 12-16 from the field in the final frame and left Cleveland a 100-92 victor.

Keys of the Game

  • Shooting percentages – A standard key to the game for the Pups this year, but this time the team comes out on the winning end!  Over 50% from the field and from 3PT range on Monday night and 14-17 from the FT line to boot!
  • Muscle in the paint – Without Varejao, the Cavs had no answer in the paint for Pekovic, but also gave up a lot of rebounds to Williams and Gelabale.
  • Byron Scott – I’m not sure who gets the credit here, but Dion Waiters was 6-6 from the field in only 21 minutes of time on the floor and was matched up against a terribly undersized group of guards on the Wolves.  This should have been exploited a lot more.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Luke Ridnour – A very nice night from Luke shooting the ball (9-14 for the game) and particularly strong in the 4th quarter when the Wolves have collapsed many a time this season.
  2. Mickael Gelabale – The Cavs were clearly not ‘ready for this Gelly’ tonight!  The SF was 3-3 from long range and a game high +16 in +/-.  Mickael continues to impress as he picks up more minutes in Kirilenko’s absence.
  3. Nikola Pekovic – Pekovic gets the nod over Rubio due to being a menace against the Cavs in the paint and logging a game high 40+ minutes.  Pek put in 16 & 10 and was active all night.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavs, 2/11/13

Photo Credit: Elite Daily

Photo Credit: Elite Daily

The Timberwolves will complete the latter portion of their back-to-back Monday night in Cleveland after Sunday’s loss to the Grizzlies in Memphis.  Earlier this season, the Wolves took care of the Cavs rather easily on the Target Center floor.  Kyrie Irving missed the first match-up so this will be the first opportunity for Wolves fans to see last season’s Rookie of the Year against their hometown favorite.  Kyrie is having a whale of a season since returning from his injury, averaging 24 points and 5.5 assists per game.

The Cavs come into Monday’s match-up with a 16-35 record, dropping their last game on Saturday night at home against the Nuggets.  Prior to Saturday’s loss the team had won three in a row, including a victory on 2/2 against the OKC Thunder.

As discussed ad nauseum at this point, the Wolves are in the midst of a long stretch of bad basketball going into the All Star weekend.  The team desperately needs the break to get here quickly in an effort to recharge the battery a bit.  Similar to the past few games, the team will be without Andrei Kirilenko against the Cavs.  After JJ Barea skipped Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies, it will be interesting to see if he tries to give it a go on Monday night.

Player to watch:

Dion Waiters – Similar to Irving, the rookie missed this season’s earlier match-up against the Wolves.  Waiters is out of Syracuse, which of course is the bane of current Wolves’ fans existence given the utter failure of their own, recent draft picks (Flynn and Johnson).  Naturally, Waiters is performing much better than those two and is having a solid rookie season, averaging 14 ppg.  The match-up against Ridnour and Shved should lead to big night from Waiters.

Match-up to watch:

Ricky Rubio vs. Kyrie Irving.  There wasn’t any doubt here, was there?  Monday night affords us another opportunity to watch two, young PG’s that are likely to be a main part of the NBA’s marketing plans for the next decade.  As mentioned earlier, Kyrie has been phenomenal this year for the Cavs.  At the same time, Rubio has turned the corner in the past week or two and is looking like him old self.  This should be a tremendous match-up to watch.

Predictions:

Without Kirilenko again and coming off of a game Sunday night, I expect the Wolves to look flat.

Final score prediction: Twolves 86, Cavs 94

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Kyrie Irving
  2. Ricky Rubio
  3. Dion Waiters

Let’s go Wolves!