Timberwolves Drop Brutal Game to Dallas, Fall to 7-34

(photo credit: cbs.local.com)

(photo credit: cbs.local.com)

The Timberwolves started out strong against Dallas, but gradually the well-oiled Mavericks pulled away and took control of the game. Despite having a healthy Nikola Pekovic back in the huddle, the Wolves came up on the short end of the 98-75 final score. Andrew Wiggins had yet another double-digit game, leading Minnesota with 18 points. On the other side of the floor, Chandler Parsons tallied 22 points for the Mavs.

The first quarter started out well for Minnesota, with more aggressive defense than fans have seen in awhile. Gorgui Dieng had a couple of nice rebounds, and Robbie Hummel was able to battle for a put-back early on in the game.

The headline (and silver lining) for the evening was Pekovic. After missing 31 games this season, the big man returned to the Wolves lineup Wednesday night. Although he came off the bench, Pek had a decent 14-point game after sitting out for over two months.

When No. 14 checked in at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter, Target Center fans delivered a large ovation for the center. Pekovic immediately grabbed a bucket, tying the game at 21 and increasing the crowd noise.

Mavs veteran Dirk Nowitzki hit a long 3-point shot to close out the quarter 24-21, and from that point on the Wolves struggled to keep up. Slow second and third quarters are starting to become the unfortunate trend for Minny, and this game proved no different. Dallas went on a 25-9 run to finish up the half, and the Wolves entered the locker room trailing 59-38.

Thaddeus Young has been playing well lately, and he had another solid game against the Mavericks, despite grabbing all 14 points of his points in the first half. The forward seemed to be the only one able to find successful shots after the first quarter. The game dragged on, with Minnesota simply unable to match up well against its opponents.

Dallas entered the game shooting 40 percent from behind the 3-point line, and the team absolutely killed Minnesota from downtown. Parsons tallied 12 points from behind the arc, and the team made 11 of its 27 long-range attempts.

Prior to the half, the Associated Press‘ Jon Krawcynski reminded Wolves fans of the following:

Parsons wasn’t the only Maverick to play well, though. Dallas shot 51.3 percent from the field, in stark contrast to Minnesota’s 34.8 percent. The brutal loss dropped the Wolves’ record to 7-34 on the season, and it seems as if the second half of the season will be incredibly long for a very young, very tired squad.

After going off for an incredible 52 points against Indiana last Tuesday, Mo Williams never found his groove against the Mavs. The guard started out the game 0-10 from the field and did not find the basket until late in the third quarter. He finished the evening with just five points.

Although it was rumored that Kevin Martin might return, he remained sidelined with a wrist injury. Ricky Rubio also continues to sit out, and Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner shed a little more light on the subject.

According to head coach Flip Saunders, Gellner explained that Rubio suffered torn muscles and also a bone bruise in addition to the sprained ankle. The injury is more complex than maybe originally detailed, and Saunders said the team is taking every precaution to make sure Rubio is at 100 percent before returning to action.

Up next, the Wolves will face New Orleans at the Target Center Friday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 11

The coach needs to turn to Anthony Bennett sooner rather than later to see what he can be for this franchise moving forward. (Credit: Jordan Johnson, NBAE via Getty Images)

The coach needs to turn to Anthony Bennett sooner rather than later to see what he can be for this franchise moving forward. (Credit: Jordan Johnson, NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Setting the stage:

Our Minnesota Timberwolves come into the week with a 5-27 record and are coming off of a relatively terrible week that included two losses against the Jazz, pushing their losing streak to 11 games.  The Wolves start the week with a continuation of a four game homestand against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.  Aside from a trip quick to Milwaukee for Friday’s game, the Wolves will remain at home for the remaining three games this week.  Surprisingly, the Pups have a “home game” against the Spurs that takes place in Minneapolis this week.

As we get closer to the return of Ricky Rubio, Wolves fans are left wondering where this team is heading into the trade deadline (February 19th).  With Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin still on the shelf, would any team be willing to take on either contract?  Will Flip Saunders be able to get more than sixty cents on the dollar for either?  Only time will tell.

For now, let’s concentrate on the week ahead.  Here is a brief preview for each game this week:

Game 33: Monday, 1/5, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Denver defeated the Wolves 106-102 the day after Christmas in their first matchup of the season between the Northwest division foes.  Denver remains under .500 and is struggling to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Opponent to watch:

Kenneth Faried – Someone is going to have to contain Faried this time around, as he dropped an overwhelming 26 & 25 on the Wolves in their last meeting.  Again, with Thad Young incapable of grabbing ~10 rebounds a game, Flip Saunders needs to provide more minutes to Anthony Bennett to see if he can be a solid contributor for this franchise moving forward.

Game 34: Wednesday, 1/7, 8:30pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberpups (TV: ESPN)

The Timberwolves make another appearance on national TV with ESPN in town to cover the game.  To be honest, I thought last year was a fluke for the Suns, who finished the season with a 48-34 record.  They are proving me wrong (again) as the team remains in heavy contention for the playoffs and are only a few games behind the Clippers for second place in the Pacific division.

Opponent to watch:

Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe was tied to the Pups in the offseason rumorville but remained with the Suns despite the fact that the Suns’ roster is loaded with backcourt talent.  With or without Rubio, this would make for a tough matchup for the Wolves.  Godspeed Zach LaVine and Mo Williams.

Game 35: Friday, 1/9, 7:30pm – Timberpups @ Milwaukee Bucks (TV: FS North)

A close game through the first three quarters, the Bucks blew out the Wolves in Minneapolis in late November.  Milwaukee received a balanced performance from its roster, with seven players scoring in double figures in the first meeting.  Andrew Wiggins struggled from the floor in his first official meeting against fellow rookie Jabari Parker.  Unfortunately, Parker has since been lost for the season due to injury and the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award is likely Wiggins’ to lose.

Opponent to watch:

Larry Sanders – Sanders had a nice game in Minneapolis putting in 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  The Sanders vs. Gorgui Dieng matchup is probably the most appealing among the starting five on the current, available rosters for both teams.

Game 36: Saturday, 1/10, 7pm – San Antonio Spurs @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The champs hit a rough patch in December, losing nine games in a calendar month for the first time in the Tim Duncan era.  However, the Spurs have lit up the Wolves in the two prior meetings this season, scoring 121 and 123 points in each game, respectively.  While the Spurs remain over .500, they can’t afford to fall too far behind in the loaded Southwest division.

Opponent to watch:

Tim Duncan – Enjoy him while you can Wolves’ fans.  You never know when he may finally decide to call it a career.

Wrap-up:

Our Timberpups face a tall task this week, with three games against tough, Western Conference foes.  The ability to stay close to home may provide some stability for the club but this may be an ugly week in the W-L column and in the box scores.  Nevertheless, Go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 98 – Dallas Mavericks 113

Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News

Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News

The Timberwolves finished their four game road trip and continued through Texas to take on the Mavericks Monday night.  The road trip has not been very kind to our Pups who had lost all three prior games by a combined 52 points.  That’s not good.  Things didn’t get much better in Dallas …

No surprises in the starting lineups as the Wolves opened up with Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Cunningham, and Pekovic.  Dallas countered with Darren Collison, OJ Mayo, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chris Kaman.  Rick Adelman remains at home and away from the team, so Terry Porter remains “the man” on the sidelines.

The Wolves got off to another slow start, with the Mavs opening up a 12-4 lead to begin the game.  The 1st quarter flew by as the first timeout didn’t come five minutes were left in the quarter.  Unfortunately for the Wolves and their fans, the team was down 16-7 and looked more or less lifeless.  You could actually see the writing on the wall, this reduced roster was burnt out and it was time to get back to Minnesota.  The offense was offensive and the defense was non-existent.

Ricky Rubio checked in with about three minutes left in the quarter and the Wolves down 22-13.  Shortly thereafter, JJ checked in and the tempo of the game sped up a bit.  Playing against his former team may have had something to do with it, but Barea had two quick assists towards the end of the quarter.  At the end of the 1st, the Mavs led 26-19.  Had it not been for a tremendous effort by Pekovic (7 & 6), the Wolves may have already been down by 15-20 points.

The start of the 2nd quarter was led by more of JJ Barea.  After hitting his second three-pointer and driving through the lane for a layup, Rick Carlisle burned a timeout with his team’s lead down to just three points, 32-29.  The remainder of the quarter was pretty entertaining basketball.  While the Twolves never fully caught up to the Mavs, they were able to keep it relatively close and get within one bucket a couple of times.

At halftime, the Mavs led 55-45.  Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Dante Cunningham in a situational role is phenomenal.  Needing him to play 30 mpg and be consistently productive is not ideal.  He finished the first half 3-13 from the floor for 6 points, missing a lot of the patented jump shots that he was making earlier this season.
  • Pek (and Barea) kept the Pups close, but he was 3-8 from the charity stripe and this team just can’t afford for him to lose confidence in this part of his game.
  • It felt like Rubio was a little more active on both ends of the court this evening.  I’m hoping that’s not because the Mavs’ average age is probably 43.

The Wolves couldn’t have possibly started much worse in the 3rd quarter.  Missed shots, turnovers, and giving up easy buckets on the other end of the floor.  That little hiccup moved the Mavs lead to 15 points and it looked like the route might be on.  However, the Wolves tried to fight back and got the lead down to single digits multiple times.

With about five minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the refs stopped the game and called a technical on the Wolves bench.  It was actually called on Ricky Rubio who was making hand signs on the bench with Lou Amundson towards the refs.  I’ve never seen a technical called on the bench and against a player that wasn’t actually saying/yelling something on the court.  The Unicorn’s reputation is crumbling apparently.  (That’s a joke by the way.)

Seconds later Alexey Shved hit a three pointer but had it taken away from him as he kicked his legs out and tripped the Mavs defender running at him.  The Mavs quickly answered with a mini-run of their own and increased their lead to 83-67, the largest of the game.  Actually, things just continued to fall apart after this, with the Mavs increasing their lead to 23 points within minutes.  The period mercifully came to an end with the Mavs taking a 91-70 lead into the final frame.  26-29-36 … those are the number of points the Mavs scored per quarter to that point in the game.  Yikes!

The Wolves tried to make things interesting in the first six minutes of the final quarter but would wind up doing something to kill momentum.  Pups cut the lead to 13 and then Stiemsma threw a bounce pass to DWill that was too low and went out of bounds.  Minutes later the Pups cut the lead to 10 and Cunningham missed another jumper, which was too far beyond his normal range.  Seconds later, the Mavs get an easy bucket to push it back to 12.

With two minutes to go and down by 9, the Wolves had multiple chances around the rim and no one could get the ball through the hoop.  Pekovic and Kirilenko both missed in the paint and once again, the Mavs were able to answer.  While the Wolves made it exciting, they fell for the fourth straight time and wound up winless on the road trip.  Final score: Dallas 113, Minnesota 98.

Keys of the Game

  • Team Defense – The Twolves looked incredibly slow in the first half and gave up way too many points in transition.  The latter continued in the second half and ruined just about any chance the team had at completing the comeback.
  • Guard Play – To say the Wolves need help here would be quite the understatement. Ridnour and Shved combined for 14 points on 4-16 shooting and 5 assists.  Collison and Mayo combined for 43 points, 18 assists, and 9 rebounds.  Ouch.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. OJ Mayo – 20 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds.  Throw in a +30 for the evening and he makes it hard to forget that Kahn and company didn’t even try to sign this guy this past offseason.
  2. Darren Collison – Not find behind his backcourt mate, Collison finished with 23 points and 9 assists.  He was +27 on the night and a perfect 8-8 from the line to boot.
  3. JJ Barea – I’m putting Barea just above Elton Brand’s 20 & 6 (no, seriously) and Pek’s 20 & 12 (b/c of Brand’s numbers and his missed FT’s) here.  Barea’s play kept this game interesting and/or brought the Wolves within some semblance of striking distance multiple times.

The Pups are off for two nights and need this time to recover for Thursday night’s game on TNT against the LA Clippers.