Timberwolves Half-Season Review and Grades 2013/2014

Timberwolves bench

There’s a lot to think about midway through the 2013-14 NBA season (Jim Mone/Associated Press).

Well, we technically should be at the halfway point of the season, if not for the cancellation of the Timberwolves / Spurs game in Mexico City.  As requested in this week’s preview, let’s not get too caught up in the minutia and say that we are halfway there and it is time to provide a few thoughts on the halfway point of the season.  Below are a few thoughts about each player on the current roster and an overall grade for their efforts.

With the team struggling to get over the hump of .500 ball, things have looked a little underwhelming thus far this season.  With a 19-21 record going into this week’s action, our Pups are currently in 11th place in the Western Conference and have a good amount of work to do to catch Dallas and Phoenix, and surpass Memphis and Denver to get into the top eight of the Conference.  Can they do it?  Yes.  Will they do it?  I honestly don’t know. [Read more...]

Putting Timberwolves thru the NBA Trade Machine

Putting Timberwolves thru the Trade Machine & this is one of the more appealing deals to be had ... I think

Putting Timberwolves thru the Trade Machine & this is one of the more appealing deals to be had … I think

The Timberwolves came into the 2013/14 season with high expectations, or at the very least, expectations of being a playoff team in a loaded Western Conference.  After a hot start, the team has cooled down some and is floating around what I like to call the Mason-Dixon Line, i.e. playing around .500 ball.  The schedule has done the team no favors, but that is completely out of the team’s control.  What we do know from the first third of the season is that the team is lacking in the depth department.  Coach Adelman is relying too heavily on his starters and a seven/eight man rotation is going to pay unkind dividends come March and April.

With that train of thought in mind, I took a look around the league and played with the NBA Trade Machine to find a few potential deals that might make sense for the Wolves and its trade partner.  I am considering the following players untouchable: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic.  While I don’t think Corey Brewer is a chip that would be dangled out there, I also wouldn’t consider him untouchable.  These trades are largely built with the thought of improving our depth and are not blockbuster deals. [Read more...]

Timberwolves Battle Boston, Come Up Short

Kevin Love put up another double-double Monday night, but the forward’s numbers weren’t enough for a Timberwolves win. Love led his team with 27 points, and Nikola Pekovic added 13 points.

The two teams proved a fairly even matchup for most of the game, exchanging leads several times. Minnesota outscored its opponent in the second and fourth quarters, but ultimately Jared Sullinger and the Celtics pulled away with the 101-97 win.

According to ESPN.com, Celtics coach Brad Stevens encouraged Sullinger to “keep an eye on Kevin Love and try to learn whatever he could from the big man.”

Stevens’ advice certainly worked, because Sullinger took control of the floor toward the end of the evening. The score was tied twice during the final period, but Sullinger had 15 points and six rebounds in the fourth, including a tie-breaking shot from downtown at the 2:22 mark. [Read more...]

Recap – Thunder 113, Timberwolves 103

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After Saturday night’s win in Dallas to bring the team back to .500, the Pups were right back at it on Sunday night to take on the Thunder.  Going into Sunday’s game the Thunder were an impressive 11-3 on the season and a perfect 8-0 at home.  No changes in the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  No surprises in the Thunder lineup either: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins.  Perhaps the only surprise is that Perkins is still in the starting lineup over Steven Adams.  I digress.

Game Summary

Another highly entertaining match-up against the Thunder for fans that unfortunately ended in disappointment.  The Wolves didn’t trail in this game until an OKC 8-0 run to start the 4th quarter put them on top for the first time and for good.  The Pups never recovered from that stomach punch to start the quarter and looked gassed towards the end of the game.  [Read more...]

Wolves at Clippers: A Preview Featuring Trisity Miller

As promised in yesterday’s weekly preview Trisity Miller (@Trisity_) joins the PupsBlog for some insight on tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Miller is a Staff Writer as well as Editor of FullyClips.com, THE Clippers Blog of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network. She had me answer of few of her questions on the Clipper site, read them here.
Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Here’s a few notes.

  • Doc Rivers is now head coach, he’s called for the removal of Laker banners in the Staples Center during Clipper home games.

“This is our arena when we play,” when asked about the banners. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them (Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

  • The Clippers offense ranks first in the league in points per game — they’re piling 110 on their opponents
  • The Wolves played last night, the Clips didn’t, we’ll see how playing on back-to-back nights affects them despite not having to travel between games.

Here’s a few questions I asked Miller via Email.

How, if it’s possible, do you stop the Clippers?
Slow the pace down and make them beat you in the half-court. Judging a team based on their performance against the defending champions in Miami isn’t smart, but it revealed a lot of holes in this team. Scoring and defending in the half-court is their biggest weakness as it has been for the past two years. Improvement is happening due to Doc Rivers putting his touch on the offense. Also getting Jordan, Paul or Griffin is one heck of a way to slow this team down. Neither have replacements that can come in and keep up wait they started. That’s a huge change compared to last season.
What, if any, are Chris Paul’s weaknesses?
Knowing when to cut the scoring switch on. I don’t like to call him a pass-first point guard like Ricky Rubio and he definitely isn’t a score-first point like a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. He sits somewhere in the middle. But there are moments where the Clippers need a guy to take over the game. We saw him do it against Houston and Golden State. The Clippers needed that Chris Paul last night. Once he figures that out he’ll be as sound a player as there is in the league.
How does having Hall of Fame coach Doc Rivers chance the attitude in the locker room compared to last season?
On the outside looking in, this group seems to take more pride in what they’re doing now. The fun is still there, but there’s now a sense of knowing now is the time for the Clippers to win. The biggest change is the approach that DeAndre Jordan is taking to the game. He’s coming along on the defensive end, but there’s a change in the way he’s taken to being the defensive leader of this team. A sense of entitlement and a dose of confidence is what I’m seeing, something that Vinny Del Negro never helped him develop. He’s taking responsibility when the good and bad happens and knows that without quality defense from him his team can’t contend late into June.
What were expectations for offseason acquisition J.J. Redick prior to the season? Is he meeting, exceeding or below them at this point?
Redick was expected to come in and provide a dimension to the Los Angeles Clippers that the shell of Chauncey Billups couldn’t add. And he’s blown those expectations out of the water. For years all we as fans wanted from J.J. Redick was to see him on a team that wasn’t a bottom-dweller. Now that he’s on a championship contending team everyone sees why people felt that way. His shooting alone is a dynamic that helps those around him, but his off-the-ball work is what makes him a step up from being “just a shooter”. Most shooters you don’t want dribbling the ball. Redick’s the opposite as he’s an underrated pick-and-roll player and passer. And defensively he’s a million times better than Billups. Come playoff time defenses are going to absolutely loath him.
How good would Jamal Crawford fit on the Wolves? Or is Kevin Martin doing a good enough from from your perspective?
Crawford would fit well in a reserve role while Kevin Martin meshes perfectly with the Minny starters. Martin’s ability to move off the ball, draw fouls at a reasonable rate and knock down the three-pointer is something Wolves fans will love. Crawford is a frustrating player to watch all while being enjoyable at the same time, similar to J.R. Smith but without the shenanigans. The isolations are cool to watch, but Crawford often struggles to realize that there’s a time and a place to do that.
If you’re starting a franchise, do you pick Kevin Love or Blake Griffin as your power forward?
As much as Blake Griffin has improved this isn’t even close. I’m going with Kevin Love. There was once a point where I got a David Lee-esque feel from KL, but he’s blown that comparison out of the water. I will say this. Neither are bad options, but looking at Love’s skill set and where the NBA is currently heading a big that can hit the boards like no other and spread the floor is the new wave. If Blake Griffin can begin knocking down the 15-footer with confidence and consistency then the gap closes up due to him being able to affect the defensive end more due to his athleticism. But since that hasn’t come into fruition yet, Love’s the guy.
Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Miller is good stuff and churns out content like a machine for FullyClips and the other sites she’s involved with. On behalf of Timberpups I’d just like to take a moment to give thanks for the time she spent on this preview, as well as help with editing in the past (and probably the future).
If you’re a writer who covers an upcoming Wolves opponent and would like to participate in our previews, shoot me an email or DM — Zwbd333@gmail.com or @ZacharyBD. If you have any questions about an upcoming opponent feel free to DM or mention myself, Alex, John, Lindsey or the PupsBlog twitter (@timberpupsblog) with those. Also, we’re not opposed to fan posts — if you’re a regular reader here at the PupsBlog, we’d love to hear your opinions pertaining to our favorite team.
Photos are from the Clippers and Wolves team sites and can be found in appropriate photo archives.

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)

Wolves Mash Mavericks, 116-108

The Minnesota Timberwolves rank fifth in the league in scoring, they’re posting 105 points per game. The Wolves needed to post the average and a little more Friday, the Mavericks entered Target Center scoring over 109 ppg and brought the player boasting the league’s highest field goal percentage this season — no, not Dirk Nowiztki — Monta Ellis.

Prior to tip-off the league suspended veteran shooting guard and once prolific dunker, Vince Carter. Carter elbowed Oklahoma City’s Steven Adam’s during a game Wednesday night. This is the second time this season that Minnesota’s been the beneficiary of a suspension, the New York Knicks J.R. Smith sat when the team’s met last week due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

Ellis entered the game leading the Mavs’ in scoring and assists -as well as turnovers- but needed to bring a top-tier effort in Minneapolis if Dallas wanted to leave with a victory; he didn’t. Mr. “have-it-all” Ellis went two for six shooting in the first quarter, scored four-points but had zero-assists and two-turnovers in the opening period. However a balanced scoring effort from Dirk, Shawn Marion (once known as The Matrix), Samuel Dalembert and off-season acquisition Jose Calderon helped keep the game close after one — trailing the Wolves by a score of 24-28 at the end of one.

For the Good-Guys points weren’t distributed evenly and it was Corey Brewer, essentially catching touchdowns from Kevin Love on outlet passes, leading the way to start the game. Brewer scored 13 points on five of seven shooting and Love assisted on four of the baskets. The Wolves third and fourth points of the game came after Love snagged a defensive rebound and got the ball to Brewer, who laid it in just four-seconds after a missed three by Marion. Four-seconds. Take that, “seven seconds or less”, Phoenix Suns.

During the second quarter Dallas showed glimpses of why they’re the second best scoring team in the league. Dirk started to warm up, hitting a three as well as three free-throw’s, and Ellis started to heat up — the two combined for 16 of the Mavs 32 points during the period.

The Wolves’ second unit continued to struggle however Adelman spiced up the rotation by playing Robbie Hummel, Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea aside the supervision of Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. This savvy move from the coach who knows the ins-and-outs helped increase production when Love is off the floor, additionally getting Pek more looks around the basket. I pointed out his struggles earlier this week but the issue was addressed and judging by his two of three shooting in the second quarter, I don’t believe this will be an issue much longer.

The Wolves trailed the Mavs at halftime 55-56, despite K-Love’s 17 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. People seem to think he’s pretty good, I can’t help but agree.

After the half Martin began to heat up, he hit four of five from the field and was two of three from downtown and made-good on three free-one’s en route to an 11 point third quarter performance — he’s been stellar since his arrival in Minnesota. K-Mart, under a new alias ‘K-Target’ (Thanks, @Patrick_Fenelon) is shooting 47 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind-the-arc — not bad for a guy that the Oklahoma City Thunder treated as a spot-up shooter last season.

Calderon kept the Mavs in the game by losing either Ricky Rubio, Barea or Martin on the offensive end during the third, he converted four of five three-pointers and the game entered the final quarter with the Wolves leading 85-81.

It was the last 12 minutes of the game that just under 14,000 strong at Target Center witnessed something perhaps many have never seen before — a closer.

Adelman left Martin’s hot-hand in for the entire final quarter of the game. His performance left me pondering and leads me to this bold question: Is he the best shooting guard in franchise history? I know, I know — it’s too small of a sample to tell, for now. But K-Target (this may take some time getting used too) answered the call in the fourth on Friday night — scoring 6 of the Wolves final 13 in the final five minutes of the game.

The Timberwolves would defeat the Mavericks by a final score of 116-108. They are now 4-2 on the season and making noise on a national level, people are predicting there will be playoffs in Minnesota.

 

Three Stars:

  1. Although he wasn’t mentioned much in this recap, Kevin Love is the game’s top performer — Mr. Double-Double ended with a remarkable 32p-15r-8a stat line.
  2. Kevin Martin, who’s proving to be clutch, is a close second ending with 32 points on 10 of 19 shooting from the field, 3 of 5 from three-point range and 9 of 10 from the charity stripe.
  3. Brewer’s 17 points earns him the third slot because words cannot even begin to describe his importance for this team in transition, he’s done a fine job of fulfilling the role of Andrei Kirilenko, who apparently didn’t want to play for the Wolves this season.

 

 

Zach.