Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 10

Shabazz Muhammad and the Timberwolves will take on the Jazz twice this week, a great effort to stop the bleeding on their current losing streak. (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

Shabazz Muhammad and the Timberwolves will take on the Jazz twice this week, a great effort to stop the bleeding on their current losing streak. (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)


Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves enter the week with a 5-24 record and have lost eight straight.  The week ahead gives the Pups two games against a very beatable Utah Jazz team, with the Sacramento Kings sandwiched in between.  There may be a light ahead, as reports have surfaced that the Wolves expect Ricky Rubio to return to the court in mid-January.  Rubio has been stretching his legs during warm-ups with assistants and will be more than a welcomed sight on the floor for Flip Saunders and his crew.  While it looks like Rubio is almost ready to return to the court, there is no news out there right now for Kevin Martin or Nikola Pekovic.

As the season continues to slog along, it will be interesting to see if GM Flip is able to convince Head Coach Flip to make a move and clear more of the deck to make the franchise rebuild that much more official.  Here is a brief preview for each game of the coming week:

Game 30: Tuesday, 12/30, 8pm – Timberpups @ Utah Jazz (TV: FS North)

The Jazz open up the week with a 10-20 record and will be in Los Angeles on Monday to take on the Clippers.  The Wolves catch the benefit of the schedule gods, as the Jazz will have to travel home after Monday night’s game to play the next night.  With the Wolves’ injuries continuing to wreck the season, any benefit the team sees is well received.

Opponent to watch:

Gordon Hayward – Hayward is putting up strong numbers so far this season (18.9ppg, 5.3rpg, and 4apg).  He isn’t “worth” what the Jazz resigned him for, but I don’t understand the current NBA salary structure anymore than the next person.  Hayward does pose another tough night for Andrew Wiggins on both ends of the floor … yet again.

Game 31: Thursday, 1/1, 7pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves open up the 2015 calendar year against the team they have faced 1,000 times to open up past NBA seasons.  The Kings open up the week with a 13-17 record and will also face the Timberwolves off of a game the night before.  Sacramento will be in Boston for a game against the Celtics on Wednesday night and will travel to Minnesota afterward for Thursday’s game.  The Kings are 10th in the league averaging 102.6ppg but are giving up 103.9ppg – “good” for 26th in the league.

Opponent to watch:

Darren Collison – Collison is going to be a very tough matchup for Zach LaVine and Mo Williams.  Collison has picked up starting PG duties for the Kings admirably, averaging 16.3ppg, 6apg, and 1.3spg.

Game 31: Saturday, 1/3, 7pm – Utah Jazz @ Timberpups (TV: FSN  Plus)

The Jazz and Wolves will face off for the second time in less than a week.  For the third time in a row, the Pups’ opponent will be coming off of a game the night before, as the Jazz will be in Atlanta on Friday night.

Opponent to watch:

Derrick Favors – Favors seems to have found his groove in the NBA, putting up 15.7ppg and 8.3rpg.  He will be a tough matchup for Thad Young.  I would prefer Flip goes to Anthony Bennett early and often at PF, particularly against the Jazz.


Scheduling quirks are a reason to be optimistic this week for the Pups to finally break the losing streak.  If the streak happens to get to ten, expect the Wolves to beat the Jazz on Saturday, as that will be Utah’s fourth game of the week.

Timberwolves Struggle in Third Quarter, Fall 104-114 to Griffin-less Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have won 16 of their past 18 games, and their momentum didn’t slow when they rolled into Target Center Monday evening.  Both teams lived up to their high-scoring reputations, but in the end Minny ended up on the short end of the 114-104 final score. Kevin Love led the team with 20 points and 13 rebounds. On the other end, Darren Collison exploded with 28 points and seven assists.

Going into the contest, it Minnesota appeared to hold the advantage. The Clippers were playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip, and they were doing so without Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, both out with injuries. The first two minutes were scoreless, and then the Wolves took an early 4-0 lead off a slam dunk and layup by forward Corey Brewer. The good feeling didn’t last, however.

LA point guard Chris Paul told his teammates the following: “Fellas, let’s be who we are. We got who we got, let’s keep the train moving […]. No excuses.”


Despite the Timberwolves being able to make it a competitive game throughout the entire first half, the third quarter proved dismal for the midwest team. The Wolves took a 59-57 lead at the 9:26 mark of the third quarter, but any sense of control was ripped from their grasp. From that point on, Minnesota just could not score. Collison took over, and the Clips went on an unstoppable 31-5 run.

“We just went into the third quarter and it was like we missed every shot we took,” said head coach Rick Adelman. “It’s weird that we scored seven or eight points right off the bat and then we couldn’t score forever. The worst part is that it was like a three-on-two break every single time. It wasn’t like we were making them work. They were just getting layup after layup.”

The Wolves battled back in the fourth quarter, but they were unable to cut the lead to less than eight.  It was actually Minnesota’s reserves that came in and scored 38 points for their team in that final push. Chase Budinger scored 12 points off the bench, and Robbie Hummel and Shabazz Muhammad each added 11.

Nikola Pekovic started the game for the first time in several weeks, but the center played only seven minutes before re-injuring his ankle.  Fortunately for Minnesota, rookie Gorgui Dieng has been playing extremely well since getting his chance to start in mid March. Dieng came in for Pek, and the 24-year old scored 14 points. With Pekovic struggling so consistently with the ankle injury, Wolves fans can expect Dieng to play a major role in the lineup for the remaining games.

Following the game, Love summed up the frustration surrounding the team:

“It’s definitely tough right now. We’ve got to try to finish this thing strong and just try to play well. … We’re a little beat up right now, but we still have to come and play and try to give it our best. But that’s a very good team right there.”

Up next, the Wolves will host Memphis on Wednesday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.


Sideline Note:

According to NBA.com, with his made free throw at 2:13 in first quarter, Love passed Tom Gugliotta to become the single-season record holder for the Timberwolves. Gugliotta set his record in the 1996-1997 season.

Love has averaged 27.2 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in the three games against the Clippers this season, but he is only averaging 16.5 ppg in the last four games and scored 20+ points for only the second time in the last five games.


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.