Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 5

Setting the stage:

It’s already Week 5, and the Timberwolves stand No. 10 in the competitive Western Conference with an 8-7 record.  Minnesota’s record doesn’t seem to accurately reflect its performance, as the Wolves care currently averaging an impressive 106.9 points per game. In scoring, they hold onto their No. 3 spot in the NBA, coming in behind Houston and the LA Clippers, respectively. The Timberwolves enter the fourth week of the season with an impressive 7-4 record.  As of Monday morning, the team fell to 6th place in the league for rebounds and assists.

Kevin Love delivered a disappointing performance against the Clips on Wednesday, but the All-Star forward returned to form later in the week and continues to average 28 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.

Ricky Rubio upholds his reputation for assists, dishing out an average of 8.7 passes a game, and he is also stepping up his defensive game tremendously this season. Currently, the point guard leads the NBA with an average of three steals per contest.

JJ Barea delivered less-than-impressive stats last week. If Barea doesn’t show more consistency on the floor, it will be tough to give Rubio any real relief. For Minnesota to be successful this week, the 6’0” PG needs to step up his game and be a stronger teammate on the floor.

Week 5 is a lighter week with only three games, but it feels just as rigorous with two of those games being on the road. The Timberwolves will face the No. 1 team in the league on Monday evening, and it will be a good test of their mental toughness. On Wednesday, Corey Brewer will face his old teammates during a home stand at the Target Center. Here are a few thoughts for each game this week.

(photo credit: zimbio.com)

(photo credit: zimbio.com)

Game 16: Monday, 11/25 – Timberwolves @ Indiana Pacers (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves will certainly have a challenging contest ahead of them when they face the 12-1 Indiana Pacers on the road. Indiana currently holds the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference, standing two games over Miami. Indiana is 19-4 overall when hosting Minnesota at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Opponent to watch:

Paul George – George has been an unstoppable force this season, averaging 24 points per game this year. Historically, George averaged only 15 PPG against the Wolves. Minnesota will focus a lot of defensive effort against the 6’9” SF.

Predictions:

Both teams are averaging high point totals this season. Although Minnesota holds a nine-point average advantage, the Pacers play tough defense and have been holding opponents to under 90 points thus far. The Wolves have struggled a bit on the road this season, and Indiana will be their toughest opponent this week.  Final score: Pacers 101, Timberwolves 93

 

Game 17: Wednesday, 11/27, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberwolves (TV: FSN Plus)

Timberwolves will look forward to this home rematch against Denver Wednesday night. On Nov. 15, Minnesota landed on the short end of the 117-113 final score at the Pepsi Center. It proved to be a hard-fought battle of the offenses, but in the end it was the Nuggets 64 points in the paint that sealed the deal. Denver holds a .500 record at this point in the season, standing two spots behind Minnesota in the Western Conference.

Opponent to watch:

Wilson Chandler – Although Chandler comes off the bench for Denver, he often finds a way to make an impact. The SF tallied 19 points against Minnesota in their first meeting, and he’s also a quick weapon on defense.

Predictions:

I think we can count on Corey Brewer to lead the Wolves defensively Wednesday night. The forward has had a great season thus far, and he won’t want to fall to his former team at home. If our big men deliver a strong performance, this game should be a win for Minnesota.  Final score: Timberwolves 110, Nuggets  101

 

Game 18: Saturday, 11/30, 7:30pm – Timberwolves @ Dallas Mavericks (TV: FS North)

At 9-5, the Mavericks have a solid season going so far. They’ve admittedly had an easier schedule, though, and the Timberwolves beat them 116-108 on Nov. 8. Dallas is averaging 47 percent from the floor, and their free throw performance as a team has struggled. Against Minnesota, the Mavericks hit less than 70 percent of their attempted free throws.

Last season, Dallas averaged 100 points against the Wolves. Adelman and his team will have to come out tough defensively to keep their opponents’ top scorers in check—especially on the road.

Opponent to watch:

Dirk Nowitzki – I don’t think anyone has told Nowitzki that he’s 35 years old. As one of the oldest players currently in the NBA, the 7’0” PF doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Nowitzki leads his team in scoring, averaging 22 PPG over 14 games.

Predictions:

Dallas certainly has some major threats on offense, but it’s nothing Minnesota can’t handle. Kevin Love will be an effective matchup against Nowitzki, and Kevin Martin should be an even match against the Mav’s second threat, Monta Ellis. Final score: Timberwolves 115, Mavericks 112

 

Wrap-up:

Thanksgiving week will prove a tiring one for Minnesota as it’s on the road for 2 of 3 games. If the Timberwolves can come away with an equal number of wins, we won’t have anything to complain about.

Minnesota Timberwolves 101 – Denver Nuggets 97

Photo Credit: Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo Credit: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Twolves got right back on the court Thursday night in Denver, coming off an embarrassing loss to Utah less than 24 hours prior.  No surprises in the starting lineups tonight.  With Rubio remaining on the sidelines, the Pups opened up with Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  The Nuggets countered with Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and Kosta Koufus.

The Wolves were on the board first with a three pointer by Alexey Shved and I was hoping that was a sign of things to come.  The visitors got off to a decent start, opening up a 9-4 lead, but that quickly diminished.  There was a decent flow to the game, with the first timeout coming just over halfway through the quarter and the Wolves holding a 15-13 lead.

The rest of the quarter was comprised of two mini-runs.  The Nuggets went on a 10-0 run first, led by former Pup Corey Brewer.  Naturally, he hit two long jumpers, one from three point range.  The Wolves were able to answer, going on an 8-2 run to close the quarter, trailing 25-23 after one.

At the start of the second quarter, my NBA League Pass account went haywire and I drove myself crazy for much of the quarter trying to toggle between a laptop, tablet and phone comparing which device was the most up to date.  This truly could be a definition of “first world problems”.

The Pups received nice efforts from Shved and Derrick Williams in the second quarter, doubling up the Nuggets 14-7 through the first six plus minutes of the quarter, opening up a five point lead.  During that same time, the Nuggets failed to make a basket for more than five minutes of game time, going cold from the field.  Kevin Love came to life in the final few minutes of the half, with several rebounds and a few buckets, finishing the half with a double double (13 & 13).

At the half, the Wolves led 47-43, after outscoring the Nuggets by six in the second quarter.  Here are two quick halftime thoughts:

  • I beg of someone to be fully dedicated to optimizing the NBA’s League Pass package and the respective apps that are available across platforms.  Please!
  • My first train of thought going into halftime was of doubt.  Could the Nuggets be contained as well as they were in the first half and/or would the Wolves slow down given the Denver air and the prior night’s game?

Those concerns quickly came to fruition and the Nuggets jumped on the Wolves with an 8-2 run, forcing Adelman to burn an early timeout.  After the timeout, Gallinari drilled a three pointer and the Wolves continued to miss … jump shots.  I’m going to start charting the shot selection for the Wolves if this continues much further.  We need to get the ball down low to more players beyond Pekovic.  The rest of the quarter continued to “stink” as the Wolves settled for jump shots and gave up buckets to the Nuggets in the paint.  You know, exactly what they should have been trying to do.

As my inner complaints continued to form, we had a stoppage in play with around four minutes left in the quarter.  Why?  Man down … and it is Kevin Love and his hands again.  Love went to the locker room with the trainer and it was later reported that he sprained a finger in his shooting hand.  While he didn’t return to the game, hopefully this is nothing more than a quick break and Love doesn’t miss any more time.  However, this does nothing to help his shooting.  (Here’s where I’ll point out that it would be fantastic, and hysterical, if this actually turns out to be a turning point in Love’s shooting woes and he starts to move those percentages up over the next few weeks.)

After the injury timeout, the Nuggets went cold and the Wolves were able to cut the lead to four points (66-62).  What could have been the offensive or defensive play of the night, turned into an anticlimactic moment that can easily be shrugged off.  Corey Brewer had a breakaway and Dante Cunningham had him in his path.  Cunningham got a piece of the ball but also fouled Brewer.  However, Brewer’s dunk attempt was broken up and just had to force it in off the glass.  Naturally, he missed the FT that followed.

The Nuggets continued to struggle to close out the quarter, while Alexey Shved started to shine again.  To end the quarter, Shved drew a foul on his Russian comrade (too easy?) Timofey Mozgov, cutting the Nuggets lead to one point (70-69) going into the final frame.

The first six minutes of the fourth quarter were a very nice showing from both teams; good tempo, made baskets, etc.  The Pups got a little hot (helped by a lack of defense from Denver) and took a two point lead (89-87) into a timeout.  Shved, JJ, Luke, and DWill had a nice rhythm together on the court.  Luke and JJ continued that strong play through the remainder of the quarter.  After back to back three pointers from Barea, the Wolves led 97-91.

In the final minute, Iguodala had an opportunity for a three point play and to cut the lead to one possession, but missed a FT.  The Wolves were able to rebound the ball on Nuggets missed FG attempts and hit a few FT’s.  On a Denver possession with ten seconds to go, Ty Lawson wasted an incredible amount of time dribbling the ball and then decided to take it to the hole, despite being down by 5 points.  That more or less sealed the fate of the game, with the Pups pulling out the 101-97 victory!

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. JJ Barea – big shots tonight from JJ
  2. Kevin Love – 12 & 17 in 24 minutes
  3. Dante Cunningham – stat stuffer; 6 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists & game high +22 +/-

The Pups return home for a match-up against another division rival – the Blazers – on Saturday.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets

Photo Credit: Carlos Gonzalez, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Photo Credit: Carlos Gonzalez, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Setting the stage:
For the third time already this season, the Wolves face the Nuggets on Thursday night in Denver. This will be the second game of a back to back and the Wolves will once again be without Ricky Rubio. The thin air of Denver for a team that barely has enough healthy bodies to fill a rotation. Not to mention, the Wolves have had very few back to back experiences thus far in the season. This may not end well.

The Nuggets beat the Wolves at Target Center on 11/21, 101-94. The Wolves returned the favor on 12/12/12 (sorry, couldn’t resist), beating the Nuggets 108-105. Minnesota is coming off a bad loss Wednesday night in Utah where they looked lifeless, being blown out 106-84. Conversely, Denver is coming off of a win Tuesday night against the hottest team in the NBA, the Clippers.

The Nuggets are 18-15 on the year, good for second place in the Northwest division and seventh in the Western Conference. They remain one of the strongest offensive teams in the league, averaging 101.6 ppg (8th in the league) and 23.1 apg (5th). The Nuggets lead the league in rebounding at 46.3 per game, a slight advantage over the Lakers and Wolves.

As mentioned in Wednesday’s preview for the Jazz game, tonight is another important game for the Wolves against a division and conference opponent with similar playoff aspirations.

Player to watch:
Kevin Love – It is no secret that Love is struggling mightily from the field this season. Broken hand or not, he is letting these struggles negatively affect other elements of his game. His jump shot looks broken. As suggested during last night’s game in Utah, it might be worth creating a little bit of a wake-up call to Love and the rest of the locker room to challenge him to work more in the paint, particularly when Pekovic is out of the game. The Wolves need Love to get going … quickly.

Match-up to watch:
Andrei Kirilenko vs. Danilo Gallinari. Much like this Nuggets team in its totality, Danilo’s night in and night out performance continues to be a head scratcher for me. The volatility in how he performs from game to game is pretty amazing. In four games in five nights during Christmas week, Danilo put up 7, 19, 39, and 7 points respectively. You could understand the latter 7 point game as fatigue, but he has thrown up eight games in single digits thus far this season.

It will be interesting to see how Kirilenko responds to not only playing on back to back nights, but the 30+ minutes he put in on his emotional return to Utah. He has had his problems stopping Danilo in the two earlier meetings this season.

Predictions:
No Rubio, the end of a back to back, and the Denver air = Twolves loss.
Final score prediction: Twolves 102, Nuggets 108

Three stars of the game predictions:
1. Ty Lawson
2. Andre Iguodala
3. Nikola Pekovic

Hope the Pups can prove me wrong. Let’s go Wolves!