Recap – Timberwolves 111, Nets 81

Friday night's "Battle of the Kevin's" at Target Center (Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

Friday night’s “Battle of the Kevin’s” at Target Center
(Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

The Timberwolves were back on the Target Center floor Friday night and welcomed in a few familiar faces, as Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko returned to Minnesota with their Brooklyn Nets teammates.  Kirilenko was ruled out because of another problem with his back, while the Nets were also missing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Jason Terry.  It hasn’t been a fun start to the season for Nets fans, that’s for sure.

There were no surprises or changes in the Pups’ starting five – Mr. Selena Gomez (I kid), Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Nets threw out Shaun Livingston (who has been quite the story), Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, KG, and Reggie Evans.

Game Summary

Despite falling way behind (2-0), the Timberwolves pulled out Friday night’s game against a beaten down Brooklyn Nets team.  With an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game, the Wolves woke up and played lights out basketball for the rest of the night.  This was a laugher by midway through the third quarter, with the Wolves winning by a cool 30 points.

First Half 

You really couldn’t ask for a better storybook opening, as KG won the tap and posted up Kevin Love in the paint.  He quickly turned around and hit the short jumper to give the Nets the 2-0 lead.  That concludes all Nets highlights from the first half, as the Timberwolves poured it on.  Despite two quick fouls and a trip to the bench for Ricky Rubio, the Pups were able to jump on the Nets early and often.  The game got off to a slow start offensively, as the Wolves held an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game … after six-plus minutes of action.

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 30-14 lead, as Love hit a short jumper at the buzzer after JJ Barea drove to the basked as the clock wound down, lost control of the ball and flipped it behind his back, only to find Love’s hands.  Love finished the quarter with 9 points and 11 rebounds.  Again, we’re talking about the 1st quarter only.

The good times continued to roll for the Pups throughout much of the 2nd quarter.  Barea and Rubio both played well and ran Adelman’s offense.  Love and Nikola Pekovic were dominant in the paint.  Had the Wolves’ wings shot the ball a little bit better, the game would have looked even worse than the halftime score would suggest.  At the break, the Wolves held a 57-37 advantage at halftime.

Here are a few additional notes at half-time:

  • Kevin Martin’s shooting is a little off this past week.  At halftime, Martin was 2-11 from the field for 6 points
  • Corey Brewer also put up 11 shots in the first half, including 5 three pointers.  Honestly, that might be a bit too much
  • KG finished the half with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block – old-school KG in the house!

Second Half

We’re going to make this really easy – the Nets never made the game interesting and the Wolves blew away Brooklyn.  With the starters playing throughout the 4th quarter – more on this later – the Pups simply ran away.  They outscored the Nets 33-21 in the quarter and took a 90-58 lead into the 4th quarter.

After some Twitter pleading, Adelman finally went to his bench (read: doghouse) and put in Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, and company.  Gorgui Dieng looked the most promising in the 4th quarter, blocking three shots and active on the offensive end of the floor as well (5 points & 3 rebounds).  The final score in this monstrosity of a game was 111-81.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – Dominant on the boards, Love finished with 17 and 16 in only 28 minutes of action.
  2. Nikola Pekovic – 15 & 7 for the big man, who really dominated the paint early and often.
  3. Kevin Garnett – This should go to Brewer, but just in case this is KG’s last game at Target Center, his 8 & 8 put him in our “Three Stars”.

Need another reason, here you go:

Key Takeaways

  • The Nets had a lot of injuries, but that was an effortless showing.  Jason Kidd probably won’t be fired this season, but he probably deserves to be.  This team has “Washington Redskins” written all over it – big contracts, no continuity … changes every single season.
  • Hopefully Kevin Martin’s shooting comes back real soon … as in, tomorrow in Houston soon.
  • The rest the starters received tonight should bode well for tomorrow’s game – thankfully they didn’t have to play big minutes going into a relatively big game tomorrow night (on NBA TV).

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 4

Only one of these Kevin's will be frequenting the Target Center this week (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Only one of these Kevin’s will be frequenting the Target Center this week
(Photo credit: NBA.com)

Setting the stage:

The Timberwolves enter the fourth week of the season with an impressive 7-4 record.  As of Sunday morning, that is good for a sixth place tie in the Western Conference and percentage points away from second in the Northwest Division.  As most expected, the team looks like an offensive juggernaut, averaging 108.5 points per game – 3rd in the NBA.  The team is also 5th in the league in both rebounds and assists per game.

After missing one game with the flu, Kevin Martin returned to form Saturday night and remains one of the most impressive stories early on this season.  Kevin Love continues to play at an All-Star level, averaging 26.8ppg and 13.6rpg, with a PER at 29.7!  While Ricky Rubio continues to struggle with his shot, he continues to do everything else with 9.6apg and just over 3 steals per.  Ricky put up a triple double last Sunday against the Lakers and if he continues to put in ~10+ppg, this team is very dangerous.

Week 4 for the Wolves is going to be tough, with two sets of back-to-back games and travel.  A few old faces will be clashing with the Wolves this week and it is a perfect time for the team to put on some throwback jerseys (#Twolves25)!!  Here are a few thoughts for each game this week.

Game 12: Tuesday, 11/19, 6pm – Timberwolves @ Washington Wizards (TV: FSN Plus)

The Wizards will enter this game at 2-7 and Randy Wittman is the early leader in the “coach most likely to get fired first” category (again).  It would be an understatement to say the Wizards are underachieving.  The Pups will come into Tuesday’s game with two full days of rest (so will Washington).  Hopefully, this game will be as easy as it looks on paper.

Opponent to watch:

Bradley Beal – Beal is off to a great start this season in Washington, playing right around 40 minutes per game and averaging a shade under 20 points.  The second year SG will look to make it tough on Kevin Martin on both ends of the floor.

Predictions:

Despite this game being on the road, do you really think I’m picking a team coached by Randy Wittman that is grossly underperforming to start the season?  Final score: Timberwolves 106, Wizards 99

Game 13: Wednesday, 11/20, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Pups will travel back home from Washington to face the Clippers on Wednesday night and will be looking to avenge the nail biting loss that they suffered back on 11/11.  Love and Nikola Pekovic will look to continue their strong play against the solid tandem of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.  Let’s see if Matt Barnes can talk himself out of the NBA before tip-off of this game too.  (Good grief.)  In an effort to get completely ahead of ourselves, this is actually a pretty big game for the Wolves, who will look to even the season series and keep the Clippers (and others) well within their grasps when thinking about playoff seeds.  (Yep, we went there before Thanksgiving!)

Opponent to watch:

Chris Paul – The queen/king of flopping outplayed Rubio in the first outing and will likely need to do so again for the Clippers in order for them to win.

Predictions:

Quite honestly, the Wolves are dealt a tough deck here.  The Clippers will be off the night prior, and coming into the game off of a four game home stretch.  The Wolves will be flying back from DC and won’t get home until late Tuesday / early Wednesday.  The only reason I’m taking the Wolves is because, well, I hate the Clippers.  Final score: Timberwolves 114, Clippers 112

Game 14: Friday, 11/22, 7pm – Brooklyn Nets @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

A few things about this game and how it relates to the national TV schedule.  First, since this game is on a Friday, how in the world is it not on ESPN?  The young, improving Wolves vs. the star-studded (albeit underachieving) Brooklyn Nets.  Second, this is possibly KG’s last game ever at Target Center – even though his contract goes for one more season.  What brainpower decided that this game wasn’t worthy of ESPN coverage?

Third, and changing the focus on national media, why couldn’t this match-up, in Target Center, be on TNT on a Thursday night with Kevin Harlan in the booth?  Fourth, pivoting again, please, PLEASE, PLEASE make this a throwback jersey night!  I really don’t ask for that much.

Opponent to watch:

Kevin Garnett – I don’t care that he is averaging under 25mpg and his averages are well below what we have all become accustomed to.  This is KG and it might be his last run on the Target Center floor.  If you have the ability to get to Target Center, you should be there.

Predictions:

I’m going to predict a “throwback night” from KG as well, who will come into the game firing on all cylinders.  Assuming Deron Williams plays (D2D with an ankle injury), I’m going to predict my first loss in this weekly column for the Pups.  Final score: Nets 102, Timberwolves 100

Game 15: Saturday, 11/23, 7pm – Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

You can literally take just about everything that I said above in the first paragraph for the Nets game and place it here too.  With Kevin McHale on the opposing sideline, this is another opportunity for the Wolves to throw on a few old school jerseys (cough, ORIGINAL BLUE’S, cough).  Do it!  DO IT!!

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden has picked up right where he left off last season, stuffing the box score night in and night out.  Harden lit up Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin in the playoffs last year.  While Martin had one really bad game (game 5) in that series, he bounced back nicely in game 6 to knock the Rockets out of the playoffs.

Predictions:

The Wolves can’t afford to get that “game 5 Martin” in this one, as they will be on the back end of a back-to-back against a team that will not have played since Wednesday night in another part of Texas (Dallas).  Final score: Rockets 112, Timberwolves 106

Wrap-up:

The Pups don’t catch any breaks this coming week from the scheduling gods whatsoever.  If they can go 2-2 this week, I would be content.  3-1 would be impressive and 4-0 would be glorious.  Let’s go Wolves!

2013/2014 Eastern Conference Preview

 

It has been the Heat's Conference recently, does that change in 2014?

It has been the Heat’s Conference recently, does that change in 2014?

 

Last week we previewed the (stacked) Western Conference and now it is time to tackle the East.  The Miami Heat look to make it not one, not two, but three conference championships in a row.  Can they do it?  Who can rise to the occasion?  Who is at the bottom of the barrel?  Let’s start there …

15. Philadelphia 76ers: I find it glorious that for David Stern’s final season, there is a team with enough charisma to say, “Here we are … tanking in all its glory” from the day the draft took place all the way through the trading deadline.  Where will Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young wind up?  I’m not sure they care, as long as it is out of Philly.  While I like what Philly did on draft night acquiring Noel and MCW, there is no hope for this team in 2013/14.  Zero.  Zilch.

14. Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo is very likely going to be a very good NBA player, but this team lacks talent across its frontcourt.  If they can find a taker for Jameer Nelson during the season, they might give the Sixers a run for their money on ping pong balls.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dan Gilbert wants this team in the playoffs, yet continues to do the strangest things on draft night.  I love Kyrie Irving, I just wish he played almost anywhere else in the league.  Cavs fans have to hope that Michael Bennett doesn’t eat himself out of the league (not a ringing endorsement for the #1 pick of the draft) and rely on getting something from Andrew Bynum and/or Anderson Varejao.  This isn’t going to end well.

12. Boston Celtics: The Celtics are rebuilding but I can’t put them any lower than this, given what you just read.  In fact, I actually wanted to put them a little bit higher, but figure this seems about right if Danny Ainge wakes up one day and says, “You know what, we are too good to get enough ping pong balls, Rondo needs to go”.  Rajon Rondo and the supporting cast (Jeff Green, Courtney Lee) are good enough to stay ahead of the prior three teams.

11. Charlotte Bobcats: On paper, this is a pretty intriguing team that you might want to keep an eye on, but then you remember it is the Bobcats.  They have a serviceable rotation of guards, signed Big Al Jefferson, and I love MKG.  Then I remember that they are the Bobcats and just drafted Cody Zeller at #4 ahead of a handful of others that would have been a nice fit.  Would the real Bismack Biyombo please stand up this season?

10. Detroit Pistons: This is going to be fun, right?  Right?!  Chauncey Billups returning to Detroit and trying to lead the Pistons with Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, and Andre Drummond.  At what point does Billups flat out retire?  It would be great if he just walked out of the locker room at halftime to never come back.  This is where we start thinking about teams that could sneak their way into the Eastern Conference playoffs … with 35 wins.

9. Toronto Raptors: Another team that is intriguing on paper and then you give yourself a reality check on second glance.  Do you want Kyle Lowry as your starting PG?  Is DeMar DeRozan ever going to turn it on?  How much of a leap is Jonas Valanciunas really going to make in one year?  Is Rudy Gay just going to shoot 33% from the field this year on 1,500 shots?  Sorry, no playoffs for this franchise.

PLAYOFF TEAMS                                                                                                                               

8. Washington Wizards: Relying on the health of an already injured Emeka Okafor may not be the wisest strategy, but there is too much talent here to not make the playoffs in the East.  John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. (another great pick from the Wizards front office?), and enough able bodies for big men.  If you go to their second unit, you have some defensive studs as well with Singleton and Ariza on the wing.  This could be a team to keep an eye on and is already on my League Pass watch-list.

7. Milwaukee Bucks: Every year I get sucked in and every year there is disappointment.  Where OJ Mayo goes, so does some bizarre allegiance to overrate the team he’s playing on.  That bus landed in Milwaukee this year.  I like their big men as a group, but not any particular individual.  You have ex-Wolf Luke Ridnour and Brandon Knight as the PG’s and Gary Neal as the fourth wheel in the backcourt.  It will be interesting to see what they get out of the SF position where the Bucks have two wily veterans in Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino.  This roster is good enough to make the playoffs.  (Until it isn’t)

6. New York Knicks: Look at how the NY Giants football season is going and that is what I would like to predict for the Knicks.  However, they have too much talent for the Eastern Conference to go any lower than this.  They will play .500 ball and get into the playoffs with ease.  Here’s what I like about the team: Tyson Chandler, from a few years ago.  That’s it.  There is nothing on this roster that I like.  Despite his gaudy numbers, there is virtually nothing Carmelo can do to not make me believe that he is an underachiever; outside of taking less than max money in his next contract and deferring to another star in order to win a championship.

5. Atlanta Hawks: This is my Eastern Conference “I have no idea where to put this team, so they are going here”.  I cannot give a team home court advantage in round 1 of the playoffs if that is my general feeling towards the team, so they land at #5.  Love the Paul Millsap and Al Horford combination, like Jeff Teague, but have no idea what to think of their rotation of wings.  The Hawks’ wings really just need to fill roles though, right?  That should be good enough for a .500+ record and another trip to the postseason, only to be quickly disposed by the …

4. Chicago Bulls: We’ll get to this when we go through the playoff brackets later, but I see the Bulls coasting through the regular season, monitoring Derrick Rose’s minutes, resting him occasionally, etc. This team is tough as nails and will do what is necessary to get to right around the 50 win mark.  It won’t be pretty, we won’t enjoy it when they beat up the Wolves in the paint, but this team will get it done.

3. Brooklyn Nets: Prokhorov’s tax bill is “a bit” much, but you have to love an owner that is willing to spend any and all money possible to put together a championship contender.  Unfortunately for the Nets, there are too many stronger teams that will grind this team out of the playoffs at some point.  Deron Williams has a lot to prove and I see this team putting together a very strong regular season due to all of the veterans in the locker room.

Best of luck to KG in Brooklyn and a big “kudos” for the Big Ticket in wearing the #2 jersey with the Nets – in memory of Malik Sealy.  I might have to drag myself to the Barclay’s Center to see KG one last time in person.

2. Indiana Pacers: The country finally got to see who Paul George was and what this Pacers roster is all about in last year’s playoffs.  I don’t expect them to digress whatsoever.  In fact, if Danny Granger can stay healthy and Luis Scola provides quality backup minutes at the PF/C spots, this team is very, very dangerous.  Quite honestly, I love this team.

(You didn’t think I would talk about the Pacers and not mention David Kahn’s selection of Wesley Johnson over Paul George, did you?  The worst lottery pick the franchise has ever made.  The worst … and the bar is pretty ‘high’ for that proclamation.  THE WORST!  Let’s move on before my blood pressure pills start wearing off …)

1. Miami Heat: The Heat won something like 75 games in a row (it was 27) last season and the NBA Championship.  You know the story and the cast of characters.  Until someone knocks them off the pedestal, it is hard to place them anywhere else.

Which brings us to the playoffs, based on the seeds above.  Here is how I see the Eastern Conference Playoffs unfolding:

Eastern Conference

The top four teams in the East are light-years ahead of the rest of the conference, so they should all advance pretty easily out of the first round – unless you like the Knicks.  Then things get very interesting.  As mentioned above, I think the Bulls take it “easy” in the regular season a bit but knock out the defending champs, which sets up a close to epic battle against the Pacers.  I simply believe it is the Pacers time.

The early exit for the Heat leads to about 15 million stories and rumors about LeBron heading back to Cleveland, to the Lakers, etc. etc.  That’s going to be a lot of fun!

What do you think?  Is it too early to dethrone the Heat?  Do they have another trophy coming?  What are your surprise or disappointment teams in the conference?  Let us know below!

Minnesota Timberwolves 83 – Brooklyn Nets 91

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Wolves returned to the Target Center against the Nets Wednesday night and opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Stiemsma.  Earlier in the day, the team announced that Pekovic and Shved would both miss the night’s festivities.  So, there’s that.  The Nets opened up with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans, and Brook Lopez.

There are slow starts in the NBA and then there are starts that look like the following: blocked shot, opponent basket, turnover, defensive foul, turnover, opponent basket, turnover, opponent basket, turnover … OK, I think you get the point and that is only the first two minutes of the 1st quarter for the Wolves.  Going into the first timeout of the game, the Nets led 16-7.

Unfortunately for the Wolves and their fans, the remainder of the first quarter didn’t turn out much better.  Every time I pay DWill a compliment he returns the favor with a sub-par game.  He looked completely “off” in the 1st quarter going 0-2 from the field and 1 rebound.  At the end of the quarter, the Nets held a 24-17 lead.

The bench mob, specifically Barea, Cunningham and 10 day contractor Chris Johnson, helped the Pups cut the lead to one point (26-25) over the first few minutes of the 2nd quarter.  Chris Johnson is about to end Lou Amundson’s stint with the Wolves I believe.  We’ll see what the FO decides to do here.

After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Nets started to come to life.  While never taking the lead, the Pups played an entertaining few minutes of basketball.  Unfortunately, that couldn’t be sustained over the final minutes of the period, as the Nets started to open things up, specifically with Andray Blatche (?!), Deron Williams, and then Brook Lopez at the very end of the half.

What has become all too common over the past few weeks, the Wolves failed to execute in the last few seconds of the quarter/half.  The Nets held an eleven point lead at the half, going into the locker room up 53-42.  Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • It pains me to say this, but I’m not sure what the best course of action is for using Rubio right now.  Does it make sense to increase his minutes?  Should he take more nights off?  Why is this happening?!
  • The Pups starting five looked nothing short of awful in the first half.

After the 3rd quarter got off to a real slow start, Ridnour found AK47 for an alley-oop to bring the Pups back to within twelve points.  That seemed to ignite the team a bit, as over the next few minutes the Wolves chipped away into the lead, but once again could not get over the hump.  Terry Porter was called for a technical foul after biting off a bit more than he can chew with the referees.

Naturally, after typing up my halftime thoughts, Rubio came to life a bit in the quarter, creating a few steals and dishing out a few assists.  However, each time the Wolves had a chance to cut the lead to a single basket, the Nets made the necessary defensive play or the Wolves found a way to shoot themselves in the foot.  The Nets took a 68-62 lead with ninety seconds to play in the 3rd, and neither team was able to do anything more for the remainder of the quarter.

The early minutes of the 4th quarter led to the most intriguing moments of the game.  CJ Watson and JJ Barea went head to head to see who had the better acronym for a first name and the better overall skill set on the court.  In short, CJ Watson won the latter battle.  At one point, he scored nine straight points for the Nets.  While this was happening, JJ Barea decided to try to take the game over for the Wolves and failed, picking up several fouls and missing shots on the offensive end.  This is exactly when the Pups coaching staff needs to pull JJ off the court.  Rather than doing this however, Porter let him sit out there on the court with five fouls and a ton of time left in the game.

This leads me to another key take away from this evening.  After the whole CJ vs. JJ debacle, I think Terry Porter forgot that he was the head coach of the team and could make substitutions.  Right before Rubio was about to check in (for presumably Barea), JJ made a three pointer and Porter apparently called Rubio back to the bench.  Ricky never saw the court in the 4th quarter.  The same could be said for DWill.  While the latter had a poor 1st half, his 3rd quarter was average to above average and he deserved a few minutes in the 4th – if for nothing more than to get this kid on the court in “crucial” moments and the experience in closing games.

In the final few minutes, the Pups seemingly threw in the towel.  They didn’t bother fouling with under a minute to go and down by eight points.  Again, I’m not sure why Porter didn’t extend the game at least one more trip up and down the court.  I’m going to leave it with this: I don’t think Terry Porter is going to be putting this head coaching stint on his resume.  Despite the injury problems, there are a number of head scratchers seen each night.

The Nets walk out of Target Center a 91-83 winner, moving the Pups record down to 17-22 and falling further into the cellar of the Northwest division.  The Pups will now travel to the southeast with games in Washington DC and Charlotte on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Keys of the Game

  • Coaching – Since PJ Carlesimo has taken over the Nets head coaching duties, the Nets hold a 12-2 record.  Carlesimo made all of the right substitutions and moves tonight and as covered above, Terry Porter did not.
  • Guard Play – The Nets “big three” in the backcourt (Williams, Johnson, and Watson) combined for 50 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds.  The Pups “big three” of Rubio, Ridnour, and Barea combined for 29 points, 17 assists, and 9 rebounds.  I’m not sure that disparity really suggests how one-sided this felt all evening.
  • Free Throws – While the Wolves have been one of the best teams in the NBA in getting to the FT line, they failed miserably to do so in Wednesday’s game.  Six attempts in the entire game (and only making four of them) lends itself to blaming the Wolves players on the court, the scheme the team is running (too many jumpers & three pointers), as well as some blame on the officiating crew.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Deron Williams – 18, 8, and 6 to go with 3 steals in over 30 minutes of action tonight for the Nets PG.  This was predictable, given the preview we put together for tonight’s game.
  2. CJ Watson – Not only did he have a great offensive game going tonight, he completely took JJ Barea out of the game by getting him rattled, which led to a string of bad decisions on JJ’s front.
  3. Brook Lopez – A very efficient 22 points and 7 rebounds, shooting 10-16 from the field in just 26 minutes.  Lopez dominated Stiemsma early and often.