Minnesota Timberwolves 98 – Golden State Warriors 106

The Minnesota Timberwolves were back on the Target Center floor Friday night, hosting the Golden State Warriors.  Little change on the injury front for the Wolves, with Barea, Roy, and Pekovic all taking the night off again, perhaps due to the break the team has coming up (they don’t play again until Wednesday).  Josh Howard passed his physical and suited up for the team.

Tonight’s starting lineup for the Wolves was consistent with the past few games – Ridnour, Lee, Kirilenko, DWill, and Stiemsma.  Golden State opened up with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, and Festus Ezeli – who has the greatest first name in the league … obviously.

The game opened up with a nice pace.  AK47 got off to a hot start with the team’s first seven points.  Similar to what I’ve said much of this week, DWill got off to a tough start with a few misses in close.  However, within two minutes he hit two jumpers near the top of the key, allowing the Target Center crowd to breathe a sigh of relief.  Just seeing the ball go through the hoop seemed to have paid off, as Derrick continued to shine, finishing the quarter with thirteen points.

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Pups held a five point lead, 27-22.  DWill and AK47’s output matched the Warriors in the quarter, accounting for the vast majority of the offense for the Wolves.  The Warriors scoring was evenly distributed throughout those that saw the floor in the quarter, with the only noteworthy piece for the opponent being that David Lee struggled from the field against DWill, shooting 1-5 from the field for two points.

The Wolves started the second quarter with a very different lineup, excluding Ridnour.  Shved, Howard, Cunningham, and Amundson joined Luke on the floor.  It was a quick start for the newest Pup, Josh Howard, as he grabbed a quick offensive rebound and hit a jump shot to open up the quarter.  Welcome to the Wolves!

Adelman’s second unit played very nicely in the quarter.  Shved, Howard, and Cunningham all played good defense, hit open shots, and helped build the lead to double digits.  However, the lead was short lived, as GS chipped away in the back half of the quarter, largely led by Carl Landry and David Lee.  At the half, the Warriors led 53-50 as the Wolves really fell apart in the final two minutes or so.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Derrick Williams, the Awakening?  15 points, with a strong outside jumper falling
  • Alexey Shved with another great showing – 12 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in 15 minutes.
  • David Lee and Carl Landry combined for 20 points and 10 rebounds in the half, Stiemsma is going to have to commit a hard foul in the 3rd quarter (he didn’t)

Both teams opened the second half with the same starting lineups, but the Wolves were completely outplayed to begin the quarter.  Shved replaced Malcolm Lee pretty quickly and I suspect that is (and should be) the end of the ‘Malcolm Lee as a starting SG’ plan.  The Wolves had to burn a quick timeout as the Warriors built the lead to nine.

Unfortunately for the Pups, momentum remained with the Warriors for the rest of the quarter, as the visitor extended its lead to 13 points at the end of the quarter, leading 82-69.  The Wolves continued to give up way too many points in the paint and went cold on the offensive end of the floor.  In a change of pace from the first half, the Warriors guards and wings led the way in the 3rd quarter, with Curry, Thompson, and Barnes all contributing.  In fact, at the end of the 3rd, all three of them were at least +17 on the floor for the game.  Ouch.

The first few minutes of the 4th quarter was a continuation of the 3rd.  The Warriors continued to hit from both the inside and outside.  Any time the Wolves would make a play or two to get the lead to around ten, the Warriors answered.  This lasted for the first six minutes of the quarter and then the Wolves came to life.  The latest comeback effort was led by, of course, Alexey Shved.

Alexey continues to be the sparkplug for this team in the 4th quarter.  He’s dishing and scoring and quite honestly, seems to have ice in his veins.  Maybe it is Russian Vodka?  In any case, Shved, Cunningham, and DWill all had strong 4th quarters cutting the lead to a one possession game at one point.  However, the Warriors didn’t lose their composure and were able to do enough to secure the win.  In the final minutes, the Pups missed a few shots from long range and a layup or two, leading to the team’s second consecutive loss on its home court.

Let’s hope the four nights off forthcoming allow the Pups to get healthy and this team can come out swinging next week and into the end of the month.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. David Lee
  2. Derrick Williams
  3. Alexey Shved

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves Host Charlotte Bobcats

Setting the stage

The Minnesota Timberwolves return home to the Target Center to face Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats.  Despite the rash of injuries, the Twolves split its two road games and are 5-2 on the season.  The Bobcats won Tuesday night against Wizards and are a surprising 3-3 on the year.  The Pups need to take advantage of the Bobcats playing in the second half of a back to back and win a game that, frankly, should be won.

The Wolves will be without Barea, Pekovic, and Roy tonight.  Talk about making this game more difficult than it needs to be.  In an earlier draft of this preview, I had figured Pek would be playing and considered this game more or less “a lock”.  Now?  Not so much.  Team Russia has continued to fill in admirably through the loss of each player over the past week, as has Ridnour and Cunningham.  However, this team has to play each of those four big minutes and that might have some long term damage if this injury bug lasts much longer.  Stiemsma gets the start tonight at the center spot, coming off a rough two game stretch in which he played sparingly and was held scoreless.

Charlotte comes in off a win vs. the Wizards, with rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist putting up some impressive numbers over his last couple of games.  MKG had a 25 & 12 evening against Dallas several nights ago, and followed that up with 15 & 8 last night vs. Washington.  The other watch-out for the Bobcats is at the combo guard position, with Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, and Ben Gordon really being the only legitimate threats on the roster.  Note that Gordon missed Tuesday’s game for a family emergency and it is unclear if he is making the trip to Minnesota.  At the same time, the local Bobcats team reported during Tuesday’s game that Kemba Walker was a little under the weather.  We’ll see if that has any impact on his performance Wednesday night – as he didn’t have much of a problem against Washington, playing 35 minutes and putting up 17 points.

Assuming they became aware of the limitations of their big men, the Bobcats made a minor move on Tuesday, sending Matt Carroll to the Hornets for Hakim Warrick.  Warrick was inactive for Tuesday’s game and it remains to be seen when he will make his debut for his new team.  While certainly not a true PF, Warrick provides more overall talent for the Bobcats, who can consider playing small much more of the time.

While Charlotte is in the top 10 in scoring in the early part of the season at just under 100 ppg, they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed (~102 per game, down from ~107 before Tuesday’s game).  The Wolves have become one of the better defensive teams in the league with its offseason additions and I look forward to seeing the team control the tempo and flow of this game from the outset.

Player to watch

Derrick Williams – If there were ever a game that Derrick Williams should be expected to produce, this would be it.  DWill is coming off an embarrassing 12 minute, 2 point game on Monday in Dallas, despite the team being undermanned.  It is crystal clear that DWill has a short leash and easily gets into Adelman’s doghouse.  However, Charlotte lacks any semblance of strength at the PF spot.  Byron Mullens and Tyrus Thomas scream opportunity for Derrick to turn it up a few notches.

Match-up to watch

MKG vs. AK47.  I made it no surprise that I really wanted MKG in this year’s draft.  The signing of AK47 may put David Kahn in the running for Executive of the Year.  These guys are very similar, albeit in very different stages of their career.  They are about the same size, with Andrei being slightly taller/longer.  Both players do a little bit of everything for their teams, fill the box score, and are high character individuals in the locker room.  It will be interesting to see these two go at it, with the possibility of them shutting each other down and holding one another to single digit points for the night.

Predictions

The Pups need to win this one.  Not to straighten out their season, turn around momentum or anything like that.  The fact of the matter is, Charlotte is an inferior opponent and good teams beat inferior opponents – even if we are down to a nine man lineup.  Good grief …

Final score prediction: Minnesota 90 – Charlotte 86

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Derrick Williams
  2. Dante Cunningham
  3. Kemba Walker

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 90 – Orlando Magic 75

Photo Credits: Orlando Sentinel

For the first time this season, I got to see the Timberwolves from beginning to end with the electricity and cable back in my section of NJ.  Thanks to Big Al for running the show here to begin the season.

Given tonight’s impressive win, barring anymore weather-related problems, I’m committing to Game Recaps until the Wolves lose.  We’ll look to continue the streak this coming Friday.  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look back at another strong performance from the Wolves.

The Twolves opened the game with the same starting five leveraged in the first few games – Ridnour, Roy, AK47, DWill, and Pekovic.  The Magic starting five consisted of Moore, Afflalo, McRoberts, Davis, and Vucevic.  In other words, the Magic were playing without Jameer Nelson in the lineup, which immediately increased my confidence in a Wolves win about five-fold.

With that still fresh in mind, the Wolves jumped out to an early 13-6 lead going into the first timeout.  By that time, everyone in the starting five was in the books with at least a point.  Williams and Kirilenko looked very active to start the game.  In fact, Derrick must have been aware that it was my time to put together the game recap, as he had a very strong start – active hands on defense, running the floor, and hitting his first 3-pointer of the season.

After the first quarter, the Twolves more than doubled up the Magic, leading 25-12 on 67% shooting.  Brandon Roy had a very nice quarter, leading the team with 5 rebounds and 3 assists, to go with 3 points.  The only ‘negative’ you could say about the opening quarter is that in the final few minutes, the Wolves turned the ball over a couple more times and closed the quarter with 5 TO’s.  That’s still too many, but the Magic were not able to do much with it, shooting 6-21 from the field for a putrid 29%.

The Wolves opened the second quarter with AK47 and the second string rotation – Barea, Budinger, Cunningham, and Stiemsma.  This rotation, along with Shved (who entered the game early in the second quarter) is night and day compared to last year’s squad and full of active bodies to keep this team afloat while the franchise players recuperate from their injuries.  The quarter started with a lot of ball movement.  Unfortunately, the ball rarely moved through the hoop, as the Wolves remained scoreless for the first four plus minutes.  The team fired up a number of three pointers and the scoring drought finally ended with Chase hitting 1 of 2 FT’s.  It actually wasn’t until after six minutes had past in the quarter that the Wolves got a bucket – a pretty, driving layup from Shved, who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Wolves.

At halftime, the Pups led 38-34, with the Magic outscoring the home team by nine in the second quarter.  To put it nicely, that wasn’t a pretty second quarter of basketball at all.  The Wolves shooting dramatically declined and sunk to 43% for the half, while the team continues to miss FT’s, only making 6 of 11.  Here are a few miscellaneous notes from the first half with my Wolves lens:

  • AK47 – worth every penny
  • Barea – when he doesn’t have his shot going, he needs to be given a quick hook to remind him to play within the offense.  This is one of the most important aspects of Rubio’s return where the team won’t have to rely heavily on Barea as a true PG and more of a sparkplug.
  • Stiemsma – a very solid backup 5 for this team, bringing a different presence to the position vs. Pekovic, protecting the rim and knocking guys and/or the ball around underneath the basket.

The Twolves started the third quarter with another run, increasing the lead back to double digits with a 13-6 run and forcing a TO from the Magic.  This included two three-pointers from Ridnour and another from DWill.  Adelman must have told the locker room to get the ball to Pekovic down low as that was a glaring shortfall in the first half and a focal point of the offense in the third quarter.  Within a few minutes there were two big highlights: First, a beautiful follow-up dunk from DWill off of a missed jump shot, and second, Pekovic introducing Harkless to the league with a huge block/rejection in the paint.

After a little back and forth in the middle of the quarter, the Wolves finished the third on a 10-2 run to take a 68-55 lead into the fourth quarter.  Lots of good ball movement and we saw flashes of what I’ll start to call “Good Barea”, dishing the ball and creating havoc on the floor.

The fourth quarter started with more of the same, with the Pups really pouring it on and building the lead to 20+ points.  Once the lead got to this level, it felt insurmountable for this Magic team to overcome and the game was over.  The good news; it was.  Without Jameer Nelson and Al Harrington, there wasn’t a chance for the Magic to make a comeback.  The final score from the Target Center was Minnesota 90 – Orlando 75, with the Pups moving to 3-1 on the season.

Unfortunately, it looks like Barea is banged up again, after spraining his foot in the final quarter.  He’ll be evaluated tomorrow according to early reports from the Wolves digital team.  Hopefully, this isn’t something that will linger or a continuation of last year’s string of small injuries that eat into his ability to suit up for the team.

Overall, tonight was a great performance from those in the regular rotation – the end of the bench left a little to desire to close the game, but it is what it is.  This is a little tough because tonight was the epitome of a team win, but here are my Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Luke Ridnour
  2. Derrick Williams
  3. Brandon Roy

Looked to be a good number of available seats #WolvesNation – let’s keep up these good vibes and get those seats filled!  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Summer 2012 Recap

Since David Kahn took over as President of Basketball Operations in May 2009, we have heard the continual promotion of flexibility, youth, rebuilding, cap space, etc. etc.  Shortly after Kahn was able to convince Kevin Love to sign an extension back in January, this all changed, as Love started to provide his own thoughts to the media on how the Twolves needed to start showing improvement and to get to the playoffs.  With a decent amount of flexibility and the added pressure of appeasing one of team’s core pieces, Kahn and the rest of the front office had their work cut out for them this offseason.  To Kahn’s credit, at least he didn’t take a month off to go fishing …

Here’s my take on the Timberpups offseason.

NBA Draft

Heading into Draft week, the Twolves held the 18th and 58th picks.  Two nights before the draft, Kahn sent the 18th pick to Houston for Chase Budinger.  In general, I hate seeing trades like this.  If you have something like this lined up, why not wait until draft night?  I understand that Houston was looking for ways to get Dwight Howard, but I still hate the notion of giving up your pick so far in advance.  I would like to think there will be a time when the Twolves actually take advantage of someone else’s panic move over the course of a draft night.  When this happens, I’ll immediately drive to Shop Rite to stock up on their can-can special.

As for the trade itself, I like Budinger as a complementary wing / role player at SF.  If nothing else, he’s competent and that is more than what we can say about any wing on last year’s roster.  As an added bonus – based off of his Twitter feed – he seems to have a great personality.

With the 58th pick, the Twolves selected Robbie Hummel, who has had quite the busy summer.  Given the moves that the Wolves have made since (we’re getting there, promise), Hummel decided to sign with a team in Spain (Obradoiro).  I think that was a wise choice for Hummel given the team’s other moves and the lack of PT that would have come his way, if any at all.  More than likely, he would have wound up in the D-League.  However, since going over to join the team in Spain, Hummel has since torn his meniscus again and will be out for several weeks.

I had high hopes going into the draft; A. trading Derrick Williams and filler for MKG or Beal and B. trading Wes Johnson for Crowder / anyone worthwhile.  The DWill moves were a bit of a pipedream.  However, Kahn technically had 34 chances to find a way to get Jae Crowder and trading Wes to anyone in the late first round / early second would have been a fantastic move.  Alas, no avail.

This wasn’t the start of the offseason that I was looking for.  Beyond Ricky Rubio falling into Kahn’s lap with the fifth pick in ’09, his draft night performances have been 50 shades of abysmal.  (See what I did there?  Building your female audience 101)

My draft grade: C-
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Timberwolves Waive Martell Webster, Trade Brad Miller

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRz0hfakFAw”]

As the hope for a sign-and-trade with Portland for Nicolas Batum dwindles, the Timberwolves were busy yesterday clearing cap space with the casualties being Martell Webster and Brad Miller. Webster was waived and bought out for a total of $600,000, ending a mediocre tenure on Minnesota. Bothered with multiple back surgeries spanning his 7-year career, Webster was originally acquired by Minnesota for the 16th overall selection in the 2010 draft. Originally taken with the 6th overall pick out of Seattle Preparatory High School, the hyper-athletic swingman was unable to live up to his lofty expectations while primarily serving as backup to Brandon Roy, and David Kahn saw him as worth the gamble. Fortunately for Minnesota, Luke Babbitt, Portland’s end of the 2010 trade, has averaged a miserable 3.7 PPG thus far into his short NBA career. If the Wolves would have not bought out Webster, he would have been due a $5.7 million team option, a price tag his 10.02 Player Efficiency Rating is undoubtedly not worth.

Minnesota also sent Brad Miller packing to New Orleans along with two future second-round draft picks in exchange for one conditional second-round pick. The picks Minnesota sent to the Hornets are the Nets’ 2013 second-round selection along with Minnesota’s own 2016 second-round choice. Although Miller has stated that he will not play another season and will retire this offseason, he was awaiting a $848,000 buyout before filing his retirement paperwork. The Wolves apparently did not feel comfortable keeping that buyout money on their payroll, and likewise sent out two second-round picks to cover the cost, a price some would feel that is excessive.
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