Timberwolves Losing Steam, Fall to Grizzlies on the Road

Memphis is hot. Minnesota is not.

Last night’s road game proved brutal for the Timberwolves as they found themselves unable to keep up with Mike Conley and his crew. Although the Wolves are ranked No. 4 in the league for scoring and are averaging 106.5 points per game, Memphis held them to just 92 points while taking the win with 109. Kevin Love led the team with lower-than-usual numbers of 16 points and seven rebounds. Rookie Gorgui Dieng delivered another strong performance with 11 points and 17 boards.

According to NBA.com, the Grizzlies are 8-0 since Dec. 25 when playing against teams who played the previous day. “We caught a good team on the second night of a back-to-back,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

(photo credit: arizonasports.com)

After playing several games in which they scored over 30 points in the first quarter, the Timberwolves tallied just 15 against Memphis. Both teams struggled a bit out of the gatesMemphis made just four of its first 15 shotsbut the Grizzlies soon found their groove. The first basket didn’t come until the 9:55 mark, but it came at the hands of the Grizzlies, and they never looked back. Conley had 23 points and six assists, and Marc Gasol added 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“We didn’t want to give them too much leeway,” Conley said. “We’ve been in the same shoes. You’re coming in off a tough game, and you kind of walk through the first part of the game.  We just wanted to jump out there as early as we could, set the tempo and try to get ahead of them.”

Minnesota seemed disoriented across the board, no one player having a fantastic game. Love shot just 6-of-18 from the field, and the team as a whole shot 38 percent. The Grizzlies had complete control of the game, driving the pace and offense. At halftime, they led the Wolves 57-39.

The Timberwolves found a bit of a spark in the third, going on a 15-4 run to close the quarter and lessen the deficit. They just couldn’t keep up with their shooting, though, and Memphis drove the win home.

“They played physical,” Love said. “When you play a team like that on a back-to-back, especially this late in the season, especially without Pek and Ronny and some depth, it’s tough.”

Forwards Corey Brewer and Dante Cunningham had the best luck on the floor percentage-wise, adding 15 and nine points, respectively. It wasn’t enough, though.

Monday night’s loss pushes the Wolves seven games behind Dallas and Phoenix. At this point, it seems safe to say that finding the postseason is like a needle in a haystack for the Wolves… it’s not mathematically impossible, but losing these last two games seemed to seal Minnesota’s fate. Finishing the regular season strong is now the team’s main focus. “We just have to be competitive. That’s the biggest key right now — get through the end of the season and play each game competitively,” forward Chase Budinger said. “That’s how you have to look at it.”

Up next for the Wolves is a home game Wednesday, when they welcome Atlanta.  The Hawks are clinging to a No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the contest promises to be a close one. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Recap – Timberwolves 123, Mavericks 122 (OT)

Sky hook master Gorgui Dieng (Photo: ESPN.com)

Sky hook master Gorgui Dieng
(Photo: ESPN.com)

 

 

The 33-32 Timberwolves took to the road to start a back-to-back in Dallas Wednesday night.  The Mavs entered the game at 41-27 and are holding on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.  Coming into Wednesday night’s match-up, the Wolves had taken two of three against the Mavs this season.

Nikola Pekovic was ruled out for the Pups so the starting lineup looked like this: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Dieng.  The Mavs opened up with Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Samuel Dalembert.

Here’s a look at how things went down …

First Half 

Rick Carlisle called an early timeout only 2.5 minutes into the game, as the Wolves scored a few easy baskets and jumped out to a 9-5 lead.  That early warning for his team didn’t work out to well as Minnesota continued to jump on their opponent, leading to another timeout with over seven minutes still left in the opening frame.  Ricky Rubio led the charge early with an early basket, but also already had 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block!  What?!

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held an impressive 37-24 lead, receiving big scoring punches from Kevin Love (13 points) and Corey Brewer (11), who may have been looking for a little bit of revenge against his former team.  I would also like to point out the solid 11 minutes from the rookie, Dieng.  He had 6 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and was 1-1 from the field for his 2 points.  I have only been asking for him in the rotation since mid-December.  At the very least, this improves the learning curve.

Words cannot describe my excitement with the early stages of tonight’s game.  Adelman was giving extended minutes to Dieng and he was highly effective – including a running sky hook in the 2nd quarter that found nothing but the bottom of the net.  At the same time, Coach gave JJ Barea minutes at the SG position, allowing him to play with Rubio and not dominate the ball for 22 seconds of the shot clock.  I have been “slightly” critical (understatement of the year) of JJ this year, but I don’t mind him at the SG position without the ball in his hands.

With a 50-28 lead things were looking pretty good for the Pups.  Therein lies your problem.  As with every single good thing that happens to this team, bad things quickly follow … and are usually much worse.  The 22 point lead was cut to 3 points with several minutes remaining in the half.  Thankfully, the Wolves were able to withstand the stomach punch and built their lead back up to 10.  The 54 year old Vince Carter hit a three pointer at the buzzer to cut the Wolves lead to 66-59.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Excluding Barea, the Wolves bench was failing big time.  Chase Budinger … yikes!  0-2 from the field, he lost a few loose balls and was a team low -9 in his five minutes on the floor.  Dante Cunningham was 0-3 from the field and didn’t collect a single rebound or assist either.
  • Still leading the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki went old school against Robbie Hummel and hit a rainbow fade away jumper from about 12 feet.  It was a thing of beauty.

Second Half 

The 3rd quarter was highly entertaining basketball, as both teams traded punches.  However, with just over 3 minutes to go, Gorgui picked up his fourth foul and had to head to the bench.  This was preceded with another strong 8+ minutes from the rookie, who was having a positive impact on both ends of the floor.  He left the floor having already collected his second double-double in as many starts and was a team high +15 at the time of his departure.

The Wolves were able to maintain their advantage however, as they took a 94-87 lead into the final quarter.  The Mavs were able to hit a buzzer beater for the second quarter in a row, with Brandon Wright hitting a floater to cut the lead to seven.

All that was good in the 3rd quarter quickly fell apart in the 4th as both teams looked incredibly sloppy – missing easy baskets, offensive fouls, etc.  With a 12 point lead with about 7 minutes to go, the Wolves let the Mavs back in the game one more time.  The Mavs went on a 15-5 run to cut the lead to three points.  It got worse for Wolves fans, as Monta Ellis caught fire and gave the Mavs a 113-111 lead with 90 seconds to play.  The end of regulation came with the teams tied at 113 thanks to a number of missed jump shots by both teams.  What happened to attacking the rim with the game on the line?!

Adelman sent out the same five that ended the game (on a sour note) to start OT.  Feel free to try to explain that to me in the comments section below.  The Mavs went on a small run and built their largest lead of the game of 5 points.  However, the Wolves didn’t quit as Kevin Love drew a 6th foul on Vince Carter and tied the game by hitting three FT’s.  Love then hit one of two FT’s to give the Wolves the lead again at 121-120.  After a Mas bucket the Wolves force fed Love the ball with under 30 seconds to go and after a handful of “moves”, he somehow snaked his way through and hit a baby hook to give the Wolves the lead for good!  Dirk missed a shot and there was a little bit of a scrum for the ball as time expired.  No matter!  Wolves win 123-122!

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Ricky Rubio – Triple double alert!  22 points on 8-12 shooting, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds!  Throw in 4 steals and a block for the Unicorn!
  2. Kevin Love – This was all set to be #3’s spot until OT.  Love finished with 35 points and owned OT.
  3. Gorgui Dieng – Finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but for some reason completely disappeared from the rotation.  He LED the team in the first three quarters, along with Rubio.  

Key Takeaways

  • Barea had a very solid first half and then went all Jekyll and Hyde on us again in the second half.  I’m glad Adelman didn’t go back to him in OT.
  • Dieng had a phenomenal three quarters and earned/deserved time at the end of the game.  Hummel somehow got the call, with the Wolves going small and moving Love to the 5.  Between this and the decision to DNP-CD Shabazz Muhammad, I still have no idea what is going on in Adelman’s mind.
  • All of this is null and void for tonight at least, as the Wolves pull off the minor upset and keep some glimmer of hope alive.

 

Recap – Bobcats 105, Timberwolves 93

 

Big Al vs. Bigger Pek,  Wolves, Bobcats, semi-live from Charlotte (Thanks Xbox) (Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

Big Al vs. Bigger Pek,
Wolves, Bobcats, semi-live from Charlotte (Thanks Xbox)
(Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

 

After a few nights off, the Timberwolves returned to action on Friday night to take on the Bobcats in Charlotte.  Minnesota entered the game with a 32-31 record, while Charlotte was coming in off of a win Wednesday night in Washington, moving their record to 31-34 on the year.  The Bobcats are currently in the seven seed position in the Eastern Conference playoffs and won seven games in a row at home.  What happened … well, you probably saw the title of the article?

The Pups’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Bobcats opened up with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts, and ex-Pup Al Jefferson.

First Half 

In a somewhat slow start to the game, aided by a “clear path” review by the refs, the Bobcats took an 8-7 lead into the game’s first timeout with about 8.5 minutes left in the 1st quarter.  Gerald Henderson had all 8 points for the Bobcats, allowing me to daydream about this past offseason one more time.  I have always liked Henderson’s game and thought he would be a good fit for the Wolves.

Coming out of the first timeout, it looked like both teams decided to wake up and unofficially start playing real NBA basketball. Kevin Martin and Kevin Love led the way for the Wolves in the quarter.  After the timeout, MKG and Big Al stood out for the Bobcats and balancing out the Kevin’s efforts.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the teams were tied at 33-33.

Wholesale lineup changes for Adelman’s club to start out the 2nd quarter and let’s just say that this didn’t start or end well.  I’m not sure what it is going to take to move away from this outside of Flip taking over as coach.  Dear lord … not only did the rotation not work, but Adelman refused to burn a timeout, waiting for the official’s timeout before reinserting Love and Nikola Pekovic into the game.  However, the damage was done, as the Bobcats led 50-41.

Despite having many of the starters back in, the Wolves fell further in the hole, 59-43.  So, to recap what happened here; backups fell behind double digits and when the wholesale changes back to the starting lineup took place, those players were all cooled off and out of the flow of the game.  What team uses this strategy successfully?!  This actually came off my keyboard during the 2nd quarter misery:

While I know this will burn me a year from now, I’m completely OK with Adelman walking away in the offseason.

— john flesta(@jflesta) March 15, 2014

I’m sadly not overstating this, while completely realizing the likelihood that the alternative is better is about one in ten.  At the half, the Bobcats held a 65-53 advantage.  Here are a few thoughts going into the locker room:

  • At the half, the best +/- from the Wolves’ bench was a -11 from LRMAM.
  • Gary Neal, en fuego.  5-7 from the field for 16 points.  Coincidentally, much of his playing time was against … you guessed it, the Wolves’ bench.

Second Half 

The Pups started the 3rd quarter 0-5 from the field and their body language to start the half was poor.  Adelman may have noticed this and took an early timeout, with just over two minutes gone by and the team down 67-53.  Gorgui Dieng checked in for a struggling Pekovic and Big Al took him to school early on a pump fake.  Dieng tried to make up for the lost step but was called for a goaltend.  The rookie spent much of the next few minutes in Jekyll and Hyde mode with positive and negative plays up and down the court.  This ties in nicely with a request for PT for the rookies the rest of the way.  Please and thank you.

The body language for the Wolves got progressively worse as the 3rd quarter rolled on.  As the teams entered the final frame, the Bobcats held a 13 point lead, 88-75.  It could have been worse, but Chris Douglas-Roberts couldn’t get a made 35 foot three pointer out of his hands in time.

As the 4th quarter started, the Wolves official word on Pekovic was a sore ankle and his return was questionable.  Frankly, it probably didn’t matter.  The Wolves couldn’t get the Bobcats’ lead under 10 points and much of the 4th quarter felt like it was just going through the motions.  Final score, 105-93 – moving the Wolves back to .500 on the season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Al Jefferson – 25 & 16 for the ex-Pup
  2. Gary Neal – Lights out shooting when it mattered, finishing with 19 points in 25 minutes
  3. Wolves Twitter – No one on the Wolves roster deserves the slot, and honestly, there isn’t anyone else on the Bobcats either.  So thanks to Wolves Twitter for keeping tonight’s game semi-interesting. 

Key Takeaways

  • Dave Benz pointed this out late in the game, but the Wolves were outrebounded 54-35 in tonight’s game.  When is the last time it was THAT bad with this team?!
  • All eyes should probably stay on Pek’s injury and if he will have to miss any more time over the next week or so.  With the playoffs unofficially, officially out of sight and mind, do the Wolves turn overly cautious with the big man (and his contract)?

Wolves Injury Update

Tonight, the Timberwolves are in Phoenix to take on the Suns for the third game on this a six game road trip. Still no sign of Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Martin, and Ronny Turiaf remains out indefinitely with a bruised right knee.

Before departing on this venture, Kevin Love’s Instagram account informed us that the Wolves resident Bruise Brother, Pekovic, would be returning sometime during this — pivotal — stretch of the season. Martin also remains sidelined with a broken left thumb, but saw a specialist in Los Angeles yesterday. After having things looked at Monday, as well as last Friday, @TWolves_PR has informed us that Martin is progressing well.

As for Pekovic, he participated in shootaround this morning in Phoenix. His status for tonight is labeled as questionable. Pekovic was active pregame in Utah before Saturday’s meeting with the Jazz, but did not play — which, admittedly, led me to believe that he would be active in Portland for the Wolves meeting with the Blazers the following evening.

This column by Mark Remme states that Pekovic isn’t feeling any more pain in his ankle, however, that does not mean the pain isn’t there. Pek is suffering from bursitis, an inflammation caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury. Because of abuse the game of basketball places on an athletes knees (specifically the bursa, tendons and cartilage) it’s unlikely that Pekovic, or any athlete for that matter, that suffers from bursitis will ever completely heal. Age also plays a role. As tendons age they are able to tolerate stress less, are less elastic, and are easier to tear. He can play, but that doesn’t mean it will be a painless experience.

Pekovic had this to say to media shortly after shootaround. (Per Remme Practice Report)

“I would like, if I could play minutes today, but I still have to do some things today so we’ll see how it goes.” – Pekovic

The Wolves are 5-7 since Pek was removed from the Wolves meeting with the Chicago Bulls late in January. They are 3-3 since Martin joined him on the sideline.

Gorgui Dieng, still being used sparingly, is averaging 11 minutes per game over the previous five games. Dieng is still a very raw, young, and developing player but has at least been serviceable in the absence of Pek and Turiaf. He is averaging 3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block per game during the recent stretch.

 

 

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Can the Wolves Survive Without Nikola Pekovic?

 

From the classic "Where in the world is Nikola Pekovic" video

From the classic “Where in the world is Nikola Pekovic” video

In case you missed it, Nikola Pekovic left Monday night’s game in Chicago and was originally listed as “Doubtful” to return later in the game.  We now have word that Pekovic is “Out” for the next 7 to 10 days and will be reevaluated at that time due to bursitis in his right ankle.  Here is the official announcement from the team on Twitter:

 

Well, that certainly doesn’t make you feel very well, does it?  Maybe the most concerning part, beyond him definitively missing the next 7-10 days, is the “He will be sidelined indefinitely”.  Pek has missed a number of games in season’s past, but had appeared in all 44 games thus far this season, averaging a career high 18.4ppg and 9.3rpg.  As you are also well aware, Pek is in the first year of his new 5 year, $60 million contract – and if all of this doesn’t make Wolves’ fans nervous, I’m not sure what will.  (Maybe numb?)

What does this mean for the team moving forward?  Well, in the next ten days, the Wolves play seven games, starting tonight at the Target Center against the Pelicans and finishing on Saturday, 2/8, home against the Blazers.  Excluding the game on 2/1 against the Hawks, the Wolves will face foes from the Western Conference – the Pelicans twice, Grizzlies, Lakers, Thunder, and finishing up with the Blazers.  To say this is an important stretch of games for the team is an understatement, given their current 11th place seeding in the conference.  They are a game and a half behind the Grizzlies in the W/L column, so that is a huge game.  They will need to find a way to beat the Pelicans and Lakers, or at least take two of those three.  The Thunder and Blazer games might be too much to handle, but if they can split those two, that would be a plus.

Beyond the games ahead, and the uncertainty of when a much-needed Nikola Pekovic will return to the lineup, there might be one silver lining in all of this.  There is playing time to be earned from this and two of the items I mentioned in our half-season review might be coming to fruition quickly.  First, this basically forces Adelman’s hand a bit in giving some playing time to Gorgui Dieng.  While Ronny Turiaf will certainly receive extended minutes, Dieng will likely be seeing the floor more over the next two weeks and showcase his talents.  Second, we might see a bit more of Kevin Love at the Center spot, playing alongside Dante Cunningham and LRMAM.  At least one of these two is going to have to step up and play to, at least, their potential, as both have struggled mightily this season for the Pups.

I don’t want to mince words, the loss of Pek is significant.  The team must take a ‘next man up’ attitude and battle through the next few weeks.  We can hope that Pek returns in that ~10 day diagnosis, but the league isn’t going to shuffle the schedule for us and the team needs to push through this.  A couple of questions for consideration:

  • Do you think this will knock the Pups out of the playoffs?
  • Who do you envision stepping up over the next two weeks?

Let’s go Wolves!

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...]

Recap – Raptors 94, Timberwolves 89

raptor mascot

Strangely, this makes me laugh every time I look at it (Ron Turenne/Getty Images)

Two pretty average NBA teams came together at the Air Canada Centre Friday night for the first time this season, with the 18-20 Timberwolves taking on the 19-18 Toronto Raptors.  The Wolves play again on Saturday and that will be game number 41 on the season.  You know what that means?  We will be halfway through the NBA season and I’ll be putting together some thoughts on the team, its (blah) performance, and more in the coming days.  Expect a few write-ups to hit the site between now and Tuesday.

Despite the underwhelming performances in the past few weeks, no changes to the Wolves starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  (For the record, I don’t believe there should be any changes in the starting lineup.)  Speaking of underwhelming, the Raptors opened up with: Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valaciunas. [Read more...]