Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 23

 

Kevin Love & LeBron James ... Olympic buddies Timberwolves head to Miami as part of a tough week ahead (Photo credit: John W. McDonough/SI)

Kevin Love & LeBron James … Olympic buddies
Timberwolves head to Miami as part of a tough week ahead
(Photo credit: John W. McDonough/SI)

 

Setting the stage:

It feels like it has been a while since I wrote a weekly preview.  Despite calling it a season on Super Bowl Saturday, I was still posing the “Can the Timberwolves do it?” question here in this column just a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately, we have answered that question with erratic play and an inability to consistently beat teams that we should and occasionally pull off a few more victories to go on a prolonged winning streak.

Throw in the rumors that are floating around Twitter that Rick Adelman will not be returning to the sidelines next year and you have a pretty dull remaining of the season for our Pups.  Sorry, I can’t sugarcoat this one.  If you are looking for a sliver of hope, look no further than the product Gorgui Dieng has been giving the team while in the starting lineup during Nikola Pekovic’s recovery.  If nothing else, at least it proves that I’m not wrong 100% of the time?

As Warner Wolf used to say, “Let’s go to the videotape” … only there is no video here, just a preview for this week’s games.  I digress …

Game 74: Monday, 3/31, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Clippers have been pretty hot of late and find themselves as the three seed in the Western Conference.  Their stars are performing and Jamal Crawford and JJ Redick have formed a nice combination at the SG position.  I still want to see this team win a playoff series before they receive the accolades.

Opponent to watch:

Blake Griffin – After Monday night’s game, the next time Wolves’ fans see Blake, he may be wearing the Pups’ jersey.  Wait, who said that?!  Griffin is having another solid season, putting up about 24 & 10.

Predictions:

The Wolves play in Brooklyn on Sunday night and come home for this affair.  Even if the season wasn’t over, I don’t think they would have pulled this one off.  Final score: Clippers 112, Timberwolves 102

Game 75: Wednesday, 4/2, 7pm – Memphis Grizzles @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Memphis has also been playing very solid basketball of late and has leapfrogged Phoenix and Dallas in the Western Conference to join the playoff fray.  Wednesday night will be the final game of a five game road trip for the Grizzlies.  Their last home game was, ironically, against the Wolves, where they absolutely hammered our guys, 109-92.

Opponent to watch:

Mike Conley – Conley beat up Minnesota’s PG’s in that meeting, shooting 9-12 from the field for 23 points, while adding 5 rebounds and 6 assists.  The Wolves’ defense from the PG position has been, who do you say “less than desirable” (in Spanish)?

Predictions:

This could be a make or break game for the Grizzlies when all is said and done with the regular season.  They need this game and it really doesn’t matter for the Wolves.  Final score: Grizzlies 107, Timberwolves 101

Game 76: Friday, 4/4, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ Miami Heat (TV: FS North)

Who made this schedule?!  After two tough games at home against Western Conference foes, the Wolves take the show on the road to face the Heat.  This game probably won’t matter to the Heat unless they make up at least a game and a half on the Pacers beforehand.  However, we’re talking about the best player on the planet and the two-time defending champs.

Opponent to watch:

LeBron James – He’s good.  You may want to watch him play.  Godspeed Corey Brewer.

Predictions:

This isn’t exactly how you draw up closing the season, is it?  Final score: Heat 115, Timberwolves 109

Game 77: Saturday, 4/5, 6pm – Timberpups @ Orlando Magic (NO TV)

The one game the Wolves are more than likely to win this week and there is no TV coverage for the locals.  The Wolves will finish their rough week by finishing up the journey through Florida.  The Wolves beat Orlando very early on this season, 120-115 in OT, and should be able to carry out the season sweep.

Opponent to watch:

Nikola Vucevic – In recent weeks, Vucevic is battling an extreme disorder like the entire Wolves’ roster.  There are nights when he looks awesome and there are others where you have no idea what to think.

Predictions:

Despite being the tail end of a back-to-back, I can’t have the Wolves go 0-4 this week.  Final score: Timberwolves 104, Magic 95

Wrap-up:

We’re closing in on the end of the season and it the streak of non-playoff seasons has hit a decade.  What do you want to see from the Wolves over the few remaining weeks?

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 77, Los Angeles Clippers 90

Love game winnerGame Summary

(We didn’t have the opportunity to see a repeat performance of the lead picture here, so let’s live in the past for a few seconds!  Man that was a fun night!)

The Timberwolves returned home for Thursday night’s game against the LA Clippers, arriving with a four game losing streak in tow.  The Clippers came in with a two game winning streak and holding the second best record in the league.  Adding a little bit of drama (see what I’m doing there?) to tonight’s game, Kevin Harlan returned to the Target Center to call Thursday’s game for TNT’s national broadcast!

There were a few changes to the starting lineup for the Pups this evening.  This is likely due to a number of factors: able bodies, terrible losses, some type of spark being needed.  The Wolves opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  Prior to tipoff, the Clippers announced that Chris Paul would miss his third straight game.  The Clippers opened up with Eric Bledsoe, Willie Green, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.

The first quarter was flying by as the first timeout wasn’t called until there were under five minutes left to go in the period.  The Wolves found themselves down 14-9.  Unfortunately, and stop me if you have heard this before, the team struggled to hit a jump shot.  The four offensive rebounds the team already collected to that point couldn’t make up for the 4-16 (25%) shooting.

After the TO, the Pups went 3-5 from the field to cut the Clippers lead to two points, 19-17.  This was preceded by a few nice defensive plays in the paint by DWill, including a blocked shot that led to a layup, which forced the Clippers to burn a TO.  DWill clearly plays better with Rubio on the floor and while they both struggled shooting the ball, they were clearly very active.  Pekovic also struggled from the floor, going 0-5 while not getting to the line.  Clearly, he wasn’t paying attention to my comments in the preview.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Clippers held a 27-22 lead.

The Pups opened up the 2nd quarter in a rut, as the Clip-Joint went on an 8-2 run and opened up a 35-24 lead, forcing Terry Porter to burn another TO.  There were too many easy buckets for the Clippers and the Wolves fell back into “another” shooting slump.  Somehow (read: the Clippers taking a few minutes off), the Twolves slowly made a comeback to cut the lead to three points with less than two minutes to play in the half.  However, with a chance to cut the lead to one, Rubio missed a wide open layup and then turned the ball over the next time down the court, leading to a Jamal Crawford three pointer.

With the last possession of the half, Ridnour had a chance to cut the lead to one possession and missed a floater.  At halftime, the Clippers held a 47-43 lead.  Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • That missed layup and TO from Rubio felt like a major opportunity lost and seemed to deflate the building a bit.
  • Help might be on the way for the Wolves, as the expected signing of Mickael Gelabale might become official tomorrow when Lazar Hayward’s contract runs out.  Thanks to Jon K on this one …

To be perfectly honest, for the first few minutes of the 3rd quarter I found myself just listening to Kevin Harlan and Mike Fratello.  For the record, that is a complement to Harlan and Fratello.  I usually find myself trying to drain out the noise of the broadcast but really enjoy listening to the two of them.  In any case, the Wolves and Clippers went back and forth for the first six minutes but the home team continued to trail.

With less than four minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, TNT panned to the Pups bench.  Sadly, what they were showing was Pekovic walking to the locker room with a trainer.  Seriously?!  Seriously.  Pek was injured when he fell to the floor after being tied up with Griffin.  Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.  Before the end of the quarter, it was reported that Pek had a right quad contusion and his return was questionable.  (He never returned to the court.)

For the first time in at least a week (Atlanta game on 1/8?), the Wolves played a pretty decent 3rd quarter and kept the game well within striking distance.  Going into the 4th quarter, the Clips led 68-63.

File this under “this is really getting depressing”: Halfway through the 4th quarter Alexey Shved came down on Lamar Odom’s foot wrong and twisted his ankle.  Shved walked directly to the locker room after the play and didn’t return.  I’m relatively positive this season must be the last piece of bad karma from the Joe Smith signing.

By the way, the Pups fell apart in the 4th quarter and it is hard to find a reason to blame them for doing so.  If the building wasn’t deflated after Pek’s injury, it certainly was after Shved left the game.  The Clippers outscored the Wolves 22-14 in the 4th to pull away and win, 90-77.  The loss was the Pups 5th in a row and there are many more questions right now than answers.  We’ll see what the injury report looks like for Saturday’s game in Houston.

Keys of the Game

  • Nikola Pekovic – Pekovic was having one of his weakest games of the season, shooting 1-8 for 4 points.  Then he went down in the 3rd quarter and didn’t return.
  • Shooting – I’m “dumbing” this down to the most basic summary feasible.  You aren’t going to win many games when you shoot 36% from the field, 21% (4-19) from 3PT range, and 65% (13-20) from the FT line.  All systems are broken right now.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jamal Crawford – Led the Clippers in scoring with 22 points, with a few rebounds, assists, and steals sprinkled in.
  2. Blake Griffin – While by no means dominant, Griffin had a decent game with 20 points and decent defense.
  3. Luke Ridnour – Moved over to the SG position tonight with Rubio at PG and looked much more comfortable.  Finished with 21 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds.

Timberwolves: Implications of a Batum Signing

The Timberwolves began NBA free agency in frenzy as the clock struck midnight on July 1, commencing their quest for veteran additions to their current nucleus by scheduling meetings with SG-SF Nicolas Batum, C Greg Stiemsma, former Portland SG Brandon Roy, and PF-C Jordan Hill. The Timberpups also reached out to the likes of SG Jamal Crawford, SG OJ Mayo, while remaining extremely active in trade discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers in hopes of landing PF Pau Gasol.

It appears that the Pups are as dedicated as any team in the NBA to land multiple high-profile players NOW, greatly reflecting their urgency to “win now,” as Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman is 66 and is likely in the middle of his final contract of his life, while Pups owner Glen Taylor is 71 and wants to see how far his current core group of players can take him before he sells the team in a few years. Whatever the sole cause, it is very uncharacteristic of the Wolves to be so very active in free agency while placing such great importance on attracting marquee names to the land of 10,000 lakes, and the Minnesota front office and coaching staff deserves much credit for their persistent efforts thus far. [Read more…]