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).

Luke Ridnour Trade Ideas

Luke Ridnour Being Shopped?

luke-ridnourI hopped on to trusty old ESPN today and read a little rumor about the Wolves shopping Cool Hand Luke around. According to ESPN, the Jazz, Celtics and Mavericks may be interested in our steady Point Guard.  As much as I like Ridnour, I concluded that it would be smart to analyze a few trade scenarios in order to find potential ways of improving our team as a whole.

Luke’s contract: 2 years with roughly $4,000,000 per year

Utah Jazz: 

There are three players that could realistically work (I wish Hayward, but no way); Randy Foye (1 yr $2,500,000), Raja Bell (1 yr $3,480,000), and Alec Burks (3 yrs and $6,330,000).

FoyeThe only player that would work straight up is Bell; the others would take a little extra…maybe some cash considerations.  I would not be overly excited for any of these three, but I would think Foye is the best of them.  He has become a better player since we last saw him in a Wolves uniform and he would bring a 3 point shooter we desperately need. Bell is more known for his defensive services, which is never a bad thing, but we need more than defense. Similarly, Bell and Foye are under the final year of their contract, which is nice to free up cap space for re-signing Pek, which I believe that we should!  I have not gotten the opportunity to see Burks play much since being a lottery pick a few years ago, but his shooting this season has been less than adequate. However, he has turned things on this month and has seen his percentages grow incrementally.  He has not had many minutes until this month, so appears likely that he is being showcased to the rest of the teams of the NBA.

Overall, my choice for a trade, need it be with Utah, would be Randy Foye. He is a scorer who knows how to play, can handle the ball, and only has one year left on his deal providing the Wolves with more flexibility.

Boston Celtics:

The Celtics are trickier; I would say the Wolves most likely target player is Jason Terry (3 yrs $5,000,000/yr)

The trade would work out financially while bringing the Wolves a compatible player for our offense. However, his lack of size, relatively large salary and aging body worry me.  I have long been a big fan of his offensive skill set as he has proven the ability to hit the 3-ball time and time again. However, he appears to be in steady decline as his 3PT% currently sits at .357%, which is his worst 3PT% since his last season with the Hawks back in ‘03-‘04.  His contract is an issue, as it takes up more cap space for a longer period then Ridnour, and while Terry can man the 2-guard position (which is by far our greatest need), he is 35 and only stands at 6’2”.Terry

If it were my decision, I would pull the trigger on Terry if he were to become available.  We would need to run with undersized lineups more frequently, but the presence of the veteran Terry could bring a refreshing change to our backcourt.  It could also allow Shved to start with Rubio and we would have two scoring threats in the backcourt off of the bench.

Dallas Mavericks:

As I examine the Mavericks roster, I notice only two players that a trade for Ridnour would financially work for, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter.  Since I have no belief that the Mavs would trade Mayo for Ridnour, I will not even bother to speculate.  Carter (2 yrs $3,090,000/yr) is the scoring SG/SF we need who has even improved his defense over the past few seasons while possessing veteran accumen.  Carter is currently 36 years of age, but fills multiple needs and is even cheaper than Ridnour.

VinceI would be very enthusiastic should the Wolves somehow land one of Mark Cuban’s favorite veterans. Carter has everything we need (minus the age) and is not a huge expense.  It will bring almost another million to the table come summer and he still can throw it down when Rubio sends a lob his way.

 

If the Wolves were to trade Ridnour (who I would hate to see go), I would be most excited towards acquiring one of Foye, Terry or Carter.  It is never fun to see a player like Ridnour depart, but his leaving may bring the necessary depth at SG or SF we desperately lack in order to effectively compete in the Western Conference.

Minnesota Timberwolves 94 – Boston Celtics 104

The Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Boston on Wednesday night for the tail end of their back-to-back road trip in what was to be an exciting matchup against the franchise’s former poster boy, Kevin Garnett. The Wolves, never having defeated Boston since the blockbuster trade that sent “The Big Ticket” out east, entered the TD Garden the night after an 18-point win over Philadelphia in which the team sank 13 three-pointers. However, last night’s blessings did not hold true and the Timberpups fell to the Celtics 104-94.

This game ultimately came down to defense and free throw shooting. The Pups had a miserable night at the charity stripe, only converting on 14 of their 30 attempts. Having lost the game by 10 points, it is very concerning when the entire team missed a total of 16 free throws and shooting under 50% from the free throw line. It is pretty tough to win a game when you are unable to take advantage of points handed to you from the opposing team, especially in a very tough road environment. It also did not help that Andrei Kirilenko was once again unavailable due to back spasms.

A main storyline of tonight’s game was the frontcourt matchup of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic against Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. Minnesota’s frontcourt was largely expected to dominate the game in the paint, but the ageless KG was once again able to overpower Love while forcing turnovers out of the Pups’ bigs. At age 36, Garnett played an extremely efficient 27 minutes and finished the game with 18 points (8-13 FG), 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers.

On the other end, K-Love had a game to forget as he turned the ball over 5 times while missing 6 of his 12 free throw attempts. Love did far too much arguing with referees and far too little of hustling back on defense. The All-Star PF looked clearly rattled in his matchup against KG, and should definitely be criticized for his effort on the defensive end. As I have stated before, one blatant difference separating Love from Garnett is KG’s devotion to the defensive side of the ball, whereas Love has been a marginal to poor defender his entire career to date. Yes, Love lacks the athleticism that had previously made KG such an imposing defender. But at age 36, Garnett no longer has the same bounce and agility that he once did, and it could be argued that Love is currently better suited to be a great defender than KG himself. The lack of effort on defense is what continues to keep Love from achieving the ultimate superstardom that KG previously attained.

Fresh off his two-game suspension, PG Rajon Rondo returned to Boston’s starting lineup against the Wolves in what promised to be a significant mismatch against Minnesota PGs Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea. Rondo, one of the quickest players in the NBA, did an excellent job of penetrating and kicking out of the Timberwolves half-court defense. Rondo finished with 17 points and 11 assists in 38 minutes.

Boston did a masterful job hard-hedging off screens and effectively slowed down Minnesota’s pick-and-roll game. Boston’s compensated for their lack of dominant interior defense by their tremendous use of double-teaming and excellent defensive rotations. As all Doc Rivers’ teams do, the Celtics were persistent closing out shots and were able to get a hand in Wolves players faces all night.

The Timberwolves headed into the locker room at halftime with a 51-47 lead, while having only converted on 7 of their 14 free throw attempts. Minnesota held the advantage on turnovers, as the Celtics committed 10 to only 5 Pups turnovers. KG got hot early defended by Love, and used his signature turnaround to drain non-defendable 10-footers over his successor.

The Pups did a very poor job of boxing out in the second half and allowed far too many second chance opportunities. Rookie Jared Sullinger was one of the main beneficiaries of Minnesota’s rebounding struggles, as he provided 7 points and 7 rebounds in a productive 18 minutes off the bench.

Few players impressed me tonight, the first being Nikola Pekovic. Pek countered double-teams on the low post with smart kick outs to the perimeter, and did not record a single turnover in 32 minutes of action. Minnesota’s starting center finished the game with 14 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals.

Another player who has really impressed me these past few weeks has been Josh Howard, who after recording a double-double last night provided 12 points and no turnovers tonight. Howard has done a remarkable job getting an arm in passing lanes and was able to provide 3 steals in 33 minutes.

I could dissect this game and individual performances as long as I want to, but it seems like that would be unfair given the nature of this game. Yes, the Wolves were not going to shoot 60% again tonight, and in fact they really struggled. The missed free throws seemed to be a chain reaction as once Love started missing them, everyone followed suit. What bothers me most about tonight is K-Love’s pouting and lack of effort on defense. He is getting to the point in his career where he needs to recognize that in order to be truly dominant, he needs to become at least an above-average defender. Here are my three stars of the game:

  1. Kevin Garnett
  2. Jason Terry
  3. Rajon Rondo