Timberwolves Stand Tall, Defeat Grizzlies 90-89

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Both teams started the season with a 0-0 record and when they faced each other on opening night, the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves had reason for optimism.  Since losing opening night in Memphis, the Timberwolves have faced a series of injuries and unfortunate events week by week.  At 9-40, the Wolves are looking at the forthcoming All-Star Weekend as a time to recharge their collective battery.

At 37-12, the Grizzlies may want to hold off on the All-Star break, as they have been red hot since hitting a midseason bump in the road in late December, early January.  Since January 11th, Memphis has won 12 of 13 games they have played.

The teams met again on Friday night in the Target Center and here is a look at the action.

Since covering last Friday’s massacre in Philadelphia, the Wolves got their Unicorn back and the team has been remarkably more appealing to watch.  Minnesota opened up Friday night with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Nikola Pekovic.  The Grizzlies countered with Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol.

Both teams got off to a slow start on the offensive end, which probably could have been predicted the way the Grizzlies typically slow the pace down.  The Wolves also lost Pekovic early to two fouls.  However, Gorgui Dieng filled in admirably throughout the first quarter.  Coming out of the first timeout of the game, the Wolves went to Andrew Wiggins often and he continued to come through scoring the next four baskets for Minnesota and giving his team a 14-10 advantage.  One other note from the start of the game – Ricky Rubio assisted on each of the team’s first five baskets.  Have I mentioned it is nice to have Ricky back yet?

Would you like another example of the benefit of having Rubio on the floor?  With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Mo Williams launched a 24 foot jumper in order to set the Wolves up for a 2-for-1.  It missed badly.  After a steal on the defensive end, the Wolves had a chance to play for the last shot.  Williams pulled the ball out of what seemed like a potential bucket in transition, launched a 25 foot jumper as time expired and missed everything.  The score at the end of the 1st quarter was 24-23, Minnesota’s advantage.

With Pekovic back on the floor and Anthony Bennett at the Power Forward spot, the Timberwolves came out of the chute nicely in the 2nd quarter, at one point building a ten point lead, 37-27.  The highlight of the run came on a loose ball scramble where Wiggins tracked down the ball and whipped a pass to Bennett for a dunk.

All good things come to an end this season.  That ten point lead quickly evaporated with the Grizzlies going on a 10-0 run of their own.  During the run the Wolves committed three turnovers and missed badly from the floor.  At the half, the teams were tied at 43.

Here are a few additional halftime notes/stats:

  • The Timberwolves scored on only three of their final fifteen possessions of the half
  • Wiggins led the Wolves with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 21 minutes of action … rookie wall will have to wait until after the All-Star break apparently
  • In his 9 minutes on the floor, Zach Randolph didn’t take a single shot and was scoreless in the half

The Timberwolves opened up the second half on a 10-3 run which was capped off with a Rubio three pointer from the top of the arc.  In the midst of the run however, Pekovic picked up his fourth foul and would be forced into very limited action for the remainder of the evening.  Once again, the Grizzlies came storming back to take a 58-57 lead, forcing Flip Saunders to burn another timeout.

With Ricky Rubio still on a minute limitation, Flip had to turn to Mo Williams again for PG duties, who promptly turned the ball over two times in a row trying to feed the post.  This led to the following:

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Grizzlies held a 69-65 lead.  The Timberwolves offensive execution in the final minutes was fragile at best, highlighted by the final possession of the quarter that saw Mo Williams dribble at halfcourt for too long, feed a terrible pass to Kevin Martin right on the three point arc, and then seeing Martin launch an off-balance jump shot that clanged off of the rim.

Early in the 4th quarter the Wolves got another scare.  With a 77-73 lead, Thad Young threw a pass in the open court to Rubio who connected on a layup.  Ricky was fouled on the play but a whistle never blew, despite him crashing into the padding under the baseline.  Almost immediately, Ricky ran to the locker room but was back on the floor in under five minutes.  (Collective “Phew …”)

With Rubio’s return, something seemed to happen with the Wolves on the court.  It may have been confidence, it may have been his calmness.  Whatever it was, it worked.  After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Wolves found themselves down 85-78 with a little over two minutes to play.

Pekovic and Jeff Green traded jumpers, followed by a Rubio three pointer.  After Courtney Lee and Wiggins traded two made free throws, Rubio hit another three pointer to cut the Grizzlies lead to one point, 89-88.  On the Grizzlies next possession, the Wolves forced a turnover led by … you guessed it, Ricky Rubio.  Inexplicably, Zach Randolph fouled Rubio to put him on the line for two shots.  Ricky hit both to give the Wolves a one point lead, 90-89.  With a swarming defensive set, filled with solid rotations and a total team effort, the Wolves forced one final turnover to hold onto the victory.

The final score: Minnesota 90, Memphis 89 – the first back-to-back victories for our Pups this season!

Game Notes:

  • All five starters for the Wolves in double figures, led by Wiggins’ 18 points and 6 rebounds, Rubio’s 17/5/5/3 line, and Thad’s 14 points and 8 rebounds
  • The Grizzlies were only 2-12 from three point range tonight
  • Despite his 10 rebounds, Zach Randolph only scored 6 points and was a game low -10 in +/-

Celtics Outlast Timberwolves, 114-98

Kelly Olynyk put on a show against the Timberwolves Friday night in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Kelly Olynyk put on a show against the Timberwolves Friday night in Boston (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves wrapped up a quick two game swing to the East Coast on Friday night in Beantown.  Both teams entered the game well under .500 and have started making the appropriate moves for their roster.  Earlier Friday, Woj dropped news that the Timberwolves worked out a trade with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.  Fan favorites Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf are on their way out of Minnesota, with our Pups getting back SG Troy Daniels and two second round picks.  Hours earlier the Celtics sent Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks with Dwight Powell for Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, picks, and a trade exception.

With all of that roster movement out of the way, the Wolves and Celtics took to the floor this evening in an entertaining night of basketball.  The Pups opened up with Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Celtics countered with Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, and Tyler Zeller.

The Wolves held a 13-12 lead six minutes into the game and heading into the first stoppage in play.  Wiggins was off to a slow start (0-3 shooting) but Shabazz had two nice post-up moves for two buckets.  The Celtics were led early by Avery Bradley who was attacking the Wolves’ rookie PG, putting up seven shots in the first six minutes.

Tyler Zeller picked up two fouls and gave way to Kelly Olynyk.  The Garden quickly became Olynyk’s playground as the Center finished the 1st quarter with 11 points on 5-7 shooting, to go along with 3 rebounds, an assist, and a block.  At the end of Q1 the Celtics held a 27-24 advantage.

The teams battled back and forth in the 2nd quarter.  Olynyk continued to lead the way for the Celtics, while the Pups offered up a balanced attack on the offensive end of the floor … and very little defensively.  Chase Budinger received some early minutes tonight and made the most of them, opening up by hitting his first three shots for 7 quick points.  However, the Celtics went on a little bit of a run to close out the half, going up by eight eights before Shabazz hit a three pointer to cut the lead to 53-48 at the half.

After showing signs of falling apart late in the second quarter, the Wolves defense became visibly worse coming out of the locker room.  The Celtics rebuilt an eight point lead largely due to poor team defense and an inability to control the defensive boards.  With Anthony Bennett on the bench, Flip stuck with Thad Young against Jared Sullinger and all that did was hurt the Wolves on the defensive end of the floor.  At the end of the third quarter, the Celtics held an 83-77 lead.

Despite strong efforts for three and a half quarters, the Wolves started to fall apart late in the 4th quarter.  The Celtics opened up a double digit lead and seemed to track down every loose ball and find the open man on the Wolves’ defensive rotations.  After cutting the lead to three points (95-92), the Celtics pulled away and finished the game on fire from the field.  The last six minutes of the game were an abomination for the Wolves, who struggled in every aspect of the game.

The final score: Boston 114, Minnesota 98.

Game Notes:

  • Shabazz Muhammad took his role as starting wing seriously, putting in 26 points on a very efficient 11-15 shooting to go along with a career high 5 assists.
  • Chase Budinger had a season high 19 points on 8-12 shooting.
  • The Celtics had six different players with double digit points, led by Olynyk’s 21 points on 8-13 shooting.

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 8

When will any of these guys return to the Timberwolves lineup? (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

When will any of these guys return to the Timberwolves lineup? (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves head into week eight with a 5-17 record before Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Target Center.  After Sunday’s game the Wolves will head east for two games before returning home to wrap up the week.  The injuries continue to plague the team/roster with little help in sight.  While this should help in the long run, it is frustrating and sometimes painful to watch right now.  The minutes that Flip Saunders is giving to Zach LaVine will help judge where he fits best with this club – which position, role, etc.  Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng are getting heavy minutes and the learning curve would seem to be quickening because of it.

The week ahead has several very winnable games for our Pups.  Here is a brief preview for each:

Game 24: Tuesday, 12/16, 6pm – Timberpups @ Washington Wizards (TV: FSN Plus)

The Wizards may be the surprise team in the league right now with a 16-6 record, with a home game on Sunday against the Utah Jazz.  A win on Sunday would be their fourth in a row.  Washington is .5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks to lead the Southeast division.

Opponent to watch:

John Wall – Wall is having a career year averaging 17.8ppg, 10.5apg, and over 2 steals a game.  This is likely going to be a very rough matchup for Zach LaVine in trying to contain Wall and even if Flip rotates a bit, that would put the Wolves’ rookie on Bradley Beal – who is coming off of a big performance this past week against the Lakers.

Game 25: Friday, 12/19, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ Boston Celtics (TV: FS North)

The Celtics enter the week with a 7-14 record and will face the Sixers and Magic on Monday and Wednesday night respectively ahead of Friday night’s matchup in Beantown.  The Celtics are coming off of an embarrassing loss against the Knicks and will look to recover against two other sub-par Eastern Conference teams ahead of the Wolves.

Opponent to watch:

Jeff Green – While underwhelming on the court to many, I have always liked Green and thought he would have been a good fit on the Wolves’ roster.  Green is averaging over 20ppg this season and has a PER of 16.6.  He isn’t rebounding at a high level but is the clear #1 option on offense for the Celtics.  Mr. Wiggins will have another opportunity to guard the top scoring option of the opposition.

Game 26: Sunday, 12/21, 6pm – Indiana Pacers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The coldest team in the league is the Indiana Pacers, having lost eight games in a row.  They will be in Denver for a game on Saturday night and will have to fly to Minnesota for Sunday’s matchup at Target Center.  Sunday’s game could be a nice return home for the Wolves who have the ability to pull off the victory against a struggling team.

Opponent to watch:

Roy Hibbert – The Pacers are somewhat faceless this year due to injuries.  Hibbert has been up and down but will be a tough test for Gorgui Dieng.  Hibbert is only averaging 11.6ppg and 7.3rpg but should be able to turn it on at any point.  At least one would think that.

Wrap-up:

The Timberwolves could easily win at least two games this week with several struggling opponents from the Eastern Conference.  How many wins do you foresee for the team this week?  Go Pups!

Putting Timberwolves thru the NBA Trade Machine

Putting Timberwolves thru the Trade Machine & this is one of the more appealing deals to be had ... I think

Putting Timberwolves thru the Trade Machine & this is one of the more appealing deals to be had … I think

The Timberwolves came into the 2013/14 season with high expectations, or at the very least, expectations of being a playoff team in a loaded Western Conference.  After a hot start, the team has cooled down some and is floating around what I like to call the Mason-Dixon Line, i.e. playing around .500 ball.  The schedule has done the team no favors, but that is completely out of the team’s control.  What we do know from the first third of the season is that the team is lacking in the depth department.  Coach Adelman is relying too heavily on his starters and a seven/eight man rotation is going to pay unkind dividends come March and April.

With that train of thought in mind, I took a look around the league and played with the NBA Trade Machine to find a few potential deals that might make sense for the Wolves and its trade partner.  I am considering the following players untouchable: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic.  While I don’t think Corey Brewer is a chip that would be dangled out there, I also wouldn’t consider him untouchable.  These trades are largely built with the thought of improving our depth and are not blockbuster deals. [Read more…]