Recap – Nuggets 117, Timberwolves 113

 

Nuggets ... Wolves ... Manimal vs. Love (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Nuggets … Wolves … Manimal vs. Love
(Photo credit: NBA.com)

The Timberwolves hit the road Friday night for a nationally televised game in Denver against the Nuggets.  The ESPN broadcast team spent a minute or two talking about the Wolves’ hot starts to games thus far this season.  So you could have assumed how this game started, the complete opposite.  Thank you Breen and Barry!

Kevin Martin returned from a bout with the flu and rejoined the starting lineup, along with Rubio, Brewer, Love and Pekovic.  Brian Shaw tinkered with the Nuggets starting lineup on Friday going with Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried, and JJ Hickson.  Insert your Randy Foye jokes here:

 

Game Summary

Wolves first game on national TV this season ended in a loss, thereby negating the above tweet and providing me with bad karma thoughts all over the place.  I’ll remain quiet about tomorrow’s game at Target Center against the Celtics.  Tonight’s game in Denver just felt underwhelming … which makes 0 sense given the final score of 117-113.  A few, good individual performances from the Pups, but not enough to bring home the W.  Let’s take a deeper look …

First Half 

Thanks to the kiss of death from Breen and Barry, the Nuggets jumped out to a 6-0 lead.  The Wolves quickly fought back however, led by a quick five assists from Ricky Rubio.  Rubio assisted on five of the Wolves first seven baskets and gave his team their first lead, 15-14.  Whatever Brian Shaw said in the huddle worked, as the Nuggets had an impressive rest of the quarter, taking a 35-26 lead at the end of the first twelve minutes.  That was largely due to the surprising, impressive play of JJ Hickson.

After the Nuggets scored the first five points of the quarter, the Timberwolves found themselves down by 15 points.  Rather than rolling over, the team gathered themselves and began an impressive run, led by the starting unit, minus Rubio and with JJ Barea.  I’m not sure what this means, but we had two JJ’s going off on the same night and neither really would have been your choice for player of the game before the opening tip.

In the last few minutes of the quarter, Kevin Martin came alive (again) and led the Wolves all the way back to take a lead at halftime, 60-56.  Here are a few additional notes at half-time:

  • Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love had a rock solid first half, combining for 25 points and 9 rebounds … but it was done “quietly” somehow
  • Rubio finished the half with 0 points and 9 assists – very excited about the passing, not thrilled at all about the 0-3 from the field
  • Following up on the Randy Foye joke – 0-3 from the field, and a game low -9 on the +/- scale … predictable

Second Half

The seesaw battle continued into the third, with the Nuggets dominating much of the quarter.  Through the first four minutes, the Wolves had one bucket … albeit a thunderous dunk by Corey Brewer.  Unfortunately, you don’t get style points in the NBA … yet, but who knows what Adam Silver has up his sleeve.

The Pups continued to turn the ball over (15 through three quarters in total), which allowed the Nuggets to increase their lead back to nine points.  With about 90 seconds to go in the quarter, the visitors made a small spurt to cut the lead to 86-81 at the end of three quarters, as Barea hit a fading jumper that rattled around the rim approximately seven times before falling through the net as the clock expired.

The resiliency in the Wolves continued to breakthrough in the fourth quarter as well.  Surprise, surprise, but the teams went punch for punch in the final frame as well.  The Nuggets built a thirteen point lead about halfway through the quarter and back came the Wolves again.  The Kevin’s and Corey led the charge, cutting it all the way down to a two point game after a three pointer from Love.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, they couldn’t get over the hurdle and fell short in Denver.  There were a few questionable calls/no-calls in the final minute, but this is a young team that is going to have to earn the respect of the officials.  Essentially, what Adelman said earlier in the week about being under the radar and not having earned anything yet came to fruition tonight.

A hard fought game but the Nuggets knock off the Wolves, 117—113.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Wilson Chandler – He didn’t have the most appealing box score, but Chandler knocked down open jumpers and led the Nuggets with 19 points, on 6-9 shooting.
  2. Kenneth Faried – 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Manimal, who shot 8-12 for the field.  Someone on the Wolves needed to commit a hard foul during this game and it didn’t happen.
  3. JJ Barea – Barea was a sparkplug off the bench tonight, keeping the Pups in the game.  He threw in 4 assists and 4 rebounds and helped mount most of the charges the team made.  

Key Takeaways

  • Rubio must make open jumpers for this team.  Opponents will continue to go under screens and he is going to have to start taking and making these shots.  As mentioned before the season, and mentioned by Barry tonight on the broadcast, this team could be really special if he makes the leap, and his jump shooting is preventing said leap.
  • Until the fourth quarter, Kevin Love was playing well but really not making a lot of noise.  Expectations are pretty high for a guy that throws up 28 and 10 and you don’t bat an eye.  Fair or unfair?

Game Notes:

Robbie Hummel played 13 minutes tonight while DWill, Shabazz, and Shved all received DNP-CD’s.  I have no idea what these three are (not) doing in practice, but it can’t be appealing on the eyes.

Wolves are back at it tomorrow night at the Target Center against the Celtics.

Minnesota Timberwolves 94, Portland Blazers 109

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

Game Summary

Closing out the western swing, the Timberwolves visited the Rose Garden Saturday night to take on the Trail Blazers.  Minnesota entered the game on a four game losing streak while the Blazers still have hopes of grabbing the bottom seed in the western conference playoffs.

Unfortunately, more changes were needed in the Wolves starting lineup Saturday night as both Kirilenko and Pekovic were scratched from the game.  The Pups starting lineup consisted of – Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Stiemsma.  The Blazers opened up with Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and JJ Hickson.

Going into the first timeout / stoppage of play, the Blazers had built a 7 point lead, 17-10.  Greg Stiemsma was already on the bench with two quick fouls.  With Pekovic’s injury it was a given that Chris Johnson would get minutes Saturday night, but Stiemsma’s inability to stay on the court and avoid foul trouble has become a bit nauseating for Wolves fan (or at least one of them…).

The Wolves defense struggled to do anything to stop the Blazers in the 1st quarter, as the home team held a 31-19 lead after the first twelve minutes.  Story of the quarter is vastly similar to the past few weeks (months?) for the Pups: 9-24 on FG’s for 38% and 0-4 from 3PT range, while the Blazers were 12-23 from the field for 52% and 3-5 from 3PT range.

The 2nd quarter was pretty slow going, or at least it felt that way.  The Pups outscored the Blazers 25-20 in the quarter but trailed by six points, 51-45.  While the Wolves were able to cut into the lead, no one stood out on the team beyond Derrick Williams (broken record alert).  The Blazers cooled off in the 2nd quarter and that felt like the crux of why the Wolves were back in the game more than anything else.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • I’m just going to assume that Ricky Rubio is going to be working on his jumper all offseason and will be a solid offensive threat next year.  (Fantasy league stud in 13/14)
  • An underrated move from several weeks ago was the Blazers acquisition of Eric Maynor.
  • Chris Johnson needs more PT.  Please!

The game more or less fell apart for the undermanned Wolves in the second half.  The Blazers built a 17 point lead in the 3rd quarter at several points.  Without Pekovic, the Wolves had no answer for JJ Hickson, who hit the double-double threshold early and kept going.

I’m not sure if Alexey Shved has hit another wall or not, but Adelman is not giving him heavy minutes and it really can’t, or at least shouldn’t be, due to what Ridnour and Barea are doing on the court for the team.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Blazers held an 83-71 lead.

The Wolves made several very small runs but never truly threatened to take over the game in the 4th quarter.  Luke Ridnour caught fire early in the quarter, but it felt more like a nice run by an individual player vs. the start of a big move that would help catapult the team to take over the game.  Sure enough, Terry Stotts would call the appropriate timeouts and get his team back in gear.

The Blazers outscored the Wolves 58-50 in the second half and pulled out the 109-94 victory.  The win completed the season sweep for the Blazers over the Wolves, which wound up being the fifth time in six seasons that Portland has been able to claim this feat.  Given all of the missing cogs in the Wolves machine, this really should not have been a surprise for anyone watching the game on NBA TV.

While Rubio flirted with another triple-double (12, 9, and 9), he continues to turn the ball over too much and opposing teams are laying off of him on the offensive end, daring him to shoot jumpers.  Unfortunately for us Wolves fans, that plan is working, as Rubio continues to struggle to with his shot.

Rather than harping on that particular part of the game, I found myself asking what would be the better scenario for the Wolves moving forward more often than not while watching the second half.  Is it moving forward with Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, both, or the supplemental players that the team can put together by moving one or the other in the future?  I need to think about this a lot more before putting down my thoughts on paper.

Keys of the Game

  • Talent / Health – I am absolutely copping out on this one, as this claim could be made for most of the season.  The Pups were missing way too much talent on the floor in Saturday’s game at the Rose Garden.
  • Shooting – The Wolves shot under 40% again for the game and only made 1-12 3PT’s.  While the team continues to show an ability to get to the FT line, they missed 11 FT’s, going 25-36 from the charity stripe.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. JJ Hickson – Hickson finished with 18 and 16 on the evening and torched Stiemsma and CJ throughout the evening.
  2. Damian Lillard – Newsflash, Lillard is good, putting up 24, 6, and 4 for the future ROY, and a game high +22 in the +/- category.
  3. Derrick Williams – Williams missed his season high by one point but still put up a 23 and 8 for the Wolves and was probably the lone bright spot for the team.