Happy Birthday Crunch – Wolves Lose to Pelicans 92-84

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter - @WolvesCrunch)

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter – @WolvesCrunch)


The 7-34 Minnesota Timberwolves completed their brief homestand on Friday night against the 21-21 New Orleans Pelicans.  Both teams reside at the bottom of their respective divisions but one is clearly still playing for something this season while the other continues to receive more bad news.  Reports have surfaced that Ricky Rubio’s ankle injury is worse than originally thought.  That quickly took all of the steam out of Nikola Pekovic’s return to action on Wednesday night.  The Pelicans have been struggling with their own injury news of late with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday missing time recently.

The two teams met early on this season in New Orleans, with the Pelicans undressing the Wolves to the tune of 139-91 – the worst loss in Wolves’ franchise history.

Looking for a reason to celebrate Wolves’ fans?  The Wolves celebrated Crunch’s birthday Friday night at the Target Center.  So at least there’s that for those in attendance.

Let’s take a look at how Friday night’s action went down at the Target Center.  The Wolves opened up with a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Andrew Wiggins, Robbie Hummel, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Pelicans countered with the following starting five: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, ex-Pup Dante Cunningham, the aforementioned Davis, and Omer Asik.

The one Pup that I have consistently laid into this season (Thad) started off a house of fire, accounting for 7 of the Wolves first 11 points, which led to NOLA Coach Monty Williams to call a very quick timeout with his team down 11-1.  While the Wolves continued to hustle and play relatively well coming out of the timeout, the shooting percentage came back to earth and the Pelicans were able to tie the game at 18, forcing Flip Saunders to burn the Wolves first timeout with just over three minutes left to play in the 1st Quarter.

With Wiggins and Pekovic a combined 1-8 in the opening quarter for the Wolves, the Pelicans took a 24-20 lead into the break.  As time expired in the 1st, Chase Budinger drew a foul on a three pointer, only to see the referees swallow their whistles.  It has been a rough enough season for Chase, he doesn’t need any help from the zebras.

After taking a 32-29 lead in the 2nd Quarter on a beautiful post move from Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves turned the ball over on consecutive series and quickly gave up their lead.  Concentrating on the positive for a moment, Dieng’s offensive game continues to grow stronger as the weeks continue to pass by.  If for no other reason, and I can’t think of another one, Pekovic’s injury has had at least one benefit for the Wolves and that is the improvement in Dieng’s all around game (and likely his confidence).

At the half, the Wolves trailed 45-44.  Halftime notes/stats:

  • Thad Young with a team high 11 points on 5-8 shooting … but 0 rebounds
  • Conversely, Dieng finished the half with 8 points and 7 rebounds
  • The Wolves shot 44% from the floor in the 1st half, while the Pelicans shot 59%
  • Pups only got to the free throw line six times in the half – as did the Pelicans – but only made two of their attempts

The 3rd Quarter seemed to slog along with some ugly basketball being played.  Through the first four minutes of the quarter, the Wolves had one made basket and two free throws.  After Dante Cunningham made two long range jump shots, Flip Saunders called a timeout to try to straighten the ship.

The Pelicans opened up a double digit lead but the Wolves were able to cut it back down to four.  Nate Wolters scored as the clock was running down in the quarter, giving the Pelicans a 69-63 lead heading into the final frame.

There were several mini-runs for each team to start the 4th Quarter, with the Wolves trimming the Pelicans lead thanks to some strong offensive play from Chase Budinger, who scored all but two of his ten total points in the 4th.  However, the Wolves could never get over the hump and fell to the Pelicans.

With about :40 seconds to go in the game, the Pelicans were inbounding the ball up by six.  With a foul to give before going into the penalty, the Wolves scrambled to try to trap an opponent defensively.  It didn’t work but with under ten seconds on the shot clock, the Wolves then commit the foul.  That resets the shot clock to 14 seconds and the Wolves then have to commit another foul before forcing the Pelicans to the line.  In no way, shape or form was this a defensive strategy worth repeating.  Ever.  Either foul early and stretch the game as much as possible or play and hope they miss the shot.

The final score: New Orleans 92, Minnesota 84.

Game Notes:

  • Happy birthday Crunch!  You don’t look a day over 26 …
  • If the Wolves have any interest in winning games the rest of the way, a Pekovic-Dieng frontcourt is going to need to be used
  • Mo Williams had a quiet double-double on Friday night, tallying 12 points and 10 assists
  • In fact, the Wolves assisted on 27 of their 35 made baskets (77%)

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…]

Minnesota Timberwolves 94, Philadelphia 76ers 87

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Mone

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Mone

Game Summary

The Minnesota Timberwolves opened up the second half of the 2012-13 NBA season on a positive note with a 94-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Target Center on Wednesday behind a huge performance from Nikola Pekovic. Andrei Kirilenko returned for the Pups after missing the previous five games for the injury-riddled T-Wolves, and Minnesota wore out Philly’s bigs with their length and versatility.

Minnesota shot over 59% in the first quarter and led the 76ers 35-25 behind strong play from Derrick Williams as well as Pekovic. Williams looked very comfortable in the offense and attempted and drilled a few mid-range jumpers that we have grown accustomed to seeing him pass up. What impressed me most from D-Will early on was that he was rarely idle with the ball in his hands and that he appeared to flow with the rest of the Wolves in the offense.

The Pups maintained their hot shooting in the second half, stretching their lead to 53-34 with 2:50 to play in the second quarter. The Wolves second unit thrived against a Philadelphia team that is weak in frontcourt depth after the the loss of talented forward Thaddeus Young to a strained hamstring.

76ers head coach Doug Collins responded to the Timberwolves physicality in the paint by replacing starters Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen with Kwame Brown and Damien Wilkins to start the second half. Philly’s lone All-Star, Jrue Holiday, picked up his fourth personal foul half way through the third quarter and the short-handed 76ers were forced to fight for buckets without their greatest offensive threat on the court.

Philly clawed their way back in the third quarter and trailed the Pups 76-67 heading into the final quarter of play. Minnesota focused their offense on feeding Pekovic on the low block, and Pek responded by wearing out the opposing frontcourt on his way to a 27-point, 18-rebound night. The 76ers could not compete with the Wolves’ length in a game that new 76er Andrew Bynum could have played a big part in had his knees not faltered this season. The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent has yet to play a game for Philadelphia after being acquired in last summer’s blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles and Andre Igoudala to Denver. Bynum, who is expected to demand a max-contract offer this summer, may very likely never play a single game for Philly as the organization pays a high premium for the gamble they took on the All-Star center.

The Pups went ice cold in the final period of play and allowed the 76ers to come within 4 points with a minute left to play. Minnesota left the game wide-open with very poor shooting down the stretch, but fortunately Philly matched their shooting incompetence. Despite shooting an atrocious 1-12 from the field in the fourth quarter, Minnesota held on to take this one by a score of 94-87.

Timberpups Notable Performances

  • Ricky Rubio played 29 minutes and was a +10 on the floor although committing 6 turnovers and 5 personal fouls. While it was not the greatest performance from the Spaniard, he was able to make a large impact on the defensive end and provided 3 steals and 6 rebounds. On offense, Ricky was a great facilitator in the second half and created many easy scoring opportunities for his teammates despite their shooting woes. He scored 9 of his 11 points from the free throw line and also tallied 6 assists.
  • Evan Turner had a tough time finishing at the rim but had an overall decent performance finishing with 17 points (6-16 FG), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 4 turnovers in 36 minutes. The former number-2 overall selection from Ohio State has had mixed results as a pro, but Philly continues to display their confidence in him by looking to him as one of the focal points of their offense. While I am not yet sold on Turner, I continue to be intrigued with his prototypical combination of size, length, athleticism and vision. He needs to improve his efficiency on the offensive end, and if he does he very well could play a role similar to the one Andre Igoudala played so many seasons for Philadelphia.

Keys of the Game

  • Rebounding – MN 51, PHI 39. Pekovic pulled down a game-high 18 boards for the Wolves and established deep inside positioning on both ends of the floor as he grabbed 7 of the Pups’ 10 offensive rebounds. Spencer Hawes led the 76ers with 8 rebounds.
  • Free Throws – Despite hitting 3 less field goals than Philly, the Wolves did work at the charity stripe as they converted 33 of their 44 free throw attempts while the 76ers were only able to convert 21 of 32. Philadelphia struggled with foul trouble in the fourth quarter and committed a ridiculous 30 team fouls compared to 23 by Minnesota.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Nikola Pekovic – Impressive night for Pek as he was the clear MVP of the game last night. Exploding for 27 points and 18 rebounds in a game-high 41 minutes played, Pek made mincemeat of the interior defense brought on by the 76ers frontcourt. I would have thoroughly enjoyed watching Pek battle against the monstrous Bynum who continues to sit with arthritic knees, but it is merely a pipe dream as the Wolves finished their season series against the 76ers last night.
  2. Derrick Williams – After his 24-point, 16-rebound effort against Utah in Minnesota’s last game before the All-Star break, Derrick had another strong performance against the 76ers with 17 points (7-12 FG), 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 36 minutes. D-Will is beginning to look comfortable in the offense and is finally starting to take more of the open looks he receives which is very good news for his development as a pro. The less Derrick is thinking on the court, the more he is going to allow his instincts to take over. Going forward, he will need to continue to trust himself and to let the game come to him. It is pretty amazing to think that he is still only 21 years of age.
  3. Jrue Holiday – The 22-year-old All-Star fouled out after 35 minutes but finished with the line of 16 points (7-17 FG), 5 assists, 5 steals, 3 rebounds and 4 turnovers. Holiday was presented with tremendous perimeter defense from Rubio and had a difficult time penetrating the Wolves half-court defense in order to create plays.

Preview: Timberwolves Begin Two Game Road Trip Against 76ers

Timberpups Game Preview

Evan Turner was once the Timberwolves most coveted player on 2010 NBA Draft night.

The 7-8 Minnesota Timberwolves will begin a two-game road trip against the 10-7 Philadelphia 76ers tonight, and will not yet witness Ricky Rubio’s highly anticipated season debut for at least two games. Although cleared to play, Rubio has had less than a full week of practice time as he returns from a torn ACL suffered in March.

The 76ers are 3-1 in their past four games led by up-and-comers Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, and have played well as a team despite the highly-publicized absence of offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum. Bynum has been unable to play this season due to recurring knee problems, and recently gained negative publicity for injuring his knee bowling (yes, bowling). Last season’s Western Conference All-Star starting center remains without a timetable for return, and it appears that the gamble that Philly made by giving up All-Star Andre Igoudala and promising young prospects Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless may have been a bad one.

The Wolves will once again be without starting SF Andrei Kirilenko, which will mark the third straight game the oft-injured forward will miss due to back spasms. On the court Kirilenko has been everything Minnesota expected and more, and the Pups will greatly miss his defense in what could have been a favorable matchup against fellow tweener-forward Thaddeus Young.

Not too long ago, the Wolves drew the 4th overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft and witnessed coveted prospect Evan Turner go to the 76ers second overall while the Timberwolves were left with the scraps that turned out to be mega draft-bust Wesley Johnson. Nearly two years later, Johnson is already off the Wolves team riding the bench in Phoenix, while Turner has continued to show glimpses of becoming a nice piece to a young and talented 76ers core. While inconsistent at times, Turner is beginning to find his groove averaging 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in nearly 35 minutes per game. With Igoudala gone, the 6-foot-7 SG was called on to take on much increased responsibility and production, and he has done that so far this season.

The Pups will need to rely heavily on the services of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic if they are to take one in Philly. The strength and grit of the Timberwolves frontcourt is clearly the team’s competitive advantage, as they are able to establish inside position and attack the offensive boards as well as any PF-C combination in the NBA. When considering how poorly the Wolves have shot from outside this season, they are a much more efficient team offensively when running the offense through the post and kicking out when faced with double-teams.

The game kicks off at 6:00 PM and will be broadcasted on local TV. Here is my prediction for the Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Kevin Love
  2. Nikola Pekovic
  3. Jrue Holiday