Recap – Bobcats 105, Timberwolves 93

 

Big Al vs. Bigger Pek,  Wolves, Bobcats, semi-live from Charlotte (Thanks Xbox) (Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

Big Al vs. Bigger Pek,
Wolves, Bobcats, semi-live from Charlotte (Thanks Xbox)
(Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

 

After a few nights off, the Timberwolves returned to action on Friday night to take on the Bobcats in Charlotte.  Minnesota entered the game with a 32-31 record, while Charlotte was coming in off of a win Wednesday night in Washington, moving their record to 31-34 on the year.  The Bobcats are currently in the seven seed position in the Eastern Conference playoffs and won seven games in a row at home.  What happened … well, you probably saw the title of the article?

The Pups’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Bobcats opened up with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts, and ex-Pup Al Jefferson.

First Half 

In a somewhat slow start to the game, aided by a “clear path” review by the refs, the Bobcats took an 8-7 lead into the game’s first timeout with about 8.5 minutes left in the 1st quarter.  Gerald Henderson had all 8 points for the Bobcats, allowing me to daydream about this past offseason one more time.  I have always liked Henderson’s game and thought he would be a good fit for the Wolves.

Coming out of the first timeout, it looked like both teams decided to wake up and unofficially start playing real NBA basketball. Kevin Martin and Kevin Love led the way for the Wolves in the quarter.  After the timeout, MKG and Big Al stood out for the Bobcats and balancing out the Kevin’s efforts.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the teams were tied at 33-33.

Wholesale lineup changes for Adelman’s club to start out the 2nd quarter and let’s just say that this didn’t start or end well.  I’m not sure what it is going to take to move away from this outside of Flip taking over as coach.  Dear lord … not only did the rotation not work, but Adelman refused to burn a timeout, waiting for the official’s timeout before reinserting Love and Nikola Pekovic into the game.  However, the damage was done, as the Bobcats led 50-41.

Despite having many of the starters back in, the Wolves fell further in the hole, 59-43.  So, to recap what happened here; backups fell behind double digits and when the wholesale changes back to the starting lineup took place, those players were all cooled off and out of the flow of the game.  What team uses this strategy successfully?!  This actually came off my keyboard during the 2nd quarter misery:

While I know this will burn me a year from now, I’m completely OK with Adelman walking away in the offseason.

— john flesta(@jflesta) March 15, 2014

I’m sadly not overstating this, while completely realizing the likelihood that the alternative is better is about one in ten.  At the half, the Bobcats held a 65-53 advantage.  Here are a few thoughts going into the locker room:

  • At the half, the best +/- from the Wolves’ bench was a -11 from LRMAM.
  • Gary Neal, en fuego.  5-7 from the field for 16 points.  Coincidentally, much of his playing time was against … you guessed it, the Wolves’ bench.

Second Half 

The Pups started the 3rd quarter 0-5 from the field and their body language to start the half was poor.  Adelman may have noticed this and took an early timeout, with just over two minutes gone by and the team down 67-53.  Gorgui Dieng checked in for a struggling Pekovic and Big Al took him to school early on a pump fake.  Dieng tried to make up for the lost step but was called for a goaltend.  The rookie spent much of the next few minutes in Jekyll and Hyde mode with positive and negative plays up and down the court.  This ties in nicely with a request for PT for the rookies the rest of the way.  Please and thank you.

The body language for the Wolves got progressively worse as the 3rd quarter rolled on.  As the teams entered the final frame, the Bobcats held a 13 point lead, 88-75.  It could have been worse, but Chris Douglas-Roberts couldn’t get a made 35 foot three pointer out of his hands in time.

As the 4th quarter started, the Wolves official word on Pekovic was a sore ankle and his return was questionable.  Frankly, it probably didn’t matter.  The Wolves couldn’t get the Bobcats’ lead under 10 points and much of the 4th quarter felt like it was just going through the motions.  Final score, 105-93 – moving the Wolves back to .500 on the season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Al Jefferson – 25 & 16 for the ex-Pup
  2. Gary Neal – Lights out shooting when it mattered, finishing with 19 points in 25 minutes
  3. Wolves Twitter – No one on the Wolves roster deserves the slot, and honestly, there isn’t anyone else on the Bobcats either.  So thanks to Wolves Twitter for keeping tonight’s game semi-interesting. 

Key Takeaways

  • Dave Benz pointed this out late in the game, but the Wolves were outrebounded 54-35 in tonight’s game.  When is the last time it was THAT bad with this team?!
  • All eyes should probably stay on Pek’s injury and if he will have to miss any more time over the next week or so.  With the playoffs unofficially, officially out of sight and mind, do the Wolves turn overly cautious with the big man (and his contract)?

Recap – Timberwolves 119, Bobcats 92

Spinning the Twolves wheels ... KG, to Big Al, to KLove

Spinning the Twolves wheels … KG, to Big Al, to KLove.

The 17-18 Timberwolves, “good” for 10th place in the Western Conference, hosted the Charlotte Bobcats / Hornets Friday night.  I am going to skip over my thoughts on the Kevin Love soundbytes for the time being.  I don’t have the will right now to tackle it from both sides or angles and it deserves both.  However, know that I’m not happy that it happened publicly or where this team currently sits in the Western Conference.

Here is how things went down Friday night.  No surprises or changes in the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The 15-21 Bobcats (currently residing in 7th place in the Eastern Conference?!) opened up with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Josh McRoberts, and (Big) Al Jefferson.  Nice to see Big Al back on the Target Center floor! [Read more...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 101, Charlotte Bobcats 102

Photo Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo Credit: Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Summary

And so it continues. Forget about injury woes, the latest loss by the Minnesota Timberwolves demonstrated once again how lady fortune is not on their side. Ahead 101-99 with less than 10 seconds remaining, Gerald Henderson got the ball at the top of key, pump-faking twice before drilling a miraculous three-point shot with only seconds remaining. One JJ Barea flop and missed buzzer-beater later, the Charlotte Bobcats finally snapped a 16-game home losing streak and extended the Timberwolves current losing streak to 4 games. The Pups have now lost 9 of their last ten games, and confidence has certainly faded for a team who once had ambitious expectations heading into the season.

Oddly enough, the Timberwolves actually enjoyed one of their best three-point shooting performances as a team this season, as they nailed 10 of their 20 attempts from deep. However, the Bobcats dominated Minnesota in the interior, outscoring them 50-32 in the paint. Bismack Biyombo, the second-year 20-year-old from the Congo, epitomizes “raw talent” as much as any player I have witnessed. With the longest wing span in NBA history at 7-foot-7-inches, the 6-foot-9 Biyombo is at first a sight to see for those who have never seen him play. Still so young and inexperienced, the “Bismack Attack” has made noticeable development since his at-times-hard-to-watch rookie season. The former 7th overall selection recorded a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds last night against the Wolves, making all four of his field goal attempts while adding 2 blocked shots in 32 minutes. Although foul trouble ultimately limited him, it was an impressive performance for the player that some believe could be the next Ben Wallace.

Some of the only good news coming from last night’s game was the play of Ricky Rubio, who hit his first three-pointer of the season while being a game-high +23 on the floor in 29 minutes of action. Rubio was able to take advantage of his size advantage on Kemba Walker, and scored 14 points on 4-9 shooting while also providing tremendous perimeter defense on the other end of the floor. His five steals last night were a season high, and he fell two assists short of a double-double. Ricky is still not the player that he was before the knee injury, but last night’s performance showed that he can still be a huge impact on defense and as a passer until his knee is back to full strength.

Derrick Williams once again got the start at PF, but played only 18 minutes, shooting 2-8 from the field with 5 points. D-Will was clearly not having his best game, but the Timberwolves’ management of Williams continues to perplex me. At this point, what do they value him as? A long-term project? An asset? A valuable contributor? Trade bait? Regardless of what Timberwolves brass currently classify Derrick Williams as, it makes most to give him as many minutes as possible for the time being. This is only going to improve him as a player and heighten his trade value, and playing Dante Cunningham over Williams late in games is only going to keep this team from developing one of their most important players for the future. The Wolves need to allow Derrick to fall on his face a few times while he learns how to get up and overcome failure. The only way he is going to learn is through actual, in-game experiences, for some things can never be learned from a whiteboard or a video session. As much as some may hate it, in many ways the future of this team rests on Williams.

Keys of the Game

  • Bench Play – Here’s something you probably didn’t catch from watching the game: 4 of Minnesota’s 5 starters possessed a positive plus-minus, while not one of Charlotte’s starters had a positive plus-minus. However, 5 of 6 Charlotte subs held a positive plus-minus, while all 4 of Minnesota’s bench players were negative. General intuition would tell us that Minnesota lost because of the play of their second unit, and this was very true last night. JJ Barea was in his bad zone, hitting only 7 of his 18 field goals and getting burned on the defensive end. On the other side, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon came off the bench to score 23 and 18 points, respectively.
  • Rebounding: CHA 38, MN 30 – It is hard to bash the Wolves for getting out-rebounded given their ridiculous predicament of injuries, but the fact remains that players including Derrick Williams and Andrei Kirilenko were not as physical as they could have been. After a hit on the head by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist which required stitches, I will give AK-47 a pass. The 6-foot-1 Kemba Walker finished with 8 rebounds, more than any single Timberwolves player last night.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kemba Walker – He didn’t hit the game-winner, but he did nearly notch a triple-double of 25 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds. Walker looks much more refined this season after having an up-and-down rookie season, and appears to possess a skill set that should have a lot of success in the NBA for many years to come. Walker also contributed 3 steals and even 2 blocks in his 37 minutes of playing time.
  2. Gerald Henderson – What. A. Shot. The Wolves can’t catch a break right now (could they ever?) and Henderson’s game-winner only adds to the misery that Minnesota fans have endured thus far into the season. The former Duke standout, who some have rumored to be on the trading block, saved his best for last as he drained a 3-pointer with only seconds left to put Charlotte ahead by one point. He finished with 15 points (6-14 FG) and 4 rebounds in 32 minutes.
  3. Luke Ridnour – The Timberwolves’ veteran leader put together arguably his best performance of the season last night, sinking 3 of his 5 three-point attempts and in total converted on 9 of 14 attempts from the field, finishing with 22 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 41 minutes. Since sliding over to SG Ridnour has looked much better offensively, but on the defensive end his lack of strength at the 2-guard position has made him somewhat exploitable depending on the opponent. In this case, Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson proved to be too much to handle for the 6-foot-2 Ridnour.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Charlotte Bobcats, 1/26/13

Kemba

Photo Credit – US Presswire

Brace yourself, ladies and gentlemen. The Timberwolves are on the road while lacking the services of Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved in a Saturday night matchup in Charlotte, NC. Having lost their past 6 games, the Wolves are in desperate need of a victory before things spiral further out of control.

Greg Stiemsma will start for the injured Pekovic, and Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio will once again make up Minnesota’s starting backcourt. Tricky Ricky has had a very hard time adjusting to the flow of the NBA as he continues to play on a weak left knee, hurting his ability to accelerate, cut, and jump, which has ultimately hindered his ability to finish at the rim. However, the Spaniard has been able to provide positive contributions from his passing and defense, and just needs more time to gain proper strength around the recovering area of his knee.

Minnesota looks to avenge their previous loss to Charlotte earlier this season at the Target Center, and is set to battle an inexperienced yet talented young squad assembled by Michael Jordan. The Bobcats may likely be fighting for the number one overall selection in next summers draft, but have done an impressive job slowly building up a promising core of high-character players.

Player to watch:

Kemba Walker – After an inconsistent rookie season, the former UConn standout has enjoyed a breakout season this season posting averages of 17.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 3.4 rpg and an outstanding 19.22 PER. Given Charlotte’s 10-32 record, Walker has flown somewhat under the radar this season and is quietly becoming one of the top young guards in the NBA. Having started all 42 games for the Bobcats this season, the versatile guard is proving to be quite durable in a rigorous league. I expect JJ Barea to match up the best with Walker for the Pups, given his quickness and low center of gravity. Nonetheless, Minnesota is going to have its hands full tonight.

Match-up to watch:

Andrei Kirilenko vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Last summer’s number two overall selection takes on a much more refined, veteran version of himself in Andrei Kirilenko. Both wings demonstrate impressive length and athleticism, but do not excel in one particular area. Instead, each player has contributed in many different ways for their respective team, providing rebounds, steals and blocks outside of efficient scoring. I have been a huge MKG fan since his introduction at Kentucky, and am excited to see how the young buck fares against a player with virtually the same skill set. The 19-year-old has enjoyed a tremendous rookie campaign, averaging 10.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg for the improving young Bobcats squad.

Predictions:

Taking on a team that has lost its past 16 home games, the Wolves are currently on a six game slide and look to fend off an inferior opponent on the road. Minnesota has lost 10 of its past 11 road games, and is a combined 6-16 on the road this season. I see the Bobcats as a more talented team due to the Wolves’ injury problems, but I have a feeling that the Pups’ veteran leadership is not going to allow the team to drop arguably their easiest road game of the season.

Final score prediction: Twolves 92, Bobcats 83

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Luke Ridnour
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Kemba Walker