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

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings

The Minnesota Timberwolves travel to Sacramento Tuesday for the third game of their present road trip and take on a Kings squad fresh off a win against the Utah Jazz. Minnesota, who is in the midst of a five-game losing streak, has had a tough time acclimating to the return of All-Star Kevin Love, who has played well despite regaining strength in his right shooting hand. On Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors, Love threw his protective black glove to the sidelines in frustration and played the remainder of the game with no restrictions on his right hand, and it appears that he is officially done with the protective glove.

Andrei Kirilenko was a main component of the Timberwolves unexpected 5-2 start, but has had a tough time getting in a rhythm since the return of K-Love. In the past three games, AK-47 has shot a tough 9-29 from the field after starting the season red-hot. Kirilenko sat out practice on Monday due to back spasms, but states that he is fine to start tonight against the Kings.

While many have begun to panic due to the Timberwolves continued losing despite the addition of Love, the notion that this team is better without Love in the lineup is absolutely unjustifiable. Yes, the team has seen poorer defensive efficiency numbers from their star in the middle and K-Love has had a tougher time shooting due to his strengthening wrist, but it is obviously going to take time before the offense and defense gains the appropriate chemistry they missed out on when Love sat out the preseason and start of the season.

An important thing to note is the success that the Timberpups had when playing without their main offensive focus, and how they used good ball movement and cutting to beat tougher opponents. With Love back in the mix, there has been less ball movement and more one-on-one basketball, and this has likewise caused players like AK-47 to play a much different kind of basketball than they were used to. This adjustment will unquestionably take time, and a few losses, in order to get back up to speed.

I have no problem with Love taking 20 shots a game, for he is certainly the best scorer on the team and gets to the free throw line at a very effective rate. However, within Adelman’s corner offense, I would really like to see more passing out of the superstar PF. Love is a more than capable passer and sees the floor as well as anyone on the team, and the success of the offense relies on passing and cutting from the high post, where Love is used to getting the ball. Just as Kobe has begun to adjust with the Lakers new offense, when the focus of the opposing defense is to shut Love down, there will be many more backdoor cutting opportunities for players like AK and Dante Cunningham which could create for an increase in high-percentage scoring chances.

Since I am a Timberwolves fan, I am ultimately going to constantly compare Kevin Love to our former superstar, KG, whether it is unfair or justified. The main difference I see in their games at this stage in their development is that Garnett started to become a world-class passer and was better at identifying when to score and when to find his teammates.  Love is averaging just 1.7 assists per contest, while Garnett averaged 4.3 in his fourth season in the league. In order to truly be a complete offensive force, K-Love must follow KG and evolve from a high-usage scorer to a true floor general. As we have seen from the effects of Ricky Rubio, a main key to the Timberwolves winning games lies in passing and ball movement, and the Wolves have certainly not done a good job of that since getting Love back in the lineup.

Tonight, the Pups face a vastly inferior opponent and should benefit from the opposition’s immaturity and lack of confidence. I want to see better rotations on defense and for Love to get AK more involved in the offense. Here is my prediction for the three stars of the game:

  1. Kevin Love
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Tyreke Evans

All-Time Timberwolves 1st & 2nd Teams

The team here at Timberpups.com thought it would be a good introduction to the new site if we introduced a topic that each and every one of you has an opinion on: who would you put on your all-time Timberwolves team?  With that in mind, here are my own, personal thoughts on who should be included on this list, along with some perspective:

ALL TIMBERWOLVES 1st TEAM:

PG: Stephon Marbury

SG: Isaiah Rider

SF: Wally Szczerbiak

PF: Kevin Garnett

C: Kevin Love
[Read more...]

Timberwolves Video of the Week: KG Gets His Ring

While not fully Timberwolves-related, this victory celebration and interview with KG is a classic moment for all fans alike.  Kevin Garnett finally got his ring and his emotions and sheer joy made this an absolute joy to watch.  The Celtics returned to the top of the NBA and KG’s presence had everything to do with it.  Naturally, after this game was over, it signaled the end of my rooting for the Celtics, as that was pretty painful in and of itself.

Everything about this video captures the brilliance of KG.  Loyal to a fault, when he finally is able to speak to Tafoya, KG throws shout-outs to ‘Sota and Chicago.  I’m probably not alone in this, but there was a little piece of me that felt like the Timberwolves won that day.  I noticed how one of the people around KG tried to get the microphone out of the way, basically telling Tafoya to scram without saying a word.  However, she pressed on and waited for KG to come around.  Michele, of course, also has roots with the Timberwolves from her early career. [Read more...]