Timberwolves Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 22

Setting the stage: 

My wins-losses prediction for last week was correct.

Unfortunately for me—and Wolves fans everywhere—that means that Minny fell to Houston Thursday night, and the playoffs are really looking to be just beyond reach.

Saying good-bye to the postseason is always painful, and it seems particularly difficult this year when things started out well and it seemed—for a short while—that we had compiled the right puzzle pieces.

That being said, however, the Wolves are working for a strong end to the season.  Several positive things happened this past week:

  • Ricky Rubio had the game of his career against Dallas Wednesday evening, notching his third career triple-double with 22 pts (67%), 15 assts and 10 rebs. On top of that, he added four steals and a block.  To view highlights of the game, click here.
  • Kevin Love stepped up his defensive performance in the last few games. Specifically against Dallas, Love put some solid coverage on Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Rookie Gorgei Dieng started in Nikola Pekovic’s absence, and the rookie surprised everyone. Over two games, Dieng tallied 32 points 32 rebounds.

Can the Wolves keep up a strong finish?  Minnesota has four games this week, two of which are at home. Let’s take a look…

 

Game 69: Sunday, 3/23, 2:30pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberwolves (TV: untelevised)

Phoenix is one place above Minnesota in the Western Conference standings, and lately the Suns have been making it easier for the Wolves to catch up. The Suns have a busy week as well, playing five games in the next week. They will face Detroit on Friday before travelling to Minnesota. Phoenix is only two games out of slot No. 8, and the Wolves can expect a tough opponent for Sunday afternoon’s game.

Opponent to watch:

Goran Dragic – Dragic is averaging 20.4 points and six assists per game, and he will be a challenging matchup for Rubio. In his previous two matchups with Minnesota, Dragic scored 26 and 16 points, respectively.

Predictions:

Phoenix and Minnesota prove pretty equal opponents, and it may just come down to the team more hungry for a win. The Wolves do have home-court advantage, though, and they’ve been playing stronger as a team. I’ll take Minny for the win.

Final Score: Wolves 105, Suns 95

(photo credit: wtop.com)

(photo credit: wtop.com)

 

Game 70: Monday, 3/24, 7:00pm – Timberwolves @ Memphis Grizzlies (TV: FS North)

The Wolves are 1-1 with Memphis so far this season, and they will play them twice more before the close. The Grizzlies are currently slotted at No. 7 in the playoff race,* but they could use a few more “W’s” to bolster their confidence.  They have had a solid month so far, losing only two of their last 10 games.

Opponent to watch:

Marc Gasol – Gasol is only averaging 13.8 points a game, but right now he will probably be the Wolves biggest challenge as starting center Nikola Pekovic continues to be sidelined.  At 7’1″, Gasol definitely has a size advantage over Dieng, who has been filling in for Pek.  Fortunately for Minny, Dieng has done more than held his own over the past two games. Monday night’s contest could be a true test for the young rookie.

Predictions:

Plain and simple, Memphis is on a roll.  In all reality, the Grizzlies have more to gain from a win than Minnesota, and I think that will make the difference. It’s the end of the year, both teams are tired, and the Grizzlies hold the momentum card at this point in the game.  I expect a close game at the Target Center, but it seems likely that the Grizz will take this one.

Final score: Timberwolves 99, Grizzlies  106

 

Game 71: Wednesday, 3/26, 7:00pm – Atlanta Hawks @ Timberwolves (TV: Fox Sports North Plus)

In my opinion, Wednesday’s game against Atlanta will prove the most exciting of the week. At 31-35, Atlanta is barely clinging to that No. 8 spot in the weaker Eastern Conference. The Hawks and the Wolves have shared a similar type of season, but their difference in location spells completely different stories. The teams are 1-1 against each other on the season.  Atlanta is ranked No. 5 in the NBA for three-point shooting, and Minnesota comes in way behind at No. 26.  Kevin Martin and JJ Barea will need to be more than present for the Wolves to keep up with the long-range game.

Opponent to watch:

Kyle Korver – Korver is the sole reason that Atlanta has the three-point game it does.  At 33 years old, the veteran averages 2.7 three-point buckets per game, landing him at No. 1 in the league overall.  On Feb. 1, Korver scored 24 points (half of those from behind the three-point line) against Minnesota.

Predictions:

Wednesday’s game should be a pretty even matchup, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets a bit chippy.  The big key to a Wolves win will be defense.  Minnesota has struggled on that end of the floor all year, but lately it has improved.  If Rubio and Barea can stick to Korver, and if Love can step it up and offer coverage beneath the basket, I think the Wolves ultimately have the stronger team here.

Final score: Timberwolves 101, Hawks 98

(photo credit: bleacherreport.com)

(photo credit: bleacherreport.com)

 

Game 72: Friday, 3/28 7pm – LA Lakers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers are a far cry from the team they once were.  In fact, only four teams in the NBA currently hold worse records than the Lakers.  When is the last time that happened? The Wolves are 2-1 against the Lakers this season, and Friday night should add one more win in Minny’s favor.  The Lakers have no more to play for this season … except maybe a higher draft pick …

Opponent to watch:

Wesley Johnson – As much as it pains me to say this, I’m naming Wes Johnson as the player to watch in Friday’s game.  After leaving Minnesota, the 2010 No. 4 draft pick has actually done quite well on the West Coast. Johnson is currently averaging 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.  While not staggering stats, it’s common for players to feel the “something to prove” attitude when playing their old team.  I expect Johnson to have a big game in return to his former stomping grounds.

Predictions:

If Minnesota can keep things rolling the way it has, Friday’s home stand should be a win over LA.  I’m going out on a limb and calling it a big win.

Final score: Timberwolves 111, Lakers 89

 

Wrap-up:

Playoff hopes aside, Wolves fans hope to see Minnesota play its remaining games with gusto.  This past week provided a lot of momentum for the Wolves, and I expect it to continue in the four-game week.

 

 

 

Recap – Timberwolves 123, Mavericks 122 (OT)

Sky hook master Gorgui Dieng (Photo: ESPN.com)

Sky hook master Gorgui Dieng
(Photo: ESPN.com)

 

 

The 33-32 Timberwolves took to the road to start a back-to-back in Dallas Wednesday night.  The Mavs entered the game at 41-27 and are holding on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.  Coming into Wednesday night’s match-up, the Wolves had taken two of three against the Mavs this season.

Nikola Pekovic was ruled out for the Pups so the starting lineup looked like this: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Dieng.  The Mavs opened up with Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Samuel Dalembert.

Here’s a look at how things went down …

First Half 

Rick Carlisle called an early timeout only 2.5 minutes into the game, as the Wolves scored a few easy baskets and jumped out to a 9-5 lead.  That early warning for his team didn’t work out to well as Minnesota continued to jump on their opponent, leading to another timeout with over seven minutes still left in the opening frame.  Ricky Rubio led the charge early with an early basket, but also already had 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block!  What?!

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held an impressive 37-24 lead, receiving big scoring punches from Kevin Love (13 points) and Corey Brewer (11), who may have been looking for a little bit of revenge against his former team.  I would also like to point out the solid 11 minutes from the rookie, Dieng.  He had 6 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and was 1-1 from the field for his 2 points.  I have only been asking for him in the rotation since mid-December.  At the very least, this improves the learning curve.

Words cannot describe my excitement with the early stages of tonight’s game.  Adelman was giving extended minutes to Dieng and he was highly effective – including a running sky hook in the 2nd quarter that found nothing but the bottom of the net.  At the same time, Coach gave JJ Barea minutes at the SG position, allowing him to play with Rubio and not dominate the ball for 22 seconds of the shot clock.  I have been “slightly” critical (understatement of the year) of JJ this year, but I don’t mind him at the SG position without the ball in his hands.

With a 50-28 lead things were looking pretty good for the Pups.  Therein lies your problem.  As with every single good thing that happens to this team, bad things quickly follow … and are usually much worse.  The 22 point lead was cut to 3 points with several minutes remaining in the half.  Thankfully, the Wolves were able to withstand the stomach punch and built their lead back up to 10.  The 54 year old Vince Carter hit a three pointer at the buzzer to cut the Wolves lead to 66-59.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Excluding Barea, the Wolves bench was failing big time.  Chase Budinger … yikes!  0-2 from the field, he lost a few loose balls and was a team low -9 in his five minutes on the floor.  Dante Cunningham was 0-3 from the field and didn’t collect a single rebound or assist either.
  • Still leading the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki went old school against Robbie Hummel and hit a rainbow fade away jumper from about 12 feet.  It was a thing of beauty.

Second Half 

The 3rd quarter was highly entertaining basketball, as both teams traded punches.  However, with just over 3 minutes to go, Gorgui picked up his fourth foul and had to head to the bench.  This was preceded with another strong 8+ minutes from the rookie, who was having a positive impact on both ends of the floor.  He left the floor having already collected his second double-double in as many starts and was a team high +15 at the time of his departure.

The Wolves were able to maintain their advantage however, as they took a 94-87 lead into the final quarter.  The Mavs were able to hit a buzzer beater for the second quarter in a row, with Brandon Wright hitting a floater to cut the lead to seven.

All that was good in the 3rd quarter quickly fell apart in the 4th as both teams looked incredibly sloppy – missing easy baskets, offensive fouls, etc.  With a 12 point lead with about 7 minutes to go, the Wolves let the Mavs back in the game one more time.  The Mavs went on a 15-5 run to cut the lead to three points.  It got worse for Wolves fans, as Monta Ellis caught fire and gave the Mavs a 113-111 lead with 90 seconds to play.  The end of regulation came with the teams tied at 113 thanks to a number of missed jump shots by both teams.  What happened to attacking the rim with the game on the line?!

Adelman sent out the same five that ended the game (on a sour note) to start OT.  Feel free to try to explain that to me in the comments section below.  The Mavs went on a small run and built their largest lead of the game of 5 points.  However, the Wolves didn’t quit as Kevin Love drew a 6th foul on Vince Carter and tied the game by hitting three FT’s.  Love then hit one of two FT’s to give the Wolves the lead again at 121-120.  After a Mas bucket the Wolves force fed Love the ball with under 30 seconds to go and after a handful of “moves”, he somehow snaked his way through and hit a baby hook to give the Wolves the lead for good!  Dirk missed a shot and there was a little bit of a scrum for the ball as time expired.  No matter!  Wolves win 123-122!

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Ricky Rubio – Triple double alert!  22 points on 8-12 shooting, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds!  Throw in 4 steals and a block for the Unicorn!
  2. Kevin Love – This was all set to be #3’s spot until OT.  Love finished with 35 points and owned OT.
  3. Gorgui Dieng – Finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but for some reason completely disappeared from the rotation.  He LED the team in the first three quarters, along with Rubio.  

Key Takeaways

  • Barea had a very solid first half and then went all Jekyll and Hyde on us again in the second half.  I’m glad Adelman didn’t go back to him in OT.
  • Dieng had a phenomenal three quarters and earned/deserved time at the end of the game.  Hummel somehow got the call, with the Wolves going small and moving Love to the 5.  Between this and the decision to DNP-CD Shabazz Muhammad, I still have no idea what is going on in Adelman’s mind.
  • All of this is null and void for tonight at least, as the Wolves pull off the minor upset and keep some glimmer of hope alive.

 

Timberwolves Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 21

Setting the stage: 

Similar to last week, there is absolutely no margin for error for the Wolves.

The fact that the Wolves are ranked No. 3 in the league for average points scored speaks volumes about our defense–or lack thereof.  Minnesota continues to struggle in keeping its opponents under 100 points, and something has to change. I think it’s safe to say that the team is feeling Andrei Kirilenko’s absence this season, at least on that side of the floor. Corey Brewer consistently does well on D, and having Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup helps tremendously. If the Timberwolves want to win games, defense needs to stay a focus.

Can the Wolves even make the playoffs at this point? I mean, is there any chance?

It’s a small chance, and other teams would have to lose, but the chance is still there. According to CBSSports’ David McCoy, Minny will have to win at least 14 of its last 18 games in order to have a shot at the postseason.

Winning against Milwaukee definitely helped, and Sunday’s game against Sacramento should be a “W” as well. However, a Friday loss in Charlotte really hurt. In addition, we have tough games this week against Dallas and Houston. The opponents the Wolves absolutely need to beat are those near us in the standings: Dallas, Denver and Phoenix.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at the week ahead…

 

Game 66: Sunday, 3/16, 6pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

At 23-42* on the season, Sacramento should be an easy opponent–especially considering it’s a home contest.  However, in the two games between the Wolves and Kings this season, the teams have split wins.  Minnesota lost at home to SAC on January 15, but earlier this month the Wolves came away with the win on the west coast.

Opponent to watch:

Rudy Gay – Between the games against Sacramento earlier this season, Gay totaled 57 points. Despite only averaging 20 PPG, the Wolves tend to allow the forward to walk all over their defense. Look for Brewer to be playing extra close defense against Gay Sunday night.

Predictions:

Sacramento is currently averaging 101 points per game. The Wolves are averaging 106.3. If Minnesota can step up its defensive game and hold Gay to under 20 points, the home team has a definite advantage here. I’ll take the Wolves in triple digits.

Final Score: Wolves 109, Kings 96

rudy gay

Game 67: Wednesday, 3/19, 7:30pm – Timberwolves @ Dallas Mavericks (TV: FS North)

The Wolves face Dallas on the road Wednesday evening, and if there is one game more crucial than the others at this point, it’s this one. The Mavericks are currently in the No. 8 (and last) seat for the Playoffs — two spots ahead of Minnesota. The Mavs’ current record of 39-27* has an edge over the Wolves, and they absolutely cannot afford to lose. In my opinion, this will be the toughest game of the week.  The good news is, Minnesota has played well against Dallas this year. Out of three contests, Minny took two of the wins and lost the final in 100-98 heart-breaker. 

Opponent to watch:

Monta Ellis – Ellis is currently averaging 18.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. In the past nine games, the SG has scored 15+ points every night.  Ellis’ quick passes and agility on the floor are hard to control, especially with a defensively challenged team like Minnesota.

Predictions:

This game holds a lot of weight, and you know the Wolves are feeling it. Having a healthy lineup again (and especially with Kevin Martin back), I think Minnesota will take the upper hand in a shootout.

Final score: Timberwolves 104, Mavericks  100

 

Game 68: Thursday, 3/20, 7pm – Timberwolves @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

At this point in the season, Houston has pretty much cemented itself in the playoffs. There is less resting on this game for the opponents; however, Minnesota has historically struggled against the Rockets. The Wolves are 0-2 against the Rockets this season, by a total disadvantage of 20 points. Especially since this is a consecutive road game for Minny, it’s going to be a tiring game.

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden missed the last game against Minnesota with a sore foot, but he is back to his old self and tearing up defenses across the league. Harden has slated three games with over 30 points (two of them over 40!) in his past 10 games. At 6’5″ and 225 lbs, Harden is one of the largest and most physical guards in the game. I expect the Wolves to have a hard time stopping him.

Predictions:

As much as I hate to say it, I don’t think the Wolves will be able to pull out a win here.  Houston runs a physical offense that Minnesota will have a tough time defending, and the size comparison alone is huge. Don’t forget the fact that the Wolves fell to Houston less than a month ago … without Harden.

Final score: Timberwolves 99, Rockets 111

james harden

Wrap-up:

It all comes down to these last 19 games. If Minnesota can come out of this week with at least two wins under its belt, playoff hopes will be kept alive. The first two games this week will really set the tempo, so I’m hoping my predictions are accurate there.

 

*records current as of 3/14/2014

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)?

Timberwolves Devour Bucks in Second Half, 112-101 Final Score

The Timberwolves appeared sluggish throughout the first half of Tuesday night’s home stand against Milwaukee.  Fortunately for Minnesota, the Wolves rebounded after halftime and played a second half much stronger than their opponents. Coming out on top of the 112-101 final score, the Timberwolves bagged their 32nd win of the season.  Kevin Love led with 27 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Kevin Martin with 26 points. Dante Cunningham and JJ Barea came off the bench for a total of 28 points.

Incredibly, the Bucks didn’t miss a single shot until the 4:35 mark of the first quarter, making all 12 of their first attempts. Not surprisingly after those numbers, the Wolves trailed by five going into Q2.

“I thought [the Bucks] were going to set some sort of record,” said Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman after the game.

Minnesota shot 46 percent in the second quarter, but the Bucks continued to drop almost 60 percent of their shots. Defensively, the Wolves just weren’t on target. Barea came off the bench and added the spark and aggressiveness that his team needed. Barea’s tenacity and better-than-average shooting, combined with Martin’s offense, kept Minny in the game during the first half.

“I love it. I miss it,” Barea said. “I miss playing off the ball a little bit, especially with Ricky. When I’m making shots, it’s great for our team.”

Barea_Milwaukee_edit

According to Adelman, the locker room speech at halftime revolved around defense. “[In the first half] we shared the wealth,” Adelman said. “Every starter [for Milwaukee] had a basket in the first six minutes of the game. We were too soft. They made shots, but we let them go wherever they wanted to go.”

Love scored only nine points in the first half, but the All-Star came alive in the third quarter, hitting two three-point buckets and a jump shot and grabbing a couple rebounds. Love added another three-point shot and 11 total points in the fourth.

Ricky Rubio also delivered a strong performance for Minnesota, grabbing 11 points, 10 assists and three steals.  Rubio has played well the last few games, and his confidence in shooting the ball seems to finally be increasing. The starting PG shared his minutes a bit with Barea, but Adelman played the two in the same lineup several times, as well.

“J.J.’s a great scorer and sometimes he needs to play the (shooting guard),” Rubio said. [...] I like playing with him. He made shots today and he played a lot.”

Rubio_Milwaukee_edit

Milwaukee PG Brandon Knight led his team with 21 points, but in the end it wasn’t enough to regain the lead against Minnesota. The Bucks struggled to keep up after halftime, and their shots didn’t fall the way they did in the first. On the evening, the Wolves shot 48 percent to the Bucks’ 52. While the 13-win team certainly gave a valiant effort during 75 percent of the contest, the fourth quarter proved Minnesota the better team.

Up Next:

Tuesday’s victory marked the first time Minnesota has won 32 games in a single season since 2006-2007, when the squad notched the same number.  The squad will attempt Win #33 when it faces Al Jefferson and the Charlotte Bobcats on the road Friday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.. Fans can view the game on Fox Sports North.

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 20

 

I feel like this guy trying to predict Timberpups W's & L's (Photo credit: batman.wikia.com)

I feel like this guy trying to predict Timberpups   W’s & L’s
(Photo credit: batman.wikia.com)

Setting the stage: 

For those of you looking for a quick read/preview of tonight’s game against the Raptors, click here.  At worst, the Timberpups will enter week 20 with a .500 record.  From a 30,000 foot view, the week ahead is another great chance for the Wolves to make up some ground on the Mavericks and/or Suns.  However, those teams keep chugging along.  Friday night’s action was a little insane for both the Wolves and Mavs who had 30+ point advantages and almost blew their performances by allowing their opponents to come back into the game.

The Wolves’ defense needs to vastly improve over what they have been doing over the past few weeks.  Only once in the last seven games (again, this is ahead of Sunday’s game) have the Wolves held their opponent under 100 points; and it isn’t like the team has been playing a murderers’ row of opponents on the schedule (like their late November, early December schedule).

The Pups can’t lose a game this week.  There is no room left for a letdown game.  After a Monday night game against the Clippers, the Suns will play six games in a row against Eastern Conference opponents.  Read: the schedule eases up for them.  The Mavs’ schedule looks to be a bit more daunting this coming week with games in Golden State and OKC (as well as Utah).

So here we go with less than 20 games remaining on the schedule.  Can the Wolves pull it off?  It starts off with …

Game 64: Tuesday, 3/11, 7pm – Milwaukee Bucks @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Suffice it to say that the Bucks are not very good.  They are floating around the .200 line in terms of win percentage and are merely 30+ games behind the Indiana Pacers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.  Progress.  Can we please move this team to Seattle under new ownership?  This would also give the Wolves another opportunity to petition the league for switching conferences.  Is anyone reading this against this plan?!

Opponent to watch:

Brandon Knight – Statistically speaking, Knight is having a pretty good season.  Clearly, it isn’t leading to many victories.  We’ll see how Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea look to contain Knight and his new PG brethren, Ramon Sessions.

Predictions:

Bucks in six?  If the Pups lose this one, board up the Target Center and start working on renovations.  Final score: Timberwolves 109, Bucks 95

Game 65: Friday, 3/14, 6pm – Timberpups @ Charlotte Bobcats (TV: FS North)

The Wolves’ home-stand ends with a trip to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats.  Charlotte will be coming in off of a game Wednesday night in Washington so they should be equally rested.  The Pups destroyed the Bobcats in Minnesota in early January and there is nothing to suggest the results should be different for this game – unless you believe in the Bobcats ~.500 record at home this season.

Opponent to watch:

Al Jefferson – Al is back!  Jefferson is putting up the normal 20+ppg/10+rpg … and his team remains under .500.  No, I am not pinning this on Al, it is just an interesting correlation that continues to rear its ugly head.  Will Kevin Love go off when facing his former mentor in Minnesota?

Predictions:

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolves drop this one, and I won’t be surprised if I’m bitching out JJ Barea while it happens.  That said, I’m going to go with … Final score: Timberwolves 112, Bobcats 105

Game 66: Sunday, 3/16, 6pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Sunday’s game will conclude a 7 game road trip for the Kings and they are playing Saturday night in Chicago.  Congratulations Timberwolves, you were finally handed a scheduling “gimme”.  Now, don’t screw this up on your home court like that Knicks game from this past week.

Opponent to watch:

Isaiah Thomas – In two games thus far this season, Thomas has lit up the Wolves to the tune of 24ppg and 7.5apg, while shooting a scorching 59% from the field.

Predictions:

Again, the end of a long road tour for the Kings, who are playing in less meaningful games right now than the Wolves.  (See what I did there?)  Final score: Timberwolves 116, Kings 105

Wrap-up:

This week and the one prior really could have been the time for the Wolves to spark a little more excitement as we go through March.  Unfortunately, that Knicks loss at Target Center was simply deflating.  In any case, let’s go Wolves!

Recap – Timberwolves 114, Pistons 101

The Pistons wouldn't dare hire this man ... would they?! (Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The Pistons wouldn’t dare hire this man … would they?!
(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

 

Coming off a loss that I’m going to try to stop thinking about Wednesday night against the Knicks, The Timberwolves entered Friday night’s affair with a 30-30 record.  The 24-37 Pistons took to the Target Center floor amidst rumors of Isiah Thomas weaseling his way into the Motor City and knocking Joe Dumars out of a job.  Only one of those two thoughts should be a reality (hint: it’s the latter).  The Pistons had lost 8 of 10 coming into tonight’s action, affording the Wolves another opportunity to capitalize.

No surprises for the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Pistons opened up with Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.

First Half 

Perhaps due to their #WolvesKlondike contest on social media (kidding … and I missed by one basket at the end!) the Wolves tried to feed Nikola Pekovic early.  However, it was Kevin Martin who got off to a hot start, scoring six of the team’s first eight points.  The Wolves caught a break early with Greg Monroe picking up two quick fouls.  With that, Minnesota was off and running taking a 17-9 into the first timeout.

Here is what you need to know about the remainder of the 1st quarter: the Wolves only shot three 3PT’ers (hitting two of them) and had 39 points in the first twelve minutes.  How?  They attacked the rim time and time again.  This lead to 9-11 on the FT line and shooting over 50% from the field in the opening frame.  That may have been the best execution I have seen this season, as the Wolves took a 39-21 lead into the break.

As Adelman went further and further down the bench, the Pups managed to maintain their double digit advantage.  I’ve verbally abused (on the internet) JJ Barea over the past two months (note: deservedly) but he had a nice run in the quarter, dropping 4 points and 5 assists in his first stint on the floor.  Going into a timeout, the Wolves held a 61-38 and the Pistons body language was already showing signs of giving up.

With the score 66-45 at the break, here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • The Wolves bench had 24 points at the half, led by Barea, LRMAM, and Chase Budinger.  The team really needs to see Budinger make significant steps over the remainder of the season.
  • He makes it really easy to make fun of him, but who else on the roster is Brandon Jennings going to rely on to score consistently?  Key word, “consistently”.

Second Half 

Things didn’t get any better for the Pistons to start the 3rd quarter.  In fact, it got worse.  From the scoreboard, to their effort, and to their body language, everything looked to be going downhill for Detroit.  The Pistons called their first timeout of the half after falling behind 77-51.

Here is what you need to know about the rest of the quarter: it was great from a Wolves’ perspective and it was mortifying from a Pistons’ view.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wolves held a 97-69 advantage.  Oddly enough, it felt about 1.3 times worse than this.  I spent most of the quarter talking to Wolves Twitter and could barely keep my eyes on the game.

In typical Wolves-bench fashion, they had an opportunity for extended playing time in the 4th quarter and managed to look god-awful in the process.  The Pistons got off to a 13-2 run, forcing Adelman to burn a timeout with about 7 minutes left in the game so that he could bring back the starters.  The Pistons cut it to an 11 point advantage but the Wolves were able to hold on to the victory.

(What you are not seeing here is an epic JJ Barea rant.  He deserves one, but I’m going to check in with Al on how he feels about a full write-up dedicated to this.)

Final score, 114-101 – with the win moving the Pups record to 31-30 on the season.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – 28 & 14 and a nice game shooting (10-18 from the field)
  2. Kevin Martin – Had it going early and opened this game up for the Wolves
  3. Ricky Rubio – Closed in a triple-double with 11 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds 

Key Takeaways

  • There are two key takeaways from this game from a Wolves’ perspective … what was a laugher of a game became way too close for comfort due to the struggles of the bench yet again.  Barea and Dante Cunningham are absolute shadows of themselves and what they are bringing to the team this season vs. what they have in the past.
  • The attitude (I’ll keep it PG-rated) of Barea is beyond nauseating.  He could save a family from a burning building and find a way to annoy me at this point.  Fair?  Maybe not.  Deserved?  I think so.