Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 11

The coach needs to turn to Anthony Bennett sooner rather than later to see what he can be for this franchise moving forward. (Credit: Jordan Johnson, NBAE via Getty Images)

The coach needs to turn to Anthony Bennett sooner rather than later to see what he can be for this franchise moving forward. (Credit: Jordan Johnson, NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Setting the stage:

Our Minnesota Timberwolves come into the week with a 5-27 record and are coming off of a relatively terrible week that included two losses against the Jazz, pushing their losing streak to 11 games.  The Wolves start the week with a continuation of a four game homestand against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.  Aside from a trip quick to Milwaukee for Friday’s game, the Wolves will remain at home for the remaining three games this week.  Surprisingly, the Pups have a “home game” against the Spurs that takes place in Minneapolis this week.

As we get closer to the return of Ricky Rubio, Wolves fans are left wondering where this team is heading into the trade deadline (February 19th).  With Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin still on the shelf, would any team be willing to take on either contract?  Will Flip Saunders be able to get more than sixty cents on the dollar for either?  Only time will tell.

For now, let’s concentrate on the week ahead.  Here is a brief preview for each game this week:

Game 33: Monday, 1/5, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Denver defeated the Wolves 106-102 the day after Christmas in their first matchup of the season between the Northwest division foes.  Denver remains under .500 and is struggling to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Opponent to watch:

Kenneth Faried – Someone is going to have to contain Faried this time around, as he dropped an overwhelming 26 & 25 on the Wolves in their last meeting.  Again, with Thad Young incapable of grabbing ~10 rebounds a game, Flip Saunders needs to provide more minutes to Anthony Bennett to see if he can be a solid contributor for this franchise moving forward.

Game 34: Wednesday, 1/7, 8:30pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberpups (TV: ESPN)

The Timberwolves make another appearance on national TV with ESPN in town to cover the game.  To be honest, I thought last year was a fluke for the Suns, who finished the season with a 48-34 record.  They are proving me wrong (again) as the team remains in heavy contention for the playoffs and are only a few games behind the Clippers for second place in the Pacific division.

Opponent to watch:

Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe was tied to the Pups in the offseason rumorville but remained with the Suns despite the fact that the Suns’ roster is loaded with backcourt talent.  With or without Rubio, this would make for a tough matchup for the Wolves.  Godspeed Zach LaVine and Mo Williams.

Game 35: Friday, 1/9, 7:30pm – Timberpups @ Milwaukee Bucks (TV: FS North)

A close game through the first three quarters, the Bucks blew out the Wolves in Minneapolis in late November.  Milwaukee received a balanced performance from its roster, with seven players scoring in double figures in the first meeting.  Andrew Wiggins struggled from the floor in his first official meeting against fellow rookie Jabari Parker.  Unfortunately, Parker has since been lost for the season due to injury and the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award is likely Wiggins’ to lose.

Opponent to watch:

Larry Sanders – Sanders had a nice game in Minneapolis putting in 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  The Sanders vs. Gorgui Dieng matchup is probably the most appealing among the starting five on the current, available rosters for both teams.

Game 36: Saturday, 1/10, 7pm – San Antonio Spurs @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The champs hit a rough patch in December, losing nine games in a calendar month for the first time in the Tim Duncan era.  However, the Spurs have lit up the Wolves in the two prior meetings this season, scoring 121 and 123 points in each game, respectively.  While the Spurs remain over .500, they can’t afford to fall too far behind in the loaded Southwest division.

Opponent to watch:

Tim Duncan – Enjoy him while you can Wolves’ fans.  You never know when he may finally decide to call it a career.

Wrap-up:

Our Timberpups face a tall task this week, with three games against tough, Western Conference foes.  The ability to stay close to home may provide some stability for the club but this may be an ugly week in the W-L column and in the box scores.  Nevertheless, Go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 95 – Milwaukee Bucks 85

Jim Mone – Associated Press

Tonight’s game from the Target Center featured two of the colder teams in the league.  I don’t mean the weather in their hometowns, but how they were playing coming into the game.  Both teams have been struggling to win games more recently and both teams have been woeful in their respective three point shooting – percentage wise, the worst two teams in the league.

Earlier in the day the Wolves announced that Andrei Kirilenko was going to miss another game due to his back spasms.  As if that weren’t enough, the team also announced that Kevin Love would be a game time decision due to food poisoning.  Love decided to give it a go and the Pups opened up the game with Ridnour, Barea, Howard, Love, and Pekovic.  Barea got the nod tonight over Malcolm Lee in an effort to better match up with the Bucks’ backcourt of Jennings and Ellis.  After ruining 40% of the following sentence, Milwaukee opened up with Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Tobias Harris, John Henson, and Samuel Dalembert.

Early on, both teams looked good on the offensive end of the floor and/or woeful on the defensive side.  John Henson had three offensive rebounds and tip-ins in the first three minutes of the game, largely out-jumping Love on the board.  However, Love had his jumper going, hitting his first two shots, including one from beyond the arc.

A very entertaining 1st quarter ended with the Bucks leading 30-29.  Pekovic had a monster quarter for the Wolves with 12 & 8 playing the entire twelve minutes.  Had I written a summary after the first six minutes, I would have said JJ Barea had a nice quarter, as he had 4 quick assists earlier in the quarter.  However, as soon as Ridnour went to the bench and Barea moved over to PG, he morphed into “pound the ball on the floor and then do something annoying” JJ Barea.  Probably not to anyone’s surprise, the Bucks backcourt combined for 14 points in the quarter.  Also worth noting, Larry Sanders finished the quarter with 6 blocks.  Six!  Granted, there was a flurry of activity that led to a few of these, but that is still impressive.

Both teams took a significant step backwards in the first six minutes of the 2nd quarter.  Going into the first timeout of the quarter, the Wolves had retaken the lead 41-38 and it felt like no one had done much of anything positive in twenty minutes (real time).  Minnesota was able to turn it around in the final minutes of the quarter while also holding Milwaukee to 17 points for the quarter.  At the half, the Pups held a 57-47 lead, which included an off balance three at the buzzer by Barea.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • After poking fun at John Henson in the game preview, it should have been assumed that he would have a nice half (10 & 7, largely from the 1st quarter though)
  • Derrick Williams had a nice half as well, with 4 points and 5 rebounds
  • The Twolves continue to miss too many FT’s, hitting 11 of 16 in the half
  • Love had a nice half but only played 15 minutes – the food poisoning limiting his time on the court

The Wolves opened up the 3rd quarter with the same starting five that began the game and had two bad offensive sets.  On the first, the ball was swung around and Love missed a three pointer.  On the second, Love threw the ball away.  In fact, Love had a really bad quarter which led to the following perspective:

You may never see that again.  In fact, let’s hope we never see that again.

If the 2nd quarter was slow, the 3rd quarter could be defined as sluggish.  With less than three minutes to go in the quarter, the teams combined for 15 points.  The Wolves went over six minutes without scoring a basket in the quarter.  Thankfully, the Bucks weren’t much better.  At the end of the quarter, the Wolves held a 68-63 lead despite scoring 11 points in the quarter.

The 4th quarter came to a halt when Beno Udrih drove to the lane and fell into the baseline cameras.  Udrih rolled his ankle and to be honest, I gagged a little when the Bucks broadcast put the replay in slow motion.  Hope that isn’t too serious for Beno but it wasn’t pretty.

Alexey Shved played quality minutes in the early stages of the 4th quarter, with good team defense and making a few baskets to help maintain the lead.  The sequence of the game came from JJ Barea with just over three minutes to go.  Love, who had another terrible shooting night, missed a jumper but JJ grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked the ball out.  Seconds later, Barea got the ball back and drove to the basked, hitting a runner in the paint to increase the Wolves lead to 11 points.

The Bucks made a small run with a few minutes left to go in the game to cut the lead to 8 points, but Shved answered the Bucks call again with a 27(-ish) foot dagger with the shot clock running down.  From that point, it was just a matter of semantics.  However, kudos must be given to the Bucks’ Larry Sanders, who scored a garbage bucket with seconds remaining to give himself a triple double, with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks.  Wow!

The final score of the game was 95-85, as the Pups did enough to win in the 2nd half with a few key plays and never giving the Bucks too much momentum or confidence to push themselves over the hump.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Nikola Pekovic
  2. Alexey Shved
  3. Larry Sanders

The Twolves are off for the next few days and swing over to the East coast (bias!) for games on Tuesday in Philadelphia and Wednesday in Boston.