Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 6

Flip's the man in charge!  (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

Flip’s the man in charge! (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

 

Setting the stage:

The 4-10 Timberwolves (pending Sunday night’s result in Portland) head into a busy week of action in week 6 – wrapping up a trip to the West Coast in Los Angeles before returning home for two games and heading back on the road to close out the week.  After defeating the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night, the team traveled to Portland for a game on Sunday, only to have to return to Los Angeles for Monday’s game against the Clippers.  Here is a brief preview for each game this week:

Game 16: Monday, 12/1, 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Los Angeles Clippers (TV: FS North)

A back-to-back traveling up and down the coastline with another opponent that is playing really well to start the season.  The Clippers remain a tremendously talented, regular season team that must do more in the playoffs to earn respect around the league.  Chris Paul and Blake Griffin continue to put up big numbers on a nightly basis.

Opponent to watch:

DeAndre Jordan – Assuming Nikola Pekovic doesn’t return for this game, Jordan will likely be a headache for the Wolves.  While Gorgui Dieng provides respectable defense, a lot of his strength is in help defense and not so much in a one-to-one set – yet, at least.  That should come as Dieng continues to become more familiar with the pro game.

Game 17: Wednesday, 12/3, 7pm – Philadelphia 76ers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North Plus)

The Sixers open the week at 0-16 and will likely be 0-17 when they come to Minneapolis, given that they face the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.  The Wolves need to win games like this one for morale and to keep the home fanbase at bay.

Opponent to watch:

Tony Wroten – Wroten leads the Sixers in points, assists and steals per game.  Paging Andrew Wiggins.  Wiggins continues to guard the strongest wing opponent night in and night out and it shouldn’t change when Philly comes to town.

Game 18: Friday, 12/5, 7pm – Houston Rockets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Take a second to go look at divisional standings and how far ahead the Southwest division is vs. all others.  Friday’s game against the Rockets starts a five game stretch of very hard match-ups for the Wolves.  Kevin McHale’s Rockets enter the forthcoming week at 13-4 and have a huge match-up against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Selfishly, please allow me to use this space as another plea to leverage a game against Kevin McHale to break out the original blue uniforms from the Timberwolves early years.

Wolves original blue uniforms picked up at the Target Center during my trip to Minnesota (This is Kevin Love's jersey, not Sam Mitchell, not Donyell Marshall)

Wolves original blue uniforms picked up at the Target Center during my trip to Minnesota
(This is Kevin Love’s jersey, not Sam Mitchell, not Donyell Marshall)

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Paging Mr. Wiggins again!  Harden is having another phenomenal season with a PER just under 24.

Game 19: Saturday, 12/6, 7:30pm – Timberpups @ San Antonio Spurs (TV: FS North)

The second of a back-to-back against the defending champs.  Why not just have this game in Mexico City?  The Spurs blew out the Wolves in Minnesota earlier this season (121-92), largely due to …

Opponent to watch:

Tony Parker – Parker led the Spurs in Minnesota with 28 points on 12-18 shooting.  Mo Williams struggled to contain the Spurs PG as he ran as an efficient of an offense as you will find in the NBA.

Wrap-up:

Week 6 is a very tough week for the Timberwolves, who need to protect the Target Center floor against the Sixers.  The Pups can’t be the first team the Sixers defeat this season.

Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Struggle in Third Quarter, Fall 104-114 to Griffin-less Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have won 16 of their past 18 games, and their momentum didn’t slow when they rolled into Target Center Monday evening.  Both teams lived up to their high-scoring reputations, but in the end Minny ended up on the short end of the 114-104 final score. Kevin Love led the team with 20 points and 13 rebounds. On the other end, Darren Collison exploded with 28 points and seven assists.

Going into the contest, it Minnesota appeared to hold the advantage. The Clippers were playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip, and they were doing so without Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, both out with injuries. The first two minutes were scoreless, and then the Wolves took an early 4-0 lead off a slam dunk and layup by forward Corey Brewer. The good feeling didn’t last, however.

LA point guard Chris Paul told his teammates the following: “Fellas, let’s be who we are. We got who we got, let’s keep the train moving […]. No excuses.”

Wolves_Clips

Despite the Timberwolves being able to make it a competitive game throughout the entire first half, the third quarter proved dismal for the midwest team. The Wolves took a 59-57 lead at the 9:26 mark of the third quarter, but any sense of control was ripped from their grasp. From that point on, Minnesota just could not score. Collison took over, and the Clips went on an unstoppable 31-5 run.

“We just went into the third quarter and it was like we missed every shot we took,” said head coach Rick Adelman. “It’s weird that we scored seven or eight points right off the bat and then we couldn’t score forever. The worst part is that it was like a three-on-two break every single time. It wasn’t like we were making them work. They were just getting layup after layup.”

The Wolves battled back in the fourth quarter, but they were unable to cut the lead to less than eight.  It was actually Minnesota’s reserves that came in and scored 38 points for their team in that final push. Chase Budinger scored 12 points off the bench, and Robbie Hummel and Shabazz Muhammad each added 11.

Nikola Pekovic started the game for the first time in several weeks, but the center played only seven minutes before re-injuring his ankle.  Fortunately for Minnesota, rookie Gorgui Dieng has been playing extremely well since getting his chance to start in mid March. Dieng came in for Pek, and the 24-year old scored 14 points. With Pekovic struggling so consistently with the ankle injury, Wolves fans can expect Dieng to play a major role in the lineup for the remaining games.

Following the game, Love summed up the frustration surrounding the team:

“It’s definitely tough right now. We’ve got to try to finish this thing strong and just try to play well. … We’re a little beat up right now, but we still have to come and play and try to give it our best. But that’s a very good team right there.”

Up next, the Wolves will host Memphis on Wednesday evening. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline Note:

According to NBA.com, with his made free throw at 2:13 in first quarter, Love passed Tom Gugliotta to become the single-season record holder for the Timberwolves. Gugliotta set his record in the 1996-1997 season.

Love has averaged 27.2 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in the three games against the Clippers this season, but he is only averaging 16.5 ppg in the last four games and scored 20+ points for only the second time in the last five games.

 

Wolves at Clippers: A Preview Featuring Trisity Miller

As promised in yesterday’s weekly preview Trisity Miller (@Trisity_) joins the PupsBlog for some insight on tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Miller is a Staff Writer as well as Editor of FullyClips.com, THE Clippers Blog of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network. She had me answer of few of her questions on the Clipper site, read them here.
Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Ricky Rubio drives passed Clippers center DeAndre Jordan

Here’s a few notes.

  • Doc Rivers is now head coach, he’s called for the removal of Laker banners in the Staples Center during Clipper home games.

“This is our arena when we play,” when asked about the banners. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them (Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

  • The Clippers offense ranks first in the league in points per game — they’re piling 110 on their opponents
  • The Wolves played last night, the Clips didn’t, we’ll see how playing on back-to-back nights affects them despite not having to travel between games.

Here’s a few questions I asked Miller via Email.

How, if it’s possible, do you stop the Clippers?
Slow the pace down and make them beat you in the half-court. Judging a team based on their performance against the defending champions in Miami isn’t smart, but it revealed a lot of holes in this team. Scoring and defending in the half-court is their biggest weakness as it has been for the past two years. Improvement is happening due to Doc Rivers putting his touch on the offense. Also getting Jordan, Paul or Griffin is one heck of a way to slow this team down. Neither have replacements that can come in and keep up wait they started. That’s a huge change compared to last season.
What, if any, are Chris Paul’s weaknesses?
Knowing when to cut the scoring switch on. I don’t like to call him a pass-first point guard like Ricky Rubio and he definitely isn’t a score-first point like a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. He sits somewhere in the middle. But there are moments where the Clippers need a guy to take over the game. We saw him do it against Houston and Golden State. The Clippers needed that Chris Paul last night. Once he figures that out he’ll be as sound a player as there is in the league.
How does having Hall of Fame coach Doc Rivers chance the attitude in the locker room compared to last season?
On the outside looking in, this group seems to take more pride in what they’re doing now. The fun is still there, but there’s now a sense of knowing now is the time for the Clippers to win. The biggest change is the approach that DeAndre Jordan is taking to the game. He’s coming along on the defensive end, but there’s a change in the way he’s taken to being the defensive leader of this team. A sense of entitlement and a dose of confidence is what I’m seeing, something that Vinny Del Negro never helped him develop. He’s taking responsibility when the good and bad happens and knows that without quality defense from him his team can’t contend late into June.
What were expectations for offseason acquisition J.J. Redick prior to the season? Is he meeting, exceeding or below them at this point?
Redick was expected to come in and provide a dimension to the Los Angeles Clippers that the shell of Chauncey Billups couldn’t add. And he’s blown those expectations out of the water. For years all we as fans wanted from J.J. Redick was to see him on a team that wasn’t a bottom-dweller. Now that he’s on a championship contending team everyone sees why people felt that way. His shooting alone is a dynamic that helps those around him, but his off-the-ball work is what makes him a step up from being “just a shooter”. Most shooters you don’t want dribbling the ball. Redick’s the opposite as he’s an underrated pick-and-roll player and passer. And defensively he’s a million times better than Billups. Come playoff time defenses are going to absolutely loath him.
How good would Jamal Crawford fit on the Wolves? Or is Kevin Martin doing a good enough from from your perspective?
Crawford would fit well in a reserve role while Kevin Martin meshes perfectly with the Minny starters. Martin’s ability to move off the ball, draw fouls at a reasonable rate and knock down the three-pointer is something Wolves fans will love. Crawford is a frustrating player to watch all while being enjoyable at the same time, similar to J.R. Smith but without the shenanigans. The isolations are cool to watch, but Crawford often struggles to realize that there’s a time and a place to do that.
If you’re starting a franchise, do you pick Kevin Love or Blake Griffin as your power forward?
As much as Blake Griffin has improved this isn’t even close. I’m going with Kevin Love. There was once a point where I got a David Lee-esque feel from KL, but he’s blown that comparison out of the water. I will say this. Neither are bad options, but looking at Love’s skill set and where the NBA is currently heading a big that can hit the boards like no other and spread the floor is the new wave. If Blake Griffin can begin knocking down the 15-footer with confidence and consistency then the gap closes up due to him being able to affect the defensive end more due to his athleticism. But since that hasn’t come into fruition yet, Love’s the guy.
Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Blake Griffin dunks in warmups before the Clippers meeting with the Miami Heat

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Kevin Love leads the league in rebounding and is second only to Kevin Durant in points per game thus far this season.

Miller is good stuff and churns out content like a machine for FullyClips and the other sites she’s involved with. On behalf of Timberpups I’d just like to take a moment to give thanks for the time she spent on this preview, as well as help with editing in the past (and probably the future).
If you’re a writer who covers an upcoming Wolves opponent and would like to participate in our previews, shoot me an email or DM — Zwbd333@gmail.com or @ZacharyBD. If you have any questions about an upcoming opponent feel free to DM or mention myself, Alex, John, Lindsey or the PupsBlog twitter (@timberpupsblog) with those. Also, we’re not opposed to fan posts — if you’re a regular reader here at the PupsBlog, we’d love to hear your opinions pertaining to our favorite team.
Photos are from the Clippers and Wolves team sites and can be found in appropriate photo archives.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 1/30/13

rickyrubio_blakegriffinFor the third time this season and for the second time in two weeks, the Timberwolves will be playing the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.  The game begins a much needed, six game home stretch for the Pups as they look to right the ship that sails into the second half of the season.

The good news: it looks like Rick Adelman will be returning to the sidelines for the Pups!  The team was 2-9 during his extended absence in January to be with his ailing wife.  Let’s just say that it is good to have Coach Adelman on the sidelines.

Bonus good news: Pekovic and Shved returned to practice this week and may be available to start this stretch of home games!  Please cross your fingers.

The bad news: The Wolves have been beaten by the Clippers in each of their meetings this season, with the latter game on 1/17 being a complete dress-down for the Pups.  The only reason that game was remotely close (90-77) is because the Clippers looked like they took a few minutes off from time to time.

Player to watch:

Ricky Rubio – Rubio had his best performance of the season on Saturday night in Charlotte, finishing a game high +23 for the evening with 14 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals.  Let’s build on this!  Hopefully, Ricky is becoming more comfortable with his legs and his teammates so that we can start to see more of these types of performances much more frequently.  (Side note: the team desperately needs them.)

Match-up to watch:

Andrei Kirilenko vs. Caron Butler.  Without knowing who is in and who is out at the time of writing (Monday night) here is the match-up to watch.  Caron had a miserable performance against the Wolves back on 11/28, going 1-8 from the field for 2 points.  However, Andrei missed that game due to injury.  Two weeks ago Butler fared a little bit better with 12 points and putting in a few rebounds and assists going against AK47.  That said, Kirilenko got the better of him, finishing the game with 15 points on 7-12 shooting and adding in 5 rebounds and 4 steals.

Predictions:

With the return of Coach Adelman and the extended break between games, I say the Pups take Wednesday night’s game at home against the Clippers!

Final score prediction: Twolves 104, Clippers 97

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Blake Griffin

Let’s go Wolves!

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Clippers (1/17/13)

blakegriffin_chrispaulSetting the stage:

The Pups return home to the Target Center for Thursday night’s game against the LA Clippers.  As an added bonus, TNT will be carrying the game to a national audience.  When TNT picked this game up, I wonder if they thought the Twolves would be down to approximately eight healthy bodies, no Kevin Love, and an extremely limited Ricky Rubio.  I doubt it.

Minnesota is coming off a dreadful road trip losing all four games in a particularly ugly fashion.  The locker room also has the flu bug going around it, so we probably won’t know who is going to be available for the team and who isn’t until minutes before the opening tip.  While Rick Adelman stopped by the team on Wednesday, it does not sound like he plans on joining them on the sidelines just yet, leaving Terry Porter in the driver’s seat.

Back in late November, the Pups lost to the Clippers in LA 101-95.  Around that time, it was kosher to poke fun at how the Clippers were playing well, but were still a team coached by Vinny Del Negro.  In fact, I may have done that in our preview prior to the game.  Fast forward to mid-January and the Clippers are once again proving me wrong, holding the second best record in the league at 30-9 and percentage points behind OKC for the top spot in the conference.

It must be nice to have your star players at full health all season and players being able to fill the roles that they are supposed to be in, not trying to make them into something they’re not.  Chris Paul and Blake Griffin obviously lead the way here, but the team is getting solid contributions on the wing from Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Caron Butler.  Throw in the continued maturity of DeAndre Jordan and there you have it, a 30-9 team battling with the best in the league.

Player to watch:

Chris Paul – Paul killed the Pups back in late November and no one should be surprised if it happens again Thursday night.  What little chance of a letdown the Twolves faithful might be hoping for from a top team coming into Minnesota is likely nullified by the game being broadcast on TNT.  Get ready for the pre and post game interviews with Paul (or Blake) and all the nausea that comes with it from the studio.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. DeAndre Jordan.  These two played to about a draw in November, with Pek going for 11 & 10 and 4 fouls in almost 33 minutes of action, while Jordan went for 15 & 6 and 4 fouls in just under 27 minutes.  I expect more of the same from these two heavyweights Thursday night.  Quite honestly, the only way the Pups win this game is with Pekovic having a career-like performance on both ends of the floor.

Predictions:

Despite the two days off, the Twolves are in a slide and I don’t see how having the second best team in the league coming to town helps the situation.

Final score prediction: Twolves 92, Clippers 106

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Chris Paul
  2. Jamal Crawford
  3. Andrei Kirilenko

Let’s go Wolves!