Luke Ridnour Trade Ideas

Luke Ridnour Being Shopped?

luke-ridnourI hopped on to trusty old ESPN today and read a little rumor about the Wolves shopping Cool Hand Luke around. According to ESPN, the Jazz, Celtics and Mavericks may be interested in our steady Point Guard.  As much as I like Ridnour, I concluded that it would be smart to analyze a few trade scenarios in order to find potential ways of improving our team as a whole.

Luke’s contract: 2 years with roughly $4,000,000 per year

Utah Jazz: 

There are three players that could realistically work (I wish Hayward, but no way); Randy Foye (1 yr $2,500,000), Raja Bell (1 yr $3,480,000), and Alec Burks (3 yrs and $6,330,000).

FoyeThe only player that would work straight up is Bell; the others would take a little extra…maybe some cash considerations.  I would not be overly excited for any of these three, but I would think Foye is the best of them.  He has become a better player since we last saw him in a Wolves uniform and he would bring a 3 point shooter we desperately need. Bell is more known for his defensive services, which is never a bad thing, but we need more than defense. Similarly, Bell and Foye are under the final year of their contract, which is nice to free up cap space for re-signing Pek, which I believe that we should!  I have not gotten the opportunity to see Burks play much since being a lottery pick a few years ago, but his shooting this season has been less than adequate. However, he has turned things on this month and has seen his percentages grow incrementally.  He has not had many minutes until this month, so appears likely that he is being showcased to the rest of the teams of the NBA.

Overall, my choice for a trade, need it be with Utah, would be Randy Foye. He is a scorer who knows how to play, can handle the ball, and only has one year left on his deal providing the Wolves with more flexibility.

Boston Celtics:

The Celtics are trickier; I would say the Wolves most likely target player is Jason Terry (3 yrs $5,000,000/yr)

The trade would work out financially while bringing the Wolves a compatible player for our offense. However, his lack of size, relatively large salary and aging body worry me.  I have long been a big fan of his offensive skill set as he has proven the ability to hit the 3-ball time and time again. However, he appears to be in steady decline as his 3PT% currently sits at .357%, which is his worst 3PT% since his last season with the Hawks back in ‘03-‘04.  His contract is an issue, as it takes up more cap space for a longer period then Ridnour, and while Terry can man the 2-guard position (which is by far our greatest need), he is 35 and only stands at 6’2”.Terry

If it were my decision, I would pull the trigger on Terry if he were to become available.  We would need to run with undersized lineups more frequently, but the presence of the veteran Terry could bring a refreshing change to our backcourt.  It could also allow Shved to start with Rubio and we would have two scoring threats in the backcourt off of the bench.

Dallas Mavericks:

As I examine the Mavericks roster, I notice only two players that a trade for Ridnour would financially work for, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter.  Since I have no belief that the Mavs would trade Mayo for Ridnour, I will not even bother to speculate.  Carter (2 yrs $3,090,000/yr) is the scoring SG/SF we need who has even improved his defense over the past few seasons while possessing veteran accumen.  Carter is currently 36 years of age, but fills multiple needs and is even cheaper than Ridnour.

VinceI would be very enthusiastic should the Wolves somehow land one of Mark Cuban’s favorite veterans. Carter has everything we need (minus the age) and is not a huge expense.  It will bring almost another million to the table come summer and he still can throw it down when Rubio sends a lob his way.

 

If the Wolves were to trade Ridnour (who I would hate to see go), I would be most excited towards acquiring one of Foye, Terry or Carter.  It is never fun to see a player like Ridnour depart, but his leaving may bring the necessary depth at SG or SF we desperately lack in order to effectively compete in the Western Conference.

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

 

Minnesota Timberwolves 92, Houston Rockets 79

Newly signed Timberpup Chris Johnson received "M-V-P" chants from a Timberwolves fan base in need of optimism (Photo credit; David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Newly signed Timberpup Chris Johnson received “M-V-P” chants from a Timberwolves fan base in need of optimism (Photo credit; David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Game Summary

What a difference a few more healthy bodies can make. Coming into the Target Center on a 5-game losing streak, the Timberwolves fended off a slumping Houston Rockets team that has now lost 7 straight games. Playing without Dante Cunningham (illness), Alexey Shved (left ankle sprain) and Nikola Pekovic (right thigh contusion), the Wolves saw huge contributions from newly signed players Mikael Gelabale and Chris Johnson, both of which recently received 10-day contracts to fill in for the numerous injured bodies the Pups have this season.

The Timberwolves got in front early thanks to some poor shooting by the Rockets. After scoring 30 points in his previous matchup against the Pups, James Harden was ice cold last night and was 5 for 18 from the field, including a miserable 0 of 7 from three. Given a mismatch playing opposite of Timberwolves starting SG Luke Ridnour, Harden was unable to use his size advantage to exploit the 6-foot-2 Ridnour. To the Timberwolves credit, they did a very good job helping on defense and effectively neutralized the Rockets’ new superstar.

Leaving his Spanish league team in Valencia, Spain, Mikael Gelabale played 21 minutes in his first game for the Timberwolves and did what was asked of him despite not being familiar with the offensive or defensive sets. The long and athletic French small forward previously played two seasons for the Seattle Supersonics before a torn ACL suspended his NBA career. With Minnesota more injury-riddled than ever, the swingman was once again given an opportunity to earn an NBA contract and I have to say he made a good case for a rest of year contract with his performance last night. Gelabale finished his Wolves debut with 11 points on 3-6 shooting, 4 rebounds and 1 assist without turning the ball over.

Ricky Rubio was able to contribute 30 minutes last night, which marks the most minutes he has played in a game this season. Having Ricky on the floor for the fourth quarter drastically improves the Pups’ ability to manage games, and a few torn knee ligaments were not enough to take away from his late-game poise. It is still blatantly obvious that Rubio’s knee is continuing to give him trouble in his acceleration and on his cuts, but he is undoubtedly improving. If Ricky can avoid any setbacks and get back to nearly full strength following the All-Star break, I completely believe that the playoffs are by no means out of reach. Tricky Ricky ended the night with 7 points on 1-3 shooting, 6 assists, 1 rebound and 2 turnovers.

Facing against a weak opposing frontcourt due to Omer Asik being in foul trouble, Minnesota’s starting frontcourt of Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma played very strong defense holding Houston’s starting frontcourt to only 5 points. Stiemsma, a defensive specialist, was +20 on the floor and contributed 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in nearly 22 minutes. Williams was inconsistent on the offensive end and highlighted his struggles finishing at the rim with a missed layup in transition that infuriated the Pups’ coaching staff. However, he did provide 11 points and 5 rebounds and was +12 on the floor. Williams’ inability to finish at the rim continues to baffle anyone who watches the Wolves play, and I simply do not understand why someone so athletic and coordinated cannot get the ball in the hoop from 5 feet and in. Relatively speaking, Williams’ problems are not as concerning as other problems he may have in his transition to the NBA game, because I think that with time it is totally fixable. In the meantime, his struggles around the rim are hurting the Timberwolves chances in closer games, and he needs to begin to knock down his high percentage chances if the Wolves are to make a legitimate run at the playoffs.

Last night saw huge performances from both Andrei Kirilenko and……Chris Johnson?! Yeah, I was just as shocked as everyone else watching last night by the play from the virtually unknown D-Leaguer who recently signed a 10-day contract with Minnesota. For those who did not see the game, Johnson reminds me of an Anthony Randolph without the “sad dog” face. Standing at 6-foot-11 and weighing in at a thin 220ish pounds, Johnson is very athletic and showed off his bounce with some very fun-to-watch slam dunks coming off screens and off offensive rebounds. Despite his lack of great strength, he held his own on defense and literally brought Minnesota fans to their feet on multiple occasions last night. I am excited to see his next game, because I hate getting overly optimistic from such a small sample size. Regardless, last night’s performance was encouraging to say the least. Oh yeah, and he even received a “M-V-P” chant during a pair of free throws.

Keys of the game

  • Personal Fouls - Houston 29, MN 19: Foul trouble was a big factor in the second half, especially the third period as Minnesota was in the penalty for much of the third period and took advantage of their chances at the free throw line. As a team, the Pups shot 29 for 36 from the charity stipe, good for 81%. After having a big night against the Timberwolves in the previous matchup of the two teams, Rockets center Omer Asik had a very quiet night due to foul trouble which limited him to just under 16 minutes of playing time. And although the Wolves did not have Nikola Pekovic in the lineup to take advantage of Asik being on the bench, newcomer Chris Johnson contributed a tremendous debut performance on both ends of the floor.
  • Turnovers – Houston 20, MN 15: Too many unforced errors for the Rockets who are clearly out of rhythm offensively in the midst of a 7-game slide. With James Harden struggling to produce offensively, there has been increased strain on secondary players to make plays, which has in turn led to too many turnovers. As Ricky Rubio continues to get stronger and play more minutes, the Pups have done an increasingly better job of securing the basketball and making smarter passes.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Chris Johnson: Johnson was the spark that fueled not only the Timberwolves players, but also a home crowd that was in desperate need of optimism. In a home environment that almost sounded eerily quiet at times, Johnson gave Minnesotans a reason to stand up and scream due to his emphatic slam dunks and timely defense. Although it was only one game, Johnson gave the Timberwolves a reason to smile. In only 18 minutes played, the big man out of LSU recorded 15 points on 4-4 shooting (7-8 FT), 6 rebounds and 1 block.
  2. Andrei Kirilenko: It is very difficult to properly put into words what AK-47 has meant to this ballclub this season. With a track record for being injury-prone, Kirilenko has been the team’s rock and most consistent player up to this point in the season. AK held opposing SF Chandler Parsons to 7 points on 2-10 shooting, while netting 21 points on 8-11 shooting with 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in 42 minutes.
  3. Luke Ridnour: Ridnour has seen big improvement in his game ever since being moved to starting SG with Rubio starting alongside him at PG. It is very evident that at this point in his career, Luke is much more suited to play the SG position. In 36 minutes, he finished with 16 points on 6-13 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves 77, Los Angeles Clippers 90

Love game winnerGame Summary

(We didn’t have the opportunity to see a repeat performance of the lead picture here, so let’s live in the past for a few seconds!  Man that was a fun night!)

The Timberwolves returned home for Thursday night’s game against the LA Clippers, arriving with a four game losing streak in tow.  The Clippers came in with a two game winning streak and holding the second best record in the league.  Adding a little bit of drama (see what I’m doing there?) to tonight’s game, Kevin Harlan returned to the Target Center to call Thursday’s game for TNT’s national broadcast!

There were a few changes to the starting lineup for the Pups this evening.  This is likely due to a number of factors: able bodies, terrible losses, some type of spark being needed.  The Wolves opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  Prior to tipoff, the Clippers announced that Chris Paul would miss his third straight game.  The Clippers opened up with Eric Bledsoe, Willie Green, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.

The first quarter was flying by as the first timeout wasn’t called until there were under five minutes left to go in the period.  The Wolves found themselves down 14-9.  Unfortunately, and stop me if you have heard this before, the team struggled to hit a jump shot.  The four offensive rebounds the team already collected to that point couldn’t make up for the 4-16 (25%) shooting.

After the TO, the Pups went 3-5 from the field to cut the Clippers lead to two points, 19-17.  This was preceded by a few nice defensive plays in the paint by DWill, including a blocked shot that led to a layup, which forced the Clippers to burn a TO.  DWill clearly plays better with Rubio on the floor and while they both struggled shooting the ball, they were clearly very active.  Pekovic also struggled from the floor, going 0-5 while not getting to the line.  Clearly, he wasn’t paying attention to my comments in the preview.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Clippers held a 27-22 lead.

The Pups opened up the 2nd quarter in a rut, as the Clip-Joint went on an 8-2 run and opened up a 35-24 lead, forcing Terry Porter to burn another TO.  There were too many easy buckets for the Clippers and the Wolves fell back into “another” shooting slump.  Somehow (read: the Clippers taking a few minutes off), the Twolves slowly made a comeback to cut the lead to three points with less than two minutes to play in the half.  However, with a chance to cut the lead to one, Rubio missed a wide open layup and then turned the ball over the next time down the court, leading to a Jamal Crawford three pointer.

With the last possession of the half, Ridnour had a chance to cut the lead to one possession and missed a floater.  At halftime, the Clippers held a 47-43 lead.  Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • That missed layup and TO from Rubio felt like a major opportunity lost and seemed to deflate the building a bit.
  • Help might be on the way for the Wolves, as the expected signing of Mickael Gelabale might become official tomorrow when Lazar Hayward’s contract runs out.  Thanks to Jon K on this one …

To be perfectly honest, for the first few minutes of the 3rd quarter I found myself just listening to Kevin Harlan and Mike Fratello.  For the record, that is a complement to Harlan and Fratello.  I usually find myself trying to drain out the noise of the broadcast but really enjoy listening to the two of them.  In any case, the Wolves and Clippers went back and forth for the first six minutes but the home team continued to trail.

With less than four minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, TNT panned to the Pups bench.  Sadly, what they were showing was Pekovic walking to the locker room with a trainer.  Seriously?!  Seriously.  Pek was injured when he fell to the floor after being tied up with Griffin.  Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.  Before the end of the quarter, it was reported that Pek had a right quad contusion and his return was questionable.  (He never returned to the court.)

For the first time in at least a week (Atlanta game on 1/8?), the Wolves played a pretty decent 3rd quarter and kept the game well within striking distance.  Going into the 4th quarter, the Clips led 68-63.

File this under “this is really getting depressing”: Halfway through the 4th quarter Alexey Shved came down on Lamar Odom’s foot wrong and twisted his ankle.  Shved walked directly to the locker room after the play and didn’t return.  I’m relatively positive this season must be the last piece of bad karma from the Joe Smith signing.

By the way, the Pups fell apart in the 4th quarter and it is hard to find a reason to blame them for doing so.  If the building wasn’t deflated after Pek’s injury, it certainly was after Shved left the game.  The Clippers outscored the Wolves 22-14 in the 4th to pull away and win, 90-77.  The loss was the Pups 5th in a row and there are many more questions right now than answers.  We’ll see what the injury report looks like for Saturday’s game in Houston.

Keys of the Game

  • Nikola Pekovic – Pekovic was having one of his weakest games of the season, shooting 1-8 for 4 points.  Then he went down in the 3rd quarter and didn’t return.
  • Shooting – I’m “dumbing” this down to the most basic summary feasible.  You aren’t going to win many games when you shoot 36% from the field, 21% (4-19) from 3PT range, and 65% (13-20) from the FT line.  All systems are broken right now.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jamal Crawford – Led the Clippers in scoring with 22 points, with a few rebounds, assists, and steals sprinkled in.
  2. Blake Griffin – While by no means dominant, Griffin had a decent game with 20 points and decent defense.
  3. Luke Ridnour – Moved over to the SG position tonight with Rubio at PG and looked much more comfortable.  Finished with 21 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds.

Minnesota Timberwolves 91 – Cleveland Cavaliers 73

Friday night’s game against the Cavs was set up perfectly for the Timberwolves – they had an off night the day before to rest after their quick trip to the East coast.  They also don’t play again until next Wednesday.  Therefore, it was an opportune time to try to get AK47 back on the court to test his back.  The time off after this game was a good reason to keep Ricky Rubio off the court for one more night.  As an aside, I fully expect the Unicorn to be in action next week and the Wolves announcers did virtually nothing to temper those expectations.

The Wolves starting five consisted of Ridnour, Lee, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  The Cavs opened up with Jeremy Pargo, Boobie Gibson (sorry, had to), Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao.  As expected, the Cavs were without Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving.  “Supremely overconfident” could be used to best describe how I felt about this game and the Wolves getting the win.

The Mayans might be right because I actually had this one correct.  Less than three minutes into the game and this felt appropriate:

Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour led the way for the Pups with real strong first quarters.  Love finished with 15 points and 4 rebounds, while Luke did a little bit of everything – 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 points, and 1 steal.  (Given it is December, here’s the obligatory “and a partridge in a pear tree” wit.)  The Wolves had a nine point lead (25-16) after the quarter and it didn’t really feel that close at all.  The only watch-out worth mentioning is the continuation of sub-par free throw shooting, with the team going 7-11 in the quarter.

At the beginning of the game, Jim Pete offered up his three keys to the game and they all had to do with “2nd” stages; “2nd chance points”, “2nd half performance” and “2nd effort”.  Unfortunately, that second one should or could have said “2nd quarter woes” as the team struggled once again in the quarter.  The Cavs were able to cut the lead to a single point about half way through the quarter.  Going into a timeout, it was time for Adelman to bring back a few starters as the second unit was not working, putting up only 2 points in the quarter with several minutes already gone by.

After the Cavs tied the game at 35, the Pups woke up and finished the quarter on a 9-2 run to go into the half with a 44-37 lead.  Thank goodness for Kevin Love and his 20 points because no one else on the Wolves was scoring.  The second leading scorer for the team at the half was Ridnour with 6 points.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Pekovic and Varejao were both scoreless in the half.  That deserves a kudos to both guys’ efforts on the defensive end
  • Paging healthy wings … the Pups were 1-11 from three point range in the half
  • Paging a FT consultant to come into practice over the weekend; the Wolves were 13-19 in the half.  They continue to get there but continue to struggle from the line
  • Alonzo Gee had 8 points at the half but was a -9 in +/- for the half and did virtually nothing else on the court.  However, he’s the biggest call-out for the Cavs at half time.  This is going to be another tough sports season for Cleveland

The Wolves built their lead going into the first time out of the 3rd quarter, finally getting to the fifty point mark, while still holding the Cavs to under forty points.  Luke Ridnour continued to impress with a few assists that gave AK47 a few easy buckets in the early minutes.  This was just as much about Kirilenko’s ability to see the court and be in the right spot at the right time.

Aside from when the Wolves were running in transition, it was surprising at how little they went into the paint to feed Kevin Love.  They tried to feed Pekovic quite a bit, but it wasn’t working against Varejao.  Conversely, Love owned Tristan Thompson when given the opportunity to post up.  This really could have and should have been a set play every trip down the floor when they ran the half court offense.

At the end of the 3rd, the Wolves maintained their nine point lead, 66-57.  This wasn’t exactly a free flowing, offensive game by any stretch of the imagination.  The Cavs were shooting 34% from the field, while the Wolves were at a 42% clip.  Love already collected his double-double for the evening with a quarter to go, finishing the 3rd with 30 & 10.  The only Cavs player worth noting (sorry Cleveland fans) was Alonzo Gee, who had several highlight reel dunks in the quarter and leading the Cavs with 16 points.

The 4th quarter got a little interesting as the Cavs cut the lead to just six points.  However, similar to every other run that was made the Pups were able to answer with their own small run to increase the lead to right around double digits.  As the quarter wore on, the Cavs wore down.  The Wolves built the lead thanks to … well, frankly, the same players that you’ve read about multiple times throughout this summary + JJ Barea.

I don’t have evidence of this, but I feel like JJ plays under more control when he’s on the floor with AK47.  This may just be Kirilenko’s overall presence on the game and the team.  He simply makes the game look easy and makes everyone else look that much better.  AK’s final line of the night is quite impressive: 8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.  Seriously?

The final score of the game was 91-73 with the Wolves continuing to run away with the game as the minutes wound down in the final quarter.  This was a good team win against a team that the Pups should beat and need to beat if they have playoff aspirations.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Kevin Love
  2. Andrei Kirilenko
  3. Luke Ridnour

Minnesota Timberwolves 90 – Dallas Mavericks 82

Photo Credits: SunHerald.com

Somehow, some way, the Minnesota Timberwolves continue to win games. Following yesterdays news that SF Chase Budinger suffered a lateral torn meniscus in his left knee, the Wolves suffered yet another key injury in the third quarter of tonight’s matchup in Dallas as Nikola Pekovic suffered a sprained left ankle in the third quarter and was unable to return. On top of that, JJ Barea and Brandon Roy were unavailable tonight with day-to-day injuries, and Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will be missed until approximately mid-December. Despite all of the adversity, the Timberpups gave a gutsy performance and went on to take one from the Dallas Mavericks on the road, winning by a score of 90-82.

Before leaving the game in the mid-third quarter with a sprained left ankle, Nikola Pekovic was the focus of Minnesota’s offense as he scored 20 points (8-13 FG) while racking up 6 boards and posting a game-high +21 on the floor. Pek made mincemeat out of the defense brought by Dallas centers Chris Kaman, Brandan Wright, and Bernard James, and used a bevvy of post moves to near perfection. He has elevated his post game to a superior level of intelligence and proficiency, and although he stated that his ankle is fine and that he should be ready for Wednesday’s matchup against Charlotte, the thought of losing Pek for any amount of time remains very concerning.

As the Timberwolves were once again without second unit PG Barea, Luke Ridnour was called upon to be a major part of the offense – and he answered effectively. Ridnour did not play his best game, but he did enough on both sides of the court to get the better end of a tough matchup against Darren Collison. Ridnour finished the game with 12 points (3-9 FG, 2-5 3PFG), 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and an impressive 4 steals in 37 minutes of play.

The chemistry between Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko was extremely evident tonight, as both players were crucial to tonight’s victory. Shved, coming off the bench as one of the Pups primary reserve players, was vital in the fourth quarter due to his defense and playmaking abilities on the offensive end. Shved reminded me a lot of Rubio tonight, as he scored 16 points on just 3-12 shooting, but was able to effectively change the flow of the game with an intangible presence that seemed to guide the team during crunch time. He was very smart with the ball and dished out 5 assists to pair with 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, and only 2 turnovers in 33 minutes of action. The Toni Kukoc look-alike got it done at the free throw line as he sunk 9 of his 11 attempts, and did a very good job attacking the rim and not settling for poor looks. I cannot say enough about Shved and I dream of the day that we are able to witness him paired in the backcourt with Ricky.

What can I say about AK-47 that I do not say about him every time I write a game summary. The thing that astounds me about Kirilenko is his consistency on a game-by-game basis. It seems as if he ends with the same stat line every night, and his presence is felt on almost every possession that he is in the game for. The defense that he brings coupled with his poise and veteran acumen on offense has effectively guided this team to where they are now. Although he is a forward, he has been the “quarterback” for the Timberwolves and continuously creates opportunities for his teammates to be successful. At 31, AK-47 is as wise as he ever was and is as physically nimble and elegant as during even his best years for the Jazz. If MVP was to be voted on right now, I truly believe that Kirilenko would get votes. Now that is saying something.

Before tonight, Dallas was previously averaging 116 points per game on their home floor. However, things did not go as swimmingly against the T-wolves as they combined to shoot a miserable 29-80 as a team from the field. Minnesota played tough, scrappy defense as a unit, but were not the reason behind Dallas’ 4-16 from three-point range. The Mavs missed far too many wide-open looks in a game that was well within reach, and they were unable to gain any momentum when the Wolves continued to do them favors following Pekovic’s injury.

Dante Cunningham continues to bring the Wolves a much needed lift off the bench and posted another solid line of 14 points (6-9 FG), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and a mere 1 turnover in an efficient 33 minutes for the Pups. Cunningham has thrived in his role in the offense and continues to knock down top of the key and mid-range jumpers off the pick-and-roll. He looks extremely comfortable with what is being asked of him and continues to build on his previous performances. Although his game is not the sexiest, it is of intangible value to the Pups.

With Cunningham thriving, Derrick Williams appears to be in Rick Adelman’s doghouse. Despite starting tonight, D-Will logged only 12 minutes and attempted only 2 FG in that short span of time. His only points of the night came on a spectacular first-quarter reverse slam that wowed the Dallas crowd, and I believed that it would be enough to loosen up the former number-2 pick to have a decent ballgame. However, Williams made a few mental mistakes and looked lost on defense, and Adelman held very little patience for the Arizona product. With Cunningham playing well, Williams saw very little time beyond the first half.

With Williams struggling, it opened the door for Lou Amundson to see his highest single-game minutes as a Pup. In 15 minutes, Amundson worked his tail off defending the much bigger and stronger Kaman, and I am pleased with what he was able to provide in relief. Although he failed to score a point, Amundson grabbed 3 rebounds and was a +3 on the floor.

Malcolm Lee made his first start of the season and logged 22 minutes, scoring 4 points on 2-6 shooting while grabbing 3 rebounds. Lee made a game-securing steal on OJ Mayo at the end of the game, but was otherwise a neutral force in this one. I do like what Lee has shown thus far in his career, and I do believe that he is competent enough defensively to have a future as a serviceable backup combo guard.

Finally, Greg Stiemsma and Will Conroy each received very limited time on the floor tonight. Stiemsma, who has been very effective thus far, committed 4 fouls in only 8 minutes and was left out of the rotation for the second half. Conroy made a single free throw in 4 minutes and was otherwise a non-contributor.

When breaking down the team numbers, the Wolves were able to outrebound the Mavericks 49-35, and much of it was due to the outhustling of the Mavs frontcourt by the Pups bigs. Although shot-blocking was a tremendous need for Minnesota last season, it has been a major plus this year and the Wolves out-blocked Dallas 7-2. All of this was vital for Minnesota, and was enough to overcome the Wolves 17 turnovers compared to only 8 for Dallas.

More will be known on the extent of Pekovic’s injury tomorrow, and he will most likely be questionable heading into Wednesday nights home matchup against Charlotte. All in all, great win for the Pups. Get well soon, Wolves nation. Here are tonight’s three stars of the game.

  1. Andrei Kirilenko
  2. Luke Ridnour
  3. Alexey Shved