Minnesota Timberwolves 90 – Orlando Magic 75

Photo Credits: Orlando Sentinel

For the first time this season, I got to see the Timberwolves from beginning to end with the electricity and cable back in my section of NJ.  Thanks to Big Al for running the show here to begin the season.

Given tonight’s impressive win, barring anymore weather-related problems, I’m committing to Game Recaps until the Wolves lose.  We’ll look to continue the streak this coming Friday.  Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look back at another strong performance from the Wolves.

The Twolves opened the game with the same starting five leveraged in the first few games – Ridnour, Roy, AK47, DWill, and Pekovic.  The Magic starting five consisted of Moore, Afflalo, McRoberts, Davis, and Vucevic.  In other words, the Magic were playing without Jameer Nelson in the lineup, which immediately increased my confidence in a Wolves win about five-fold.

With that still fresh in mind, the Wolves jumped out to an early 13-6 lead going into the first timeout.  By that time, everyone in the starting five was in the books with at least a point.  Williams and Kirilenko looked very active to start the game.  In fact, Derrick must have been aware that it was my time to put together the game recap, as he had a very strong start – active hands on defense, running the floor, and hitting his first 3-pointer of the season.

After the first quarter, the Twolves more than doubled up the Magic, leading 25-12 on 67% shooting.  Brandon Roy had a very nice quarter, leading the team with 5 rebounds and 3 assists, to go with 3 points.  The only ‘negative’ you could say about the opening quarter is that in the final few minutes, the Wolves turned the ball over a couple more times and closed the quarter with 5 TO’s.  That’s still too many, but the Magic were not able to do much with it, shooting 6-21 from the field for a putrid 29%.

The Wolves opened the second quarter with AK47 and the second string rotation – Barea, Budinger, Cunningham, and Stiemsma.  This rotation, along with Shved (who entered the game early in the second quarter) is night and day compared to last year’s squad and full of active bodies to keep this team afloat while the franchise players recuperate from their injuries.  The quarter started with a lot of ball movement.  Unfortunately, the ball rarely moved through the hoop, as the Wolves remained scoreless for the first four plus minutes.  The team fired up a number of three pointers and the scoring drought finally ended with Chase hitting 1 of 2 FT’s.  It actually wasn’t until after six minutes had past in the quarter that the Wolves got a bucket – a pretty, driving layup from Shved, who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Wolves.

At halftime, the Pups led 38-34, with the Magic outscoring the home team by nine in the second quarter.  To put it nicely, that wasn’t a pretty second quarter of basketball at all.  The Wolves shooting dramatically declined and sunk to 43% for the half, while the team continues to miss FT’s, only making 6 of 11.  Here are a few miscellaneous notes from the first half with my Wolves lens:

  • AK47 – worth every penny
  • Barea – when he doesn’t have his shot going, he needs to be given a quick hook to remind him to play within the offense.  This is one of the most important aspects of Rubio’s return where the team won’t have to rely heavily on Barea as a true PG and more of a sparkplug.
  • Stiemsma – a very solid backup 5 for this team, bringing a different presence to the position vs. Pekovic, protecting the rim and knocking guys and/or the ball around underneath the basket.

The Twolves started the third quarter with another run, increasing the lead back to double digits with a 13-6 run and forcing a TO from the Magic.  This included two three-pointers from Ridnour and another from DWill.  Adelman must have told the locker room to get the ball to Pekovic down low as that was a glaring shortfall in the first half and a focal point of the offense in the third quarter.  Within a few minutes there were two big highlights: First, a beautiful follow-up dunk from DWill off of a missed jump shot, and second, Pekovic introducing Harkless to the league with a huge block/rejection in the paint.

After a little back and forth in the middle of the quarter, the Wolves finished the third on a 10-2 run to take a 68-55 lead into the fourth quarter.  Lots of good ball movement and we saw flashes of what I’ll start to call “Good Barea”, dishing the ball and creating havoc on the floor.

The fourth quarter started with more of the same, with the Pups really pouring it on and building the lead to 20+ points.  Once the lead got to this level, it felt insurmountable for this Magic team to overcome and the game was over.  The good news; it was.  Without Jameer Nelson and Al Harrington, there wasn’t a chance for the Magic to make a comeback.  The final score from the Target Center was Minnesota 90 – Orlando 75, with the Pups moving to 3-1 on the season.

Unfortunately, it looks like Barea is banged up again, after spraining his foot in the final quarter.  He’ll be evaluated tomorrow according to early reports from the Wolves digital team.  Hopefully, this isn’t something that will linger or a continuation of last year’s string of small injuries that eat into his ability to suit up for the team.

Overall, tonight was a great performance from those in the regular rotation – the end of the bench left a little to desire to close the game, but it is what it is.  This is a little tough because tonight was the epitome of a team win, but here are my Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Luke Ridnour
  2. Derrick Williams
  3. Brandon Roy

Looked to be a good number of available seats #WolvesNation – let’s keep up these good vibes and get those seats filled!  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Summer 2012 Recap

Since David Kahn took over as President of Basketball Operations in May 2009, we have heard the continual promotion of flexibility, youth, rebuilding, cap space, etc. etc.  Shortly after Kahn was able to convince Kevin Love to sign an extension back in January, this all changed, as Love started to provide his own thoughts to the media on how the Twolves needed to start showing improvement and to get to the playoffs.  With a decent amount of flexibility and the added pressure of appeasing one of team’s core pieces, Kahn and the rest of the front office had their work cut out for them this offseason.  To Kahn’s credit, at least he didn’t take a month off to go fishing …

Here’s my take on the Timberpups offseason.

NBA Draft

Heading into Draft week, the Twolves held the 18th and 58th picks.  Two nights before the draft, Kahn sent the 18th pick to Houston for Chase Budinger.  In general, I hate seeing trades like this.  If you have something like this lined up, why not wait until draft night?  I understand that Houston was looking for ways to get Dwight Howard, but I still hate the notion of giving up your pick so far in advance.  I would like to think there will be a time when the Twolves actually take advantage of someone else’s panic move over the course of a draft night.  When this happens, I’ll immediately drive to Shop Rite to stock up on their can-can special.

As for the trade itself, I like Budinger as a complementary wing / role player at SF.  If nothing else, he’s competent and that is more than what we can say about any wing on last year’s roster.  As an added bonus – based off of his Twitter feed – he seems to have a great personality.

With the 58th pick, the Twolves selected Robbie Hummel, who has had quite the busy summer.  Given the moves that the Wolves have made since (we’re getting there, promise), Hummel decided to sign with a team in Spain (Obradoiro).  I think that was a wise choice for Hummel given the team’s other moves and the lack of PT that would have come his way, if any at all.  More than likely, he would have wound up in the D-League.  However, since going over to join the team in Spain, Hummel has since torn his meniscus again and will be out for several weeks.

I had high hopes going into the draft; A. trading Derrick Williams and filler for MKG or Beal and B. trading Wes Johnson for Crowder / anyone worthwhile.  The DWill moves were a bit of a pipedream.  However, Kahn technically had 34 chances to find a way to get Jae Crowder and trading Wes to anyone in the late first round / early second would have been a fantastic move.  Alas, no avail.

This wasn’t the start of the offseason that I was looking for.  Beyond Ricky Rubio falling into Kahn’s lap with the fifth pick in ’09, his draft night performances have been 50 shades of abysmal.  (See what I did there?  Building your female audience 101)

My draft grade: C-
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