A Fantastic Double OT Win for the Timberwolves over the Heat, 122-121

LeBron James selfies ... odd (Photo credit: Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel)

LeBron James selfies … odd
(Photo credit: Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel)

 

The Timberwolves entered Friday night’s game at 37-37 on the season, but only 15-22 on the road.  The Miami Heat have pulled into virtual tie with the Indiana Pacers for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference over the past week and came into Friday’s game with a 30-6 home record.

There were a boatload of injuries to report going into tonight’s game.  For the Wolves, Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Marin (sore right foot) were unavailable.  The Heat were without Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden.  Adelman sent out Rubio, Barea, Brewer, Love, and Dieng to start the game.  The Heat countered with Mario Chalmers, Toney Douglas, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, and Chris Bosh.

First Half

Fast start for both teams who flew up and down the court for the majority of the first six minutes of the quarter and heading into the first timeout.  The Heat held a 16-12 lead going into the break as both teams displayed a balanced attack on offense and defense.  It is worth noting that Gorgui Dieng stood out once again with four buckets early and strong effort on both ends of the floor.  (In case you missed the article from earlier this week, we talked about Dieng’s emergence in recent weeks.)

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Heat held a 29-24 lead.  The Wolves were able to cut a 10 point lead in half in the final few minutes of the quarter.  However, it could have been worse for the Heat, as the Wolves struggled from three point range (0-4) and free throw line (2-7) in the quarter.

Minnesota continued their strong play in the beginning of the 2nd quarter, taking a three point lead with a little over five minutes to play in the half.  Unfortunately for Pups fans, the Heat flipped the switch and went on a 13-0 run to retake a 10 point lead, 52-42.  Coming out of a timeout, the Wolves ripped off 10 in a row to tie the game at 52 and did enough to stop LeBron at the buzzer.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Very nice flow to the game and nice to see the Wolves not fold their hand when they went down by 10 points (either time)
  • Shabazz Muhammad injured his knee in the first half and would not return to action
  • Another strong performance from Dieng, but a surprisingly strong performance from Chase Budinger

Second Half

Kevin Love came to life about midway through the 3rd quarter, scoring 8 straight points for the Wolves and helping them build a 70-63 lead.  That run seemed to wake up LeBron a bit as he went on his own little run, scoring 12 points in a row for his team.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wolves held a 77-75 lead.  It could have been even more damaging as LeBron missed a three pointer at the buzzer and that would have very likely caused the arena to explode.

A returning from injury Ray Allen apparently needed a few quarters to get his legs under him, as the lethal shooter hit back-to-back three pointers to tie the game at 82 with under 9 minutes to go.  Combined with his old Sonics counterpart (Rashard Lewis) the Heat took a 1 point lead before JJ Barea and Budinger hit back-to-back three pointers of their own to give the Wolves their own 5 point lead.

The remainder of the 4th quarter can be best described as “chaos”.  Both teams would go on runs, then both teams would stink up the gym for 90 seconds.  With the game tied at 97 and just a few ticks on the clock, Love got a three pointer off as time expired, only to see it go in and out.

In overtime, the teams continued to trade baskets and the lead.  Chase Budinger nailed a three pointed to give the Wolves a 107-106 lead and forced the Heat to take a timeout with 1:19 left to play.  After a few no-calls from the referees, a foul was called on the Wolves as Chalmers was sent to the line for two free throws to potentially win the game.  He missed the first and made the second to tie the game at 109.  Once again, the Wolves went to Kevin Love as time expired and once again the shot clanged off the rim to send the game to double overtime.

Fast forward a few minutes … with 30 seconds left in double overtime, Love had another opportunity and nailed a three pointer to give the Wolves a 119-117 lead.  JJ Barea reentered the game and subsequently hit two free throws to give the Wolves a 121-118 lead.  Less than two seconds later (of playing time), Chris Bosh hit another three pointer to tie the game at 121.  After bobbling the ball, Love threw up a pass to Corey Brewer around the rim and he was fouled on the shot attempt to go to the line.  Brewer subsequently hit 1 of 2 and this game was destined to end no matter what happened in the 1.4 seconds left on the clock.  Ray Allen wound up with the last shot of the game and missed a fall away jumper, giving the Wolves the 122-121 win in Miami!

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Chase Budinger – This one goes to Budinger who had, by far, his best game of the season; 24 points on 7-9 shooting (5-7 3PT’ers), to go with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals
  2. LeBron James – The best player on the planet finished with 34 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block
  3. Ricky Rubio– The Unicorn finished with 13 points and 14 assists     

Key Takeaways

  • Honorable mention to Kevin Love with 28 & 11.  I still think he is taking too many 3PT FG’s, but he is the clear leader of this team.
  • I have no idea why Gorgui Dieng only played 25 minutes tonight.  None.
  • In a double overtime game, ex-Pup Michael Beasley received a DNP-CD.  Amazing.

 

Checking in on Derrick Williams

Associated Press

Associated Press

This summer, Derrick Williams has passed his time by starting the #DwillSneakerHunt and it continued Tuesday as he went about hiding hot styles of sneakers around the greater Los Angeles area. Why hide them? So the kids following him on Twitter and Instagram can race to find a new pair of kicks. After all, school is just around the corner. Along with his playful act of charity, Williams has also spent time this summer promoting his clothing store, VII Grand, which opened in February and is located in Tucson, Arizona. When Williams isn’t in Tucson overseeing operations, he’s on the phone almost daily with close friend and store manager Mario Escalente. At age 22, it’s obvious Williams has already spent a lot of effort promoting himself as an entrepreneur, but what has he been doing this offseason to improve himself as a basketball player? After two seasons in the NBA Williams should have developed a more formidable identity in the league by now, right? So far, this hasn’t exactly been the case, although he still has time to prove to the Timberwolves and the rest of the NBA that he was worthy of the second overall selection nearly two years ago.

Williams’ identity crisis begins with his stature, currently listed at 6’8’’ and 241 pounds and perfectly fitting the mold as a “tweener” forward. As he stands right now, he has too much bulk while lacking the proper handles that are necessary in order to have sustained success as a small forward. Contributing to his dilemma, he lacks the height, length and refined post game that is necessary to be an effective power forward. During his time playing for Arizona, Williams used his size as an advantage. He found success by dragging bigger and slower defenders away from the basket which allowed him space away from his opponent. From there, he greatly relied on his athleticism to make up for the fact that he was and is still not a great dribbler. When opposing bigs left Williams open on the perimeter, he punished them by shooting a blistering 56.8% from three during his final season. If opponents tried to stop Williams by assigning him smaller and quicker defenders, he muscled his way inside for an easy layup or dunk, which he converted at a high rate. One of the most notable discrepancies between his success in college and the NBA has been his increased difficulty finishing around the rim, as he continues to face much bigger frontcourts than he previously saw in the Pac-12.

Williams’ progression from his rookie to second season can be attributed to his increased playing time under Coach Adelman. It’s important to assess how players respond to increased minutes, and in Williams’ second season he appeared in 12 more games while playing 498 more minutes than during his rookie season. Now, this is largely a result of the high frequency of injuries that the Wolves roster was hit by last year, especially in the frontcourt. Nonetheless, he was able to improve in every offensive statistical category, as depicted by this graphic:

Derrick Williams totals

The statistic that jumps out to me the most is his significant improvement shooting from 3pt range. Williams made 28 more three-pointers last season than he did during his rookie season and improved by a total of 6.4% on 58 more attempts. After being dubbed as one of the top perimeter shooters in the 2011 Draft, it was a disappointment seeing Derrick struggle so mightily in his rookie season. However, it is clear that he has made shooting one of his priorities last summer as was quietly the second best three-point shooter on the team only behind J.J. Barea.

Williams currently finds himself in a tough spot on the depth chart and in Adelman’s rotation. I can only speculate that he will see most of his time on the floor splitting minutes with fellow SF/PF Dante Cunningham as Kevin Love‘s backup. Cunningham understands his role and has Coach Adelman’s trust as a proven role player.

The center position is occupied by incumbent starter Nikola Pekovic – assuming he re-signs – and rookie Gorgui Dieng and there is currently an abundance of players at the two wing positions. Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved and Kevin Martin will all share time on the wing, with Adelman likely going with a hot-hand on a nightly basis. I touched a bit recently on the starting lineups we could see this season and, unsuprisingly, none of them featured Williams. However, in situations where the Wolves potentially play small by inserting Love at center, Williams could man the power forward spot as he is a respectable rebounder.

It’s only fair I expose my bias: I am a fan of the University of Arizona and have been for a long time. I remember being excited about Loren Woods (yes, Loren Woods) joining the team in the early 2000’s. It’s just one of the reasons I loved bringing in and retaining Budinger. Williams is a Wildcat and I want to see him do well.

Lucy Nicholson/Rueters

Lucy Nicholson/Rueters

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Evan Turner, Hasheem Thabeet, Michael Beasley and Williams were all taken with the No. 2 overall selection dating back to 2008 draft. This year it was Victor Oladipo out of the University of Indiana. If I’m building a team and have these players to select from, I would choose Williams with little hesitation. Beasley has obviously had his chances, Oladipo hasn’t played a minute as a pro, and last season as I compared D-Will to Evan Turner the numbers show that Williams has made more out of his time in the league than the former Ohio State Buckeye. I believe that Williams has outperformed the previously mentioned names taken with the same selection, granted that each player’s situation has been different.

Williams has been labeled a bust by some thus far into his short career and has been the constant subject of trade rumors since coming to Minnesota, however in my opinion he has not received a fair opportunity to demonstrate how valuable he can be to this team. Although his roots stem from the southwest, he has not once spoken against playing in Minnesota. He has a positive attitude and doesn’t shy away from interacting with fans, on and away from the camera. In my opinion, Derrick will need a more defined role in order for him to be able to succeed going forward.

This season should be the most crucial one to Williams’ young career. With the depth that currently surrounds him, he will need to earn the trust of his coach and teammates in order to get consistent minutes on a nightly basis. The chances of his name resurfacing in trade rumors around the deadline are a possibility as the Wolves could look to move him for a player with a more defined skill set or even a future draft selection. Regardless of what happens, I believe that Williams will become a mainstay in the league as long as he remains healthy and shows incremental improvement every season. If it isn’t meant to be with the Timberpups, it’s only a part of the business, but as long as he is here he will be important to the development of the Pups as a team.

The Timberwolves Newest Polarizing Player: Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad, 20, is one of the newest draft day additions for the Minnesota Timberwolves. How will the one-and-done swingman from UCLA fare as a role player for the Timberwolves?

Shabazz Muhammad, 20, is one of the newest draft day additions for the Minnesota Timberwolves. How will the one-and-done swingman from UCLA fare as a role player for the Timberwolves?

Following rumors that the Timberwolves were aggressively attempting to move up in Thursday’s 2013 NBA draft in hopes of selecting one of the draft’s premier shooting guards which included Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, Kansas’s Ben McLemore and Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Wolves found themselves out of luck when it came time for the 9th pick as all three prized shooting guards were off the board.

C.J. McCollum, the highly-touted 6-foot-3 PG/SG of Lehigh State, was apparently not on Flip Saunders’ radar as he ultimately passed up the scoring combo guard and instead took what he saw as the best talent available in point guard Trey Burke, despite  having no intention of keeping him. Flip immediately shipped the Michigan standout to the Utah Jazz in exchange for the 14th and 21st overall picks, despite already having the 26th pick received in a trade made last season with Memphis. Larry Fitzgerald Sr. had this to say about the move: [Read more…]

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Phoenix Suns, 2/26/13

wesjohnson_michaelbeasley

Setting the stage:

Oh what could have been with Mr. Beasley and Mr. Johnson on the Timberwolves, right folks?  (Crickets)

The Timberwolves travel to Phoenix to take on the Suns Tuesday night for the second time this season.  Back on 12/29, the Wolves handed the Suns a 111-107 loss, with the former Pups doing virtually nothing on their return the Target Center.  Beasley shot a woeful 1-8 from the field in 10 minutes and Johnson received another DNP-CD.

Since taking over for Alvin Gentry, it looks like Lindsey Hunter has come to realize just how bad these two players are.  Hunter took over on January 18th and has given both players a few opportunities to play heavier minutes.  In Phoenix’s most recent games, both players have been given limited opportunity to see the floor.

The Suns come into the game losers of three straight, which has dropped their season record to 18-39.  If this game were being played in April, we would be talking about who is tanking more unfortunately.  The Wolves come into Tuesday’s game off of a gut-wrenching loss to the Warriors on Sunday afternoon.  The Pups had every opportunity to win the game but found a way to lose, 100-99, with Luke Ridnour missing a floating jumper around the rim as the buzzer sounded.  That loss put the team at 1-2 since the All Star break and dropped their record to 20-33 on the season.  Despite the loss, the optimist in me would like to point out the overall performances of Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.  While both failed to make one or two plays down the stretch (and they were crucial) the duo put together very solid performances and are the main reasons worth tracking how or what the Wolves do the rest of the way this season.

Player to watch:

Jared Dudley – Timberwolves fans have been eyeing up Dudley for some time now, as a player that would be a great cog in the machine here in Minnesota.  While Jared has been inconsistent in February, Timberwolves fans might want to brace themselves for a breakout performance.  Dudley put up an 18 point, 8 rebound, 5 assist game back in late December and we should probably expect more of the same, given the lack of size the Wolves have to match up against Jared on the defensive end.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. Marcin Gortat.  The big men in the paint are the premiere match-up for the evening, as both men are quite the load in the paint.  Pekovic dominated the earlier meeting, putting up a 28 & 11 performance, and holding Gortat to 9 & 3.  Pekovic has had a nice month of February if you throw out the performance this past Friday night in OKC.  Even with that clunker, he’s averaged 15.8 ppg and 9.5 rpg over the course of the month.

Predictions:

Nothing excites me about this Suns team and I almost wish that I wasn’t responsible for covering this game.  OK, I do wish that actually.  Given the way the Wolves have been playing since the break, and even though it isn’t producing wins, I expect them to pull this one out on the road.

Final score prediction: Twolves 106, Suns 99

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Derrick Williams
  3. Jared Dudley

Let’s go Wolves!

Wolves-Suns Preview: The Return of Michael Beasley

michael_beasley

Michael Beasley returns to the Target Center since signing a 3-year, $18 million contract with the Phoenix Suns this past summer.

As I wandered around Michael Beasley’s estate sale this past August, I could not help but reminisce on his roller coaster two-year pit stop with the Minnesota Timberwolves and how I, for some odd reason, was going to really miss the troubled-yet-elitely-talented forward. One would naturally assume that someone that critically analyzes the Timberwolves on a daily basis would be jumping with joy to see a Western Conference rival overpay for the drug-abusing, underperforming and troubled former number 2 overall draft selection, while ridding the Timberwolves of a negative locker room presence. For some reason that I can not effectively substantiate, there is something about Mike Beas that made me never want to give up on him, even though he surely did not deserve another opportunity to prove himself.

Mr. Beasley is not your ordinary draft bust, and please allow me to elaborate on this assertion. Somewhere between Mike’s dull facial expressions and inappropriate joking around on the bench, from his lazy defense to his irresponsible off the court habits, lies a small part of him that displays to whomever that may be currently watching him what he was supposed to – and still could – be as a basketball player. Although these glimpses have become somewhat rare since his inception into the NBA, diligent Timberwolves fans would contest that they have witnessed on multiple occasions how great of a player Beasley can be. It goes beyond potential – for that is indicatory of development that may occur in the future; I will honestly tell you that if Beas really wants it bad enough, he could be great right NOW. As we witnessed with Mike playing for the Pups, his greatest games were when he attacked the basket and hustled on both ends of the floor (effort), and the majority of his poor performances stemmed from his laziness which usually led to poor shot selection and minimal hustle when rotating on defense. I wholeheartedly believe that at any time Beas wants to be a superstar, he can be a superstar. No offseason training regimen can instill in him an intrinsic fire to become one of the great players in the NBA, and the saddest part of this situation is that the only person that can help Beasley is himself.

As a huge Michael Beasley fan, I will be sporting my Wolves Beasley jersey at the game tonight. I do not agree with the Suns recent comments that Beasley is a “toxic” locker room presence, for I do not believe him to be a cruel man with ill intentions. Unfortunately, the case is instead that he may not have any intentions at all, and he is merely playing basketball just to make ends meet. And while the 23-year-old Beasley has plenty of time to turn his career around, the trends since being drafting into the NBA indicate that the likelihood of him overcoming his problems are diminishing.

Phoenix (11-19) will face a Timberwolves squad (13-13) that is ready to avenge an ugly fourth quarter collapse against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Kevin Love will look to right the ship following a tumultuous 3-14 shooting night and Nikola Pekovic is a ready to start after missing the second half of Wednesday’s game due to illness. Tipoff is set for just after 7PM CT, enjoy!

So Long, Michael Beasley

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyfo513Tu1E”]

The Timberwolves recent decision to not offer SF Michael Beasley a one-year qualifying offer worth an inflated $8 million ultimately marked the end of the former number 2 overall draft picks up-and-down tenure in Minnesota. The 23-year-old was previously sent to Minnesota from the Miami Heat in exchange for two second round picks, and his acquisition appeared a steal at first glance. Over the course of his first full season playing for the Timberwolves, Super Cool Beas impressed his new fans by averaging a career-high 19.2 PPG while seeing a lot of time playing at his less familiar position of SF. The 6’10”, 235 Beasley drastically improved his three-point shooting and emerged as one of the most versatile scorers in the league. Despite his breakout season, the Wolves finished the 2010-11 season with the worst record in the NBA, and the former Kansas State star continued to experience difficulty in finding a definite role with Minnesota due to extremely unique and non-defined skill set.

This past season, Beasley experienced a big drop off in production, as he began the season as starter at 3, with injuries and poor play forcing him into a 6-man role, where he experienced very spotty minutes and inconsistent production. While Beas put up a few brilliant performances this past season, most notably on the road against the Clippers and Suns, he was ultimately not able to provide consistent energy and production while being careless and seemingly inattentive on the defensive end. While Beasley remains one of the most gifted athletes in the NBA and may even have more natural talent than that of superstar Kevin Love, his lack of concentration, questions concerning his work ethic, and inability to shown legitimate improvement over his 4-year career have come to define him thus far in his career.
[Read more…]

NBA Free Agency: Timberwolves Offseason Plans

A look into the Timberwolves offseason plans

Well here we are, it is July 1 and NBA free agency has just begun. The Timberpups decided to not extend qualifying offers to both Anthony Randolph and Michael Beasley, making the pair unrestricted free agents and meaning that they will most likely not be returning in Timberwolves uniforms next season. The club has also pushed back the team option deadlines on both Martell Webster and Brad Miller, as they look to include them in trades over the next few weeks. With potentially $20 million in cap space, Minnesota looks to be a major player in a strong free agent crop this summer.
[Read more…]