Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 20

The Wolves’ youngsters have a few more weeks to absorb everything from KG. (Credit: NBAE/David Sherman Getty Images)

The Wolves’ youngsters have a few more weeks to absorb everything from KG. (Credit: NBAE/David Sherman Getty Images)

Setting the stage:

If nothing else, the Timberwolves have my attention the rest of this season due to the Kevin Garnett and Gary Neal trades.  To say that the team is playing more enjoyable basketball over the past couple of weeks would be an egregious understatement.  While players have returned from injury, the two that have mattered the most are Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio.  Everything else is just gravy along the rest of the way through this season.

With the Pups playing better, there are several chances for the team to walk away with a few victories this week.  Here is a brief preview for this week’s four games:

Game 66: Monday, 3/16, 7pm – Brooklyn Nets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

It may not be too surprising to see the Nets’ season go down the tubes since the trade deadline.  The team essentially threw in the towel and the results since have the team looking below them in the standings to see if anyone else in the Eastern Conference will pass them by.

Opponent to watch:

Thad Young – This will probably be the last time I ever mention Thad on this board, so might as well take the opportunity.  The former Pup takes on his former team at the Target Center.

Game 67: Wednesday, 3/18, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ Toronto Raptors (TV: FS North)

The Wolves and Raptors have yet to play this season, but the crowd should be engaged in this one as Andrew Wiggins (and Anthony Bennett) return to the homeland.  Toronto has a double digit lead on every other team in its division and has run away with the Atlantic division.  However, the standings are tight and they can’t afford to drop a home game against the Wolves.

Opponent to watch:

Kyle Lowry – Lowry is having a career best year, leading the Raptors in steals and assists, while second on the team with over 18 ppg.  He will give Wolves’ PG’s fits, particularly if he can get Rubio into foul trouble.

Game 68: Thursday, 3/19, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ New York Knicks (TV: FSN Plus)

Tankapalooza takes its next step as the Wolves head to Madison Square Garden to take on the (dreadful) Knicks.  A win by the Wolves should lock up a better season record vs. New York, as Minnesota already defeated the Knicks in early November.

Opponent to watch:

Alexey Shved – Welcome back to Timberpups.com Alexey Shved!  Someone is likely telling him to “change your face” on a nightly basis having to play for this awful franchise.

Game 69: Sunday, 3/22, 6pm – Charlotte Hornets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Al Jefferson may be destined to never play meaningful minutes in the playoffs.  There is no reason for the Hornets to miss the playoffs and lose a spot to the likes of the Pacers.  This team is going to continue to underachieve until Michael Jordan is forced out of retirement again, aren’t they?

Opponent to watch:

Mo Williams – Williams has played incredibly well for the Hornets since being traded by the Wolves.  Consistently seeing over 30 minutes per game may not be a great way to keep Williams fresh for the end of the season, but the Hornets have no other option at this point.


It is a week of returns for ex-Pups players and facing their former team.  The Wolves should be able to pull at least two victories out of this coming week.  Let’s go Wolves!

Wolves Fall Just Short In Huge Comeback Against Grizzlies

Kevin Garnett's night at Target Center was cut short due to two T's. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kevin Garnett’s night at Target Center was cut short due to two T’s. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)


Today’s game recap below is brought to you by Harlie Olson.  Harlie joins the Timberpups.com team via connecting on FanCred.  Welcome aboard!

In the second game of the second Kevin Garnett era the Memphis Grizzlies came to Target Center seeking revenge for their February 6th 90-89 defeat to the Wolves in which Ricky Rubio came up in the clutch with two free throws in the last ten seconds to take the lead. Since then our favorite team has changed quite a bit, the departures of Mo Williams,Thad Young, and Troy Daniels, the injury of Anthony Bennett, and the additions of Adreian Payne, Gary Neal, and KG have all contributed to the changing landscape.

Just watching pre-game warm-ups you could tell the atmosphere wasn’t going to be quite as great as Wednesday’s affair with the wizards, but in the last 7 years it definitely ranks way up there. The match-up that had me the most excited going into the game was Garnett on Zach Randolph. The two had met each other a bunch of times when Kevin was still in Minnesota with KG having the upper hand most of the time, but with Kevin obviously having only limited playing time it just made you need to enjoy what you get to see.

As Kevin gave the crowd a salute as the action got underway. The beginning of the game saw a rather sloppy style of play with both teams running up and down the floor, missing shots, turning the ball over, and committing offensive fouls. The game remained scoreless until Gorgui Dieng hit a free throw two and a half minutes in. In a stretch of two minutes in the first quarter KG had 3 steals,2 points, and an assist where Andrew Wiggins slammed it home. With the quarter halfway over the score was T-wolves 15-Grizzlies 7. Memphis kept the sloppiness deep into the quarter as the wolves ended the quarter with  points off of turnovers. Once KG came off the floor after five minutes Andrew Wiggins stole the show ending the quarter with eight points. The score at the end of the quarter was 24-18 with the Wolves revamped defense flexing its muscles.

The second quarter began with a quick grizzlies run that got to 8-0 before Gary Neal hit a 15 foot jumper and got fouled for an and one which he converted. Despite the Grizzlies early dynamics both teams looked extremely sloppy for the second straight quarter with a stretch of 3 minutes without any effectiveness on offense for either teams. Four minutes into the quarter Zach Lavine had a slam, which reminded us all why he is the NBA’s slam dunk champion. At this point the wolves led by one, and both teams were starting to look much more efficient on offense. That trend continued until Lavine showed us he is still a rookie, as he tuned the ball over on consecutive possessions much like he had in the wolves last game against the bulls.

With five and a half minutes left in the half Ricky and Kevin checked back in the game. With that the atmosphere of Target Center stepped up a few notches. A minute later a mysterious technical foul was called on Flip Saunders for which I couldn’t figure the cause, then a minute later KG started taking at the refs and got a technical. Of course immediately afterwards the crowd chanted KG, KG, KG. He responded with an assist on a beautiful pass to K-mart on the next possession. With two minutes left in the quarter the wolves tied the game 44-44 on a 20 foot KG jump shot. With five seconds left in the half Garnett attempted a three that ended with Dieng getting a rebound, and afterwards fouled that resulted in two made free throws. After that the Wolves went into the half down by two 48-46.

Halftime stats and facts

  • Andrew Wiggins was the best player in the first half with 12 points.
  • The wolves had 9 steals in the first half, and 19 points off of turnovers from 15 turnovers overall.
  • Kg ended the half with 2 points, 3 steals, and a thousand smiles.
  • There were no sightings of Jiggle Boy. I repeat, NO SIGHTINGS OF JIGGLE BOY!
  • Kevin Garnett wears sweats better than anyone, ever.
  • Despite our field goal percentage being 44% compared to 63% we still  stayed in the game very well.
  • Garnett attempted his seventh 3 of the year missing. Making his season total 1/7.
  • Dieng was perfect in the first half with 11 points on 3/3 shooting and 5 free throws that were all made.

The Grizzlies started the third quarter with a 4-0 run before Flip called a timeout, so his troops could regroup. After the timeout the Grizzlies continued their run to 6-0 before Dieng stuffed one in for two. With the Wolves down 54-48 Mike Conley penetrated the paint and forced KG to foul. He made the shot and converted on the free throw. On the next possession Kevin responded with another jumper to bring his point total to six. The game was over for Kevin though, on the next possession he fouled Conley, and out of frustration he threw the ball at the ground … think 1/8th of a Gronkowski spike. Somehow he got the technical for it, his second of the game resulting in his ejection. He walked to the tunnel saluting the crowd before disappearing into the locker room.

Immediately after that the Grizzlies continued their domination of the second half stretching the wolves deficit to 12. Despite Gorgui scoring on the next possession the grizzlies further co tinged the domination making their lead 15 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Andrew Wiggins scored six points on the next three possessions, and then Payne hit a jumper making the wolves have a 8-0 run, and suddenly a close game at 60-67. Ricky got a steal on the next possession, and got fouled to shoot two. He hit the first, and the second to make it a 5 point game, and to stretch the run to 10-0. The Grizzlies would end their drought with a Tony Allen lay up. Wiggins was than fouled and made both shots to bring it back to a 6 point game at 63-69. After that Marc Gasol got a technical, for hitting Payne in the eye, and coach Joerger received one for arguing. The Wolves made both free throws, and Gary Neal followed that up with a three making the score 68-69, and continuing the Wolves run to 16-2. With 0.6 seconds left in the third Rubio was fouled for god knows what reason, and made both shots to make the score 70-72 grizzlies going into the fourth.

Target Center was revved up for what was inevitably going to be a very exciting finish to a game that has included 5 technical fouls. Right away in the fourth Wiggins tied the game up, and the Wolves forced a turnover on the way back. Adrian Payne scored next, and despite my failing to mention him in this recap much, definitely had his best game in the league yet. Ricky Rubio hit a big 3 to take the lead 77-76 that was followed up by a Grizzlies air ball. The next minute was highlighted by great ball movement on the wolves part and an awesome offensive rebound by Gorgui that looked like he had no chance of grabbing.

The Wolves called a timeout to regroup. After the timeout Gary Neal assisted by Ricky hit a big time 3, and the Wolves continued their resurgence to take a 4 point lead because of it. For the second time In the game Zach Lavine got a steal and brought it the other way for a huge slam to make the wolves lead 5 after the grizzlies made one of two free throws on the position beforehand. It felt like the Wolves were getting dominated just moments before, but the Wolves had made their run 30-10.Halfway through the fourth the grizzlies tied the game on a Zach Randolph three point play on just his second bucket if the night. Z-BO would get his third bucket on the grizzlies next trio down to give them a two point lead with five minutes left in the game.

In an unusually quiet night for Kevin Martin he decided to hit from downtown to take the lead by one. The Wolves would have two unproductive trips that were answered by two grizzly buckets to give the visitors a three point lead. The Wolves would get back on the board with a Wiggins turnaround immediately responded by Memphis with a bucket of their own by Tony Allen. With 1:58 left in the game Marc Gasol headed to the line to shoot two, of which he made one. K-Mart hit another big 3 on the next try, and Target Center went OFF.

Gasol made another trip to the line, this time knocking them both down. Down to the last minute of the game Zach Randolph inexplicably,y fouled Rubio, and was benched. Oh yeah, that was responded by ANOTHER KMART THREE TO TIE THE GAME! Unfortunately Mike Conley responded with a three of his own, followed by K-Mart forcing up a bad shot that was put back in with no regard for human life by Andrew Wiggins! The Wolves would foul Conley, and he made both shots setting the Wolves up with a three point deficit, and 11.3 seconds to tie it up. Martin got open and took a shot from three, but he couldn’t knock it down. After that the Pups fouled Tony Allen, after he made one of two Gary Neal put one up as the game ended that wouldn’t have mattered as the Wolves’ fate was sealed.

Another day, another loss in Loserville, USA right? I don’t think so, as the Wolves look very different compared to a month ago. Well Adrian Payne and Gary Neal were huge off the bench tonight. Neal had 16 points and Payne seemed to be in the right spot at the right time the entire second half.

Andrew Wiggins continued his climb towards superstardom tonight with yet another 20+ point game, and had one of his first signature moments when he had the huge put back in the last minute of the game. Games like these will help his progression towards being the second Franchise player the team has had.

59.4%: that was the field goal percentage of the Grizzlies for the game. A season high for the second best team in the Western Conference, so how did the Pups stay close? …

32 points off turnovers: if it were not for the turnovers created by the Wolves it would have gotten ugly.

Where was Pek? He only played 12 minutes,and I never heard an explanation, so we’ll have to pay attention to see if we have another injury to a key starter.

I was surprised that in Flip’s presser his top priority was defending KG instead of praising the young guy’s tremendous comeback effort. Games like this will help the team much more than they would hurt it.

Timberwolves Taking Action Before the Trade Deadline, Add Gary Neal and Adreian Payne to Roster

(photo credit: nbcsports.com)

(photo credit: nbcsports.com)

Timberwolves trade Mo Williams, Troy Daniels to Hornets for Gary Neal, Second-Round Draft Pick

According to league sources, the Timberwolves have decided to part ways with Mo Williams and Troy Daniels. The Wolves traded the guards to the Hornets in exchange for Gary Neal and a future second-round draft pick.

Adrian Wojnarowski posted the following on Twitter Tuesday morning:

The move is certainly an effort on the Hornets’ part to make a push at the playoffs. With a 22-29 record, they are currently standing No. 7 in the Eastern Conference standings. Bringing in Williams will help them add depth to the backcourt while point guard Kemba Walker is out with an injury, and his experience will be helpful coming off the bench when Walker returns, as well. Charlotte is also familiar with Daniels, as he spent time with the Hornets training camp last season.

The Wolves are taking a risk with letting Williams go, but they are banking on Ricky Rubio staying healthy after his return to the court. Minnesota’s current season is basically beyond repair after so many injuries to the lineup, so focusing on upcoming seasons is a No. 1 priority. NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman said the following:

“The Timberwolves get a draft pick that could help them in the future, lose a couple players who could hurt their lottery position and – depending on the cash sent out – save a little money. Those are ideal ingredients for teams in Minnesota’s position”

Charlotte acquired Neal from Milwaukee a year ago. Currently in his fifth NBA season, Neal played in 65 games for the Hornets last season, averaging 10.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.  So far this season, Neal has averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists over 43 games. The Timberwolves Twitter account posted the following quote from head coach Flip Saunders following the transaction:

Williams will certainly be missed as a veteran on the court and positive influence in the locker room.

Both he and Neal have expiring contracts, so the move probably won’t serve as a long-term answer for either team; however, it does have implications for the Wolves’ younger roster. Williams leaving for Charlotte will automatically re-open some minutes for rookie Zach LaVine as he continues to develop as an NBA guard.


Wolves Acquire Adreian Payne from Atlanta Hawks, Trade Future First-Round Pick

Shortly after the news broke of the Charlotte transaction, AP sources shared another move:

Payne was drafted No. 15 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he should have a lot of upside. That has left to be proven, though, as the Hawks have clearly already given up on their first-round pick. The big man played for Michigan State, where he consistently improved with ever season. As a senior, Payne was selected to the preseason Third Team All-America by CBS Sports. He was named to the Midseason Wooden Award Top 25 Watchlist, and he also earned Big Ten Player of the Week on two occasions.

After missing the beginning of the 2014-15 NBA season with plantar fascitis, though, Payne has spent most of his pro experience at the D-League level. Over four stints in the development league (two with Austin and two with Fort Wayne), Payne averaged 12.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 blocks in 25.7 minutes.

It’s positive for the Wolves to add another powerful player to the roster, and it’s possible that Payne will develop more into a standout player. Minnesota traded a future first-round pick for the big man, so it’s a costly gamble to take.

It will be interesting to see if Minnesota makes any more moves before the NBA Trade Deadline on Feb. 19.

Timberwolves Stand Tall, Defeat Grizzlies 90-89

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol shared a few pleasantries on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: David Sherman, NBAE via Getty Images)


Both teams started the season with a 0-0 record and when they faced each other on opening night, the Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves had reason for optimism.  Since losing opening night in Memphis, the Timberwolves have faced a series of injuries and unfortunate events week by week.  At 9-40, the Wolves are looking at the forthcoming All-Star Weekend as a time to recharge their collective battery.

At 37-12, the Grizzlies may want to hold off on the All-Star break, as they have been red hot since hitting a midseason bump in the road in late December, early January.  Since January 11th, Memphis has won 12 of 13 games they have played.

The teams met again on Friday night in the Target Center and here is a look at the action.

Since covering last Friday’s massacre in Philadelphia, the Wolves got their Unicorn back and the team has been remarkably more appealing to watch.  Minnesota opened up Friday night with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Nikola Pekovic.  The Grizzlies countered with Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol.

Both teams got off to a slow start on the offensive end, which probably could have been predicted the way the Grizzlies typically slow the pace down.  The Wolves also lost Pekovic early to two fouls.  However, Gorgui Dieng filled in admirably throughout the first quarter.  Coming out of the first timeout of the game, the Wolves went to Andrew Wiggins often and he continued to come through scoring the next four baskets for Minnesota and giving his team a 14-10 advantage.  One other note from the start of the game – Ricky Rubio assisted on each of the team’s first five baskets.  Have I mentioned it is nice to have Ricky back yet?

Would you like another example of the benefit of having Rubio on the floor?  With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Mo Williams launched a 24 foot jumper in order to set the Wolves up for a 2-for-1.  It missed badly.  After a steal on the defensive end, the Wolves had a chance to play for the last shot.  Williams pulled the ball out of what seemed like a potential bucket in transition, launched a 25 foot jumper as time expired and missed everything.  The score at the end of the 1st quarter was 24-23, Minnesota’s advantage.

With Pekovic back on the floor and Anthony Bennett at the Power Forward spot, the Timberwolves came out of the chute nicely in the 2nd quarter, at one point building a ten point lead, 37-27.  The highlight of the run came on a loose ball scramble where Wiggins tracked down the ball and whipped a pass to Bennett for a dunk.

All good things come to an end this season.  That ten point lead quickly evaporated with the Grizzlies going on a 10-0 run of their own.  During the run the Wolves committed three turnovers and missed badly from the floor.  At the half, the teams were tied at 43.

Here are a few additional halftime notes/stats:

  • The Timberwolves scored on only three of their final fifteen possessions of the half
  • Wiggins led the Wolves with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 21 minutes of action … rookie wall will have to wait until after the All-Star break apparently
  • In his 9 minutes on the floor, Zach Randolph didn’t take a single shot and was scoreless in the half

The Timberwolves opened up the second half on a 10-3 run which was capped off with a Rubio three pointer from the top of the arc.  In the midst of the run however, Pekovic picked up his fourth foul and would be forced into very limited action for the remainder of the evening.  Once again, the Grizzlies came storming back to take a 58-57 lead, forcing Flip Saunders to burn another timeout.

With Ricky Rubio still on a minute limitation, Flip had to turn to Mo Williams again for PG duties, who promptly turned the ball over two times in a row trying to feed the post.  This led to the following:

At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Grizzlies held a 69-65 lead.  The Timberwolves offensive execution in the final minutes was fragile at best, highlighted by the final possession of the quarter that saw Mo Williams dribble at halfcourt for too long, feed a terrible pass to Kevin Martin right on the three point arc, and then seeing Martin launch an off-balance jump shot that clanged off of the rim.

Early in the 4th quarter the Wolves got another scare.  With a 77-73 lead, Thad Young threw a pass in the open court to Rubio who connected on a layup.  Ricky was fouled on the play but a whistle never blew, despite him crashing into the padding under the baseline.  Almost immediately, Ricky ran to the locker room but was back on the floor in under five minutes.  (Collective “Phew …”)

With Rubio’s return, something seemed to happen with the Wolves on the court.  It may have been confidence, it may have been his calmness.  Whatever it was, it worked.  After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Wolves found themselves down 85-78 with a little over two minutes to play.

Pekovic and Jeff Green traded jumpers, followed by a Rubio three pointer.  After Courtney Lee and Wiggins traded two made free throws, Rubio hit another three pointer to cut the Grizzlies lead to one point, 89-88.  On the Grizzlies next possession, the Wolves forced a turnover led by … you guessed it, Ricky Rubio.  Inexplicably, Zach Randolph fouled Rubio to put him on the line for two shots.  Ricky hit both to give the Wolves a one point lead, 90-89.  With a swarming defensive set, filled with solid rotations and a total team effort, the Wolves forced one final turnover to hold onto the victory.

The final score: Minnesota 90, Memphis 89 – the first back-to-back victories for our Pups this season!

Game Notes:

  • All five starters for the Wolves in double figures, led by Wiggins’ 18 points and 6 rebounds, Rubio’s 17/5/5/3 line, and Thad’s 14 points and 8 rebounds
  • The Grizzlies were only 2-12 from three point range tonight
  • Despite his 10 rebounds, Zach Randolph only scored 6 points and was a game low -10 in +/-

Timberwolves Embarrass Themselves, Lose to 76ers 103-94

Who is having a more enjoyable rookie year between Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid? (2015 NBAE, Jesse D. Garrabrant, NBAE via Getty Images)

Who is having a more enjoyable rookie year between Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid? (2015 NBAE, Jesse D. Garrabrant, NBAE via Getty Images)


Ahead of the emotional return of Mike Miller and Kevin Love to the Target Center Saturday night, the Timberwolves took the show on the road to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers.  Along with the Knicks, the Wolves and Sixers are aiming for the most ping pong balls come lottery time and Flip Saunders’ Timberwolves took a commanding lead for the pole position.

Friday night’s game at Wells Fargo Center was downright embarrassing as the Wolves have lost both match-ups against a terrible basketball team this season.  This one came with Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup.  Just about every preconception I had on this year’s team came to fruition in last night’s game.  I typically reserve some of my thoughts until seeing it with my own eyes … and that is exactly what happened last night.

The first 22 minutes of the game were pretty entertaining basketball if you like offense.  If you like defense, you might have wanted to look away.  The Wolves got big performances from Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng, while the Sixers were led by Michael Carter-Williams (MCW) and ex-Pup LRMAM.

With about two minutes to go in the first half, the Wolves started to fall apart and the body language of the vast majority of the squad became disturbing.  After multiple turnovers, the Wolves gave the ball back to Philadelphia with 3.8 seconds on the clock.  MCW received the inbounds pass and drove all the way to the hope for a buzzer beating layup.  The lack of energy, effort, frankly anything from the Wolves on that play set the tone for the second half.

Already missing Mo Williams due to injury for Friday’s contest, Zach LaVine went down for a while with an ankle injury.  After heading to the locker room for a bit, LaVine later returned to the court to play in the 4th quarter.  I’m not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing, outside of the fact that the injury itself doesn’t seem to be significant.  LaVine is very clearly not ready to play Point Guard in the NBA on either side of the court.  MCW crushed him throughout the night.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, LaVine’s backup is not an NBA caliber player.  Lorenzo Brown’s return to the team that drafted him should be over upon the return of Ricky Rubio.  The Brown signing is the type of laziness that exudes from the Wolves front office – “We drafted this guy a few years ago, so there was something there. He’s available and we need a PG.  Sign him!”

The second half was the worst half of basketball I have ever seen with my own eyes.  The Wolves put up 18 points in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Sixers 18-17.  Not to be outdone, Minnesota put up 17 points in the 4th quarter to allow the Sixers to put them away for good.  The loss moves the Wolves to 8-38 on the season, while the Sixers go to 10-37.  Minnesota now has a clear track to the most ping pong balls with two losses to Philadelphia.  Joy.

The final score: 76ers 103, Timberwolves 94

Game Notes:

  1. I want to touch on the body language again as there were a few particular examples worth calling out:
    • Kevin Martin and the returning to Philly Thad Young could not have looked more disinterested.  Martin was a chucker (5-18 FG’s) and Young didn’t seem to have much emotion returning to Philadelphia.
    • The one guy that visibly cared the most, was wearing a suit and still recovering from his ankle injury.  Ricky Rubio jumped out of his seat when the Wolves failed to execute in the fast break.  The Wolves are lucky Rubio was willing to resign earlier this season.
    • When LaVine twisted his ankle it was quite telling that not a single teammate stayed by or even really went to his side before heading to the locker room.  This season and all of the losing is likely leading to a lot of this, but in the back of my mind is the fact that this is a Flip Saunders run team and he has never been known to enforce or instill camaraderie with his club.  This isn’t going to end well.
  2. It was not a packed house last night …

Happy Birthday Crunch – Wolves Lose to Pelicans 92-84

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter - @WolvesCrunch)

Happy Birthday Crunch! (Photo credit: Twitter – @WolvesCrunch)


The 7-34 Minnesota Timberwolves completed their brief homestand on Friday night against the 21-21 New Orleans Pelicans.  Both teams reside at the bottom of their respective divisions but one is clearly still playing for something this season while the other continues to receive more bad news.  Reports have surfaced that Ricky Rubio’s ankle injury is worse than originally thought.  That quickly took all of the steam out of Nikola Pekovic’s return to action on Wednesday night.  The Pelicans have been struggling with their own injury news of late with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday missing time recently.

The two teams met early on this season in New Orleans, with the Pelicans undressing the Wolves to the tune of 139-91 – the worst loss in Wolves’ franchise history.

Looking for a reason to celebrate Wolves’ fans?  The Wolves celebrated Crunch’s birthday Friday night at the Target Center.  So at least there’s that for those in attendance.

Let’s take a look at how Friday night’s action went down at the Target Center.  The Wolves opened up with a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Andrew Wiggins, Robbie Hummel, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Pelicans countered with the following starting five: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, ex-Pup Dante Cunningham, the aforementioned Davis, and Omer Asik.

The one Pup that I have consistently laid into this season (Thad) started off a house of fire, accounting for 7 of the Wolves first 11 points, which led to NOLA Coach Monty Williams to call a very quick timeout with his team down 11-1.  While the Wolves continued to hustle and play relatively well coming out of the timeout, the shooting percentage came back to earth and the Pelicans were able to tie the game at 18, forcing Flip Saunders to burn the Wolves first timeout with just over three minutes left to play in the 1st Quarter.

With Wiggins and Pekovic a combined 1-8 in the opening quarter for the Wolves, the Pelicans took a 24-20 lead into the break.  As time expired in the 1st, Chase Budinger drew a foul on a three pointer, only to see the referees swallow their whistles.  It has been a rough enough season for Chase, he doesn’t need any help from the zebras.

After taking a 32-29 lead in the 2nd Quarter on a beautiful post move from Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves turned the ball over on consecutive series and quickly gave up their lead.  Concentrating on the positive for a moment, Dieng’s offensive game continues to grow stronger as the weeks continue to pass by.  If for no other reason, and I can’t think of another one, Pekovic’s injury has had at least one benefit for the Wolves and that is the improvement in Dieng’s all around game (and likely his confidence).

At the half, the Wolves trailed 45-44.  Halftime notes/stats:

  • Thad Young with a team high 11 points on 5-8 shooting … but 0 rebounds
  • Conversely, Dieng finished the half with 8 points and 7 rebounds
  • The Wolves shot 44% from the floor in the 1st half, while the Pelicans shot 59%
  • Pups only got to the free throw line six times in the half – as did the Pelicans – but only made two of their attempts

The 3rd Quarter seemed to slog along with some ugly basketball being played.  Through the first four minutes of the quarter, the Wolves had one made basket and two free throws.  After Dante Cunningham made two long range jump shots, Flip Saunders called a timeout to try to straighten the ship.

The Pelicans opened up a double digit lead but the Wolves were able to cut it back down to four.  Nate Wolters scored as the clock was running down in the quarter, giving the Pelicans a 69-63 lead heading into the final frame.

There were several mini-runs for each team to start the 4th Quarter, with the Wolves trimming the Pelicans lead thanks to some strong offensive play from Chase Budinger, who scored all but two of his ten total points in the 4th.  However, the Wolves could never get over the hump and fell to the Pelicans.

With about :40 seconds to go in the game, the Pelicans were inbounding the ball up by six.  With a foul to give before going into the penalty, the Wolves scrambled to try to trap an opponent defensively.  It didn’t work but with under ten seconds on the shot clock, the Wolves then commit the foul.  That resets the shot clock to 14 seconds and the Wolves then have to commit another foul before forcing the Pelicans to the line.  In no way, shape or form was this a defensive strategy worth repeating.  Ever.  Either foul early and stretch the game as much as possible or play and hope they miss the shot.

The final score: New Orleans 92, Minnesota 84.

Game Notes:

  • Happy birthday Crunch!  You don’t look a day over 26 …
  • If the Wolves have any interest in winning games the rest of the way, a Pekovic-Dieng frontcourt is going to need to be used
  • Mo Williams had a quiet double-double on Friday night, tallying 12 points and 10 assists
  • In fact, the Wolves assisted on 27 of their 35 made baskets (77%)

Timberwolves Drop Brutal Game to Dallas, Fall to 7-34

(photo credit: cbs.local.com)

(photo credit: cbs.local.com)

The Timberwolves started out strong against Dallas, but gradually the well-oiled Mavericks pulled away and took control of the game. Despite having a healthy Nikola Pekovic back in the huddle, the Wolves came up on the short end of the 98-75 final score. Andrew Wiggins had yet another double-digit game, leading Minnesota with 18 points. On the other side of the floor, Chandler Parsons tallied 22 points for the Mavs.

The first quarter started out well for Minnesota, with more aggressive defense than fans have seen in awhile. Gorgui Dieng had a couple of nice rebounds, and Robbie Hummel was able to battle for a put-back early on in the game.

The headline (and silver lining) for the evening was Pekovic. After missing 31 games this season, the big man returned to the Wolves lineup Wednesday night. Although he came off the bench, Pek had a decent 14-point game after sitting out for over two months.

When No. 14 checked in at the 3:18 mark of the first quarter, Target Center fans delivered a large ovation for the center. Pekovic immediately grabbed a bucket, tying the game at 21 and increasing the crowd noise.

Mavs veteran Dirk Nowitzki hit a long 3-point shot to close out the quarter 24-21, and from that point on the Wolves struggled to keep up. Slow second and third quarters are starting to become the unfortunate trend for Minny, and this game proved no different. Dallas went on a 25-9 run to finish up the half, and the Wolves entered the locker room trailing 59-38.

Thaddeus Young has been playing well lately, and he had another solid game against the Mavericks, despite grabbing all 14 points of his points in the first half. The forward seemed to be the only one able to find successful shots after the first quarter. The game dragged on, with Minnesota simply unable to match up well against its opponents.

Dallas entered the game shooting 40 percent from behind the 3-point line, and the team absolutely killed Minnesota from downtown. Parsons tallied 12 points from behind the arc, and the team made 11 of its 27 long-range attempts.

Prior to the half, the Associated Press‘ Jon Krawcynski reminded Wolves fans of the following:

Parsons wasn’t the only Maverick to play well, though. Dallas shot 51.3 percent from the field, in stark contrast to Minnesota’s 34.8 percent. The brutal loss dropped the Wolves’ record to 7-34 on the season, and it seems as if the second half of the season will be incredibly long for a very young, very tired squad.

After going off for an incredible 52 points against Indiana last Tuesday, Mo Williams never found his groove against the Mavs. The guard started out the game 0-10 from the field and did not find the basket until late in the third quarter. He finished the evening with just five points.

Although it was rumored that Kevin Martin might return, he remained sidelined with a wrist injury. Ricky Rubio also continues to sit out, and Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner shed a little more light on the subject.

According to head coach Flip Saunders, Gellner explained that Rubio suffered torn muscles and also a bone bruise in addition to the sprained ankle. The injury is more complex than maybe originally detailed, and Saunders said the team is taking every precaution to make sure Rubio is at 100 percent before returning to action.

Up next, the Wolves will face New Orleans at the Target Center Friday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff.