Recap – Timberwolves 123, Mavericks 122 (OT)

Sky hook master Gorgui Dieng (Photo: ESPN.com)

Sky hook master Gorgui Dieng
(Photo: ESPN.com)

 

 

The 33-32 Timberwolves took to the road to start a back-to-back in Dallas Wednesday night.  The Mavs entered the game at 41-27 and are holding on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference.  Coming into Wednesday night’s match-up, the Wolves had taken two of three against the Mavs this season.

Nikola Pekovic was ruled out for the Pups so the starting lineup looked like this: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Dieng.  The Mavs opened up with Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Samuel Dalembert.

Here’s a look at how things went down …

First Half 

Rick Carlisle called an early timeout only 2.5 minutes into the game, as the Wolves scored a few easy baskets and jumped out to a 9-5 lead.  That early warning for his team didn’t work out to well as Minnesota continued to jump on their opponent, leading to another timeout with over seven minutes still left in the opening frame.  Ricky Rubio led the charge early with an early basket, but also already had 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block!  What?!

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held an impressive 37-24 lead, receiving big scoring punches from Kevin Love (13 points) and Corey Brewer (11), who may have been looking for a little bit of revenge against his former team.  I would also like to point out the solid 11 minutes from the rookie, Dieng.  He had 6 rebounds, an assist, a steal, and was 1-1 from the field for his 2 points.  I have only been asking for him in the rotation since mid-December.  At the very least, this improves the learning curve.

Words cannot describe my excitement with the early stages of tonight’s game.  Adelman was giving extended minutes to Dieng and he was highly effective – including a running sky hook in the 2nd quarter that found nothing but the bottom of the net.  At the same time, Coach gave JJ Barea minutes at the SG position, allowing him to play with Rubio and not dominate the ball for 22 seconds of the shot clock.  I have been “slightly” critical (understatement of the year) of JJ this year, but I don’t mind him at the SG position without the ball in his hands.

With a 50-28 lead things were looking pretty good for the Pups.  Therein lies your problem.  As with every single good thing that happens to this team, bad things quickly follow … and are usually much worse.  The 22 point lead was cut to 3 points with several minutes remaining in the half.  Thankfully, the Wolves were able to withstand the stomach punch and built their lead back up to 10.  The 54 year old Vince Carter hit a three pointer at the buzzer to cut the Wolves lead to 66-59.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • Excluding Barea, the Wolves bench was failing big time.  Chase Budinger … yikes!  0-2 from the field, he lost a few loose balls and was a team low -9 in his five minutes on the floor.  Dante Cunningham was 0-3 from the field and didn’t collect a single rebound or assist either.
  • Still leading the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki went old school against Robbie Hummel and hit a rainbow fade away jumper from about 12 feet.  It was a thing of beauty.

Second Half 

The 3rd quarter was highly entertaining basketball, as both teams traded punches.  However, with just over 3 minutes to go, Gorgui picked up his fourth foul and had to head to the bench.  This was preceded with another strong 8+ minutes from the rookie, who was having a positive impact on both ends of the floor.  He left the floor having already collected his second double-double in as many starts and was a team high +15 at the time of his departure.

The Wolves were able to maintain their advantage however, as they took a 94-87 lead into the final quarter.  The Mavs were able to hit a buzzer beater for the second quarter in a row, with Brandon Wright hitting a floater to cut the lead to seven.

All that was good in the 3rd quarter quickly fell apart in the 4th as both teams looked incredibly sloppy – missing easy baskets, offensive fouls, etc.  With a 12 point lead with about 7 minutes to go, the Wolves let the Mavs back in the game one more time.  The Mavs went on a 15-5 run to cut the lead to three points.  It got worse for Wolves fans, as Monta Ellis caught fire and gave the Mavs a 113-111 lead with 90 seconds to play.  The end of regulation came with the teams tied at 113 thanks to a number of missed jump shots by both teams.  What happened to attacking the rim with the game on the line?!

Adelman sent out the same five that ended the game (on a sour note) to start OT.  Feel free to try to explain that to me in the comments section below.  The Mavs went on a small run and built their largest lead of the game of 5 points.  However, the Wolves didn’t quit as Kevin Love drew a 6th foul on Vince Carter and tied the game by hitting three FT’s.  Love then hit one of two FT’s to give the Wolves the lead again at 121-120.  After a Mas bucket the Wolves force fed Love the ball with under 30 seconds to go and after a handful of “moves”, he somehow snaked his way through and hit a baby hook to give the Wolves the lead for good!  Dirk missed a shot and there was a little bit of a scrum for the ball as time expired.  No matter!  Wolves win 123-122!

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Ricky Rubio – Triple double alert!  22 points on 8-12 shooting, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds!  Throw in 4 steals and a block for the Unicorn!
  2. Kevin Love – This was all set to be #3’s spot until OT.  Love finished with 35 points and owned OT.
  3. Gorgui Dieng – Finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, but for some reason completely disappeared from the rotation.  He LED the team in the first three quarters, along with Rubio.  

Key Takeaways

  • Barea had a very solid first half and then went all Jekyll and Hyde on us again in the second half.  I’m glad Adelman didn’t go back to him in OT.
  • Dieng had a phenomenal three quarters and earned/deserved time at the end of the game.  Hummel somehow got the call, with the Wolves going small and moving Love to the 5.  Between this and the decision to DNP-CD Shabazz Muhammad, I still have no idea what is going on in Adelman’s mind.
  • All of this is null and void for tonight at least, as the Wolves pull off the minor upset and keep some glimmer of hope alive.

 

Recap – Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 98

Nowitzki vs. Love one more time in 2013 (Photo credit: WFAA.com)

Nowitzki vs. Love one more time in 2013
(Photo credit: WFAA.com)

With a two game winning streak in tow, the Timberwolves returned to the Target Center to open up a three game home stand.  Monday’s opponent was the 17-13 Mavericks, a team the Wolves are likely going to have to catch in order to make it into the playoffs.  No surprises or changes in the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Mavericks opened up with Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and Samuel Dalembert.

Game Summary [Read more...]

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 10

 

David Sherman/Getty Images

David Sherman/Getty Images

Setting the stage:

With the holidays upon us, should we be celebrating the fact that our Timberpups have reached the .500 mark?  I have mixed feelings on this roster as a whole and would like to see more minutes given to the rookies, particularly Gorgui Dieng.  Someone needs to work with Ricky Rubio all offseason on his shooting stroke because it is clearly still broken.  All of that said, the Wolves are 15-15 and hopefully ready to roll going into 2014.  Much of the positives have to be credited to Kevin Love and his incredible play thus far this season – 26.1ppg (3rd in the NBA) & 13.8rpg (1st), with a PER of 28.5 (2nd).  Can we tear up his contract and max him out for the next five or six years?

Since I previewed week 8 of the season, the team has improved to 2nd in the league in scoring at 106.4ppg, 3rd in rebounding (46.2rpg) and 6th in assists (23.4apg).  Nothing much has changed on the defensive end, with the team giving up 102.3ppg, “good” for 23rd in the NBA.

Game 32: Monday, 12/30, 7pm – Dallas Mavericks @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North) [Read more...]

Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 2

 

Early smiles for the Timberwolves this season! (Photo credit: Kentucky.com)

Early smiles for the Timberwolves this season!
(Photo credit: Kentucky.com)

Setting the stage:

I have never been as excited for the second week of the NBA season as I am for this coming week!  Why?  For the first time, I will be frequenting the Target Center for some Timberwolves action!  Yes!!  I will be in town for the Wednesday and Friday games this week, so if anyone is interested in grabbing a Teddy Bruschi or Charles Brewkowski before or after either game, please do shoot me a note here or on Twitter.

Aside from that shameless promotion, the Timberwolves are coming into the week off of a promising week – going 3-0 with a dramatic home opener, a blowout against OKC, and a solid road win at MSG – despite giving up a big lead – on Sunday.  As it always seems to be with the Wolves, with the good comes a little bad, with the team announcing that Ronnie Turiaf has a fractured elbow and is out indefinitely.  That will put Gorgui Dieng in the spotlight early on in his rookie season and he’ll need to step up and contribute behind Nikola Pekovic.

The Wolves enter the week looking like an offensive juggernaut, averaging 110 points per game through the first three.  The team is also top 10 in the league in rebounds and assists per game, at 43 and 23 respectively.  Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are leading the way in the box score, but it has been solid contributions from the entire rotation that have helped the team to its 3-0 start.

Let’s see if this can continue into week two.  Here are a few thoughts for each game this week.

Game 4: Monday, 11/4, 6pm – Timberwolves @ Cleveland Cavs (TV: FS North)

The Wolves will travel to Cleveland off of Sunday night’s game at MSG, with the opponent having an off day to recover from Saturday’s game against the Pacers.  The Cavs are off to a slow start this season, entering the game 1-2 thus far.  They are near the bottom of the league in scoring at only 85.3 ppg.  Kyrie Irving is leading the team in scoring and assists but his shot is a bit off right now.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Cavs have gotten minutes from Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum, who may make things a little tough in the paint.

Opponent to watch:

Kyrie Irving – While there are a few intriguing storylines with the Cavs (Michael Bennett and Bynum particularly), I’m giving the nod to Irving for this go-round given the overall excitement he can create and the speed in which he can play at.  Hopefully Rubio can contain Irving and/or Kyrie’s shot remains off for one more night.

Predictions:

I’m not predicting a loss until the Wolves drop a game.  I wouldn’t be surprised though if the team falls here, given the back to back schedule.  How is that for hedging bets?  A big game from Kevin Love puts the Wolves over.  Final score: Timberwolves 98, Cavs 92

Game 5: Wednesday, 11/6, 7pm – Golden State Warriors @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

I visit the Twin Cities with the Warriors in tow from Philly.  Not really, they should already be in town.  Wednesday’s game at Target Center is the middle game for Golden State’s three game road swing.  This is one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA and we can expect a high scoring affair.  Klay Thompson dropped a cool 38 points on opening night and the Wolves will need to find a way to contain him and Stephen Curry.  The Wolves frontcourt is also going to have to find a way to slow down David Lee, who put up gaudy stats in week one.

Opponent to watch:

Andre Iguodala – Many Wolves fans have clamored for AI2 for years (I’m not one of them) and Wednesday is another opportunity to see him play at the Target Center.  Through the team’s first three games, AI2 has not been scoring much, but that isn’t necessarily what GS needs from him.  He is however, filling out the box score, contributing in all aspects of the game – passing, rebounding, steals, and blocks.

Predictions:

The highest scoring regular season game in NBA history (without overtime) was on 11/2/90 between the Warriors and Nuggets.  The teams combined for 320 points.  The bar is set for this game, make it happen!  Final score: Timberwolves 130, Warriors 122

(I have never, ever predicted 130 points for an NBA team.  This will be a special night all-around.)

Game 6: Friday, 11/8, 7pm – Dallas Mavericks @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Mavericks will visit the Target Center on Friday night, coming off of a nationally televised game Wednesday night in OKC.  The team made several, significant moves in the offseason and to this point, it has paid off.  They finished the first week of the season 2-1, with wins at home against Atlanta and Memphis, and the loss coming on the road in Houston.  Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis are off to hot starts, each averaging more than 20 ppg.

Opponent to watch:

Dirk Nowitzki – My eyes are going to be on Dirk, as I have never seen him play in person.  He may have lost a step, but I’m intrigued to see just how sweet his offense looks in person.

Predictions:

I’m confident that the Twolves will win this game.  That’s never a good thing.  It will likely be the polar opposite of Wednesday’s game against GS though.  Rubio shines in this one and I get to gloat about it all the way back to NJ.  Final score: Timberwolves 96, Mavericks 88

Game 7: Sunday, 11/10, 8:30pm – Timberwolves @ LA Lakers (TV: FS North)

The Wolves head west to take on the Lakers Sunday night to start a back to back against both LA teams.  The Lakers will come into the game off of a three game road trip that took them through two-thirds of Texas and New Orleans.

This will be Wolves’ fans first opportunity to see the almighty Wes Johnson in purple and gold.  Have I mentioned him in the past?  I think I have.  While we won’t see Kobe Bryant, I still think this team can tread water for a while.  This past Friday night, the team stayed with Duncan-less Spurs and almost pulled it out.

Opponent to watch:

Wes Johnson – Just kidding, unless you want to induce a coma.

Pau Gasol – This will be a tough match for Pekovic, given Pau has returned to the middle of the floor.  Pau is putting up solid numbers early on in the season.  With Kaman as the backup, we might see a little more of Kevin Love at the Center spot, as Pekovic and Dieng will have their hands full.

Predictions:

I expect a big night from Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer going against the Lakers’ wings.  Final score: Timberwolves 103, Lakers 94

Wrap-up:

A pretty busy week for the Wolves lies ahead, with four games in seven nights.  The countdown has already begun for my trip to the Twin Cities.  Looking forward to meeting as many of you as I can over anything but a Martina Navratibrewski (because you can’t have more than ‘ski’ at the end of the root word).

Here’s to hoping the Pups continue their winning ways!  Please don’t let me be there for the first loss.  Please!  Let’s go Wolves!

Offseason Ideas: Timberwolves Needs + Monta Ellis in the Picture?

Could Monta Ellis provide the scoring the Timberwolves need to compete in the Western Conference?

Could Monta Ellis provide the scoring the Timberwolves need to compete in the Western Conference?

This season has been the definition of disappointing to say the least. The additions of Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy, and Chase Budinger caused a stir of excitement and optimism among Timberwolves fans to begin this 2012-13 season, and many basketball fans around the league even believed that this squad not only had the chance to achieve a postseason berth, but that the team also had the depth and talent to make a run in this years playoffs. However, all of that came to a violent halt when we obtained the bubonic plague as we call them… (Injuries). It was not comprehendible during our summer of optimism that nearly every player on the Wolves would ultimately fall to injury at some point during the season. The dream lineup of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Roy, Nikola Pekovic, and AK never had the opportunity to log big minutes together and create the necessary chemistry to legitimately compete for a bottom seed in the Western Conference. Oh, and our head coach, Rick Adelman, was gone for an extended period of time with family reasons. This season has been a catastrophe in the minds of Timberwolves fans alike.

As this season carries only future implications towards draft position and free agency, this team has A LOT of issues to address. To begin, Minnesota statistically has the worst three-point shooting in the NBA and the Wolves do not have a player that can help to alleviate some of the offensive pressure off of K-Love. In addition, we are still missing that shooting guard in our lineup that we all hoped Roy could be. Glen Taylor and David Kahn will need to dig deep into team funds and allocate money towards a marquee scorer who can create his own shot and knock down shots on the perimeter. Kevin Love, as we all know, is not happy about the current state of affairs within the organization. Adding to the frustrations, our once-smiley Rubio is having a very difficult time with all of the losing and the great pressure being exerted upon him to do virtually everything for the offense to work.

Considering all of these factors, I have considered three soon-to-be unrestricted free that would be excellent fits for the Wolves. The players I chose are Monta Ellis, JJ Redick, and Paul Millsap. Any one of these players would provide an instant upgrade in multiple facets of the game for Minnesota and would allow our team to elevate to a higher level of competitiveness in the Western Conference. In order to get over the hump and be able to match up against teams like the Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers, we need legitimate scorers to fill the holes in our roster. It is unreasonable to expect that Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will be able to carry us to the postseason in a very competitive Western Conference all by themselves.

The future 2013 free agent of whom I believe would provide the largest upgrade to our team is Monta Ellis. Before you roll your eyes, consider the fact that the Timberwolves currently possess one player that can create his own offense and that the team has a very difficult job doing the most important thing in the game: scoring the basketball. Although Monta may demand an inflated contract and may likely get overpaid this summer, he would provide tremendous value to our team in a variety of ways of which we currently struggle. The guy can flat out score the basketball, and that will never be a topic of debate. The addition of Ellis would help take pressure off Love in the 4th quarter and would keep opposing teams honest. Also when considering his ability to play off-ball, pairing Monta with a play-maker like Rubio could create for a very exciting backcourt.

While it can be easy to blame Minnesota’s inefficiencies on injuries and a lack of talent, there is no excuse for their fading defensive intensity and critical turnovers late in games. Both aspects have greatly hurt the team this season as they rank 24th in turnovers per game and 25th in opponents field goal percentage. The Wolves need to take care of the ball and be quicker on rotating on defense instead of allowing so many open looks by opposing perimeter players. These are basic fundamentals that Rick Adelman has undoubtedly preached this season, and the players need to put his words into a tangible product night-in and night-out.

Another important area for improvement is the team’s transition defense. If you go to the stat line of the Heat vs. Wolves games this season, we have had an enormous edge in the rebounding battle. However, the Heat destroyed us in fast break points and transition offense which led to us losing late in each game. The importance of success in transition cannot be stressed enough as it continues to separate legitimate NBA playoff teams from the lottery losers.

To reiterate, if we want to be a championship contender we have to have the firepower to be able to beat teams like the Heat and Thunder (elite teams). We won’t be able to accomplish any of this without an increase in talent and greater accountability from the players, the coaching staff and the front office. To be brutally honest, Minnesota right now is a LONG ways away from being a true contender in the NBA, although they possess the proper foundation to build a very good team in future years. Just like we saw with Rick Spielman’s genius drafting for the Vikings just one short year ago, a few good moves can fundamentally change the dynamic of a ballclub.