Without Martin, Pekovic, Timberwolves Fall to Houston Rockets

Monday night’s homestead was a game of runs. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they came up on the wrong side in the fourth quarter, and they watched Houston pull away with the 107-89 win.  Wolves starters Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (finger) viewed the loss from the sidelines–Minnesota felt their absence in a very big way. Head coach Rick Adelman also missed the game due to personal reasons, and assistant coach Terry Porter stood in at the helm.  Kevin Love played through an upper thigh contusion and tried to carry the team with 31 points and 10 rebounds. Chase Budinger followed with 15 points and seven rebounds.

The first few minutes looked a bit rough as the Rockets went on a 19-8 run. However, the Wolves found their groove and fought back, going on a 6-0 run of their own that was highlighted with a nice JJ Barea layup. The two teams battled back and forth for most of the game, but a “W” just wasn’t in the cards against the 35-17 Rockets.

Houston is a challenging opponent on any night, plain and simple. For Minnesota, facing the team with a less-than-complete roster made the task even more difficult. The Rockets have now won six games in row, led primarily by James Harden and Dwight Howard–the duo is averaging 23.6 and 18.8 PPG, respectively. The Wolves stayed with them for the remainder of the game, though, holding on for the first three quarters. Minnesota struggled a bit to defend in the first half, allowing the Rockets to put 67 points on the board. Porter addressed the issue during halftime and the Timberwolves held Houston to 40 points in the second half. But although their defense improved, Minny just couldn’t get shots to drop.

“I thought our guys had great effort tonight,” said Porter post game. “… Unfortunately for us, we just couldn’t make shots.”

budinger_houston

 

The Wolves lessened the deficit to just four points to end the third, trailing 82-78.  Unfortunately for Minnesota, everything fell apart in the final period. No starters were on the floor to start the fourth quarter, and Houston went on an 11-0 run  as Wolves players missed shots left and right.  Alexey Shved had 11 points off the bench and made a significant impact earlier in the game, but the guard made several poor passes in the fourth and committed three turnovers. Howard proved a nagging force against Minnesota, blocking three shots and grabbing 11 defensive rebounds.  Ronny Turiaf started in Pek’s absence, and he just wasn’t an even matchup against Howard. Turiaf tallied 10 rebounds on the night, but he scored only two points in 30 minutes of play. Gorgui Dieng played 11 minutes to give Turiaf a break, and he failed to make a single bucket.

Porter called a timeout and adjusted the lineup at the 8:55 mark, but Minnesota couldn’t regain its footing. Timberwolves fans watched Houston pull away with the win. In the end, the Wolves scored just 11 points in Q4, dropping their shooting percentage of the night to 35.6 (24 percent from the three-point line).

Monday night’s loss brought the Timberwolves record to 24-28, and the team falls to No. 11 in the Western Conference standings. They will have to pull things together in a hurry if they hope to making the playoffs. Minnesota will remain at home to play Denver Wednesday night before enjoying a week off for the All-Star break.  Following the break, the Wolves’ next game will be Feb. 19 against the No. 1 Indiana Pacers.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing,” Turiaf said. “Regardless of if we feel it or not, we got to keep pushing. And that’s what basketball is about. You have tough stretches like that, you give in or you just keep your head above water… WE know at the end of the day, things need to turn around eventually.”

Rubio_Houston

Timberwolves Play of the Game: 

With 6:19 remaining in the second quarter, Alexey Shved drove down the lane and came up with a monster dunk over Terrence Jones.

You can view the play here.

 

 

Short-Handed Timberwolves Fall 106-97 to Thunder

The Timberwolves faced the 40-11 OKC without the help of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer. Despite playing without some of their top scorers, the Wolves gave a valiant effort. Minnesota actually held the lead a few times during the first half, and the teams battled back and forth. It was the Thunder that held the upper hand, though, and came away with the 106-97 win. Ricky Rubio led the team with 19 points, while Dante Cunningham filled in as a starting forward and added 18.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said head coach Rick Adelman. “They busted their tails the whole game.”

TWolvesTweet

OKC’s Kevin Durant scored 26 points on the evening, but he surprisingly didn’t become the deciding factor in the fourth.  The star forward scored only two points for the Thunder in the final period, but his teammates still managed to pull away from Minnesota for the win.  Reggie Jackson added 20 points (seven in the fourth quarter) and dished out nine assists.  Wednesday marked the Thunder’s 12th win in 13 games, and they are the first team in the league to hit 40 wins this season.

Minnesota scored 54 points in the first half but only 43 in the second, shooting an overall 47 percent from the field.  Rubio and Cunningham really stepped up offensively in the absence of Love and Brewer, and JJ Barea delivered another strong performance with 11 points and four assists off the bench.  Where Minnesota felt a loss the most was in rebounding. With both Love and Pek sidelined, the Wolves only grabbed 39 boards to OKC’s 49.

“I knew they’d play scrappy with three starters out,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.  “A wounded team generally steps up. But I thought we played good defense for only about four minutes in the first quarter and then in the fourth quarter. Other than that we didn’t play the kind of defense we usually do.”

The Timberwolves held their own through three quarters of basketball. At the end of the third quarter, Derek Fisher hit a buzzer-beating three and led a 16-4 Thunder run, growing the deficit to 12. From that point on, Minny found itself unable to catch up.  Robbie Hummel came off the bench to hit a three at the 3:45 mark, and that brought the score to 95-89, but that was the closest the Wolves got to regaining their footing.

Rubio said the following after the game: “We came into the game aggressive and we fought all the way through, but in the last five minutes, I think we missed too many free throws and easy shots while they made shots at the end.”

(photo credit: washingtonpost.com)

(photo credit: washingtonpost.com)

The tough loss dipped Minnesota’s record below .500 once again. The Wolves currently sit at No. 11 in the Western Conference, falling to five games out of the No. 8 playoff spot. They will continue on to New Orleans to face the Pelicans Friday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline and Injury Notes

Brewer missed the game with Family Leave after the birth of his son on Tuesday.  Coach Adelman says he expects Brewer to rejoin the team for Friday’s game.

Pekovic remained sidelined with a nagging ankle injury, and Love was listed as a “sore neck” after taking a nasty fall against the Lakers Tuesday night.

 

Timberwolves Sail Over Pelicans, 88-77

It was not the most graceful of games, but a win is a win. The Timberwolves held New Orleans to a season-low 77 points at the Target Center while tallying 88 to take their fifth win in six games. Kevin Love led the Wolves with 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Kevin Martin added 18 points.

Both teams played without a major starter. Nikola Pekovic was listed inactive for Minnesota with the ankle injury, and the Pelicans missed forward Anthony Davis due to a dislocated finger.

Davis tends to hit the mid-range shots in addition to being a threat on the inside; New Orleans struggled in his absence, shooting just 35 percent from the field and an ugly nine percent from behind the arc.

Ronny Turiaf replaced Pekovic for most of the game, and his defensive game certainly cannot be criticized. With Turiaf being a lower-scoring player (he grabbed four points on the evening), though, Love absorbed some pressure to compromise offensively.

“With Pek out, we really have to find a way to relieve the pressure off [Love], move him around and stuff,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We know teams are going to come at him. … So we have to find ways to figure it out.”

Turiaf_Pelicans

Love proved unstoppable, playing more aggressively than has been seen of late. He covered all areas of the floor, even dishing out five assists when Ricky Rubio went to the bench with four fouls.

JJ Barea and Dante Cunningham came off the bench to score 10 and 12 points, respectively, which helped give some relief to Minnesota’s starting lineup.

Al-Farouq Aminu worked to keep his team afloat, grabbing 18 points and 12 boards, but it wasn’t enough. New Orleans’ Greg Steimsma, who played with the Wolves last season, scored just three points as the starting center, and point guard Brian Roberts added only nine.

In all honesty, both teams looked terrible in the second half. Turnovers were a regular occurrence on each side, and players looked lackluster across the board.

Minnesota kept the upper hand, though, capitalizing on second-attempt buckets and free throws to stay in the lead. Defensively, the Wolves played better than they have most of the season, and they held New Orleans to 15 points in the fourth quarter.

“This is when you have to step up, and we just didn’t do it tonight,” said Pelicans coach Monty Williams. “That happens.”

Rubio_Pelicans

Wednesday’s win brought the Wolves to two games over .500 for the first time since November, and fans certainly hope the team has turned a corner on the season.

“We’ve been playing great over these past six games and we just want to continue doing whatever we’ve been doing,” Martin said post-game.

Minnesota will host the Memphis Grizzles Friday night at the Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline Moment: 

(from NBA.com): During a second quarter break, the Wolves played a video tribute to Love for being named an All-Star starter. The video also encouraged fans to put the pressure on the All-Star coaches to name Pekovic a reserve by tweeting to #pekgoestoo, claiming the bruising duo doesn’t like being separated. The two big men stood together and watched, sharing a laugh while Love pointed at Pekovic and gave his shoulders a shake.

“[Nikola's] one of my best friends in the world,” said Love, “and I want to make sure he goes too.”

 

 

Timberwolves Come Back, Take Down Sixers 106-99

Wednesday night’s home game did not get off to a pretty start for the Timberwolves, but the team rallied in the 4th quarter. Minnesota overcame a 19-point deficit to take down the Sixers 106-99. Kevin Love led his team with 26 points and 15 rebounds, followed by Ricky Rubio with 21 points. On the opposing side, Spencer Hawes and Tony Wroten came away with 20 points apiece.

Wolves fans experienced an emotional roller coaster.  With their team coming off a big win over Detroit on the road,  they hoped to see the same explosive play at home. The first half certainly looked nothing like Tuesday night, however.

(photo credit: Kare11.com)

(photo credit: Kare11.com)

Minnesota struggled early on in the game, fighting to keep up with Philly during the first quarter. Rubio added nine points to bring his team to within three at the 3:02 mark, but the Sixers answered by going on a 16-0 run to close out the period.

Quarter 2 did not prove much better.

The Sixers scored 18 fast-break points and seemed to hit almost every bucket they threw up. At the close of the half, they were shooting 63.4 percent from the floor and led the Wolves 61-48.

“We know exactly what [the 76ers] are going to do,” said Coach Rick Adelman postgame. “they are going to run it down the court and try to attack the basket as quickly as they can and they just got it going and got us on our heels.”

Minnesota didn’t back down, though. Adelman led his team out of the locker room to start the third quarter, and the Wolves were ready to go.

Love and Rubio added seven and five points, respectively, and Corey Brewer added eight points as well, including two three-point buckets. The Wolves outscored their opponents by 10 for the quarter, and the team–and fans–showed a new level of energy headed into the fourth.

Robbie Hummel came off the bench to score Minnesota’s first basket of the quarter: a nice three-point shot from the corner that brought the Wolves within two of Philly. The second-year forward proved a major key to his team’s win, as he tallied 10 points, three rebounds and a steal in just under 12 minutes on the hardwood.

“[Robbie] made shots but he also made a nice job defensively on the boards, too,” Adelman said. “He gave us the spark we needed.”

It may not have been a beautiful game overall, but in the end, Minnesota’s 38.5 percent shooting and solid defense was enough to grab a second consecutive win.

Adelman said the following about the team’s come-from-behind performance:

“Usually it’s hard to have that happen and win the game. We got the win, but hopefully we learned a lesson.”

(photo credit: StarTribune.com)

(photo credit: StarTribune.com)

 

3 Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love: Love proved once again why he is one of the top forwards in the league. In addition to his double-double, Love also tallied five assists and two steals on the evening.
  2. Ricky Rubio:  The point guard may not be known as a scorer, but Rubio has proven critics wrong a few times this season. Minnesota would not have landed a win without his 21 points, and Rubio once again topped the chart with seven assists and three steals.
  3. Spencer Hawes: Hawes was definitely his team’s most all-around player Wednesday night. The forward shot 58 percent from the floor, including 4-of-5 from behind the three-point line. Hawes also blocked three of Minnesota’s shots.

 

Key Takeaways

  1. Minnesota’s win might have come a little easier with a stronger presence from Kevin Martin. Philly held the shooting guard to one of his least-productive games of the season — Martin went 0-7 during the first half, and he finished the game with only five points.
  2. It may seem obvious, but the Wolves need to step up their shooting if they expect to keep winning. They squeaked out a victory with a tough defensive performance and some solid perimeter shooting, but 38 percent will not be enough to make headway in the competitive Western Conference.
  3. The 76ers have now dropped 12 of their last 14 games and nine in a row on the road. Wednesday night’s loss at the Target Center dropped Philly to No. 13 in the Eastern Conference with a 7-16 overall record.

Cavaliers Conquer Invading Wolves: 93-92

The Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t stick around the Big Apple after the victory over the New York Knicks, the team arrived in Cleveland early Monday Morning. Yesterday, jumpers and free-throws fell short throughout the game and the Wolves were unable to overcome an early deficit, falling to the Cavaliers despite making a run late in the fourth quarter, 92-93.

Rick Adelman started Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love and the Cavs countered with Tristin Thompson, Earl Clark, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejeo and Kyrie Irving — both teams youthful and poised for a postseason run in their respective conferences.

Kevin Martin continued his three-point shooting streak carrying over from Friday and kept things close, but the Prince of Cleveland stole the show during the opening quarter. Uncle Drew wasn’t going to let his old friend Wes get the best of him on his home floor. Irving looked well on the way to a triple-double, scoring seven points, four assists and snatching three rebounds. Kevin Love failed to hit on two attempts from downtown and shot two of five from the field, scoring only four points in the first. Martin was three of four from distance and hit two FT’s on his way to 13 of the Wolves 23 points.

Irving finished with 15 points and 6 assists

Irving finished with 15 points and 6 assists

Cavs swingman C.J. Miles played as well as he did with the Utah Jazz when he scored 40 against the Wolves in a game during the second half of the 2010-2011 season. He came off the bench and scored 12 points on six shots despite never shooting a free throw during the second quarter.

The Wolves were flat and looking Adelman searched for solutions involved with the problem of losing backup center Ronnie Turiaf. Against the Knicks Minnesota went small with lineups of Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams at the power forward and Love at the five. After the game he insinuated Gorgui Dieng would see minutes in relief of Pek, who won’t be able to play for 40 minutes as he did in New York. The rookie was not up to his enormous task and committed three fouls in less than three minutes, Andrew Bynum imposed his will on Dieng. Varejeo took advantage by dropping in a few “bunnies” around the rim on his way to 10 first half points.

The Wolves trailed at halftime 38-55.

Both teams appeared cold coming out of the locker room at halftime and the Wolves managed to outscore the Cavs 23-21, trading baskets but failing to cut the deficit to a manageable number. Irving continued to show why he’s been called Cleveland’s savior and significantly out performed Rubio, the 23 year old from Spain had five assists but was zero for seven shooting and had only scored four points.

Minnesota cut the lead shorter and shorter throughout the fourth quarter. Spark plug J.J. Barea and Derrick Williams scored a combined 13 and narrowed what had been a 23 point lead all the way down to one, Adelman called a timeout with 11 seconds remaining to run a final play hoping escape Quicken Loans Arena with a victory despite never having the lead during the game.

Williams had 13 points in Monday's loss

Williams had 13 points in Monday’s loss

Barea caught the ball at the top of the key, nearly lost possession going around a screen to his left and passed the ball to Love — who stood in the same place where he hit a game tying three against the Orlando Magic that eventually forced overtime in the Wolves season opener. This time, he was not-so-clutch.

Coming away 2-1 against the Thunder, Knicks and Cavs isn’t something to team, or it’s fans, should hang their heads in shame for — through the first four games, the Wolves have played considerably well.

Tomorrow Target Center hosts the Golden State Warriors, the game should make for lots of scoring excitement but it’s another tough test early in the season.

The team has a well-deserved day off today, we’ll see if they can bounce back at home Wednesday night.

Zach.

 

 

 

(Photos from MinnesotaTimberwolves.com)

Timberpups Preseason — The Opener

The Timberpups begin the preseason tonight, in the Target Center, at 7:00 CST vs. CSKA Moscow.

Dante Cunningham (ill) and JJ Barea (personal reasons) both questionable for tonight’s contest vs. CSKA Moscow.

— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) October 7, 2013

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Nikola Pekovic are the expected starters this season and also for tonight’s game. How many minutes will they play? I presume no more than 10-minutes, but, it’s ultimately up to Coach Rick Adelman.

After the starters sit, Alexey Shved is likely to see plenty of minutes against his former team. These quotes are from a piece written by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

‘Adelman just wants Shved to become more “engaged” when he’s playing off the ball.

“If Alexey smiles, everything else takes care of itself,” Ronnie Turiaf said. “If he doesn’t smile, he’s a different player.”

It’s a big game for Shved, we’ve talked about him playing minutes behind Rubio at point guard this season — tonight will be a chance to see him in that role. He’ll will share minutes with Lorenzo Brown and A.J. Price, because of Barea’s absence. It’s important for Shved to play well, not only for himself, but to show the team he can change the face and be happy — there’s also two guys fighting to make the roster  playing behind him tonight.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press wrote a captivating story about Othyus Jeffers, quoting Flip Saunders’ opinion of the 28-year old from Chicago.

“What he’s been through is how he plays,” said Saunders, who coached Jeffers in Washington. “He’s hard-nosed, kind of a mad dog that just gets after it and really competes. He basically goes at it where he understands that nothing’s given to him.”

Here’s a little bit on the ‘Pups opponent this evening.

CSKA is coached by an Italian, Ettora Messina, who spent time with the Lakers as a technical advisor to Mike Brown in Los Angeles. Prior to L.A. Messina was head coach of Real Madrid of Spain 2009-2011, he’s on contract with CSKA for $44-million and may choose to opt-out if he’s offered a head coaching opportunity in the NBA. “However, Messina figures this to be unlikely — he’s 53 and it’s late to try and pick up the game. Read more about Coach Messina here -thanks Manuel!  (@itaTimberwolves)

The club is run similar to an NBA Franchise and is without question the powerhouse of the Russian League. CSKA has been the Russian League Champion every season dating back to 2003, in addition to winning Euroleague titles in 2006 and 2008. Shved and former Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko were two main components of the 2008 squad. In 2010, Shved helped CSKA attain the first victory on American ground by a European team in a preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“It’s a good check-up for us. It’s good to see where we are and to find our game before our real season starts,” Nenad Krstic explained. “For some of our players, it’s their first time playing against an NBA team; it’s a new experience. And Minnesota has a talented team.”

Kristic is a two-time all Euroleague Center from Serbia who has played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics, New Jersey Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder. Averaging just over 15-points in Eurobasket, he’s one of the players the Wolves must focus on defending against CSKA tonight.

Shved’s intensity isn’t necessarily in question, but the team would like to see more of it. I wouldn’t expect a lackluster effort for the second-year NBA Player tonight.

“I went over to the hotel to meet with my friends and former coaches. I am happy see them here. I’m always happy to see my guys.” He also summed up how both teams feel about the contest. “They want to show that they can beat an NBA team and NBA teams don’t want to lose. Everybody is ready for this game.”

Click here for more European perspective on tonight’s matchup.

CSKA will look to slow the ball down and playing a majority of the game in the halfcourt, hoping to slow down the Wolves’ potentially potent transition offense. If the game gets wild, it’s an advantage for the home team. Hopefully the Wolves can run away with this one, without any injuries, of course. I know, I know, it’s only the preseason but we’ve waited too long and the team has worked to hard to be defeated by a weaker opponent. Look for Shved to play-with-purpose, the training camp invites to make the most of their chances and most importantly — a Timberpups victory.

 

The next preseason game is Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors, more on that soon.