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!

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 4

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine look to bring the Target Center to their feet this week (Credit: NBA YouTube)

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine look to bring the Target Center to their feet this week (Credit: NBA YouTube)


Setting the stage:

After competitive games through the first two weeks of the season, the loss of Ricky Rubio has proven to be a catastrophic loss for our Timberpups.  The Wolves have lost five in a row, having last seen victory on Wednesday, 11/5 in Brooklyn.  This past week was particularly rough for the Wolves, losing in Mexico City to the Rockets, getting shellacked in New Orleans, and falling in Dallas to close out the week.

The Pups are getting virtually nothing from their veterans right now.  Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin are struggling on both ends of the floor.  Mo Williams remains an important cog off the bench but is not stepping up when replacing Zach LaVine on the floor.  Flip Saunders is/was relying on these veterans to not only perform on the court but to keep things in order in the clubhouse.  This season is going to be a learning process and keeping the locker room together is going to be a challenge for Flip and his staff.

On the docket for this week are three home games (among a four game homestand).  For some reason the schedule calls for another break in the action as the Wolves won’t start this week until Wednesday.  Here is a brief preview for each game this week:

Game 10: Wednesday, 11/19, 7pm – New York Knicks @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Knicks are, once again, an abomination of a team and franchise.  At least they are on the hook for the rest of Carmelo Anthony’s prime, right?  I’m not sure if that is a good thing either.  If it weren’t for the 76ers, the Knicks would be the worst team in the NBA.  As an added bonus, there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, whereas you could say there is for the rebuilding 76ers and our own Pups.

Opponent to watch:

Carmelo Anthony – Anthony leads the team in scoring (of course) and in assists (what?!).  ‘Melo resigned with New York for the league maximum and remains unsuccessful in making anyone around him better – despite those 3.7 assists per game.

Game 11: Friday, 11/21, 7pm – San Antonio Spurs @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The NBA champs have come out of the gate somewhat slowly and are playing in the league’s strongest division.  Cause for concern?  Of course not.  Popovich is monitoring minutes among his veteran squad and knows exactly what he is doing.  I learned about five years ago, stop discounting and giving up on the Spurs … they will always prevail.

Opponent to watch:

Tony Parker – After watching LaVine get torched by J’rue Holiday on Friday night, this is going to be another tough matchup for the Pups rookie.  Parker leads the Spurs in scoring and assists and will use his wily veteran skills to teach a few lessons to the rookie.

Game 12: Saturday, 11/22, 7pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Perhaps the surprise team of the first month of the NBA season, the Kings are 6-4 and getting an A+ effort from DeMarcus Cousins, who leads the team in rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks.  He is also putting up 22.1ppg, second behind …

Opponent to watch:

Rudy Gay – No one can question Gay’s ability to score throughout his career.  This will be a tough matchup for Andrew Wiggins and a nice barometer for how his defensive ability has adjusted to the NBA over the first month of his career.


The Pups need to return home and grab the “W” over the Knicks to start off this homestand and give the Target Center a reason to cheer.  From there, this week looks challenging.  Hopefully, Thad Young is able to return to the club after his mother’s passing and will give the club a boost.

Let’s go Wolves!

Wolves at Knicks: The First Road Test

The Wolves venture to the Big Apple to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 CST and will be telivised on FoxSportsNorthPlus where available and on the Wolves radio network, 830AM WCCO (@WolvesRadio on Twitter)

I’ve brought another guest for this one, Brandon Rushie, informally known as Bruce Chillroy (@AyoRush), is a Knicks beatwriter for The Knicks Wall. Rushie and myself both write for www.5thRowJoe.com

The Knicks Wall was founded in January 2012. Since then, the site has grown into the largest independent Knicks site on the web. The Knicks Wall’s main goal is to keep Knicks fans up-to-date on all things Knicks.”

I’ve asked Rushie to provide us with some perspective from the opponents side of things, which should be interesting considering it’s a New York team. Always fun to see what those in the big city think about us here in one of the ‘flyover states’.

Tonight the Knicks take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the West’s young upstarts full of talent. An inexperienced yet still improving core, the promising duo of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love have the Wolves entering the Garden as 1 of the 6 undefeated teams left in the league. Rubio is coming off an ACL tear that ended last year’s campaign prematurely, and Love looking to ready to finally give the Wolves a full 82-game season, it would be a mistake to take Rick Adelman’s squad lightly; especially considering the last three meetings between these teams have been decided by an average of 4 points.


The Knicks enter tonight with a record of 1-1 after a tough loss in Chicago, though their defense has been a bright spot — allowing a league low 82.5 points per game. Despite a 6th consecutive loss to the Bulls, New York did a solid job of containing Derrick Rose, holding him to 7-of-23 shooting and more turnovers (4) than assists (3). Perimeter defense was a major issue for the Knicks last year, especially when attempting to deny opposing guards entry into the paint. Head coach Mike Woodson’s switch-happy defensive philosophy, while sound in theory, is easy to attack once the pick and rolls start. Look for Rubio to put on show.


Although they’ve been defensively impressive, generating points has been difficult for the Knickerbockers — they’re last in points per game and 27th in pace (points per possession) this season thus far. The Wolves put on a superb defensive performance in their last game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, throwing the kitchen sink at the 3-time scoring champion and forcing someone else to beat them. It worked, as Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka both struggled, and the Wolves pushed the pace, forced turnovers and converted them to easy points on the other end.


How does the Turiaf injury play to the knicks favor?

The Wolves were thin in their frontcourt even before Turiaf’s unfortunate injury. I loved watching Gorgui Dieng play at Louisville, however he was unimpressive in limited burn against the Thunder, can’t imagine Adleman wants him spending a majority of his 18 or so minutes tonight against a former DPOY, but his options are limited. Look for New York to attack the young big man and try to get to the line early.


What are things that the Knicks do on both ends of the floor that Wolves people should look for? How do they run their offense?

Woodson isn’t the most imaginative fellow on the offensive side of the ball, the bare bones version is get Melo the ball in the post and look for the open man once the double comes. The Knicks can make teams that double hastily pay dearly with their outside shooting, so rotations better be crisp. Defensively the Knicks show good intensity but the challenge is maintaining the mentality for all four quarters. For instance — Opening night the Knicks porous defense almost blew a 20+point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks. They must be able to close out and shut the door on an opponent if the Knicks hope to be a legitimate threat in the East, especially in games at MSG.


Your concerns, or lack of concerns about the game.

New York lacks frontcourt depth. Offseason acquisition Andrea Bargnani has underwhelming performed in his first two outings and Tyson Chandler, though a monster, has propensity to rack up silly fouls in a hurry. Banging around with the 290-pound Nikola Pekovic will be a tough test for him. Amare Stoudemire has been officially ruled out for tonight, so Chandler must stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble at all costs.


What do you believe the wolves do well (offensively or defensively) that will be effective?

While the Knicks have been doing a solid job defensively, there’s still been instances that display susceptibility to defensive breakdowns against the pick and roll. Rubio is one of the best passers in the NBA, don’t be surprised if Woodson assigns Iman Shumpert -lockdown specialist- the task of corralling the young Spanish point guard. The Knicks are guilty of becoming stagnant on the offensive side of the ball so if the Wolves come with the same level of help defense as they did against OKC, the Knicks won’t have the luxury of passing the ball to Melo and expect a blind double-team to come. The blue and orange must have solid ball movement; they must make the opponent work defensively.


On behalf of Timberpups I’d like the thank Rushie for contributing to the preview for this game.

Here’s a few notes of my own.

J.R. Smith will not play for the Knicks tonight, he’s serving a five-game suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy during the offseason.

Minnesota has scored 72 points, combined, in the first quarter of games this season and 159 in the first halves. The Wolves have yet to work out all the kinks to Adelman’s offense, there’s room to improve in terms of efficiency but it’s certain — these guys can score in bunches. They’ve scored 72 first quarter points in the first two games, combined but the Knicks have only allowed 34, also through two games, in the opening quarter. The Wolves scored 34 against OKC on Friday night.

It’s going to be two strengths battling tonight, something’s gotta give.

As a reminder, if you’re interested in more Knicks news go to TheKnicksWall.com and follow Rushie on Twitter (@AyoRush).

Keep in touch with us via @thetimberpupsblog and be sure to comment in tonight’s forum, we’ll post the link in a tweet later.



Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New York Knicks, 2/8/13

Photo Credit: Associated Press
Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Timberwolves conclude their six game homestand Friday night with a visit from the NY Knicks.  The homestand has not been very successful, as the team has only been able to pull out one victory thus far.  Adding insult to injury, literally, is the announcement that Andrei Kirilenko will miss Friday’s game with his quad injury.  Earlier Friday, the team announced that they waived Lou Amundson and resigned Gelabale and Johnson for the remainder of the season. 

The Knicks come into Friday’s game off of a surprising loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.  I was hoping they would be asleep at the wheel for tonight’s game, but that loss was probably enough of a wakeup call.  The Knicks hold a 3 game lead over the Nets in the Atlantic division and are 1.5 games behind Miami for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.   

This week, we continue our Q&A format for Friday night game previews with Knicks blogger Matt Shelter from Buckets Over Broadway

Here’s our Q&A …

Knicks Question #1 for Matt:

The Knicks are in first place in the Atlantic division and right there with Miami for the best record in the Eastern Conference.  Are they exceeding your expectations this season?  If you could only select one or two key reasons for the team’s success thus far, what would it/they be? 


I would say first of all, everyone has bought into what Mike Woodson is selling, and most importantly that includes Carmelo Anthony, who looks like he is finally getting what it takes to not only lead a team, but most importantly what it takes to play winning team basketball. Secondly, their depth is an asset. Woodson can go 10 deep or more on any given night, which a lot of teams can’t do. Also throw a hat tip to Raymond Felton, who plays his best basketball in a Knicks’ jersey. It is hard to underestimate his value to this team.


Pups Question #1 for John:

The expectations were high coming into the season. I had the ‘Wolves pegged as a playoff team. How disappointing is this season to ‘Wolves fans?


This season has been brutal.  Expectations were sky high and the playoffs were well within range.  The onslaught of injuries makes this season feel like a four month long episode of Punk’d.  I’m half expecting Kevin Love to rip off his warm-ups and have a Lakers jersey on and turn heel. 

All kidding aside, it has been rough to watch this team fall apart.  They were able to tread water early without Love and Rubio.  When Love came back from his first hand injury they started to float above water and greener pastures were awaiting with the return of Rubio.  Unfortunately, it has all been flushed away with injuries to just about every single person on the roster.  Love is out again, Budinger was phenomenal before going down, Roy’s knee is acting up (he’s done), Josh Howard going down for the season, and the handful or more games missed by just about every single other person.  Not fun times. 


Knicks Question #2 for Matt:

Given that they are the oldest team in the league (average age of 31.3), do you fear that the Knicks will start to show some of the wear and tear on their body as the season moves towards the playoffs? 


Yes and no. Given their age, we have already seen guys like Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Jason Kidd suffer through injuries, but as I mentioned before, the Knicks have extraordinary depth. Now that Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert are healthy, Woodson will be able to limit their minutes to keep their legs fresh for the postseason.


Pups Question #2 for John:

The Knicks have had their share of injuries, but no team in the NBA has been as beat up as Minnesota. You can’t make excuses for injuries, but how good is this team if they are completely healthy?


They are definitely a playoff team in my mind, even in a very crowded Western Conference.  With a perfectly healthy roster (or a lack of significant injuries over the course of the season) this year’s team was a 7 or 8 seed in the conference, given Rubio’s delayed return from his ACL tear.  With a minor move before the deadline (Barea or Ridnour, or Derrick Williams) they could have moved up a bit further. 

Next season – which is a familiar phrase for Wolves fans – will be critical.  They need to resign Pekovic to stay on track, but they absolutely have to make the necessary tweaks to make the playoffs and “appease” Love and Rubio in an effort to have any chance of keeping those two around long term.  With an upgrade at SG added to this roster, they could (not will, but could) make a deep run in the playoffs. 


Knicks Question #3 for Matt:

Do you expect the Knicks to move Amare Stoudemire before the trading deadline?  Do you expect the team to make any moves at all before the deadline?  If so, what are you hearing could be in the pipeline?


First of all, Stoudemire isn’t going anywhere. Before his recent stretch of good play, the Knicks would have given him away for free for cap relief, but no team in the NBA will take on his salary with his injury history, especially with the new CBA. The Knicks need to add another big body, especially with Camby and Wallace on the shelf, but the problem is that they have 15 guaranteed contracts and would have to release someone and eat the contract even to sign a free agent like Kenyon Martin. That isn’t going to happen. The funny thing about winning for a change is that you aren’t linked to many players as the trade deadline approaches. The only player they have been linked to has been Lou Amundson and they aren’t going to mess with their roster to bring him in. My gut feeling is what you see is what you get.


Pups Question #3 for John:

Similar question. Do you see Minnesota making any moves and will they eventually be forced to move Kevin Love?


I expect the Wolves will try to move Ridnour (as rumored already), but I would prefer they try to move Barea.  They may have already tried this path and come to the realization that they can’t.  That said, I don’t expect any big moves from the team, especially when they continue to fall in the standings and out of the playoff race. 

As mentioned earlier, I do expect them to make a few significant moves in the offseason though.  That has to start with resigning Pekovic and then quickly finding a new home for Derrick Williams and Ridnour or Barea – if that isn’t already taken care of by that point. 

While I would love to say that Kevin will be a lifetime Timberwolf, I just don’t see it happening.  I fully expect him to opt-out of his contract and/or alert the team that this is going to be his decision, allowing the front office to find some type of package for him.  By no means is this going to end well. 

We hope you enjoyed the preview for this Friday’s match-up between the Pups and the Knicks.  Again, you can read more from Matt at Buckets Over Broadway and follow him on Twitter.  You can read more from John on Timberpups.com and/or follow him on Twitter as well.