Timberwolves Drop Disappointing Loss to Denver at Home

Wiggins2

The Timberwolves jumped out to a fiery start Wednesday night, but the energy was short-lived as the last three quarters proved a constant battle of “catch-up.” The 100-85 loss to a less-than-impressive Denver squad made it that much more disappointing. Andrew Wiggins led the team with 20 points, followed by Gary Neal who added 13 off the bench.

Minnesota had an early spark when Ricky Rubio dished the perfect pass to Wiggins for a slam dunk at the 6:00 mark. The play was part of an 8-0 run by the Wolves, and things seemed to be going their way. After a reactive timeout by Denver, though, the momentum shifted and from that point on the game ran in the Nuggets’ favor.

In the second quarter, Minnesota shot only 21 percent from the floor for 16 points, in comparison to Denver’s 34 points.

“In the last two months this is probably the most disappointing loss we’ve had just because we’ve been playing pretty good,” said head coach Flip Saunders. “We just didn’t play with any sense of urgency.”

Kevin Garnett added 11 points, six rebounds and a block in 21 minutes on the floor. Minnesota’s defense looked rough all night, but it was abysmal when Garnett was on the sideline. The young team just could not keep up with Denver, and they struggled to find a groove on either end of the floor.

No matter how many times the Wolves grabbed a bucket or two in an attempt to cut the deficit, the Nuggets answered with points of their own. Following the game, Rubio took ownership for some of the problems.

“We’ve got to bring more energy every night and tonight we didn’t,” he said. “We’ve got to start the game with energy. I blame myself. I didn’t bring enough energy tonight.”

Both Rubio and Kevin Martin have been averaging double-digit points over the last stretch of games, but the pair looked entirely out of sorts, combining for only 15 points on 7-of-28 shooting. As a team, Minnesota shot 39 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from behind the arc. Denver shot 40 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Kenneth Faried took control of the game, tallying 18 points and 14 rebounds on the night, notching his 16th double-double on the season. Will Barton added 17 points and six rebounds.

The Wolves biggest downfall Wednesday was in the paint, as they allowed the Nuggets to outscore them 52-28 points in that zone.

Despite the tough loss, Garnett continues to express a positive and motivated attitude since returning to his original team. The veteran spent the entire game coaching his teammates on the sidelines, offering encouragement, and handing out fist bumps as the guys came off the floor.

“This is a team that will fight for 48 minutes,” said Garnett. “This is a team where everyone will give what they have every night. That’s a good sign.”

Minnesota fell to 13-47 on the season, and the team will remain in town for the last of a three-game home stretch. The Wolves will welcome Portland for a 7 p.m. tipoff Saturday night.

 

Timberwolves Lose Close Game to the Clippers

(photo credit: fox sports)

(photo credit: fox sports)

Monday’s game proved exciting for all four quarters, and the final score came down to the wire. Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, the Wolves just couldn’t hang on and fell 110-105 to the Clippers. Gary Neal joined the starting lineup and led the Wolves with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio followed close behind with 18 points apiece.

As expected, Chris Paul put on quite the performance for LA, and he played a major role in pulling out the win. Paul, who is averaging 18.2 points and 10 assists per game, finished the game with an impressive 26 points and 14 assists. The point guard made the play of the night, grabbing a bucket over Kevin Garnett with 38 seconds remaining. That basket sealed the win for the Clips.

“[Paul] is a hell of a player,” said head coach Flip Saunders following the game. “We defended him as well as we could on that play, and he makes that shot.”

Garnett praised Paul as well, saying, “He’s probably the best general in the game as far as a guy executing. They’re playing better than anybody.”

Minnesota played well for most of the game, but the fourth quarter proved especially trying for Minnesota. Coming off a 37-point second quarter and 54.5 percent shooting in the third, the Wolves collapsed in the final stretch. The Clippers held Minny to just 7.1 percent from the field, which equaled just a single basket. Of the 18 points the Wolves tallied in the fourth, 16 of those came from the charity stripe. Looking at these numbers, it seemed unrealistic that Minnesota was actually given the chance to tie the game in the final seconds. Neal attempted a shot to even the score, but the launch fell short.

Neal did have the most points in the game, but his shooting was not particularly impressive. The guard shot only 6-of-17 from the field and 2-of-7 from behind the 3-point line.

“We were struggling and I thought [Neal] just thought he could make a shot,” Saunders said. “He thought he maybe got clipped a little bit in his legs. It was kind of a combination of he was looking for a call and also trying to shoot.”

The Wolves shot 43.9 percent overall Monday night, and they easily out-shot LA from the free-throw line with 82.9 percent compared to the Clippers’ 52.6 percent. Minnesota also out rebounded its opponents 47-43.

Here is something you don’t see every day: seven of the eight Wolves players who saw minutes scored in double-digit points. Adreian Payne proved a huge asset off the bench, adding 12 points and five rebounds, and rookie Zach LaVine also contributed 14 points. Garnett tallied 12 points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in his third game back with Minnesota.

Rubio was the stat line of the night, though, grabbing his fourth triple-double of the season. The point guard finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Several good things happened for Minnesota, but in the end it’s still a game in the Loss column. The Associated Press’ Jon Krawcynski posted the following after the game:

Monday’s game marked the first of three home games this week for the Wolves. Up next, they welcome Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Timberwolves Weekly Preview — Week 19

(photo credit: fansided.com)

(photo credit: fansided.com)

Setting the Stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are continuing to adjust to a new-look roster and starting lineup, but luckily for them, one of the “new” faces—as we all know—is none other than Kevin Garnett. The Big Ticket has played in two home games since joining the Wolves, and he’s notched one win and one loss.

This week promises to be interesting, as Minnesota has three home games. The Target Center has been packed since the news broke of KG’s return. It seems probable that he will play in all of this week’s games, being home, but fans shouldn’t count on too many minutes from the veteran.

 

Game Previews:

Game 59: Monday, 3/2, 7pm – Los Angeles Clippers at Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

Minnesota last faced the 39-21 Clippers on Dec. 1, and the Wolves came up short in the 121-101 final score. Performances to note from Minnesota were Shabazz Muhammad (18 points and 10 boards). Andrew Wiggins (14 points), and 13 points contributed by Robbie Hummel off the bench.

Three of the Wolves starters in that game—Thad Young, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams—are no longer with the team, and LA will be facing a whole new lineup. Chris Paul is a tricky opponent, and Jamal Crawford has been scoring a ton of points lately, especially with Blake Griffin out. However, the Wolves have a much better chance at winning this game if they play defense the way they did against the Wizards Wednesday night.

Opponent to Watch:

Chris Paul—The Clippers point guard is averaging 18.1 points, 10 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. In December, Paul scored 12 points and dished out eight assists against the Wolves. All eyes will be on the Ricky Rubio and Paul, as each is considered a top passer and defensive PG in the league.

 

Game 60: Wednesday, 3/4, 7pm – Denver Nuggets @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

Wednesday will be the fourth meeting of the season for Denver and Minnesota. The Wolves lost their first two matchups, but they grabbed a win in Denver on Jan. 17. All five starters scored in double digits that night as they walked away with the 113-105 win.  Andrew Wiggins went off for a season-high 31 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and four assists, while Robbie Hummel filled in as a starter and added 15 points for the evening.

The Nuggets are currently 20-39 and are allowing their opponents to score an average of 104.2 points per game. They will be playing back-to-back games, as they play the Bucks at home Tuesday night before travelling to Minnesota. The Wolves will need to take advantage of a nice home stretch and fresh legs as they look to grab a second win over Denver.

Opponent to Watch:

Ty Lawson – There’s no way around it; this guy is a huge offensive threat. Lawson is averaging 16.3 points per game, and his most impressive stat is the 9.8 assists he is dishing out per game. He promises to be a good matchup for Ricky Rubio, who is averaging 8.5 assists per night. In Minnesota’s last game against the Nuggets, Lawson led the team with 22 points.

 

Game 61: Saturday, 3/7, 7pm – Portland Trailblazers @ Timberwolves (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves are 1-1 against the Blazers this season, winning their most recent matchup 90-82 on Dec. 10. Both teams shot under 40 percent in that game, and the Wolves should only assume that Portland will have a stronger offense this time around. The advantage for Minnesota, however, is that the Blazers will be coming in after already playing three games this week.

Portland is currently ranked No. 3 in the NBA for rebounding, averaging 45.7 boards per game. KG and the Wolves will certainly have to play tough defense against this squad, and Payne will probably get some decent minutes Saturday as well.

Opponent to Watch:

Damien Lillard – The 24-year-old PG has been the thorn in Minnesota’s side on more than one occasion. In December, Lillard tallied 23 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Wolves. He is explosive offensively, and he often determines the pace of the game. Rubio and Zach LaVine will have their work cut out for them Saturday.

 

Wrap-Up:

This stretch promises to be a busy one for the Wolves, but at least all three games will be at home. The three biggest factors for Minnesota heading into this week are Kevin Garnett, Adreian Payne and Ricky Rubio. Team defense is a must in all three scenarios, and Payne and Garnett automatically set the tempo on that side of the floor. Payne doesn’t have much experience in the NBA yet, but he has shown some real potential in the post. Rubio will also need to be spot-on when facing three great point guards in Paul, Lawson and Lillard. If Rubio cannot move the ball effectively and find a way to make shots, the Wolves will struggle against the opponents’ back courts.

My prediction: The Timberwolves will come out of this week 2-1.

 

In addition: The team will be participating in Minnesota’s Taste of the Timberwolves event at the Target Center Thursday evening. 

The KG Celebration as Kevin Garnett Returns to Twolves

Kevin Garnett returns to the Timberwolves - what does that mean to me? (AP Photo)

Kevin Garnett returns to the Timberwolves – what does that mean to me? (AP Photo)

 

A new edition to the Timberpups.com staff is Don Ackerman – several of which you may know from the TwolvesArmy (Facebook and Twitter).  Don’s first piece below is a unique perspective on the return of KG to the Target Center.  Please welcome Don to the Pups team!

Game 1

The day KG was traded, I started imagining the day we could celebrate his years as a Timberwolves player. I imagined the day he would return and we would celebrate his number heading into the rafters. It would be a great night.  But, I never expected to have last night’s moment. I didn’t imagine Kevin Garnett being traded back to Minnesota. Instead of a great night, it was glorious.

It was glorious because we didn’t get to say goodbye and thank you. We got to say thank you and welcome back! This was the best atmosphere at a Wolves game since “The Season” (Wolves fan know well that year!).  The best part is that this atmosphere was all about the Wolves. I’m not even sure the opponent was introduced. Did the Wizards appear? Usually, the hype at Target Center is about Kobe, LeBron, Durant, Curry, or maybe even for a team like the Spurs. But Wednesday was all about KG.

This was more than basketball. This was not a game; this was a Celebration!

The Wolves started slowly (#PartyHangover) and I didn’t care. When KG blocked his first shot, the night was complete! What happened next was irrelevant.  With the Celebration in full swing, what happened next couldn’t have been better for the Timberwolves franchise. The Wolves, originally down 1-13 (yes, one measly point), turned it around and at halftime, had tied the game.

Halftime was a bonus. It was fun and was a great surprise to see Montell Jordan perform. I’ve been hearing “This is How We Do It” since the game ended.

The second half continued the Celebration. People got what they wanted from KG. The Timberwolves staff nailed it. We got highlights, smiles, and, yes, the dancing fan in the 15 jersey. When KG smiled and pointed to John Sweeney from the Brave New Workshop, the night was complete! When I saw him in attendance, I knew it would happen. Today, he’s again a Minnesota sensation (#FullCircle).

When the Wolves started cruising, it was Kevin … Kevin Martin who took over. I can’t help but think that everyone was there to celebrate the past, but truly the “Future is Now!” with a great supporting cast who turned an early deficit into a 20-point win.

So fans got to celebrate the past and see that the future is bright with the current Wolves. KG is a great addition to an already young team and now that 21 is back in the arena to play every night, he’ll attract well-deserved attention and fans to see KG plus the great talented team he joins.

As a fan who spends just about every Wolves game at Target Center, I hope many more Celebrations are still to come.

PS: I still plan to enjoy when 21 goes into the rafters, but until then, I’ll celebrate every night with KG on the court. What a bonus!

 

Game 2

I wasn’t sure what to expect against Memphis. So many fans missed out on Wednesday’s celebration that I knew many fans would fill Target Center tonight to get in on what I’m seeing called “The KG Effect.” (If you know the source of that, please let me know. It’s a cool phrase! #NailedIt)

The fans were there. They filled the entire arena. KG jerseys are everywhere. I haven’t seen that many 21’s in a long time. It’s great to see the fans supporting the Wolves. From what I see & hear, all is forgiven for KG. He gets to be introduced last and the fans love it. The cheer “Kay..Gee…” rocked the house.

I wondered if fans would be as loud and as exuberant tonight. The vibe was slightly different, but it was a loud house. The Wolves are loving The KG Effect and even offered $21 tickets. The fans are “all in” and showing up in full force. As Jeff Munneke put it “This is fun.”

Saturday’s opponent was a stronger one and it was a different game. Memphis is a solid team that is well coached. The Wolves fought to the end against a playoff team. As for the KG returns saga, the fans got the KG we know. He was fired up.

But after KG’s introduced, it’s back to the younger guns for basketball action. The Rising Stars MVP continues to show his stuff. Andrew Wiggins lead all scorers with 25 and surprise! Gary Neal – the player the Wolves were rumored to let go – was the second-leading scorer with 16. Who saw that coming?

Back to KG. He made his presence known. KG chipped in all over the stat sheet. He scored 6 points, had 3 boards, helped with 2 dimes, and added 3 steals. You might not be impressed by his production, but you should be as he made an impact all over the court.

Again, fans who came to see KG, got it, but if they stayed longer than he did (#EmotionalKGEjected), the fans got to see Ricky Rubio play well, see Gorgui Dieng do what he does, and got to see Martin hit some huge shots late in the game to give the Wolves a chance. Martin’s late big shots even tied the game.

The fans stood up! KG must’ve been happy to see it. The crowd is all in on the Wolves. Even the Grizzlies noticed! They blanketed Martin after this big makes as they should. Until Chase gets it worked out, Martin is our big shot maker. Can Neal fill the void left by Chase Budinger? I sure hope so.

Even though the Wolves fell with a four-point loss (97-101), let’s remember that the Wolves and Grizzlies are record opposites. I’m pretty sure that any team that faced the Wolves before The KG Effect is glad and lucky to get the Wolves when they did. These Timberwolves are hungry and these days It’s Feeding Time!

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.

Reaction
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.

Bulls Charge Past Wolves, 96-89

The Bulls laid into Andrew Wiggins and made it a rough night for the rookie. (Photo credit: Nam Y Huh, AP Photo)

The Bulls laid into Andrew Wiggins and made it a rough night for the rookie. (Photo credit: Nam Y Huh, AP Photo)

 

Two nights after the most exciting game at Target Center in years, the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the court to take on the Chicago Bulls.  Before the game started, the teams announced that key players would be missing from both squads.  Most importantly for Wolves’ fans, Kevin Garnett was ruled out of Friday night’s game in Chicago.  Prior to tip-off, the Bulls announced that Pau Gasol would miss Friday’s game, after also announcing that Derrick Rose had successful surgery earlier in the day and may be able to be back on the court in 4-6 weeks.

The Timberwolves opened up with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, an on-fire in recent weeks Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Nikola Pekovic.  The Bulls made the appropriate adjustments due to the aforementioned injuries and countered with Aaron Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah.

The Bulls got off to a quick start, taking a 15-8 lead and forcing Flip Saunders to burn an early timeout.  Chicago had seven assists on their first seven made field goals.  However, the Andrew Wiggins show started to warm up shortly thereafter, as the rookie scored seven points in a row (for the Wolves) to cut the Chicago lead to 21-19.  At the same time the Bulls were forced to take a timeout as Taj Gibson was injured (and subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the game).  For the remainder of the quarter both teams slowed things down and plodded along a bit.  Chicago took a 27-23 lead into the second quarter.

In typical Bulls’ fashion, the game continued to a somewhat ugly pattern or form well into the second quarter.  If the Wolves were looking for a silver lining, they may look no further than Gary Neal.  Halfway through the quarter and Neal scored or assisted on all but two Timberwolves’ baskets and led the charge giving the Wolves a 37-34 advantage.

That timeout sparked a 10-2 by the Bulls, giving them a 44-39 advantage, sparked by two three pointers from Mike Dunleavy.

For the second consecutive quarter, points became a premium in the final three minutes of the half.  Chicago took a 51-44 lead into halftime and the Wolves were a little lucky it wasn’t worse, as Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler worked the offensive end of the floor but couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the basket.

The Bulls came out of the locker room and couldn’t have looked more lethargic.  The Wolves tied the game at 51 in the first three minutes of the game thanks to the efforts of Rubio and Martin.  After the timeout, the game became a Free Throw contest, with both teams leaving a good number of points on the table.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Bulls held a 73-67 advantage.

Zach LaVine entered the 4th quarter with two minutes gone by and tried to take over the game.  It worked for a little while, but with the Wolves down by two points on two different occasions, LaVine turned the ball over that led to a Jimmy Butler layup and then grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled the ball all the way down the court and took missed an off-balance layup.  LaVine then made and assisted on the Wolves next two baskets, but subsequently didn’t rotate or get his hands up on a made three-pointer from Aaron Brooks.

Flip Saunders saw the same thing and called a timeout, replacing LaVine with Rubio.  The moral of the story?  We are still seeing the ups and downs on a minute by minute basis with the rookie.

That three-pointer from Brooks opened up an 84-79 lead for the Bulls and could have been the dagger.  However, the Timberwolves scored the next six points to take an 85-84 lead with about five minutes to play.  Unfortunately for the Pups, they went cold from that point forward, missing shots, turning the ball over, and most frustratingly, missing free throws.  The combination of all three led a 12-4 Bulls charge past the Timberwolves and a 96-89 victory for the home team.

A few notes from the game:

  • Two Wolves had double-doubles – Pekovic with 12 points / 11 rebounds and Rubio with 15 points / 10 assists.
  • Andrew Wiggins was only 4-10 from the line, with the team going 21-31 from the stripe for the evening.  That is a nice way to lose a close game.
  • Gorgui Dieng had 3 turnovers in 25 minutes, but it feels like Flip has way too quick of a leash on the second year pro relative to others.
  • Unrelated to Friday’s action specifically, RIP Earl Lloyd, the first African American to ever play in the NBA who passed away on Friday at the age of 86.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Poor Offense Brings 113-102 Loss in Houston

(photo credit: chatsports.com)

(photo credit: chatsports.com)

Minnesota’s defense looked a lot better in the road contest against Houston Monday night, and it was only defense that kept the Wolves in the game as long as it did. The Timberwolves’ offensive performance was abysmal, and they fell 113-102 to James Harden and his squad. Rookie Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves with a career-high 30 points on his 20th birthday.

Harden was the story of the night, notching yet another triple-double with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He didn’t start out that way, however. Harden played 12 minutes in the first quarter and went 0-for-6 from the field and 0-for-4 from behind the 3-point line. Houston kept the game going and patiently waited for its super star to catch up–which he certainly did.

“When I get my teammates confident to shoot their shots and be aggressive and get them in their rhythm, I can get into mine and that makes everything easy,” Harden said.

On the other side, it was an entire team that shot poorly. The Rockets held Minnesota to a season-low 33 percent from the field, including just 28.5 percent in the second half. The Wolves’ best quarter was the second, in which they shot 52.4 percent and tallied 31 points. If they could have kept the game going at that pace, a win would have been in the cards for the young team.

Kevin Martin added 21 points for the team, a solid contribution, but even he wandered from his usual consistency and made only 32 percent of his shots. Martin also committed six turnovers, which combined with the 20 total errors Minny made on the night.

Ricky Rubio has been playing well since his return from injury, but he struggled to find a groove Monday. The point guard made all 10 of his attempts from the free-throw line, but he was only 2-0f-13 in his other shots. The Associated Press’ Jon Krawzcynski posted on Twitter during the game:

The Wolves did hang on for most of the game, thanks in large to Wiggins, and they trailed by only a single point with under four minutes remaining. Unfortunately, though, Minnesota ran out of steam. Houston went on a 14-2 run in the final minutes of the game, and it was over.

“They kept getting us down, but we kept on fighting,” coach Flip Saunders said. “But we just didn’t have enough there at the end.”

Adreian Payne made his first NBA start on Monday, and the center played much better than he did in Friday night’s contest. Payne finished the game with a double-double, adding 11 points and 10 rebounds. The rookie started in the absence of the injured Anthony Bennett, who is slated to be out for two weeks with an ankle sprain.

The biggest news for Minnesota remains the return of Kevin Garnett to the team that drafted him. The 38-year-old Garnett will have his first practice with the team Tuesday, and he will be officially introduced in a presser at 3 p.m. The team has announced that Garnett will make his debut in Wednesday’s home game against Washington. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.