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.

 

Timberwolves Half-Season Review and Grades 2013/2014

Timberwolves bench

There’s a lot to think about midway through the 2013-14 NBA season (Jim Mone/Associated Press).

Well, we technically should be at the halfway point of the season, if not for the cancellation of the Timberwolves / Spurs game in Mexico City.  As requested in this week’s preview, let’s not get too caught up in the minutia and say that we are halfway there and it is time to provide a few thoughts on the halfway point of the season.  Below are a few thoughts about each player on the current roster and an overall grade for their efforts.

With the team struggling to get over the hump of .500 ball, things have looked a little underwhelming thus far this season.  With a 19-21 record going into this week’s action, our Pups are currently in 11th place in the Western Conference and have a good amount of work to do to catch Dallas and Phoenix, and surpass Memphis and Denver to get into the top eight of the Conference.  Can they do it?  Yes.  Will they do it?  I honestly don’t know. [Read more...]

Recap – Raptors 94, Timberwolves 89

raptor mascot

Strangely, this makes me laugh every time I look at it (Ron Turenne/Getty Images)

Two pretty average NBA teams came together at the Air Canada Centre Friday night for the first time this season, with the 18-20 Timberwolves taking on the 19-18 Toronto Raptors.  The Wolves play again on Saturday and that will be game number 41 on the season.  You know what that means?  We will be halfway through the NBA season and I’ll be putting together some thoughts on the team, its (blah) performance, and more in the coming days.  Expect a few write-ups to hit the site between now and Tuesday.

Despite the underwhelming performances in the past few weeks, no changes to the Wolves starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  (For the record, I don’t believe there should be any changes in the starting lineup.)  Speaking of underwhelming, the Raptors opened up with: Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valaciunas. [Read more...]

Putting Timberwolves thru the NBA Trade Machine

Putting Timberwolves thru the Trade Machine & this is one of the more appealing deals to be had ... I think

Putting Timberwolves thru the Trade Machine & this is one of the more appealing deals to be had … I think

The Timberwolves came into the 2013/14 season with high expectations, or at the very least, expectations of being a playoff team in a loaded Western Conference.  After a hot start, the team has cooled down some and is floating around what I like to call the Mason-Dixon Line, i.e. playing around .500 ball.  The schedule has done the team no favors, but that is completely out of the team’s control.  What we do know from the first third of the season is that the team is lacking in the depth department.  Coach Adelman is relying too heavily on his starters and a seven/eight man rotation is going to pay unkind dividends come March and April.

With that train of thought in mind, I took a look around the league and played with the NBA Trade Machine to find a few potential deals that might make sense for the Wolves and its trade partner.  I am considering the following players untouchable: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic.  While I don’t think Corey Brewer is a chip that would be dangled out there, I also wouldn’t consider him untouchable.  These trades are largely built with the thought of improving our depth and are not blockbuster deals. [Read more...]

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.

Recap – Timberwolves 121, Pistons 94

Corey Brewer goes "up high and down hard" (Harlan, Kevin) (Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

Corey Brewer goes “up high and down hard” (Harlan, Kevin)
(Photo credit: Timberwolves Facebook page)

The 9-11 Timberwolves travelled to Detroit to take on the 10-11 Pistons.  The Wolves went into the game a disappointing 3-7 on the road, so nothing was to be taken for granted.  No changes in the Wolves’ starting lineup: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Pistons opened up with Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.

Game Summary [Read more...]

Recap – Nuggets 117, Timberwolves 113

 

Nuggets ... Wolves ... Manimal vs. Love (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Nuggets … Wolves … Manimal vs. Love
(Photo credit: NBA.com)

The Timberwolves hit the road Friday night for a nationally televised game in Denver against the Nuggets.  The ESPN broadcast team spent a minute or two talking about the Wolves’ hot starts to games thus far this season.  So you could have assumed how this game started, the complete opposite.  Thank you Breen and Barry!

Kevin Martin returned from a bout with the flu and rejoined the starting lineup, along with Rubio, Brewer, Love and Pekovic.  Brian Shaw tinkered with the Nuggets starting lineup on Friday going with Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried, and JJ Hickson.  Insert your Randy Foye jokes here:

 

Game Summary

Wolves first game on national TV this season ended in a loss, thereby negating the above tweet and providing me with bad karma thoughts all over the place.  I’ll remain quiet about tomorrow’s game at Target Center against the Celtics.  Tonight’s game in Denver just felt underwhelming … which makes 0 sense given the final score of 117-113.  A few, good individual performances from the Pups, but not enough to bring home the W.  Let’s take a deeper look …

First Half 

Thanks to the kiss of death from Breen and Barry, the Nuggets jumped out to a 6-0 lead.  The Wolves quickly fought back however, led by a quick five assists from Ricky Rubio.  Rubio assisted on five of the Wolves first seven baskets and gave his team their first lead, 15-14.  Whatever Brian Shaw said in the huddle worked, as the Nuggets had an impressive rest of the quarter, taking a 35-26 lead at the end of the first twelve minutes.  That was largely due to the surprising, impressive play of JJ Hickson.

After the Nuggets scored the first five points of the quarter, the Timberwolves found themselves down by 15 points.  Rather than rolling over, the team gathered themselves and began an impressive run, led by the starting unit, minus Rubio and with JJ Barea.  I’m not sure what this means, but we had two JJ’s going off on the same night and neither really would have been your choice for player of the game before the opening tip.

In the last few minutes of the quarter, Kevin Martin came alive (again) and led the Wolves all the way back to take a lead at halftime, 60-56.  Here are a few additional notes at half-time:

  • Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love had a rock solid first half, combining for 25 points and 9 rebounds … but it was done “quietly” somehow
  • Rubio finished the half with 0 points and 9 assists – very excited about the passing, not thrilled at all about the 0-3 from the field
  • Following up on the Randy Foye joke – 0-3 from the field, and a game low -9 on the +/- scale … predictable

Second Half

The seesaw battle continued into the third, with the Nuggets dominating much of the quarter.  Through the first four minutes, the Wolves had one bucket … albeit a thunderous dunk by Corey Brewer.  Unfortunately, you don’t get style points in the NBA … yet, but who knows what Adam Silver has up his sleeve.

The Pups continued to turn the ball over (15 through three quarters in total), which allowed the Nuggets to increase their lead back to nine points.  With about 90 seconds to go in the quarter, the visitors made a small spurt to cut the lead to 86-81 at the end of three quarters, as Barea hit a fading jumper that rattled around the rim approximately seven times before falling through the net as the clock expired.

The resiliency in the Wolves continued to breakthrough in the fourth quarter as well.  Surprise, surprise, but the teams went punch for punch in the final frame as well.  The Nuggets built a thirteen point lead about halfway through the quarter and back came the Wolves again.  The Kevin’s and Corey led the charge, cutting it all the way down to a two point game after a three pointer from Love.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, they couldn’t get over the hurdle and fell short in Denver.  There were a few questionable calls/no-calls in the final minute, but this is a young team that is going to have to earn the respect of the officials.  Essentially, what Adelman said earlier in the week about being under the radar and not having earned anything yet came to fruition tonight.

A hard fought game but the Nuggets knock off the Wolves, 117—113.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Wilson Chandler – He didn’t have the most appealing box score, but Chandler knocked down open jumpers and led the Nuggets with 19 points, on 6-9 shooting.
  2. Kenneth Faried – 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Manimal, who shot 8-12 for the field.  Someone on the Wolves needed to commit a hard foul during this game and it didn’t happen.
  3. JJ Barea – Barea was a sparkplug off the bench tonight, keeping the Pups in the game.  He threw in 4 assists and 4 rebounds and helped mount most of the charges the team made.  

Key Takeaways

  • Rubio must make open jumpers for this team.  Opponents will continue to go under screens and he is going to have to start taking and making these shots.  As mentioned before the season, and mentioned by Barry tonight on the broadcast, this team could be really special if he makes the leap, and his jump shooting is preventing said leap.
  • Until the fourth quarter, Kevin Love was playing well but really not making a lot of noise.  Expectations are pretty high for a guy that throws up 28 and 10 and you don’t bat an eye.  Fair or unfair?

Game Notes:

Robbie Hummel played 13 minutes tonight while DWill, Shabazz, and Shved all received DNP-CD’s.  I have no idea what these three are (not) doing in practice, but it can’t be appealing on the eyes.

Wolves are back at it tomorrow night at the Target Center against the Celtics.