Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 6

Flip's the man in charge!  (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

Flip’s the man in charge! (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

 

Setting the stage:

The 4-10 Timberwolves (pending Sunday night’s result in Portland) head into a busy week of action in week 6 – wrapping up a trip to the West Coast in Los Angeles before returning home for two games and heading back on the road to close out the week.  After defeating the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night, the team traveled to Portland for a game on Sunday, only to have to return to Los Angeles for Monday’s game against the Clippers.  Here is a brief preview for each game this week:

Game 16: Monday, 12/1, 9:30pm – Timberpups @ Los Angeles Clippers (TV: FS North)

A back-to-back traveling up and down the coastline with another opponent that is playing really well to start the season.  The Clippers remain a tremendously talented, regular season team that must do more in the playoffs to earn respect around the league.  Chris Paul and Blake Griffin continue to put up big numbers on a nightly basis.

Opponent to watch:

DeAndre Jordan – Assuming Nikola Pekovic doesn’t return for this game, Jordan will likely be a headache for the Wolves.  While Gorgui Dieng provides respectable defense, a lot of his strength is in help defense and not so much in a one-to-one set – yet, at least.  That should come as Dieng continues to become more familiar with the pro game.

Game 17: Wednesday, 12/3, 7pm – Philadelphia 76ers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North Plus)

The Sixers open the week at 0-16 and will likely be 0-17 when they come to Minneapolis, given that they face the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.  The Wolves need to win games like this one for morale and to keep the home fanbase at bay.

Opponent to watch:

Tony Wroten – Wroten leads the Sixers in points, assists and steals per game.  Paging Andrew Wiggins.  Wiggins continues to guard the strongest wing opponent night in and night out and it shouldn’t change when Philly comes to town.

Game 18: Friday, 12/5, 7pm – Houston Rockets @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Take a second to go look at divisional standings and how far ahead the Southwest division is vs. all others.  Friday’s game against the Rockets starts a five game stretch of very hard match-ups for the Wolves.  Kevin McHale’s Rockets enter the forthcoming week at 13-4 and have a huge match-up against the Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Selfishly, please allow me to use this space as another plea to leverage a game against Kevin McHale to break out the original blue uniforms from the Timberwolves early years.

Wolves original blue uniforms picked up at the Target Center during my trip to Minnesota (This is Kevin Love's jersey, not Sam Mitchell, not Donyell Marshall)

Wolves original blue uniforms picked up at the Target Center during my trip to Minnesota
(This is Kevin Love’s jersey, not Sam Mitchell, not Donyell Marshall)

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Paging Mr. Wiggins again!  Harden is having another phenomenal season with a PER just under 24.

Game 19: Saturday, 12/6, 7:30pm – Timberpups @ San Antonio Spurs (TV: FS North)

The second of a back-to-back against the defending champs.  Why not just have this game in Mexico City?  The Spurs blew out the Wolves in Minnesota earlier this season (121-92), largely due to …

Opponent to watch:

Tony Parker – Parker led the Spurs in Minnesota with 28 points on 12-18 shooting.  Mo Williams struggled to contain the Spurs PG as he ran as an efficient of an offense as you will find in the NBA.

Wrap-up:

Week 6 is a very tough week for the Timberwolves, who need to protect the Target Center floor against the Sixers.  The Pups can’t be the first team the Sixers defeat this season.

Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Pick, Spurs Roll 121-92

Yes Kevin Martin, you are injured too!  The Pups season is falling apart before Thanksgiving. (Ben Garvin, Pioneer Press)

Yes Kevin Martin, you are injured too! The Pups season is falling apart before Thanksgiving. (Ben Garvin, Pioneer Press)

The Timberwolves returned home to the Target Center on Wednesday to defeat a struggling New York Knicks team.  However, the good news and vibes didn’t last long as the Pups announced that Kevin Martin will be out indefinitely with a fractured wrist.  Martin continued playing in Wednesday’s game after the 1st quarter injury and dropped in 37 points against the Knicks.  The injury left the Wolves without Martin, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic for Friday night’s game against the Spurs because of injury, while Thad Young remains away from the team due to his family’s loss.

The Timberwolves PR Twitter feed summed things up pretty nicely …

Breaking news at the Target Center early on in the game, as Tony Parker was announced as “good at basketball”.  Parker helped the Spurs build a 20-13 lead and accounted for 11 points and 1 assist in the first seven minutes of the opening quarter.  Mo Williams did his part to keep the Wolves close though, cutting the lead to 22-18 and forcing the Spurs into a timeout.  In a highly entertaining and competitive quarter, the Spurs took a 29-26 advantage into the 2nd quarter.

The Wolves continued to play well into the 2nd quarter but Danny Green 47-37 hit two three pointers in row and took the Spurs lead from 41-37 up to a ten point lead.  Despite a few offensive highlights from Mo Williams and Gorgui Dieng, the Spurs maintained their double digit lead through much of the rest of the quarter, trailing at one point by 17 points. At the half the Spurs held a 59-48 advantage, highlighted by the Point Guard match-up.  Parker led the Spurs with 23 points on 10-15 shooting, while Williams led the Pups with 15 points and 3 assists.

The proverbial “it got ugly” would be one way to describe the third quarter for the Timberwolves.  They gave up multiple offensive rebounds and second chance points to the Spurs while showing virtually nothing in terms of offensive flow on the other side of the court.  The Spurs opened up a 20 point lead within four minutes of the second half and the game had a certain feel to it.  With the Timberwolves down a number of players and the second of a back-to-back to consider, it was time to keep an eye on the scoreboard and game clock.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Spurs built their lead to a commanding 91-62 advantage by outscoring the Wolves 32-14 in the quarter.

With the game out of reach, Flip Saunders turned his attention to getting more minutes from the bench.  That meant heavier minutes for Anthony Bennett, Zach LaVine, Chase Budinger, and Robbie Hummel.  While it could be viewed as meaningless, the Wolves did put up 30 points in the final quarter … noting that the club also gave up 30 points in the final frame as well.  The final score from the Target Center, Spurs 121, Timberwolves 92.

Game Notes:

  • Kevin Martin averaged 35.5ppg in his last two performances before the injury and his offense will be sorely missed.  Martin’s 20.4ppg are going to have to be made up by someone or some platoon of players on the roster.
  • Several numbers point to the one-sided outcome of tonight’s game.  The Spurs held a 53-34 rebounding advantage and shot 55% from the field, including 62% on 21 attempted three pointers.
  • Anthony Bennett led the Timberwolves with a season high 20 points on 9-14 shooting.
  • Congratulations to Glenn Robinson III for scoring his first career basket late in the 4th quarter
  • Interesting fact from this evenings game …

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.

Wrap-up:

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!

Timberwolves Tamed by San Antonio

The Timberwolves knew that playing the Spurs on the road would be tough, and shooting 33.5 percent from the field made it impossible to keep up with the No. 1 team. In the end, Minnesota landed on the short end of the 104-86 final score.

Nikola Pekovic led the team with 22 points, followed by Kevin Love with 14. San Antonio boasted six players who scored in the double-digits, including three guys off the bench.

Minnesota appeared a step behind from the beginning, missing 12 shots in the first quarter and proving unable to capitalize off of five Spurs turnovers.

spurs

The Wolves had a big second quarter, though, and looked to turn it around. Minnesota outscored the Spurs 28-24 and entered halftime trailing by only three points. Pekovic scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half, and he came up huge with a slam dunk early in the game. [Read more…]

Minnesota Timberwolves 88 – San Antonio Spurs 106

rickyrubio_tonyparkerGet ready for one of the seediest recaps you will ever see on this site.  I’m a Seahawks fan and they lost a heartbreaker earlier today.  Now, I have to watch the Twolves at half strength play the Spurs, who are coming off a bad loss to the Grizzlies.  This should be fun.

The Pups opened up with Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Cunningham, and Pekovic.  The Spurs countered with Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Tiago Splitter.  Let’s just agree on the fact that this game should be called on account of my misery.

As an added bonus, NBA LP puts on the Spurs broadcast and I now have to listen to Sean Elliott talk for the next three hours.  The Pups actually got off to a decent start with Pekovic down low and Cunningham getting open jump shots.  Luke Ridnour’s mid-range game also aided in the early minutes as the Wolves jumped out to a 16-7 lead going into the first timeout of the game.

The Spurs came back and outscored the Wolves 17-5 to end the quarter, with the Pups leaving a lot of points on the floor with too many missed tips and bad decisions on both ends of the floor.  After one quarter, the Spurs led 24-21 and Sean Elliott only annoyed me approximately four times.  He is, unquestionably, the worst analyst on broadcast TV.  You cannot convince me otherwise.

The second quarter started with more of the same from the Spurs, widening their lead to eleven points within the first few minutes of the quarter.  Outside of a strong move to the hoop from DWill, the Wolves second unit looked terrible.  Greg Stiemsma has looked awful the last few weeks and his first few minutes on the court did nothing to disprove or change that.

Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour made up for the poor minutes thrown in from Rubio and Stiemsma in the second quarter to cut the Spurs lead to two points going into the final minutes of the quarter.  I know that this is sacrilege, but the Pups really need to decide what to do with Rubio.  He’s clearly not the same player right now and he is not looking for his shot at all.

At the end of the first half, the Spurs led 55-50, which was preceded with a Boris Diaw three pointer and Luke Ridnour missing an off balance jumper with plenty of time left in the quarter.  To say it has been a long day is an understatement.  Here are two quick halftime thoughts:

  • Sean Elliott is the worst NBA analyst on television.
  • It is going to be a struggle for the Wolves to stay competitive with the current roster.  I just can’t see this team, as is, staying in the hunt for the playoffs.

Less than a minute into the second half, Popovich calls a timeout to try to fix things.  As much as I loathe the Spurs, I really like Pop.  His no nonsense style goes a long way in my book.  His complete disdain for interviews with sideline reporters also makes me giddy.

After cutting the lead to one point, the Wolves went cold and couldn’t execute on offense.  As an added bonus, they started playing terrible defense leading to an 11-0 run by the Spurs.  Even with the lead, the Spurs managed to complain after every whistle.  Is there a more loathsome team in the league?

At the end of the third quarter, the Pups managed to keep the game close with decent play from their PG combo of Luke and JJ.  While it felt much worse, the Spurs were only up 78-71 going into the final twelve minutes.

A wild sequence of plays led to a couple of three pointers from the Spurs to give them an 88-75 lead and this game felt all but over.  Rubio was on the floor during this small stint from the Spurs and I took a quick look at the box score to see a game low -19 for Ricky thus far.  DWill was on the floor at the same time and looked just as bad.

I’m not sure what happened or what was said, but Popovich just got tossed after a JJ Barea layup and three point play.  Unfortunately, all momentum was killed when DWill missed two lay-ups and the Spurs ran down the floor for a dunk, followed by multiple misses from the Wolves and multiple Spurs buckets.  With the lead increased to 19 points, my concentration level began to wane.

The final score of tonight’s game was 106-88, with the Pups dropping their third straight.

Keys of the Game

  • Shooting Percentages – It really can be a simple game.  The Wolves were 33-89 from the field for 37% while the Spurs finished 45-80 for a remarkable 56%.  You aren’t going to win too many games with those numbers going against you.
  • Three Pointers – Another terrible night from beyond arc for the Wolves.  4-16 tonight, while the Spurs hit 8-21 and seemed to hit a three pointer every time the Wolves tried to make a run.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Tony Parker – 20 points and 6 assists, blowing past any of the Twolves’ PG’s in the process
  2. Tim Duncan – Wait for it: 12 points, 9 rebounds, 7 blocks, 5 assists, and 3 steals.  How old is this guy again?
  3. Gary Neal – Perfect 3-3 beyond the arc, putting the dagger in the Wolves.  Finished with 15 points off the bench in just 21 minutes

The Wolves are back in action Monday night against the Mavs.