Timberpups Weekly Preview 2014 – Week 6

Wolves will face both 2012 Conference Champions this week!   (Photo credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

Wolves will face both 2012 Conference Champions this week!
(Photo credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

Setting the stage:

After two tough weeks of games with a number of back to back series, the Timberwolves enter Week 6 under the .500 mark with a 9-10 record.  They are looking at a pretty soft schedule this week … but only in terms of the number of games being played.  Why is that?  Our Timberpups will travel to Mexico City for a “home game” to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, 12/4, and then travel home to face the Miami Heat on 12/7.  Sounds like a fun week, right?  [Read more...]

Minnesota Timberwolves 94, San Antonio Spurs 104

Ricky TonyGame Summary

The Spurs were the latest to visit the Twin Cities on Wednesday night to face off against our Timberwolves.  If you want to compare two teams heading in polar opposite directions this season, look no further.  The Spurs came into tonight’s game winners of 10 in a row while the Wolves were 2-8 in their last 10 games and have been struggling mightily.  Those streaks continued this evening.

As expected, Andrei Kirilenko was added to the PUP list (which immediately leads to a new marketing idea for the site that I can’t believe took this long to think of).  In any case, AK47 didn’t suit up, but the Spurs ran into their own problems, as both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were scratched from the lineup as well.  The Pups opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Pekovic.  The Spurs countered with Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, and Tiago Splitter.

Within minutes of the opening tip, Ricky Rubio missed a layup and was complaining to one of the referees.  From the other side of the court, Joey Crawford called a technical foul on Rubio.  Just to be clear, Rubio was not complaining to Crawford on the way up the court, it was a different referee.  Joey Crawford can’t help himself when he is on national TV.  He is the Ed Hochuli of the NBA.

Going into the first timeout of the game with about five minutes left in the quarter, the Spurs held a 15-12 advantage.  Rubio, continuing to show marked improvement in his game, had 5 assists on those early points.  At the end of the 1st quarter the Wolves held a 23-21 lead.  Both Williams and Pekovic were active down low and able to position themselves wherever they wanted in the paint against the Spurs big men.

Danny Green checked back into the game a few minutes into the 2nd quarter and started a mini-barrage from downtown.  Green was 3-4 from the three point line and helped give the Spurs a small lead halfway through the quarter, 35-33.  Greg Stiemsma continues to get minutes from the coach despite what Chris Johnson was bringing to the table during Adelman’s absence.  I really have no explanation for this.

As Big Al predicted in our preview, the 1st half finished with a low offensive output.  The Spurs held a 47-41 lead over the Wolves.  Here are my HT thoughts through a Wolves lens:

  • Three point shooting from the Spurs (Green and Leonard) really provided a nice boost for the visitor; it would be nice to have that consistently on the Pups
  • Ridnour is no longer best suited to play PG in the NBA due to his defensive deficiencies and his declining playmaking ability
  • Someone needs to pass along the appropriate exercise routine to the Wolves that improves Pekovic’s vertical leaping ability – he needs to dunk the ball much more frequently

The opening minutes of the 3rd quarter saw a fair amount of back and forth with the Twolves unable to cut into the Spurs lead, largely due to Tony Parker’s continued efforts to lead his team without the help of Duncan or Manu.  However, in the latter stages of the quarter, the Wolves came to life.  Pekovic had a strong quarter to keep the Wolves within striking distance, including hitting his first 10 FT attempts through two and a half quarters.

The remainder of the team picked up their energy level a bit as the Wolves managed to take the lead from the Spurs for a few seconds.  Unfortunately, the team failed to execute at the end of the quarter and gave the lead right back.  Luke Ridnour failed to commit to go for a steal on a cross-court pass and then fouled Danny Green on a three point play (fortunately, Green missed the FT).  Then, with the last possession of the quarter, the Wolves failed to walk away with any points as JJ fed Gelabale in the corner and he subsequently threw up an air-ball as the clock expired.  The Spurs held a 68-64 lead going into the 4th quarter.

Danny Green’s successes from beyond the arc continued into the 4th quarter as he hit four more three pointers in the final frame and provided enough firepower for the Spurs to close out the game.  The Wolves just don’t have the ability to match a hot streak like Green’s right now.

As for the Wolves, Ricky struggled mightily to find his shot, finishing the game 3-13 from the field.  JJ Barea continues to take the team out of games more frequently than he puts them back in one, as he finished 6-15 on the evening from the field (in just 24 minutes).  Shved and Cunningham also shot a low percentage from the field for the evening.

Keys of the Game

  • Wings – Paul McCartney’s other band is highly overrated.  With hits like “Live and let die” and “Band on the run” … sorry, my mistake.  Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard finished the game with 40 points.  This doubled up the Wolves starting SG/SF combination and helped kill any small run the Wolves made.
  • Ball Movement – The Spurs had 24 assists on 37 baskets.  The Wolves finished the game with only 16 assists on 33 baskets.  Aside from Rubio, who finished with 11 of those assists, the ball was at a standstill for the Wolves on offense.  Conversely, the Spurs swung the ball around the court which helped lead to many of the three pointers made.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Danny Green – Finished the game with 8 made three pointers and 28 points.  He also threw in a trio of threes … in rebounds, assists, and steals.
  2. Tony Parker – 31 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds for the French PG.  He dominated early in the game and gave the Wolves fits.
  3. Nikola Pekovic – I was going to give this to Kawhi, but Pekovic deserves it just as much, given his 21 & 10 performance and 11-12 from the FT line.  Throw in that he only did this on 9 official shots makes it more impressive … and more baffling that the Wolves backcourt didn’t get him the ball more frequently.

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.