Snow Falls in Minneapolis, Wolves Fall to Jazz; 130-136

Well, it’s over now.

Last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves dropped the season finale to the Utah Jazz, at home, and it was possibly Rick Adelman’s last game as an NBA Head Coach. What you would think would be a passionate, emotional, send-off type of performance, honoring one of the league’s greatest coaches, turned out to be just-another, underwhelming performance that ended in disappointment.

It’s been openly suggested, myself included, that Adelman may have lost the proverbial coaches-spirit long ago. The type of passion, necessary to spark an inspired, second-half run into the postseason was just not something the 68 year old was capable of doing. There are other variables at play, like player-performance and things like luck, but ultimately I believe Adelman is going to be pegged with many of the things that went awry this season. I also believe we’re going to find out that last night’s game against the Jazz was, indeed, his last game as the Wolves coach.

First Half

Lethargically, the Wolves fell behind Utah, as the Jazz hit a flurry (see the theme, here?) of jumpers and uncontested layups, during the first quarter. Adelman’s, new, favorite starting-five of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Gorgui Dieng trotted out against Trey Burke, Alex Burks, Jeremy Evans, Gordon Hayward, and Derrick Favors. Love showed his refined skills in front of the Target Center crowd during the first quarter, for the final time, as he grabbed three-rebounds and tallied as many-assists. However, Love shot one of six from the field and scored only four points. Martin sat atop the scoring category on the Wolves end, having scored five-points by the end of the opening frame.

A motivated effort from the second unit narrowed the gap between the Wolves and Jazz on the scoreboard, during the second quarter, as Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel, Dante Cunningham, Luc Mbah a Moute and Ronnie Turiaf collectively-managed to score 16 points. The Wolves outscored Utah 31-20 in the quarter, and the lagging performance in the first was somewhat negated.

In games such as last night’s, when there’s little to play for looking at things a micro perspective — it’s tough to motivate ‘star’ players, like the Wolves starters. This is both-frustrating and understandable. Yes, there’s no reason to hustle only to hurt self in a ‘meaningless’ game, but, at the same time, if this is Adelman’s final act — you’d think there’d be a unified effort to ‘win one for the gipper’…….or something.

Second Half
Kevin Martin continued to carry Minnesota throughout the second half, and with his 19 points the Wolves found a way to tie things late, sending the game into overtime despite erasing the large, first quarter deficit. Both teams scored 11 points in overtime, but, as cliche as the season has gone; the Wolves couldn’t get overcome the proverbial hump, not during this game, and nowhere throughout the entire season.

“I really thought we were going to win this game. I thought we’d come out and play a lot harder, and with more energy, but it didn’t happen.” Adelman said, “The starters couldn’t get anything going. In the fourth quarter we got going, we had opportunities to win the game, but we couldn’t convert. But, give them credit, they (Jazz) came in and beat us.”

Continuing with quotations.

“We fought hard in the fourth quarter, and the two-overtime periods,” Love said, “That was good, but we felt, if we played hard from the start, that we could have won this game.”

The somber mood as Adelman and Love answered questions, postgame, reflected that the Wolves didn’t really have any interest in playing the Jazz, last night. While both said all the things to show that the team approached this game professionally, the questions that these two prepared for were those on everyone’s mind heading into the offseason. You can listen/watch for yourself, here, in a video provided by the Star Tribune.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Martin — 36 points on 12 of 24 field goals while also connecting on 9 of 10 free throw attempts.
  • Trey Burke — 32 points.
  • Alexey Shved (C’mon, I had to write his name in this section at least once this season) — 11 points in 17 minutes.

Timberwolves Grab Big Road Win Over Utah

The Timberwolves started their first four-game road trip of the season on Tuesday, and they came out with all cylinders firing. All five starters scored in double digits, and the Wolves shot 45.6 percent from the field and an impressive 38 percent from the three-point line en route to a 112-97 win over Utah. Corey Brewer and Kevin Love led the team with 19 apiece; Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin each followed closely behind with 18.

(photo credit: dunkingwithwolves.com)

(photo credit: dunkingwithwolves.com)

Minnesota played excellent defense, holding three of Utah’s starters to only four points each and only allow the Jazz to score 16 points in the first quarter. The Wolves grabbed eight steals on the night, five of which were credited to Ricky Rubio. The point guard has struggled a bit over the past few weeks, but Tuesday proved a different story. In addition to the steals, Rubio dished out a notable 13 assists and added 11 points.

Utah’s Gordon Hayward tallied 27 in a valiant effort to keep his team in the game, but the Jazz simply couldn’t keep up with the Timberwolves’ inside game. Starting center Derrick Favors sat out with a hip injury, and his presence was sorely missed by Utah.

“We knew we had the advantage against them inside,” Coach Rick Adelman said.  ”After [Saturday's] game, we wanted to keep doing that. We had a nice balance of looking at those two guys, plus getting other open looks.”

Overall, the Wolves played much stronger as a team than they have been. They ran crisp sets and were eager to make the extra pass to wide-open teammates, easily controlling the pace of the game.

twolves tweet

It’s no secret that some tension has existed this month between teammates, but everyone seems to be gelling as a squad and things are settling down. Love and JJ Barea played well together, and Barea played a significant role in the win. The 6’0″ point guard handed out three assists and added 15 points, including 3 baskets from downtown.

“Tonight was a pure team effort,” Pekovic said. “We are all good friends between us. On the good nights everything is fine, of course.”

The Timberwolves hope to find continued success on this road trip. They enjoy two days off following Utah before facing Golden State on Friday and then Portland on Saturday. Finally, they will travel to Chicago for a Monday night contest before returning to Minnesota.

 

Rubio’s Assist of the Game: 

During a timeout, Utah’s mascot brought a little girl out onto the court. He walked her around the floor before grabbing a ball from a ref and handing it to the tiny fan. Rubio noticed, and he started playing catch with the girl. The adorable interaction was caught on video here.

 

 

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Utah Jazz, 2/13/13

Photo Credit. UtahPhotojournalism.com

Photo Credit. UtahPhotojournalism.com

Setting the stage:

The All Star break is upon us as the Wolves take on the Jazz Wednesday night before the extended layoff.  The Pups were able to hold on Monday night to defeat the Cavs in Cleveland to improve their record to 19-30.  The Jazz come into Wednesday’s game off of a win Tuesday night at home against the reigning conference champions, the OKC Thunder.  The win moved Utah’s record to 29-24 on the season.

Earlier this season, the Pups took it on the chin in Utah, getting blown out by the Jazz 106-84.  The Jazz front line dominated the Wolves in that game, and that was when the Wolves were playing with Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic in the starting lineup.  Since that meeting in early January, the Wolves have essentially fallen out of the playoff picture, while the Jazz remain in the hunt, fighting with the Rockets and others for the last two seeds in the Western Conference.

Player to watch:

Alec Burks – Curveball alert!  Burks is the player to watch because I would like him to be on the Timberwolves roster by the time the trading deadline comes and goes.  The 6’6 swingman has not progressed in his second year in the league, still struggling to get minutes on the Jazz.  He is shooting under 40% from the field, but is shooting 34% from 3PT range, which would put him near the top of the Wolves roster.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. Al Jefferson.  The matchup in the middle is clearly the most appealing coming into Wednesday’s game.  Jefferson leads the Jazz in scoring and rebounding this season.  However, his name has popped up in trade rumors, given the crowded frontcourt the Jazz possess.  During his time with the Wolves, Big Al showcased his offensive repertoire on a nightly basis and it will be important for Pek to night bite on too many of the fakes and to stay out of foul trouble.

Predictions:

I would normally take the Wolves in this game given the Jazz are coming off a game Tuesday night and now travelling to Minnesota.  I think (see: hope) this game will be a lot closer and the Wolves can steal it, but I’ll go on record and say the Jazz are able to pull this off.  (In other words, the Wolves are a lock!)

Final score prediction: Twolves 98, Jazz 102

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Paul Millsap
  2. Gordon Hayward
  3. Ricky Rubio

Let’s go Wolves!

Minnesota Timberwolves 84 – Utah Jazz 106

Photo Credit: lebasketbawl.com

Photo Credit: lebasketbawl.com

The Pups opened up an important back to back series against division rivals in Utah Wednesday night Andrei Kirilenko made his return to Utah for the first time since leaving the Jazz before last season’s lockout. The bad news for the Wolves was that Ricky Rubio didn’t travel with the team due to his back spasms from the past weekend and will also miss Thursday’s contest in Denver.

The Pups started the game with Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic. The Jazz announced an injury to Mo Williams earlier in the day and he will miss quite a bit of time (months, not weeks). Given the needed adjustment here, the Jazz starting lineup consisted of Jamaal Tinsley, Randy Foye, Marvin Williams, Paul Millsap, and Al Jefferson.

After the Utah faithful gave AK a nice ovation during introductions, they seemingly left the building because it was virtually silent for the first few minutes of the quarter. Halfway through the first quarter and the Jazz held a 15-10 lead going into a timeout. The Wolves defensive effort was porous at best. Despite their defensive struggles, the Jazz managed to go cold towards the end of the first quarter, allowing the Wolves to take a 24-23 lead into the second.

The only player worth noting for the Wolves is/was AK47’s strong performance in the opening quarter; 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist. The Jazz frontline put in all but 6 of their points, with Tinsley scoring the balance. Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward combined for a donut on 0-5 shooting from the floor. Finally, a team with a worse rotation of SG’s than what the Pups have right now. (To be fair, Randy has had a very decent first two months of the season.)

The Jazz opened up the second quarter on a 9-2 run, leading to an Adelman timeout. The Wolves lack of firepower when Love is off on the offensive end is starting to get a little concerning. That said, Love’s outside shooting continues to be atrocious and Adelman needs to rein this in immediately. The green light needs to be taken away until he starts to improve his offensive game in and around the paint.

At the end of the half, the Jazz held a 53-45 lead, putting up 30 points in the second quarter. Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • The Pups were very lethargic on the defense to start the game and that carried over to the defensive end pretty quickly
  • Kirilenko and Pekovic performed well, while Love, the starting backcourt, and the Pups bench all looked bad
  • It is probably time to stop throwing in little insults on opposing players in the game previews; Jamaal Tinsley led the Jazz in the first half with 10 & 5, ugh!
  • Sidney Lowe sighting! Sidney is on Ty Corbin’s coaching staff
  •  
    The third quarter started but you could make the argument that the Wolves didn’t come out of the locker room. The Jazz opened up with a 9-0 run to increase the lead to 17 points. Kevin Love picked up a technical foul and the Jazz built a 20 point lead off of more lackadaisical play.

    The Wolves were able to cut into the lead a bit to close out the third quarter, as the Jazz took a 79-66 lead into the fourth quarter. Love came alive a bit, finishing the third with 13 & 10 for the game. However, he and Shved continued to struggle from the field, going a combined 6-23 from the field, including 1-10 from three point range.

    For the second time over the past few weeks, the Wolves bored me into casual watching by the time the fourth quarter really got going. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, yes you are reading this correctly, helped the Jazz increase their lead back to 19 points halfway through the quarter. Adelman threw in the towel right around this time, sitting many of the starters. Worth noting quickly, Lazar Hayward saw the court for the first time this season for the Wolves after being brought back to the club on Monday.

    The Wolves dropped tonight’s game 106 – 84. Three Stars of the Game:

    1. Jamaal Tinsley
    2. Paul Millsap
    3. Derrick Favors

    Not an enjoyable game to watch or cover and certainly not how the Wolves wanted to start the New Year.