Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 21

(photo credit: SportsCenter.com)

How often will we see KG on the court the last few weeks of the season?  (Photo credit: SportsCenter.com)

Setting the stage:

We are now officially into the last month of the season, with 12 games left on the Timberwolves schedule.  It hasn’t been a pretty season to say the least.  The Wolves are taking this one game at a time and have made the (wise) decision to give guys the occasional day of rest here and there.  For Kevin Garnett, Nikola Pekovic, and Ricky Rubio, the team is being more than cautious for very different reasons.  It will be interesting to see how much KG plays over the next month, if the Wolves only play him at the Target Center, etc.

Ping pong balls are the craze right now and despite the win in New York this past week, the Timberwolves are in the front seat (if not the drivers’ seat) for the most ping pong balls in the lottery.  I’m not bragging here.

With that in mind, here is a brief preview for another four game week for our Pups:

Game 70: Monday, 3/23, 8pm – Timberpups @ Utah Jazz (TV: No local TV)

Is someone on the FSN broadcast team not allowed in Utah?  It feels like this is a game that commonly sees the local blackout on TV.  While it would take a miracle to do so, the Jazz have been one of the hotter teams in the NBA.  They remain #1 in the NBA in points allowed and will be a tough match-up for the Wolves, even if they were to play at full strength.

Opponent to watch:

Derrick Favors – Favors’ name was showing up in trade rumors last year but I imagine that is over with his performance this season – 16+ppg, 8+rpg and a PER over 22.  If KG sits this one out, it could be a long night for Adreian Payne.

Game 71: Wednesday, 3/25, 7pm – Los Angeles Lakers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Lakers are making a late run for ping pong balls, having shut Kobe Bryant down for the season and showcasing the likes of Wayne Ellington, Tarik Black, and …

Opponent to watch:

Wesley Johnson – My least favorite lottery pick in Timberwolves’ history!  Johnson is playing just under 30 minutes a night and still can’t score 10ppg or grab 4rpg on average.  Awesome.

Game 72: Friday, 3/27, 7pm – Timberpups @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

Despite losing all three prior contests this season, the Wolves have played the Rockets tough.  This is another opportunity for the Wolves to put on the original blue uniforms against Kevin McHale’s squad … (note: I know this can’t happen, but I still yearn for it).

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden is a legitimate MVP candidate this season (top 5 at least).  He’s putting up about 26-7-6 on a nightly basis and has free reign on the court because … well, he has McHale as a head coach.

Game 73: Sunday, 3/29, 3pm – Timberpups @ New Orleans Pelicans (TV: FS North)

The Pelicans dropped a season high 139 points on the Timberwolves back in November.  With the season winding down and the Wolves’ resting players, what is New Orleans capable of Sunday afternoon?

Opponent to watch:

Anthony Davis – Another legitimate MVP candidate gets to face the Wolves this week.  If you thought Harden’s numbers were impressive, Davis is putting up about 25 and 10 to go with about 3 blocks a night and a PER north of 30.  Let’s hope he can stay healthy because Davis could be the league’s best as LeBron and Durant start to age.

Wrap-up:

A very, very tough week ahead for the Timberwolves … excluding a terrible Lakers team of course.  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Continue to Struggle in Home Loss to Utah

(photo credit: nba.com)

(photo credit: nba.com)

The Timberwolves extended their loss streak to 11 in one of the more embarrassing performances of the season for a short-handed Minnesota squad. The Wolves did make a strong effort in the fourth quarter, but they came up short in the 101-89 final score. Mo Williams and Andrew Wiggins led the team with 20 apiece, but a lackluster defense proved inadequate against Trey Burke and the rest of the Jazz lineup.

Minnesota fans undoubtedly felt the irony of Burke’s 28-point performance at the Target Center Saturday night. In the 2013 NBA Draft, the Timberwolves drafted Burke at No. 9 before immediately trading the pick to Utah in a deal that brought Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng to Minny. Although Dieng and Muhammad have both proved to be nice returns for the Wolves, it was especially painful as the young squad saw Burke score 28 points on the evening.

Head coach Flip Saunders expressed a seemingly new level of frustration following the game. He emphasized disappointment in the starting five’s performance, stating that a lineup adjustment is needed. Saunders said the following:

“That’s probably about as bad of a loss as we’ve had in a long time, from the perspective that we’ve lost a bunch of games in a row […] to come out the way we did is uncalled for. We talked to our team afterwards just about what it is to be professional. […] It was just really disappointing.”

The Wolves cannot seem to get away from slow starts to games; it wasn’t until the 4:27 mark of the first quarter that they reached double-digit points to tie the game at 11.

Utah struggled a bit early on as well, and neither team could get their shots to drop. Following halftime, however, the Jazz found the spark they were looking for, and the Timberwolves clambered to find any sort of groove. Despite a nice effort from Wiggins and a trio of three-point buckets from Williams, nothing clicked.

The Jazz shot 50.7 percent, including 55 percent from behind the arc. They also out-rebounded Minnesota 47-37.

The worst part of Saturday’s loss was how avoidable it should have been. Utah is just as injury-plagued as its opponent, and the team had only 11 wins entering the game.

“We’re playing in the NBA,” Muhammad said. “We have to turn it around because the energy just isn’t there. It’s embarrassing.”

At this point, fans can only hope that starters Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, all sidelined with injuries, will return to the court sooner rather than later. Until then, it will be interesting to see if—and how—Saunders follows through with his promise to shake things up within the roster.

The Wolves will remain in town to host the Denver Nuggets Monday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 10

Shabazz Muhammad and the Timberwolves will take on the Jazz twice this week, a great effort to stop the bleeding on their current losing streak. (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

Shabazz Muhammad and the Timberwolves will take on the Jazz twice this week, a great effort to stop the bleeding on their current losing streak. (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves enter the week with a 5-24 record and have lost eight straight.  The week ahead gives the Pups two games against a very beatable Utah Jazz team, with the Sacramento Kings sandwiched in between.  There may be a light ahead, as reports have surfaced that the Wolves expect Ricky Rubio to return to the court in mid-January.  Rubio has been stretching his legs during warm-ups with assistants and will be more than a welcomed sight on the floor for Flip Saunders and his crew.  While it looks like Rubio is almost ready to return to the court, there is no news out there right now for Kevin Martin or Nikola Pekovic.

As the season continues to slog along, it will be interesting to see if GM Flip is able to convince Head Coach Flip to make a move and clear more of the deck to make the franchise rebuild that much more official.  Here is a brief preview for each game of the coming week:

Game 30: Tuesday, 12/30, 8pm – Timberpups @ Utah Jazz (TV: FS North)

The Jazz open up the week with a 10-20 record and will be in Los Angeles on Monday to take on the Clippers.  The Wolves catch the benefit of the schedule gods, as the Jazz will have to travel home after Monday night’s game to play the next night.  With the Wolves’ injuries continuing to wreck the season, any benefit the team sees is well received.

Opponent to watch:

Gordon Hayward – Hayward is putting up strong numbers so far this season (18.9ppg, 5.3rpg, and 4apg).  He isn’t “worth” what the Jazz resigned him for, but I don’t understand the current NBA salary structure anymore than the next person.  Hayward does pose another tough night for Andrew Wiggins on both ends of the floor … yet again.

Game 31: Thursday, 1/1, 7pm – Sacramento Kings @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The Timberwolves open up the 2015 calendar year against the team they have faced 1,000 times to open up past NBA seasons.  The Kings open up the week with a 13-17 record and will also face the Timberwolves off of a game the night before.  Sacramento will be in Boston for a game against the Celtics on Wednesday night and will travel to Minnesota afterward for Thursday’s game.  The Kings are 10th in the league averaging 102.6ppg but are giving up 103.9ppg – “good” for 26th in the league.

Opponent to watch:

Darren Collison – Collison is going to be a very tough matchup for Zach LaVine and Mo Williams.  Collison has picked up starting PG duties for the Kings admirably, averaging 16.3ppg, 6apg, and 1.3spg.

Game 31: Saturday, 1/3, 7pm – Utah Jazz @ Timberpups (TV: FSN  Plus)

The Jazz and Wolves will face off for the second time in less than a week.  For the third time in a row, the Pups’ opponent will be coming off of a game the night before, as the Jazz will be in Atlanta on Friday night.

Opponent to watch:

Derrick Favors – Favors seems to have found his groove in the NBA, putting up 15.7ppg and 8.3rpg.  He will be a tough matchup for Thad Young.  I would prefer Flip goes to Anthony Bennett early and often at PF, particularly against the Jazz.

Wrap-up:

Scheduling quirks are a reason to be optimistic this week for the Pups to finally break the losing streak.  If the streak happens to get to ten, expect the Wolves to beat the Jazz on Saturday, as that will be Utah’s fourth game of the week.

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. [Read more…]

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.