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.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves 77, Dallas Mavericks 100

nba_mayo_love_580Game Summary:

The Timberwolves were back in action Sunday night at the Target Center after a tough loss in Denver Saturday night.  The turnaround time left a little to be desired for the club, but there isn’t much more needed to say or speak of Saturday’s embarrassment and the best thing to do is get out on the court again.

Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic remained sidelined and it doesn’t sound very promising that they will be ready for Tuesday either.  Given their absence, the starting lineup for our Pups continued to be Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Stiemsma.  The Mavs starting five included OJ Mayo, Mike James, Jae Crowder, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chris Kaman.  Shawn Marion missed the game due to an injury, giving Crowder the starting nod.

Earlier in the day, I talked myself into this game by making it an unofficial scouting report for David Kahn on OJ Mayo.  Please pass this on to Kahn and attach Mayo’s resume.  I really want Mayo in a Wolves uniform next season.  In fact, I’ve wanted him in a Wolves uniform since he left USC.

Neither team set the nets on fire in the 1st quarter.  The Mavs shot 42% from the field, only be “bested” by the Wolves and their 36% FG%.  Derrick Williams the full twelve minutes and was very aggressive in and around the paint.  He finished the quarter with a game high 9 points and 5 rebounds in the quarter.  Dallas got a lift from its bench, when Rick Carlisle went to them with about 4 minutes left in the quarter.  Vince Carter and Elton Brand helped give the Mavs a 21-20 lead at the end of the 1st.

The 2nd quarter started but no one told the Timberwolves.  Dallas took advantage with a 12-0 run to start the quarter, leading to an Adelman timeout.  I envision the huddle went something like this:

Adelman: “Look, I don’t want to be here either, but please wake up!”

Huddle: (empty stares)

Dallas matched their 1st quarter output in less than six minutes in the 2nd, outscoring the Pups 22-7 halfway through the quarter.  The Mavs shooting rose to over 50% for the game as they continued to make shots and feel little resistance from the Wolves defense.  At the half, the Mavs held a 56-44 advantage.  Gelabale hit a runner for the Wolves as time expired in the half, cutting the lead to 12 points.  Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • JJ Barea’s bad side was in full effect again tonight – 2-7 from the field, -16 in +/-.
  • Amazingly, that wasn’t the teams lowest +/-, as Alexey Shved “led” the team with a -19 in the half.  Shved has hit the rookie wall … hard.
  • While not leading his team in anything but minutes played in the first half, OJ Mayo chipped in 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.  Have I mentioned that Mayo needs to be on the Wolves radar this summer yet?

Coach Adelman tried mixing things up a bit to start the 3rd quarter, going with a different lineup of Rubio, Barea, Ridnour, Williams, and Stiemsma.  Unfortunately for the Wolves and the fans at the game, it didn’t help change the results.  The Mavs opened up a 19 point lead in the 3rd quarter and settled in with a 78-61 lead going into the final frame.

The only bad news for the Mavericks that came in the second half was that OJ Mayo rolled his ankle in the 3rd quarter under the rim.  It is a little eerie, and probably fitting, that Mayo would roll his ankle at Target Center.  He would fit right in with the current locker room of injured Pups.  However, Mayo returned to the floor in the 4th quarter, showing his toughness and durability; areas that the Wolves desperately need.  He finished the game with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, showed the ability to play both guard positions, facilitate the offense in both the half court set and on the fast break, and defend.

Back to the game itself; the 4th quarter was more of the same from both teams.  Simply put, the Wolves are a lackluster team right now and look to be going through the motions.  Tonight’s game was tough given the trip to Denver last night, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of talent that this team can put out on the floor right now.  The team is not good, period.  To recap – Minnesota Timberwolves 77, Dallas Mavericks 100 and it didn’t feel that close in the 2nd half.

Keys of the Game:

  • Three point shooting – The Wolves are not good at 3PT shooting, yet they continue to launch from downtown entirely too much.  Tonight’s woeful performance, 2-18.
  • Rebounding – The Mavs dominated the boards tonight at the Target Center, with a 59-40 advantage.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Vince Carter – The Mavs really took off when Carter entered the game.  He finished with a game high 22 points and 9 rebounds.
  2. OJ Mayo – His 8-8-7 and all-around play mentioned above helped lead the Mavs to the easy victory Sunday night.  Have I mentioned that the Wolves next GM should be at his door at 12:01am when free agency starts this summer?  (See what I did there?)
  3. Elton Brand – It was throwback night at the Target Center apparently.  Brand finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, practically dominating the paint against the Wolves big men.

Luke Ridnour Trade Ideas

Luke Ridnour Being Shopped?

luke-ridnourI hopped on to trusty old ESPN today and read a little rumor about the Wolves shopping Cool Hand Luke around. According to ESPN, the Jazz, Celtics and Mavericks may be interested in our steady Point Guard.  As much as I like Ridnour, I concluded that it would be smart to analyze a few trade scenarios in order to find potential ways of improving our team as a whole.

Luke’s contract: 2 years with roughly $4,000,000 per year

Utah Jazz: 

There are three players that could realistically work (I wish Hayward, but no way); Randy Foye (1 yr $2,500,000), Raja Bell (1 yr $3,480,000), and Alec Burks (3 yrs and $6,330,000).

FoyeThe only player that would work straight up is Bell; the others would take a little extra…maybe some cash considerations.  I would not be overly excited for any of these three, but I would think Foye is the best of them.  He has become a better player since we last saw him in a Wolves uniform and he would bring a 3 point shooter we desperately need. Bell is more known for his defensive services, which is never a bad thing, but we need more than defense. Similarly, Bell and Foye are under the final year of their contract, which is nice to free up cap space for re-signing Pek, which I believe that we should!  I have not gotten the opportunity to see Burks play much since being a lottery pick a few years ago, but his shooting this season has been less than adequate. However, he has turned things on this month and has seen his percentages grow incrementally.  He has not had many minutes until this month, so appears likely that he is being showcased to the rest of the teams of the NBA.

Overall, my choice for a trade, need it be with Utah, would be Randy Foye. He is a scorer who knows how to play, can handle the ball, and only has one year left on his deal providing the Wolves with more flexibility.

Boston Celtics:

The Celtics are trickier; I would say the Wolves most likely target player is Jason Terry (3 yrs $5,000,000/yr)

The trade would work out financially while bringing the Wolves a compatible player for our offense. However, his lack of size, relatively large salary and aging body worry me.  I have long been a big fan of his offensive skill set as he has proven the ability to hit the 3-ball time and time again. However, he appears to be in steady decline as his 3PT% currently sits at .357%, which is his worst 3PT% since his last season with the Hawks back in ‘03-‘04.  His contract is an issue, as it takes up more cap space for a longer period then Ridnour, and while Terry can man the 2-guard position (which is by far our greatest need), he is 35 and only stands at 6’2”.Terry

If it were my decision, I would pull the trigger on Terry if he were to become available.  We would need to run with undersized lineups more frequently, but the presence of the veteran Terry could bring a refreshing change to our backcourt.  It could also allow Shved to start with Rubio and we would have two scoring threats in the backcourt off of the bench.

Dallas Mavericks:

As I examine the Mavericks roster, I notice only two players that a trade for Ridnour would financially work for, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter.  Since I have no belief that the Mavs would trade Mayo for Ridnour, I will not even bother to speculate.  Carter (2 yrs $3,090,000/yr) is the scoring SG/SF we need who has even improved his defense over the past few seasons while possessing veteran accumen.  Carter is currently 36 years of age, but fills multiple needs and is even cheaper than Ridnour.

VinceI would be very enthusiastic should the Wolves somehow land one of Mark Cuban’s favorite veterans. Carter has everything we need (minus the age) and is not a huge expense.  It will bring almost another million to the table come summer and he still can throw it down when Rubio sends a lob his way.

 

If the Wolves were to trade Ridnour (who I would hate to see go), I would be most excited towards acquiring one of Foye, Terry or Carter.  It is never fun to see a player like Ridnour depart, but his leaving may bring the necessary depth at SG or SF we desperately lack in order to effectively compete in the Western Conference.