Timberpups Weekly Preview – Post All-Star Weekend

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)

Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine impressed during All-Star Weekend and will look to bring that energy to the second half of the Timberpups season. (Credit: NBAE/ Getty Images)


Setting the stage:

The NBA gets back to the grind Thursday and Friday night after an eventful All-Star Break that saw the young Pups take center stage.  While the season has slogged along, aided by the significant injuries to key players, the Wolves were able to make some noise during the break and put a little bit of spotlight on the young, potential stars on the roster – Andrew Wiggins, as well as Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, and Shabazz Muhammad.

The Timberwolves open up their post-Break with a home game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night and then move into the following week with four more games.  At 11-42 thus far on the season, fans are more interested to see what tweaks might be made to the roster (or future draft picks) as we close in on the NBA trade deadline.  Timberwolves’ fans will then pivot their attention to ping pong balls as the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers continue their tanking ways.

Here is a preview of the next five games:

Game 54: Friday, 2/20, 7pm – Phoenix Suns @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Suns enter the second half of the season as the 8 seed in the Western Conference but have the OKC Thunder right on their heels.  To make matters worse, Goran Dragic has told the club he won’t be resigning with them this summer.  The team is reportedly looking to move Dragic before the trade deadline so that they don’t lose him for nothing.  It could be an interesting dynamic to watch on Friday night.

The Wolves lost twice to Phoenix in mid-January, one on each team’s court.  However, the game in Minnesota was a nailbiter, with the Suns pulling out a 113-111 victory.  The teams combined to score 75 points in the final quarter, with the Suns outdueling the Wolves 42-33 to take the victory.

Opponent to watch:

Eric Bledsoe – Pick a Guard of your choosing as the Suns have a plethora of talent in the backcourt.

Game 55: Monday, 2/23, 7pm – Timberpups @ Houston Rockets (TV: FS North)

It’s Flip Saunders vs. Kevin McHale night in Houston!  There hasn’t been this many past and present Timberwolves coaches on the same court since … Friday, December 5th when the Wolves lost to the Rockets in overtime.

Opponent to watch:

James Harden – Harden put in 38 points in that OT victory against the Wolves and Wiggins will have his hands full trying to guard one of the very best offensive players in the NBA.

Game 56: Wednesday, 2/25, 7pm – Washington Wizards @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

Wait a minute, we’re getting McHale and then Randy Wittman two nights later?  Did Flip make the schedule himself?  If it weren’t for the incredible season the Atlanta Hawks are having, the Wizards would be in serious contention for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference … with Wittman as their Head Coach.

Opponent to watch:

John Wall – 17+ points and 10+ assists per game and you still don’t hear THAT much about Wall.  He’s going to give Ricky Rubio fits.

Game 57: Friday, 2/27, 7pm – Timberpups @ Chicago Bulls (TV: FS North)

The Bulls defeated the Pups on 11/1 earlier this season, 106-105.  Kevin Martin had 33 points and Rubio had 17 assists but the Bulls came through at the end hitting clutch free throws to put the game away.

Opponent to watch:

Jimmy Butler – Butler was the player who hit those two free throws at the end of the game.  Jimmy is also likely target 1A, 1B, or 1C on most Wolves’ fans free agency lists this coming offseason.

Game 58: Saturday, 2/28, 7pm – Memphis Grizzlies @ Timberpups (TV: FSN Plus)

The Timberpups lost the season opener in Memphis but defeated the Grizzlies shortly before the All-Star Break.  You may remember this game as the one where Rubio willed his team to victory, returning to the court after rolling his ankle and causing hearts to skip a few beats.

Opponent to watch:

Zach Randolph – Randolph was a no-show in the Wolves’ victory against the Grizzlies in their last meeting.  It will be interesting to see if his teammates force-feed him the ball to get him involved early and often.


The scheduling gods do the Wolves no favors again to start the second half of the season.  Tough opponents and the team continues to travel back and forth from Minnesota after each game.

Here is to staying healthy and not doing anything dumb at the trade deadline!  Let’s go Wolves!

Timberwolves Battle, Fall to Washington on the Road

(photo credit: foxsports.com)

(photo credit: foxsports.com)

In the first of two road games for Minnesota, the Timberwolves gave a valiant effort against the Wizards. In a game that stayed close in score for a majority of the contest, it was foul shooting that most hurt Minnesota, and Washington pulled away with the 109-95 final score. Thaddeus Young led the team with a season-high 29 points, followed by Shabazz Muhammad who added 21 off the bench. On the opposing side, Rasual Butler tallied 23 points, 18 of them occurring in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards shot off to an impressive start early on, going on a 14-2 run in the first four minutes of the opening quarter. The Wolves slowly worked to battle back. Rookie Zach LaVine added a spark with a nice three-point bucket by rookie at the 4:55 mark, but Washington continued to make its shots and keep a lead over the Wolves. Minnesota entered the locker room at halftime down by 10, shooting 33.3 percent from the floor. The team controlled the ball well and committed only four turnovers in the first half.

Where most teams would make up that point deficit, at the free-throw line, the Wolves played terribly. Throughout the first two quarters, Minnesota went just 4-of-14 from the charity stripe. At the end of the game, less than 60 percent of the team’s free throws were successful.

On the opposing side, Washington 50 percent from the field and 72.2 percent from the free-throw line.

“They’re just too good for us right now,” coach Flip Saunders said postgame. “We just don’t have enough firepower.”

Seven Washington players scored in double-digit points, including fourth-year guard John Wall. Wall recorded a double-double on the evening when he scored 21 points and dished out 17 assists. Wall earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.

“I think [John] still has the best ahead of him,” coach Randy Wittman said. “He deserved to win Player of the Week. I told him, `That’s no big deal, you deserve it.’ There’s nothing surprising here, let’s just keep doing it.”

The Wizards improved their record 18-6, demonstrating why they are currently ranked No. 2 in the Eastern Conference.

Minnesota fell to 5-19, losing nine of its last 10 games. The team continues to struggle with three of its starters (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin) being sidelined indefinitely.  Young players are learning on the fly, and the squad is scrappy at the very least. However, the Wolves know they need to start finding a way to win, and soon.

Next up is the Boston Celtics on Friday evening. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. (CST) at the TD Garden arena.

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 8

When will any of these guys return to the Timberwolves lineup? (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

When will any of these guys return to the Timberwolves lineup? (Credit: NBAE via Getty Images)

Setting the stage:

The Minnesota Timberwolves head into week eight with a 5-17 record before Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Target Center.  After Sunday’s game the Wolves will head east for two games before returning home to wrap up the week.  The injuries continue to plague the team/roster with little help in sight.  While this should help in the long run, it is frustrating and sometimes painful to watch right now.  The minutes that Flip Saunders is giving to Zach LaVine will help judge where he fits best with this club – which position, role, etc.  Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng are getting heavy minutes and the learning curve would seem to be quickening because of it.

The week ahead has several very winnable games for our Pups.  Here is a brief preview for each:

Game 24: Tuesday, 12/16, 6pm – Timberpups @ Washington Wizards (TV: FSN Plus)

The Wizards may be the surprise team in the league right now with a 16-6 record, with a home game on Sunday against the Utah Jazz.  A win on Sunday would be their fourth in a row.  Washington is .5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks to lead the Southeast division.

Opponent to watch:

John Wall – Wall is having a career year averaging 17.8ppg, 10.5apg, and over 2 steals a game.  This is likely going to be a very rough matchup for Zach LaVine in trying to contain Wall and even if Flip rotates a bit, that would put the Wolves’ rookie on Bradley Beal – who is coming off of a big performance this past week against the Lakers.

Game 25: Friday, 12/19, 6:30pm – Timberpups @ Boston Celtics (TV: FS North)

The Celtics enter the week with a 7-14 record and will face the Sixers and Magic on Monday and Wednesday night respectively ahead of Friday night’s matchup in Beantown.  The Celtics are coming off of an embarrassing loss against the Knicks and will look to recover against two other sub-par Eastern Conference teams ahead of the Wolves.

Opponent to watch:

Jeff Green – While underwhelming on the court to many, I have always liked Green and thought he would have been a good fit on the Wolves’ roster.  Green is averaging over 20ppg this season and has a PER of 16.6.  He isn’t rebounding at a high level but is the clear #1 option on offense for the Celtics.  Mr. Wiggins will have another opportunity to guard the top scoring option of the opposition.

Game 26: Sunday, 12/21, 6pm – Indiana Pacers @ Timberpups (TV: FS North)

The coldest team in the league is the Indiana Pacers, having lost eight games in a row.  They will be in Denver for a game on Saturday night and will have to fly to Minnesota for Sunday’s matchup at Target Center.  Sunday’s game could be a nice return home for the Wolves who have the ability to pull off the victory against a struggling team.

Opponent to watch:

Roy Hibbert – The Pacers are somewhat faceless this year due to injuries.  Hibbert has been up and down but will be a tough test for Gorgui Dieng.  Hibbert is only averaging 11.6ppg and 7.3rpg but should be able to turn it on at any point.  At least one would think that.


The Timberwolves could easily win at least two games this week with several struggling opponents from the Eastern Conference.  How many wins do you foresee for the team this week?  Go Pups!

Minnesota Timberwolves 100 – Washington Wizards 104

Bradley Beal

Photo Credit: Washington Post

The Timberwolves traveled to Washington on Tuesday night for a matchup with a healthy Wizards squad. Minnesota witnessed first hand the Wizards’ impressively refined offense and saw glimpses of greatness from both Bradley Beal and John Wall. Beal led Washington with 25 points (9-21 FG) and Wall himself tallied 14 points (5-17 FG) to go with a game-high 16 assists and 5 rebounds as the Wizards defeated the Wolves 104-100.

The first quarter was very evenly played by the two teams. Washington focused on running their offense through the post, cycling Nene to the high post where he hit a few jump shots right off the bat. On the opposite end of the floor, Kevin Love had himself quite a first quarter. Coming into tonight’s game, Love ranked third in the NBA in first quarter scoring with just under 9 points. He nearly doubled his first quarter points average as he finished the period with 16 points on 5-6 shooting.

Into the second quarter, Minnesota’s bench (which has been particularly problematic this year) helped to extend the Wolves lead putting it at 53-37 with nearly 6 minutes left in the first half. The Wolves were able to maintain around a 10-point margin until the 2:30 mark, when a Nene layup brought the game back to single digits. However, the Wolves came right back and headed to the locker rooms with a 63-51 lead.

The second half consisted of absolutely spectacular play from the young Beal. The former number-3 overall selection put on a shooting clinic beginning with around 8:00 in the quarter when back-to-back three-pointers by the former Gator brought Washington to within one point of the Wolves. Behind more hot shooting from the Eric Gordon clone, Washington knotted things up at 81 heading into the final quarter.

The Wolves missed countless opportunities in the fourth quarter and ultimately fell 104-100, despite a strong bench performance from rookie Robbie Hummel. Hummel, who fought for and won a roster spot back in training camp, looked very sharp as he tallied 7 points (2-2 3pt) and 6 rebounds without turning the ball over once in 22 minutes. K-Love really cooled down in the second half and ultimately posted a casual 25 point (8-17 FG) and 11 rebound line while Ricky Rubio was largely ineffective throughout much of the game, finishing with only 10 points and 2 assists. Martell Webster deserves a lot of credit as he hit the go-ahead three-pointer which effectively won the game for the Wizards.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Bradley Beal: The 20-year-old shooting guard showed us why he was taken with such a high pick as he shot lights out despite facing fairly decent close outs by Timberwolves defenders. The backcourt of Wall and Beal should be fun to watch for many years to come.
  2. John Wall: With a game-high 16 assists, Wall is proving that he knows how to play the point guard position extremely well and knows when to act as facilitator and when to attack the rim. And while he may need some work done to his jump shot, he is currently a much more developed all around player than La Pistola.
  3. Kevin Love: It has become customary to see Love put up ridiculous numbers in games that aren’t necessarily considered great games for the big fella. Love did a lot with little support from his teammates tonight and provided sparks when the team needed them. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t Minnesota’s night.

Key Takeaways

  • Marcin Gortat was a nice offseason pickup for Washington. He adds a defensive presence to Washington’s frontcourt to help compensate for the rebounding deficient Nene.
  • What’s up with Nikola Pekovic? He seems to disappear for long periods of time during games so far this season and I am seriously wondering if it has something to do with Bill Bayno being gone as an assistant coach. Pek and Bayno clearly had a solid connection and it is a real bummer they were unable to retain him. One thing is clear: Pek needs to regain his confidence if the Wolves are to seriously compete later on this season.
  • It was a very nice game for the former Pup Webster, who shot 5-10 from beyond the arc on his way to 17 points and 9 rebounds. Webster, who is finally healthy, enjoyed a breakout season for Washington last season shooting over 40% from three.
  • Was it just me, or was Jan Vesely pretty impressive out there tonight? The former 6th overall pick just a few seasons ago who has largely been considered a bust shot 4-4 from the floor while grabbing 6 rebounds and even being the beneficiary of a couple of sweet alley-oops in transition.
  • Off night for Rubio. Wall played solid defense and did a good job at not allowing Ricky much penetration, effectively containing him.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Washington Wizards, 1/25/13

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

This Friday’s game sends the Timberwolves to the nation’s capital to face the Wizards.  The Pups enter the game with a 17-22 record and are coming off a loss at home to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.  Ricky Rubio was not pleased with sitting the entire 4th quarter in Wednesday’s game, so we’ll see where this season goes next with this news. It probably isn’t a good thing for an assistant coach to tick off the number one draw for the franchise.  Just a thought…

While the Wizards have the worst record in the league, their season has seemingly turned the corner with the recent return of John Wall to the lineup.  At 9-31 on the season, the team is clearly playing for pride and to show fans what the future may have in store.  Friday’s game also allows Pups fans to catch another glimpse of their former head coach, Randy Wittman.

For tonight’s preview we’re working with Abdullah Sharif from the WizardsExtreme.com team blog.  As you may have seen here on Timberpups.com, we have put together Q&A sessions with a writer from the opposition in an effort to get some inside perspective on what to expect on Friday night game nights.

Here’s our Q&A …

Wizards Question #1 for Abdullah:

First and foremost, John Wall is back in action and looks like he is close to 100% already.  What have you noticed thus far in his play – strengths, potential weaknesses, where he may be struggling, etc.? 


Wall’s return has posed an immediate impact on the team, as the Wizards find themselves playing with a refreshing sense of aggression and fluidity that’s been rare to the Wizards faithful up until his recovery from the stress fracture in his knee. Over the past week and a half, the Wizards have won 5 of their last 7 games, including wins over Oklahoma City, Denver and Portland. Wall has defied several concerns regarding his conditioning, physical strength, and his overall rust from being away from the game for so long. While he displays the same speed and agility we’ve been used to, Wall has also been facilitating the offense in a more disciplined manner.

However, Wall has also proven that he still has some improvements to be made. His mid-range jump shot remains questionable, although his form has clearly improved. At times, Wall finds himself underestimating his speed down court, which usually results in making the wrong decision in transition, leading to a charging foul or a turnover. But overall, Wall’s long absence has proven his worth, as the Wizards now find themselves in the midst of newfound success, with John Wall being the catalyst.


Pups Question #1 for John:

How frustrating has the health of Kevin Love been this season and how have the Timberwolves been able to fill the void with the absence of his inside presence as well as threat as a shooter around the perimeter?


Kevin Love’s broken hand from knuckle push-ups essentially set the tone for what was yet to come this season for the Timberwolves.  This freak accident started off a stretch of terrible luck in the injury department that has hit the vast majority of the lineup.  To be honest, before losing Budinger, Roy, Pekovic, and/or Shved (not to mention Josh Howard or the random games that JJ Barea and Andrei Kirilenko have missed … yes, this is all in a half a season) the Wolves were doing “OK” and treading water in Love’s earlier absence from the team.

However, the roster is far too deep in the water at this point and it is hard seeing this team stay afloat while Love recovers from the surgery and extended amount of time he’s now scheduled to miss (8-10 weeks after the surgery, which happened about a week after the injury occurred.  This was due to … the surgeon being sick and out of the office.  You can’t make this stuff up with how the season is going.)

At this point, they aren’t able to make up for Love’s absence.  Earlier in the season, Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, and Derrick Williams were filling in admirably and rotating nicely based on match-ups.  Unfortunately, that isn’t happening anymore.  To your last point, the team is abysmal from beyond the arc.  Love’s hand injury led to a lot of his own struggles here when he was playing, but there really isn’t another player on the current roster that can consistently hit a three pointer right now.


Wizards Question #2 for Abdullah:

Tell us how you feel about Randy Wittman, but please keep it PG-13.  As a former coach for our Pups, I remember Wittman driving fans criminally insane in Minnesota.  Has he made any improvement whatsoever?  Would you like to see him return as coach next season? 


Wittman’s tenure in Minnesota is very similar to his current one in DC. Besides the short stint he had coaching Kevin Garnett in 2006 and then-rookie Kevin Love in 2008, Wittman’s basketball teams have been sorely untalented. When his predecessor Flip Saunders was fired 17 games into the season last year, Wittman was called upon to take over a squad in complete disarray and misdirection. If you follow DC sports, you’ll clearly notice the blame for the team’s failure is directed more towards the men in upper management, as opposed to the coach himself. While Wittman does endure scrutiny for his questionable player rotations and strategies, many consider Wittman to be a victim of a bad culture and a coach who has had very little talent to work with. Wittman’s Wizards finished the season last year riding a six-game win streak, but several key injuries and managerial mishaps led to an underachieving lineup and the worst start in franchise history.

As mentioned in my previous answer, the Wizards are now back at full strength with John Wall back in the lineup, along with a healthy Nene and a vastly progressing rookie in Brad Beal. In his short time as Wizards coach, Wittman has proven that with the right tools and personnel, he can make for a respectable coach in the NBA.


Pups Question #2 for John:

What are the general outlook and opinion of Ricky Rubio and his potential success as a member of the Timberwolves? How much of a difference maker is he when on the floor and how does his game compare to John Wall’s?


(Disclaimer: I’m a huge Rubio backer)

Rubio is struggling to find his form right now as he continues to fight his way past the torn ACL injury from last season.  He is passing up too many open shots and then when he is taking them, they are consistently falling flat and drawing iron.  He has shown flashes of brilliance, but you won’t see it in the box score on most occasions, as the team has been very strict in limiting his minutes and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Ricky is very clearly who David Kahn and company want to build around.  Assuming he shakes the rust off over the course of the rest of this season and comes back to form (and beyond) to what was seen in his rookie year, you can expect a maximum offer on the table waiting for Ricky to sign.  There are a lot of “what if” scenarios to play out between now and then though, so it is impossible to say whether or not he remains with the team through all of that.

His potential success is off the charts.  On the court, his vision is bar none.  He almost singlehandedly made the bounce pass cool again in the NBA last season.  From what is seen from afar, teammates love playing with him.  You can sense his leadership on the court and it seems to carry over to practice and the day to day life with teammates.

I believe he is more “valuable” than Kevin Love.  I’m not saying he is “better”, but I do believe he is more valuable to winning games for this franchise.  Frankly, they need each other to succeed in Minnesota, but Rubio definitely makes everyone else around him better and I can’t necessarily say the same thing about Love.


Wizards Question #3 for Abdullah:

Rumors swirled recently that Bradley Beal might be available for the right price.  What do you think of the rookie and his play thus far?  What does he need to improve on to become a complete player for this franchise (or another)?  Can the team build a contender with both Wall and Beal? 


Bradley Beal got off to a bit of a slow start to his NBA career. As a player who was touted for his deadly shooting and abilities to create scoring opportunities, Wizards fans initially observed a player who lacked aggression and shot poorly from the field. Just a few weeks later, Wizards fans observed a player who was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December. During that span until now, the 19-year old has found his comfort on the floor and is no longer shy about attacking the rim. Beal shows great poise and confidence. His skill set is starting to take great shape as he has shown his ability to create offense and find open space for high percentage jumpers. These factors all led to the dismissal of potential trade offers and the decision to keep him in DC with the pursuit of eventually constructing one of the more dangerous backcourts in the league along with John Wall.


Pups Question #3 for John:

With the halfway point of the season approaching, the Wolves are just a few games out of the final playoff spot. What areas do the Wolves need to address in order to make their second half push and secure that spot?


Simply put: Health and good luck.  Unfortunately, the former is nowhere to be found and it isn’t coming back to this roster anytime soon.  With Budinger out until February/March, Love out until March or so, Roy out indefinitely (and probably done), and Rubio still working out the kinks, it just seems like too much to overcome.  The team’s recent play suggests that they have finally hit that threshold where enough is enough.  They have not looked very good over the past few weeks and I fear that there isn’t an end in sight to this.

It also doesn’t help that Rick Adelman has left the team to be with his ailing wife and the sidelines have been left to Terry Porter.  (To clarify this so it isn’t interpreted incorrectly – Adelman needs to do whatever it is he feels best for his family.  The point I’m making here is we are very clearly “trading down” when going from Adelman to Porter on the sidelines.)  While a tremendous amount of the current situation is due to injuries, you will likely get a chance to see a few head scratchers from the coach in Friday night’s game.

To be honest, I’ve already talked myself into the fact that this team is not going to make the playoffs again this season.  Going into the trading deadline, I don’t expect to see a significant move made.  However, I wouldn’t be shocked if JJ Barea or Luke Ridnour is moved for more of a true SG.  In the offseason, I do expect at least one of them moved, potentially with Derrick Williams, as the former #2 pick in the draft will have a new home for the ‘13/’14 season.  Hopefully, those one or two moves provide the team with a significant upgrade at the SG or SF position to move into next season with.


We hope you enjoyed the preview for this Friday’s match-up between the Pups and Wizards.  Again, you can read more from Abdullah at WizardsExtreme.com and/or follow them on Twitter.  You can read more from John on Timberpups.com and/or follow him on Twitter as well.