Timberwolves Sink Lakers, 120-119

Zach LaVine had his breakout game Friday night, returning to the Los Angeles area. (Danny Moloshok, AP Photo)

Zach LaVine had his breakout game Friday night, returning to the Los Angeles area. (Danny Moloshok, AP Photo)

The 3-10 Minnesota Timberwolves hit the road to take on a struggling Los Angeles Lakers team that is off to the worst in franchise history at 3-12.  Despite the return of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference with our Pups.  The Lakers lottery pick, Julius Randle broke his leg in the season opener and things have gone from bad to worse for Los Angeles.  As you might expect, the Lakers would receive zero pity points from the Wolves, who continue to take the court with a ton of missing pieces.

The Wolves opened up with a returning Mo Williams at PG, Corey Brewer, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  The Lakers came out with Jeremy Lin, Kobe, Wesley Johnson, Carlos Boozer, and Jordan Hill.

Mo Williams started off the game with the shooter’s touch, scoring 8 of the Pups’ first 13 points.  Unfortunately for the Wolves, Kobe was in the zone to begin the game as well.  Bryant was all over the court, putting up 12 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals in the 1st quarter.  In the final 4-5 minutes of the opening quarter, the Wolves turned the ball over entirely too much (7 in the first quarter) and it led to the Lakes taking a seven point advantage into the second quarter, 30-23.

After falling behind by as many as eleven points, the Wolves went on a small run to cut the Lakers lead down to three, 52-50.  The Wolves were led by Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett, who were the only two players doing much of anything on the offensive end of the court.  Heading into a timeout, LaVine had quickly become the Wolves leading scorer with 16 points on 6-7 shooting from the field.

At the half of a relatively exciting and certainly entertaining game, the Lakers held a 58-54 advantage.  While the Wolves were heavily relying on Mo Williams, LaVine, and Bennett, the Lakers were getting contributions across the board.  Six of the ten players that entered the game had scored at least six points for the home team.

The Timberwolves came out and scored the first four points of the second half to tie the game at 58.  From there, the two teams went toe to toe and bucket for bucket throughout an amazing show of offense in the third quarter.  Basketball purists may also suggest that NBA team defense regressed 25 years as well.  When Wes Johnson is going off, you know there are issues on the defensive end of the court.  The Timberwolves outscored the Lakers 39-38 in the third quarter but trailed 96-93 after three quarters.

It looked like the Wolves were in trouble when Nick Young started to get hot and brought the crowd alive in the 4th quarter.  However, Mo Williams answered the call with eight straight points for the Wolves and tied the game at 117.  The play/sequence of the game followed Williams’ last bucket as Kobe got Andrew Wiggins to bite on a few up-fakes and drew a foul.  However, Bryant missed both free throw attempts allowing the Wolves to take a two point lead on a Thad Young bucket.  Kobe tied the game at 119 with another basket but the Wolves had five seconds on the clock to get a shot off.  Flip Saunders drew up a play for Thad and he drew a foul on Nick Young to go to the free throw line.  After missing the first, Young made the second to give the Wolves a 120-119 lead with two seconds left in the game.

Fortunately for the Wolves, Kobe Bryant missed a relatively open three pointer as time expired, giving the Pups the victory, 120-119.  After losing 22 straight to the Lakers, the Timberwolves have now won four of the last five.

Game Notes:

  • The Lakers wore an alternative black t-shirt jersey this evening, which led to the Timberwolves wearing their home white jerseys.  The NBA is confusing.
  • While Wiggins probably had his worst game of the season Friday night, fellow rookie Zach LaVine finished with a career high 28 points on 11-14 shooting.  LaVine of course was returning to the Los Angeles area after his one season at UCLA.
  • If it weren’t for LaVine, Mo Williams would easily be considered the player of the game, finishing with 25 points and 11 assists.

Timberwolves Draft Recap 2014

Zach LaVine may or may not have reacted well to being drafted by the Timberwolves.  You can decide for yourselves.  (ESPN)

Zach LaVine may or may not have reacted well to being drafted by the Timberwolves. You can decide for yourselves. (ESPN)

Setting the stage:

I set expectations pretty low for Thursday night and still found myself disappointed with this franchise on yet another NBA Draft evening. Going into the draft we had heard a few rumors that Kevin Love was going to remain on the club beyond Thursday night and that there may have been a promise from the Wolves Front Office to another Bill Duffy client, Zach LaVine. I found neither of these rumors to be a positive for the franchise, yet, here we are post-draft and both have come to fruition.

Here are a few thoughts on the Timberwolves’ selections: [Read more…]

The Whoa Nelly Recap – Timberwolves 143, Lakers 107

Kevin Garnett vs. Kobe Bryant, i.e. the good ole days for these two franchises! (Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

Kevin Garnett vs. Kobe Bryant, i.e. the good ole days for these two franchises!
(Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

 

At 35-35 the Timberwolves have essentially been eliminated from the playoffs, although this isn’t official.  The original basketball team from Minneapolis paid a visit to the Twin Cities Friday night, coming in with a 24-47 record and a team whose season was over before it really began.  With Kobe Bryant remaining on the shelf, Mike D’Antoni has apparently been busy floating his name in the college ranks.  There aren’t many more dislikeable head coaches in the NBA, are there?  That said, Wolves Twitter had their own little news today with a little more meat to the potato of Rick Adelman’s departure.  (In short, we’ll cover this at the end of the season when it becomes official, but this could be filed under “no surprise”.  You could also argue that Adelman has mailed it in since the beginning of 2014 … but I won’t … here/yet/now.)

So, with all of those tidbits out of the way, let’s talk about Friday night’s action at Target Center.  Nikola Pekovic returned to action and the starting lineup, which also included Rubio, Martin, Brewer, and Love.  The Lakers started the game with Kendall Marshall, Kent Bazemore, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman.  Good grief Charlie Brown … no Pau Gasol for the Lakers.

First Half

The Wolves welcomed back Pek in a big way, as the Serbian scored the first six points for the Wolves, giving the home team an early 6-2 lead.  After a quick timeout by the Lakers, the Wolves continued to dominate the early stages of the quarter, building a 20-4 lead.  Pekovic played the first seven minutes and was replaced by Gorgui Dieng.  Early minutes for the rookie and I’ll ignore that the Wolves had already built a ~20 point advantage.  At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 41-24 lead, thanks to Pek’s aforementioned efforts and Kevin Love’s 15, 5, and 4 in the first twelve minutes.

The story of the 2nd quarter was “more of the same”.  The Wolves’ bench played well and helped double up the Lakers to the tune of 60-30 with under 5 minutes to play in the half.  That breaks down to a 19-6 run in the first ~7 minutes of the quarter.  Dante Cunningham had a nice stint on the floor, with 6 points and 3 rebounds during that span.

If there were a mercy rule in the NBA, I think it would have been called at the half.  The Wolves held a 74-43 advantage as the teams went into the locker room.  It was 50/50 if the Lakers would come back out for the 3rd quarter.  Here are a few halftime thoughts:

  • The Wolves put up a season high 74 points in the 1st half, with the bench really contributing.  Fantastic!
  • Conversely, the Lakers are really, REALLY bad.
  • Someone should clip the box score out of the local newspapers tomorrow and tape them to Love’s locker.

Second Half

To answer the question “Did it get any better for the Lakers in the second half?” … the answer is “NO”!  Tonight’s game could not have gone any better for the Pups.  They reached 100 points with about five minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.  Kevin Love had 19, 9, and 9 in the same amount of time.  At the end of the 3rd, the Wolves held a 111-77 lead, and as an added bonus, Love tracked down a last second rebound to give himself a triple double for the evening.

I’ll save you the suspense, the Wolves managed to hold on to win this one.  The members of the end of the rotation (Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved, etc.) all played heavy minutes in the 4th quarter and everything wound up A-OK.  Final score, Timberwolves with a big win of 143-107 over the Lakers.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Nikola Pekovic – Welcome back the big guy!
  2. Kevin Love – Triple double alert!
  3. Wolves Bench– I could easily make the case for Kevin Martin here but I think this one deserves to go to the group of guys who I have personally thrashed much of this season.  Tonight they played with passion and near flawless execution.

 Key Takeaways

  • Tonight’s 143 points were a franchise high in points for the Timberwolves
  • The Lakers are really, really bad.  There is absolutely nothing on this roster that would warrant trade rumors of Kevin Love going to this team via trade.  Repeat, NOTHING!
  • I hope the Wolves enjoy this one because they now enter a four game streak of potential doom (Nets, Clippers, Grizzlies and the Heat).

Timberpups Weekly Preview – Week 8

 

Early smiles for the Timberwolves this season! (Photo credit: Kentucky.com)

Early smiles for the Timberwolves this season!
(Photo credit: Kentucky.com)

Setting the stage:

The Wolves enter another busy week in the early months of the 2013/14 season with another 4 games, playing every other day after tonight’s back to back game.  Our Pups enter the week on the Mason-Dixon line of .500 ball after a gritty win in Memphis Sunday night.

Similar storylines continue to exist for this roster – very strong on offense, a work in progress on defense, and a desperate need for help from the bench so that the starting lineup doesn’t start to keel over come March and April.  The Pups are 4th in the league in scoring at 105.5ppg, 6th in rebounding (45.2rpg) and 8th in assists (23.0apg).  Unfortunately, the team remains in the bottom quarter of the league on defense (24th entering Monday’s play) giving up 101.7 points per game.

Game 26: Wednesday, 12/16, 6:30pm – Timberwolves @ Boston Celtics (TV: FS North & NBA TV) [Read more…]

VOTW – Wesley Johnson Pre-Draft Workout

In the spirit of yesterday’s NBA Lottery and the continued lack of luck on the Timberwolves side during said event, let’s take a look back to one of the most painful memories in franchise history. Yes, you read that correctly. I truly believe Wesley Johnson to be one of the top three to five misses in franchise history. This is not an irrational decision to talk about more recent events as “the worst” or anything like that. Boy Scouts salute, I wholeheartedly believe that drafting Wes was an AWFUL decision of somewhat epic proportions.

Take a look at this video, courtesy of Canis Hoopus. Exactly what did David Kahn and company see in this workout to rave about Wes? I stopped counting the number of times I heard a clang on the rim just a minute or two in. He missed five of his first six in the tape and JB decides to move to another spot on the floor. This would be hysterical if he wasn’t drafted weeks later by the same team. To be fair, Wes did get “hot” at that next spot on the floor … but, you do realize this is shooting open jumpers without anyone in his face, right? Where is the Chairman, Yi Jianlian, when you need him for a workout? [Read more…]

Minnesota Timberwolves 83, Phoenix Suns 84

DerrickGame Summary

The Timberwolves kicked off a three game road trip on Tuesday night in Phoenix.  Both teams came into the game well under .500 and fans are already thinking about what is the next step to bring each franchise back to the playoffs.  I think it is safe to say that the Pups are significantly closer to those aspirations, but Tuesday night’s performance didn’t help the minds (or hearts) of either fan base.  Here is how the night transpired.

There were no changes to the Wolves starting lineup – Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic.  The Suns opened up with Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, PJ Tucker, Luis Scola, and Marcin Gortat.

In the early stages of the game, the Wolves and Suns both struggled to make baskets and the Wolves managed to turn the ball over a few too many times.  Going into the first timeout/break in the game the Suns held a 10-6 lead through 6+ minutes.  Dr. James Naismith likely rolled over in his grave given the performance for the entire 12 minutes of the 1st quarter.  At the end of the 1st, the Suns held a 16-15 lead.

The Suns put together a 10-0 run but it could have, and should have been, much worse.  Through 18 minutes of the game, the Wolves had 21 points.  Seriously.  They were shooting sub-30%, turning the ball over, and being outrebounded 25-17 going into the TV timeout with under 6 minutes to go in the half.

Rather than belabor this any further, the Suns held a 47-33 lead at halftime.  Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Mentioned this on Twitter, but if the Wolves continue to lose more often than not, does that make Adelman more or less likely to return next season?
  • Derrick Williams was the only bright spot, with 13 & 6 in the 1st half
  • Finally – 33 points?  Seriously?

Coming out to start the 3rd quarter, Alexey Shved was in the starting lineup replacing Andrei Kirilenko.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t Adelman trying to tweak the lineup to cause a spark, it was due to another injury.  AK47 suffered a calf strain and was deemed out for the rest of the game.  We’ll see the severity of the injury in the coming days and if Andrei will miss any more time.

The 3rd quarter itself was more of the same from the Wolves and Suns.  The Pups won the quarter 18-11 (ugh) and were only down 58-51 going into the final frame.  Derrick Williams remained the only Pup worth talking about, but he was also shooting 3-10 from the FT line through three quarters.  That said, he already posted a double-double, with 18 & 10 through three.

After starting out very slow in the 4th quarter, the Wolves went on a 7-0 run to cut the Suns lead to 6 points.  Pekovic started to come to life in the 4th quarter as well, quietly moving into double-double range.  The Wolves were met with a healthy dose of Wesley Johnson, who hit several three pointers, as well as a few baskets in/around the paint.

In the final two minutes, the Wolves were able to take a 76-75 lead.  After Rubio hit one of two FT’s, the Suns were able to tie the game up with a running layup by Gortat.  Rubio then proceeded to air-ball a mid-range jumper to put the game into overtime, which is exactly what the NBA and its fans didn’t need from these two teams.

The overtime period was more of the same from both teams; bad shooting, a lack of scoring, and turnovers.  Ricky Rubio looked completely gassed and Adelman pulled him for the final few minutes.  With time running down, Alexey Shved drove to the rim and missed a layup that would have given the Wolves the lead (and likely win).  The Suns escape with an 84-83 win after outscoring (or surviving) the Wolves 7-6 in OT.

Keys of the Game

  • Shooting – While the Suns were equally as bad, the Wolves shot 31-90 FG’s, including 5-19 from 3PT range and were 16-25 from the FT line.  Dear lord.
  • Bench play – Aside from JJ Barea – and you should probably account for all of his negatives here too – the Suns bench was widely superior Tuesday night, with Wes Johnson, Markieff Morris, and Jermaine O’Neal all with double digit points.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jermaine O’Neal – Seriously, I mean who else does this go to?  A double-double from a 60 year old NBA player deserves to be recognized.  My only other option was “(Leave blank)”.
  2. Derrick Williams – 21 & 12 and another relatively solid outing for DWill.
  3. Wesley Johnson – Arguably the worst 1st round pick in the Timberwolves history, Johnson managed to have a career night with 14 points and 9 rebounds off the Suns bench.  Of course he did.

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Phoenix Suns, 2/26/13

wesjohnson_michaelbeasley

Setting the stage:

Oh what could have been with Mr. Beasley and Mr. Johnson on the Timberwolves, right folks?  (Crickets)

The Timberwolves travel to Phoenix to take on the Suns Tuesday night for the second time this season.  Back on 12/29, the Wolves handed the Suns a 111-107 loss, with the former Pups doing virtually nothing on their return the Target Center.  Beasley shot a woeful 1-8 from the field in 10 minutes and Johnson received another DNP-CD.

Since taking over for Alvin Gentry, it looks like Lindsey Hunter has come to realize just how bad these two players are.  Hunter took over on January 18th and has given both players a few opportunities to play heavier minutes.  In Phoenix’s most recent games, both players have been given limited opportunity to see the floor.

The Suns come into the game losers of three straight, which has dropped their season record to 18-39.  If this game were being played in April, we would be talking about who is tanking more unfortunately.  The Wolves come into Tuesday’s game off of a gut-wrenching loss to the Warriors on Sunday afternoon.  The Pups had every opportunity to win the game but found a way to lose, 100-99, with Luke Ridnour missing a floating jumper around the rim as the buzzer sounded.  That loss put the team at 1-2 since the All Star break and dropped their record to 20-33 on the season.  Despite the loss, the optimist in me would like to point out the overall performances of Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.  While both failed to make one or two plays down the stretch (and they were crucial) the duo put together very solid performances and are the main reasons worth tracking how or what the Wolves do the rest of the way this season.

Player to watch:

Jared Dudley – Timberwolves fans have been eyeing up Dudley for some time now, as a player that would be a great cog in the machine here in Minnesota.  While Jared has been inconsistent in February, Timberwolves fans might want to brace themselves for a breakout performance.  Dudley put up an 18 point, 8 rebound, 5 assist game back in late December and we should probably expect more of the same, given the lack of size the Wolves have to match up against Jared on the defensive end.

Match-up to watch:

Nikola Pekovic vs. Marcin Gortat.  The big men in the paint are the premiere match-up for the evening, as both men are quite the load in the paint.  Pekovic dominated the earlier meeting, putting up a 28 & 11 performance, and holding Gortat to 9 & 3.  Pekovic has had a nice month of February if you throw out the performance this past Friday night in OKC.  Even with that clunker, he’s averaged 15.8 ppg and 9.5 rpg over the course of the month.

Predictions:

Nothing excites me about this Suns team and I almost wish that I wasn’t responsible for covering this game.  OK, I do wish that actually.  Given the way the Wolves have been playing since the break, and even though it isn’t producing wins, I expect them to pull this one out on the road.

Final score prediction: Twolves 106, Suns 99

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Derrick Williams
  3. Jared Dudley

Let’s go Wolves!