Wolves Can’t Keep Up for Four Quarters, Fall to Raptors at Home

And here we are.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been playing predominantly well since the All-Star break, but faced a tough Toronto Raptors team on Sunday night. The Raptors entered the game as winners of eight of their previous 10 games, allowing only 96 points per game during those contests. Had it not been for a triple-overtime game against the Washington Wizards, in which Toronto allowed 136 points, that 96 opponents points per game would have been closer to 90 — they’re playing pretty good basketball.

Entering the day the Wolves sat five games back of the final seed in the Western Conference. The Dallas Mavericks (37-26) and Phoenix Suns (36-25) are holding down the final two slots with the Memphis Grizzlies (36-26) only a half-game behind the Suns and Mavs, whilst also standing between the Wolves and their highly optimistic playoff aspirations. The Mavericks were hosting the Indiana Pacers and the Suns were in The Bay Area taking on the Golden State Warriors, Memphis had the night off. Each team, minus the Grizz, faced a tough opponent but the Wolves needed a victory before worrying about the outcome of things beyond their control.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, and Terrence Ross took the floor for the Raptors while Rick Adelman sent out the usual group of Wolves to start the game. If you’re not familiar by now, that means Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic were the starting five for the Wolves. The pesky, lengthy, athletic core of the Raptors posed problems for the Wolves during their last meeting in Toronto, a game the Wolves did not win.

First Half

The first quarter, well, it seemed sloppy. However, the Raptors made the box score look clean by hitting 13 of 19 shots (68%!!!!). Each Toronto starter scored, but they were led by Ross who scored 10 points and didn’t miss a shot during the opening frame. Love led the way with 12 for the Wolves and the game was all tied up, 33-33.

The second quarter was a game of runs for both sides, and a wave of emotions for fans at the Target Center. Toronto started the quarter off on a 10-0 run, which was really 18-0 dating back to the opening quarter — yikes. However, the Wolves countered with a 17-2 run of their own and before anyone knew anything the game was tied again. The Raptors took a 53-52 lead into halftime, but failed to sustain the momentum they accumulated during the opening quarter and early part of the second. Love lead the way with 13, Pek added 13, Martin scored 11 and the rest of the Wolves managed to score 14 to aid the core in keeping things close.

Second Half

The Raptors started the second half on a 9-2 run, but the Wolves continued to battle. After some nice ball movement around the perimeter, Love found himself open for a three-pointer and buried it; passing Rashad McCants on the list of three’s made by Wolves player. At the 7:00 mark, J.J. Barea missed an easy layup that would have cut the deficit to two. Lowry, thankfully, committed an offensive foul that accounted for Barea’s miss and the game went to a timeout. The Wolves then trailed, 62-64.

Note – Love also broke the franchise record for most three pointers made in a season during this stretch. 

 Through Three Quarters

  • 83-76 Raptors
  • Four Raptors players in double-figures (three Wolves)
  • Love — 21 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists
  • Rubio — 16:38 minutes. Six points, three assists, four fouls

And here we are.

The fourth quarter began and Alexey Shved, who we haven’t seen on the court in a meaningful moment of a game, was playing point guard, albeit he was quickly replaced as Adelman only was trying to get away with what he had done for a small amount of time. Rubio, eager to return, checked in at the 9:21 mark and played — nearly — the remainder of the game, and it made a difference. Although the Wolves weren’t able to keep pace with the Raptors throughout the entirety of the game, the lineups playing when the game is on the line seem to be the combination of players that people want to see. Or maybe that’s just me reading my timeline on the Twitter verse incorrectly.

The Wolves, although narrowing the lead down to as little as two points, were unable to rally and win a game that good teams should expect to win on their home floor.

Three Stars

  • Kyle Lowry — 20 points, 11 assists, 12 rebounds.
  • DeMar Derozan — 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 of 3 from three-point range — he’s a good player. (Great analysis I know)
  • Corey Brewer — 17 points, 6 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 assists.

Wolves Defeat Kings, 108-97

Before we get into things I’m going to display a few photos. One of these pictures you might be familiar with, as i’ve used it in recent recaps, but the other is something new.

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Remember this? I determined that 7 of the 10 games following the all-star break were ‘winnable’ games by Wolves standards. Halfway through the stretch, Minnesota is 4-1 with victories over the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, the lone defeat coming at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. On Saturday, the Sacramento Kings became the latest victim of the Wolves recent success. (I’ll get to that other picture in a little while)

First Half

Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic returned to the starting lineup after each played missed notable amounts of time due to injury.

Pekovic left the game against the Chicago Bulls on January 27th and the Wolves went 7-7 during his absence. A short time after Pekovic was sidelined, on the 7th of February, Martin played 34 minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans but fractured a finger at some point during the game. The Wolves played 8 games missing both Martin and Pekovic, but emerged victorious in all but three of those outings.

Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Corey Brewer trotted out with Pekovic and Martin and matched up against Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Some could argue that the Kings victory over the Wolves in January, at the Target Center, was the worst loss for Minnesota this season.

So, call it the revenge game if you must. Martin got things going without any further ado, shooting six of seven from the field and scoring 14 first quarter points. Pekovic, playing on a minute limit, was replaced by Dante Cunningham after six minutes of playing time. Despite the outburst by Martin the Wolves trailed the Kings at the end of the opening quarter, 30-31, as Gay nearly matched “K-Mart (K-Target)” basket for basket — Gay scored 12 points in the 1st quarter on five of six shooting from the field. Pekovic found his rhythm in the 2nd quarter, but Gay didn’t skip a beat and the Wolves were outscored by the Kings and trailed at the half; 53-56. Here are some quick notes from the games’ first two quarters.

  • Pekovic and Martin — 29 points on 12 of 18 shooting
  • Love couldn’t get much going but found ways to contribute. He was an abysmal one of six shooting but scored nine points after converting on six of eight free-throw attempts. Love also helped keep the game close with four assists.
  • Rest of team — 15 points
  • Rudy Gay — 22 points 8 of 11 FG, 4 of 6 3PT FG, 2 of 2 FT. This is something that shouldn’t happen.

Second Half

The 3rd quarter was a ‘whole different ball game,’ as the cliche goes. After the game was over, Love and Adelman both mentioned – on the Fox Sports North broadcast – that the team rallied in the locker room to play with a sense of urgency after halftime. Whatever happened in the visiting locker room at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Saturday night should be repeated over and over again for the remainder of the season. The starters trotted out in surefire form and outscored the Kings 31-14 during the third frame. Rubio, who only had three assists by halftime, tallied five ‘dimes’ distributed among the other five Wolves players that scored in the third. However, the offense wasn’t flashy as we’ve known it to be — the Wolves went to the free-throw line 12 times, converting on 9 attempts, and forced the Kings into six turnovers.

The Wolves scored six fast break, and five second-chance, points. The Kings were limited to zero fast break points and didn’t shoot one FT during the third, the home team was beat in almost every aspect of the game on each possession. Things got interesting, as they usually do, during the 4th quarter and after entering the final 12 minutes with a 14 point lead — the score narrowed and fans watching at home began to worry, and had every right to do so. Four minutes went by and the Kings outscored the Wolves 14-6 in the short span.

Albeit his performance since returning from knee surgery has oft been criticized, Chase Budinger performed well in these four — crucial — minutes of the game. Budinger had two key rebounds (one offensive, one defensive) and four pivotal points while the starters rested and waited to get back into the game. Martin, Brewer, and Love entered the game at the 8:34 mark by replacing Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, and Luc Mbah a Moute. J.J. Barea and Cunningham remained on the floor. The Wolves led by nine, 90-81, but the Kings push was imminent. It may have been close to a double-digit lead, but the game was not at all out of reach for Sacramento — the home crowd could sense it and tensions rose during the final minutes. — I’m not sure if Rick Adelman will continue going to Rubio to close out games, but he needs to start doing so — there’s been many, many calling for this to happen — because BareaBall isn’t always the answer. — The lead now down to eight, Rubio checked into the game for Barea with the score at 93-85.

After a string of hair-pulling events, the lead was narrowed down to two. The crowd was on their feet and a streaking Rudy Gay headed toward the basket for what seemed as if it would be a game-tying layup — he did everything but make the easy basket. Love grabbed the defensive rebound, Rubio brought the ball upcourt, dished it back to Love who missed a three-point attempt. Pekovic grabbed the offensive board and was fouled by Cousins. Pek made both free-throws and the lead was extended to four.

After a steal by Rubio, and some ball movement along the perimeter, Ricky fired a three from the right wing, with the shot clock winding down, that fell through the bottom of the net and the Wolves were in business. The dagger put the lead at eight with less than a minute remaining. The Wolves prevailed over the Kings, 108-97.

Here’s that other picture. 1620760_10202709983145019_561495350_n   Currently, Golden State, Phoenix, and Dallas are the teams rounding off the Western Conference Playoff spots. The Wolves, winners of 5 of their last 6, are five-and-a-half games out of the 8th seed in the West. The Warriors, Suns, Mavericks, and Grizzlies are all 2-2 in their previous four games. For the Wolves, albeit the door is slamming shut, have a chance to slide a proverbial foot over the threshold and into the postseason picture. Tonight, Minnesota is in Denver to face the depleted Nuggets, they’ll be 5-1 in games after All-Star Weekend with a victory.

Three Stars

  • Kevin Martin — 26 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Although only going 1 for 5 from three-point land, he converted seven of eight from the charity stripe. The free points were, and are always, important.
  • Nikola Pekovic — 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Pek recorded nearly 27 minutes of action and Adelman can be quoted, saying after the game, that he used the 295 pound center returning from injury — and still playing through pain — more than he would have liked.
  • Kevin Love — why not? 22 points on a horrible shooting night (4 of 12) but 12 of 14 from the FT line, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.

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Wolves Injury Update

Tonight, the Timberwolves are in Phoenix to take on the Suns for the third game on this a six game road trip. Still no sign of Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Martin, and Ronny Turiaf remains out indefinitely with a bruised right knee.

Before departing on this venture, Kevin Love’s Instagram account informed us that the Wolves resident Bruise Brother, Pekovic, would be returning sometime during this — pivotal — stretch of the season. Martin also remains sidelined with a broken left thumb, but saw a specialist in Los Angeles yesterday. After having things looked at Monday, as well as last Friday, @TWolves_PR has informed us that Martin is progressing well.

As for Pekovic, he participated in shootaround this morning in Phoenix. His status for tonight is labeled as questionable. Pekovic was active pregame in Utah before Saturday’s meeting with the Jazz, but did not play — which, admittedly, led me to believe that he would be active in Portland for the Wolves meeting with the Blazers the following evening.

This column by Mark Remme states that Pekovic isn’t feeling any more pain in his ankle, however, that does not mean the pain isn’t there. Pek is suffering from bursitis, an inflammation caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury. Because of abuse the game of basketball places on an athletes knees (specifically the bursa, tendons and cartilage) it’s unlikely that Pekovic, or any athlete for that matter, that suffers from bursitis will ever completely heal. Age also plays a role. As tendons age they are able to tolerate stress less, are less elastic, and are easier to tear. He can play, but that doesn’t mean it will be a painless experience.

Pekovic had this to say to media shortly after shootaround. (Per Remme Practice Report)

“I would like, if I could play minutes today, but I still have to do some things today so we’ll see how it goes.” – Pekovic

The Wolves are 5-7 since Pek was removed from the Wolves meeting with the Chicago Bulls late in January. They are 3-3 since Martin joined him on the sideline.

Gorgui Dieng, still being used sparingly, is averaging 11 minutes per game over the previous five games. Dieng is still a very raw, young, and developing player but has at least been serviceable in the absence of Pek and Turiaf. He is averaging 3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block per game during the recent stretch.

 

 

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Wolves Burned by Blazers, Winning Streak Ended at Three

The Wolves landed in Portland just before midnight, Sunday, after departing from Utah shortly after their victory against the Jazz. After the Pups demolished the Denver Nuggets (Blazers burn, demolish Denver — these are horrible, but i grin none-the-less), we determined victories against other Western Conference foes competing for playoff contention are the wins that will prove to have the most value during the course of the remainder of the season. Minnesota had a chance to catch the Portland Trail Blazers, without LaMarcus Aldridge, reeling to sustain the success captured earlier in the season, and steal a victory at the Moda Center. Here’s this picture again.

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Of the first three games, two were deemed as ‘winnable’. Fortunately, the Wolves defeated the Indiana Pacers at home — this was not considered one of those winnable contests. However, because the Blazers were without their All-Star power forward I did consider last night’s matchup in Portland as one that could – and maybe should – have been a victory. Nikola Pekovic, who participated in some pregame warmups, remains out until further notice — although he is expected to play sometime on this roadtrip (per Kevin Love’s Instagram account) — he did not play last night against the Blazers. The Wolves rolled out the small-ball starting lineup, again, with Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer, Dante Cunningham and Kevin Love. The Blazers countered with Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Dorell Wright, and Robin Lopez.

First Half

Only a minute and some change into the game, Love gave the Wolves a lead after hitting a jumper and things were moving along smoothly on the offensive end. Love scored 13 in the first, Budinger added 3 (1-3 from the field, 1-1 3pt), Cunningham and Brewer — together — accounted for 10 on 5 of 8 FG, while Rubio added 5 and the Wolves led after the opening quarter — 34-26. In addition to his scoring contributions, Rubio assisted on 7 of the Wolves 14 baskets. J.J. Barea started the following quarter with a three and the Wolves continued rolling through most of the second frame. Rick Adelman elected to keep Alexey Shved on the bench, which isn’t a decision I’m prepared to dispute, but this meant playing Robbie Hummel alongside Shabazz Muhammad, Luc Mbah a Moute and Gorgui Dieng.

Without having Kevin Martin, who remains sidelined due to injury, Barea has free reign of the second unit — this is not a good thing, in my opinion. Because Budinger was moved to the starting shooting guard slot, Hummel is the wing player Adelman has decided is best fit to stretch the defense when the second unit is on the floor. Hummel is shooting 29 percent from beyond the arc this season, and is only averaging three points a game. Would playing Shved make more sense? I’ll leave that up to you.

‘Bazz,’ who has shown he has the ability to hit the outside shot — in the D-League and with the Wolves — and make plays posting-up smaller defenders, didn’t play very well during the seven minutes of action he saw in the second quarter. Muhammad was one-of-five from the field, and only scored two points.

A little over the 5:00 minute mark, Barea knocked down two free-throws and the Wolves were in business — on the road and ahead by 18 points. Although the starters had checked back in, the game began turning into a gothic horror story as things were winding down in the first half. Thomas Robinson, who replaced the struggling Wright, came off the Blazers’ bench and showed anyone watching what it means to be a hustler. In the final two minutes of the first half, Robinson scored four points and snatched four rebounds, he relentlessly earned the right to play the majority of minutes at forward, in Aldridge’s absence, throughout the remainder of the game. Portland ended the half on an 8-0 run, but the Wolves led at halftime — 60-52 — by a mere 8 points, despite, at one point, having created a significant deficit.

Second Half

After grabbing an offensive rebound, Rubio found an open Budinger and the Wolves opened up the scoring after halftime after Bud’s three-pointer fell through the net. After that, the Blazers went on an 11-2 run and the score remained close during the third quarter. However, Portland’s effort on the boards and in the paint was the difference throughout the remainder of the game. The Blazers attained 12 points in the paint, while the Wolves — lacking any presence at the center position — managed to score only four. Portland had out-rebounded Minnesota in the frame, 15-7.

Lillard and Batum, who together accounted for 27 of the Blazers 52 first-half points, began heating up after halftime and scored 10 apiece, shooting a combined 8 of 10 from the field and 4 of 5 from ‘downtown’. Batum managed to grab four rebounds and also had two assists, while Lillard showed his ability to pass also — ‘the Dame Monster’ had three assists of his own.

This following sequence essentially encapsulates the way things went after the Wolves found themselves up by 18 points during the second quarter. The Blazers simply worked, hustled, and made everything harder for the visiting team.

With just over two minutes to play until the final quarter, after six lead changes and having been tied four separate times thus far, Batum drained a three-pointer (assisted by the still-hustling Robinson) that gave the Blazers an edge, 82-80. Shortly after a Barea miss and – yet another – Robinson rebound, the ball found a streaking Batum and the frenchmen scored the final points of the third and Portland took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Yea….

Fourth Quarter Factoids

  • Rubio and Cunningham sat on the bench.
  • Love was the only starter to score, he had three points.
  • Shabazz played all 12 minutes, didn’t score once, and was 0 for 3 from the field.
  • Budinger played 18 seconds. Yes, that is correct — 18 seconds.
  • Barea, although being a major reason the game was a contest for as long as it was, committed five fouls (FIVE) and made some of the usual boneheaded plays we’re used to seeing him make when things go awry. (He scored six points on 2 of 6 FG shooting)

No, the Wolves didn’t overcome the small, four-point deficit that they faced entering the quarter — nor was there a moment where it looked as if they were going to do so. It was worse than watching paint dry, and it took every ounce of fanship inside of me to refrain from turning the game off and flicking on the True Blood (which I didn’t watch live because of the game, and my commitment to covering this team).

The final score: Blazers 108, Wolves 97.

Three Stars

  • Damian Lillard — 32 points, 11 of 17 FG, 5 of 8 3PT FG, 5 of 5 from the charity stripe. The guy, he’s good.
  • Kevin Love — The game was ugly, but not ugly enough for me to spite the Wolves by leaving them out of the ‘Three Stars’ portion of this recap. Love scored 31, albeit on only 11 of 21 shooting (with a less than stellar shot selection) and grabbed 10 rebounds
  • Thomas Robinson — 14 points in 32 minutes. 18 rebounds (11 defensive and 7 offensive) and a +/- rating of +19. Look at this way, Brewer’s +/- was -19. Because math is hard, I did it for you — that’s a difference of 38.

For the optimistic, Pekovic is expected to return at some point during this road trip — my guess is Martin will, too. Tomorrow night the Wolves play the Phoenix Suns, who were defeated last night by the Houston Rockets; this keeps hope for the 8th and final playoff slot in the superior Western Conference alive. If Pek and K-Mart (K-Target to some) don’t make their return tomorrow, in Phoenix, they’ll have three additional days to recover before the Wolves play the Kings – in Sacramento – on Saturday. Here’s a tweet from John letting you know how things stand.

Recap: Wolves Devour Frozen Pelicans 124-112.

Wednesday the Minnesota Timberwolves (15-16) hosted the New Orleans Pelicans (14-15). These teams entered the game struggling to rise above the .500 mark with a combined record of 29-31, but one of them would have the same amount of victories as defeats at the sound of the final buzzer.

The somewhat infamous Pierre the Pelican, New Orleans mascot, did not travel with the team, preventing a certain heated exchange between the Pelican and Crunch. Maybe the Wolves can send Crunch into the Bayou later this season. I only say that because this is a mascot battle I need to see at some point in my life. The spectacle of mascots doing mascot things will always entertain me. [Read more...]

The Wolves Lost to the Spurs | 110-117

Thinking short-term goals the Wolves are 2-1 this week.

Disclaimer: Venting a little. This one may not be pleasant. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves lost to the San Antonio Spurs Friday; 110-117.

First Half:

The Wolves led the Spurs, 30-27, at the end of the opening quarter.

Ricky Rubio, defended by Tony Parker, scored six-points on three mid-range jumpers in the final two-and-a-half minutes. Parker defended against penetration henceforth encouraging attempts from outside; Rubio recognized, elevated, and connected from three different areas for six points.

Two of his three buckets came on pull-ups in between the free-throw and the three-point line, dribbling to his right on both of the attempts. If you want to read the shameless self-promo portion of this segment, it will remind you that he’s comfortable shooting from that area — hopefully we see this continue throughout the season.

Reminder: 30-27, end of the first. 

Nikola Pekovic was the only starter to play more than half of the second quarter. Pek roamed the floor for 10 minutes, grabbed five boards, but only scored 4 points on 2 of 4 from the field. He didn’t take one free-throw. Kevin Love managed to hit two-three’s and had 16 going into the locker room to go along with 5 rebounds, he was just getting started.

However Parker, usually by buzzing past defenders into the lane for a layup, manufactured 15 first-half points and the Spurs led at halftime; 54-62. 

  • J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved shot a combined to score 10 points on 3 of 7 from the field in addition to hitting 3 of 4 FT’s. Those were the team’s only bench points
  • Boris Diaw had 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting
  • Spurs bench points — 29 of 62
  • Wolves bench points — 10 of 54

Do I sound bitter?

The bench doesn’t score. I’m somehow going to show you what i mean in the following sentences, or bullets, or whatever format I display statistics; but only as a formality.

  • J.J Barea is averaging 6 points in 17 minutes per game over the last 12. Barea is 31 percent from the field and 25 percent from downtown. Well, this is fun. Not. He’s supposed to be instant and effortless offensive production and that’s certainly not happening
  • In the same stretch Dante Cunningham is averaging 19 minutes, but he’s even less productive on the scoreboard. Although it feels “DC Hustle” plays with unmistakable tenacity, he’s capable of greater numbers. He scored a timely eight points contributing to the Wolves comeback victory against the Philadelphia 76ers a few days back.
  • This team struggles to score making Luc Mbah a Moute a player that isn’t part of the solution, not right now.
  • Shved has been playing in the first, second and even the fourth-quarters of games recently, yet, the Russian seems non-existent and doesn’t do much.
  • Robbie Hummel excited the Target Center against the Sixers with clutch shooting, but, he missed his only attempt from downtown in the opening half.

Starters, as Pek did in the second quarter of this game (that I am recapping, by the way), are rotating turns playing with the second unit for added stretches during portions of the game. Look; Pek is two points and one rebound away from being a 20-10 center, he’s been phenomenal. Unfortunately, I’d feel pleasantly surprised if he sustained this health and production throughout the entire season. I just can’t say confidently he’s capable of doing that.

Barea or Cunningham are capable of playing better, I’ve seen them do it. Robbie Hummel is for supplementary purposes until Chase Budinger returns, but, that length of time continues to grow — he’s been gone for so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have him.

Second Half

I wanted to get the aforementioned opinion on the bench out of my system, pardon the negativity.

This video shows you all of the points Love scored last night, which -if you missed it- there were 42.

Note: 19 of 42 came in the third quarter.

Lov3 was seven of eight from the three point line before entering the fourth quarter. After being outscored 24-35 in the second the Wolves shook the Spurs for 35 points, limiting them to only 18.

Third Quarter Scoring

  • Wolves Starters: 35 of 35 points. That’s all the points.
  • Wolves Bench: Zero. The Wolves Starters scored all of the team’s points in the third quarter.
  • Somebody named Kevin: 24
  • Leonard: 11 of Spurs’ 18
  • Kevin Love: 19

Love hit another three that put the Wolves up, 98-91, with just over eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Thirty seconds later Parker responded with a three of his own and the Spurs proceeded to overcome the Wolves momentum and things slowly slipped out of hand.

Diaw put Love on lockdown and made things difficult down the stretch, Love seemed gassed and Rubio, Brewer and Pekovic missed makeable buckets that became the difference in the end.

Stars

  1. Kevin Love – Lots of points, very good accuracy shooting
  2. Tony Parker – Dribble penetration ended in layups or assists on baskets made around the rim. The Wolves don’t have a presence to discourage opposing guards, and forwards, from entering the lane.
  3. Nikola Pekovic – 18 points with 11 boards on 7 of 13 FG shooting and a perfect four of four on FT’s.

I can’t imagine Budinger or Turiaf will return in December, in fact there’s no way. Budinger by Christmas was -initially- hopeful speculation, but, although he’s been shooting and dunking in practice he’s not performing basketball at full speed, yet.

Turiaf’s return will be longer than expected, he’s still dealing with an elbow fracture.

The bench needs help.

 

 

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A Philadelphia 76ers Roundtable, Hosted by Timberpups

So, I don’t know much about the Philadelphia 76ers. Is Allen Iverson still there? (Kidding)

But really, I don’t know much of anything about the Sixers.

Here’s a few bits.

  • Head Coach is Brett Brown
  • Record is 7-15
  • Royce White, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe were all Sixers at some point before the season, but are no longer — clearly Philly doesn’t like Minnesota Natives. So this one is personal, right?

Alright. That’s what I know. Anyway, to provide you guys with a little more (a lot more) in depth knowledge about tonight’s opponent — I’ve brought in the experts.

First, introductions.

My name is Jovan Alford and I am a senior communication major at La Salle University specializing in mass media and journalism. I am also the owner/editor in charge of totalsportslive.com, a site a part of the Broad Spectrum Sports network. My site covers Philly collegiate and pro sports and also national sports. I’ve been covering the Sixers for about two years now and you can find my work at totalsportslive.com.

Hi! My name is Emily Gruver and I am the Co-Editor of The Sixer Sense (Part of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network). I’m a huge Philadelphia sports fan. You can find my work at The Sixer Sense, That Ball’s Outta Here, and Hoops Habit.

O’Connor didn’t bother reading the ENTIRE EMAIL, but I had a chance to meet him over the weekend — he was in Minneapolis for business. After chatting with Sean during the Wolves-Heat game last Saturday, which was the most expensive loss I think either of us has payed for, I found that it really is true — people from Philly only talk about Philly, that’s it. (No disrespect intended, that’s what happened — he’ll tell ya) ALRIGHT HERE’S WHAT HIS TWITTER SAYS: “I write words on the internet, primarily at Liberty Ballers (Part of the SB Nation Blog Network)and occasionally at other places.”

Now, the good stuff.

1. Before we get into any talk about tonight’s game, and not to kick anybody in the dirt, but; how bad are the Sixers? Does it reach beyond player personnel and go up the front office ladder? 
Alford: The Sixers are bad. The sad part is as Philadelphia fans we expected them to be bad because once you trade away your all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday that automatically means you are going to have a couple of loses under your bag. I think this is all apart of Sam Hinkie’s plan to blow it up and bring in the players that he wants to fit the team.
Gruver: The Sixers are really struggling right now. With a 7-15 record, they are continuing to lose to teams that they are capable of beating. I think the main reason for this is injuries, mainly with Michael Carter-Williams recent absence for a few games now. I think it’s also the fact that they just don’t have enough talent to compete with these other teams. It’s really just these little things that are costing them these losses; injuries, turnovers, missed free-throws, and defense.
O’Connor: Well, even while they’re better than expected, the Sixers still have lost more than 2/3rds of their games. They haven’t won a game in regulation since November 8th, over a month ago. And it’s totally by design. 
2. Sixers and “tanking” are often associated, that’s what they’re doing — right? What is the best long-term result that could -possibly- come from this season for the Sixers?
Alford: I don’t think that the Sixers are tanking. The players don’t even like the word “tanking” it offends them. The best long-term result that could come from this season is hopefully you can find out who you want to bring back for the long term with head coach Brett Brown. You also want the players to be students of the game and learn how to play the game the right way. Also long term, they will eventually get back Nerlens Noel and possibly you will have two top ten picks so you can keep on building from there.
Gruver: The Sixers are in an odd situation because I actually do believe they don’t want to tank, but are continuing to just fall short. From listening to head coach Brett Brown, as well as the players, I’m actually getting the feeling that they want nothing to do with tanking, especially in the beginning of the season when they were creating miraculous comebacks.
O’Connor: “Tanking” doesn’t have a single, set definition. Some people take “tanking” to mean the intentional losing of games by the players put out on the court, either via holding people out with phantom injuries or an intentional lack of effort. This isn’t happening – the Sixers try really hard every game, and that’s part of Sam Hinkie’s vision. However, they are certainly not built to win games – which to me constitutes tanking by the organization. “Rebuilding” just sugarcoats the intentions.
The best case scenario from this year: vets play well enough to establish trade value, get swapped for future assets, MCW and Noel develop into all-star or borderline all-star caliber players, and the Sixers still end up with the worst record and the best chances for the number one overall pick and a guaranteed top 4 selection.
3. Have you thought of any trade scenarios involving Spencer Hawes, Thad Young or Evan Turner?(These can be as a pair or individuals)  If so what are they? And are you for or against them and why? 
Alford: I haven’t really thought of any trade scenarios myself but one trade scenario that I think we all have probably heard is Thad Young to the Houston Rockets for Omer Asik. I am not a big fan of this trade because nothing about Asik’s game gets me excited. The Sixers already have a big man sitting on the bench in Nerlens Noel so it would be no point. Trading a player like Thaddeus Young would be devastating to this team because he is the heart and soul. If you watch him play he is always hustling diving your balls and taking charges. Plus he is a great guy on and off the court.
Gruver: I haven’t thought of any myself, but I know of the report in which the Houston Rockets would trade Omer Asik in return for Thaddeus Young. Spencer Hawes hasn’t really been in many trade rumors here, and the Evan Turner trade rumors have surprisingly died off.

If it’s the right deal and the Sixers would get something reasonable in return, then I’m for it, but at this point, I don’t see the point in trading away any of them because I feel as though they can be solid pieces for the future.
O’Connor: I’m for trading all of them. Hawes and Turner are free agents at the end of the season – both could potentially help current playoff teams at the low, low cost of a late first round pick, and neither will be cheap or valuable enough to retain at the current market rate. Young makes more sense as a long-term piece, but he’s only guaranteed to be under team control for this year and next. I find it likely that he will opt out after next season, at which point it’ll be costly in years and dollars to retain him. He also should bring back a solid return in a trade.
As for individual deals, Young for Omer Asik has been bandied about quite a bit. I’m a fan if it’s part of a bigger move to eventually move Asik’s contract. Meanwhile, I’m a fan of pretty much any scenario that nets a first round pick for either Hawes or Turner, no matter what team really. But if I had to pick individual teams for them to move to, I’d say Hawes would fit well as a Clipper, while Turner could be useful in Atlanta.
4. No Michael Carter-Williams (<- Caution, there’s self-promotion in there) tonight means we’ll see Lorenzo Brown, right? He was one of the Wolves final cuts prior to the season, do you have any thoughts on his play?
Alford: You can probably expect to see some Lorenzo Brown tonight but more of Tony Wroten Jr. I think Brown has been adequate since he has joined the Sixers. I think he is better than Darius Morris, who the Sixers released earlier this season. In the last three games he is averaging 13.3 minutes per game. That is good, that means Brett Brown has him apart of this rotation and hopefully he can stick around for the entire season.
Gruver: Lorenzo Brown has been OK. He has only played 9 games so far this season and averaging just 7.7 minutes per game so I haven’t seen too much from him. He has just been a guy who will give you a few points and assists a game, but nothing special.
O’Connor:Brown doesn’t wow me in any way, but really that doesn’t matter. Sam Hinkie has brought in players to compete, and he’s lauded Brown for being a hard worker. The Sixers have him playing as a combo guard, but to me his shooting and/or passing (preferably both) need to improve to be a legitimate rotation player. At least he’s not Darius Morris, though.
5. Lastly, is there any way the Sixers beat the Wolves tonight? If so, how? If not, what scares you about this Wolves team. (Feel free to rant a bit here about anything really)
Alford: The only way this Sixers team beats the Wolves if they come out and play like they did to begin the season against the Heat and Bulls. They could sneak up on the Wolves tonight because Minnesota is coming off of a back to back. Those are the only two ways they win. But I think they won’t win because when you are going a team that has the likes of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Kevin Martin you are going to have to play solid defense. Rubio is a great passer, Love is a great passer and shooter, and Martin is a great shooter. The only person I can see defending Love is Thad Young because he is just as versatile. But Kevin Love has the ability to stretch the defense and he throws beautiful outlet passes. I also can forget about Pek who gets monster boards.That is a man in the paint and I hope the Sixers are ready to get punched in the mouth down low because if they aren’t it is going to be a long night tonight.
Gruver: I don’t see the Sixers defeating the Wolves tonight. First off, the Sixers are horrible on the road (1-8). What scares be the most about this Wolves team is that I’m afraid Kevin Love is going to completely go off and the Sixers won’t be able to defend him. Plus, the Wolves are 3rd overall in PPG, and 7th overall in both rebounds and assists per game. The Wolves just have the better talent and have Love and Nikola Pekovic who are dominating on the boards.
O’Connor: I suppose it’s possible that the Sixers could win but not likely by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyway, what scares me most about the Timberwolves is Nikola Pekovic. That was an easy answer! To be completely serious, though – the three-point shooting capabilities of Kevin Martin and Kevin Love. Though the game we attended in person had some of the worst shooting in the NBA this year, the Sixers are awfully charitable at giving up open three point opportunities. Having two guys that have the ball in their hands often that will fire away whenever open is a scary thought for a Sixers team that leaves people open entirely too often.
Welp. All of our guests today were fantastic. I don’t believe the Sixers can beat the Wolves, either — see weekly preview for further prediction. If you’re a fan of the Sixers or sports in Philly — give these guys a follow on twitter. If they were kind enough to answer my emails, they’re kind enough to befriend you guys.
Wolves-Sixers is tonight, 7:00PM CST — FSN North. 830 WCCO for Radio Goers.