Rockets Blast Past Timberwolves, 120-110

Wolves fans only have to keep their eyes on Andrew Wiggins to enjoy what should be a great future. (Credit: Scott Halleran, Getty Images)

Wolves fans only have to keep their eyes on Andrew Wiggins to enjoy what should be a great future. (Credit: Scott Halleran, Getty Images)

 

Our Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Houston to take on the Rockets Friday night.  Both teams are dealing with a slew of injuries, but only one of them was clinching a playoff spot with a victory on Friday.  Dwight Howard returned to action in the Rockets’ last game, but Houston also lost Patrick Beverley.  With that, Kevin McHale’s starting lineup included Jason Terry, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith, and Howard.  Flip Saunders countered his coaching buddy with Lorenzo Brown, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Gorgui Dieng.

As you may have been able to predict given those starting lineups, the Wolves were overmatched largely throughout.  The Rockets came out flying all over the court, opening up a quick 11-2 run and leading to an early timeout from Flip.  Minnesota scored the next six points, but the Rockets answered with a few three pointers.  It turned into a playground game for the final eight minutes of the first quarter – a good number of turnovers, steals, loose balls, etc.

Looking for a bright spot on the Wolves (outside of Wiggins) and look no further than Chase Budinger, who was 2-2 from the field for five points in five minutes on the court.  Entering Friday night’s action, Chase had scored in double digits in each of the past seven games.

At the end of the first quarter, the Rockets held a 31-22 advantage.  At the end of the first half, the Rockets held a 10 point lead, 60-50.

Halftime highlights:

  • Rockets’ announcer on Wiggins, “He’s the future of the league”.  (True story)  Wiggins got to the line 12 times (9 makes) in the first half.  That’s unreal!
  • Ugly basketball, as the Rockets had 13 turnovers and the Pups had 8 of their own
  • Wolves were killed on the boards, as Houston held a 22-10 advantage

After struggling from the field in the first half, James Harden exploded in the third quarter, hitting his first four three point attempts coming out of the locker room.  When it looked like the Wolves might pack it up, a spark from LaVine and Payne led an 11-3 run to cut the lead to single digits, forcing Kevin McHale to get out of his seat while on the sideline … the horror.

At the end of the third quarter, the Rockets maintained a ten point lead, 90-80.  Both teams put up 30 points in the quarter, led by James Harden who had already gone over 30 points in the game before the final quarter even began.

Every single, small run that the Wolves went on was met with a barrage of three pointers from the Rockets.  In the end, the Timberwolves simply didn’t have enough firepower to stay with one of the better teams in the NBA.  With the victory, the Rockets are now officially in the playoffs.

The final score, Rockets 120 – Timberwolves 110

A few notes from the game:

  • A somewhat quiet double-double for Gorgui Dieng, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds
  • Wiggins finished with 31 points, while Budinger finished with a season high 23 points
  • The Rockets attempted 44 three point field goals (ridiculous) and they made 20 of them (also ridiculous)

 

Good Half, but Raptor Crept Away on Win


(AP Photo by Nathan Denette)

It’s not who you play, it’s when. Though the season it mostly over, the Wolves have not faced the Raptors yet this season. Earlier this year, the Raptors were the talk of the league. Lately, they’ve cooled off. #Opportunity

The Raptors and their fans were excited to finally host the Wolves. It is a homecoming for Wiggins and Bennett. Though Bennett was out, he and Wiggins were celebrated tonight #CanadaPride

For the Wolves who have been very short-handed lately, they received great news. Ricky is back! It makes all the difference. #RickyMatters

Highlight!
K-Mart was open in Toronto tonight. The first quarter was unbelievable. Martin was a great first quarter, especially from long distance! It was oddly contagious as even Buddinger nailed a 3 in the first quarter. #NeedDeepMakes

The Wolves played a great first half. Rubio and Brown both played guard well and you can see that Brown was a great pickup in a team needed a boost.

The Wolves were down, but battled back repeatedly. At halftime, it was tied with Martin chipping in 22 of the team’s 54 points.
Budinger scored the last bucket of the half by running in from out of bounds and catching an off-guard defense off their game.

At half, there was much to like. The game was tied, Wiggins was playing decently, and the rest of the Wolves could easily make the difference.

The third quarter was truly an opportunity. The Wolves missed open threes and had great down-low shots that didn’t drop. It was sloppy at times. The Wolves kept close, but the Raptors crept ahead and created a gap that Minnesota couldn’t close. When the quarter ended, the Wolves were up 7 (after an offensive turnover on LaVine’s carry followed by a close miss by Toronto).

The 4th was a great battle. Toronto extended the lead to 10 and the Wolves countered cutting the deficit to 4. A big 3 made it 7 and the Wolves responded with 2 buckets to make it 3. I’m pretty sure Wolves fans felt it wasn’t meant to be when Rubio leads the fast break and gives Budinger the ball on the left only to travel. I’m sure cursing and hair-pulling ensued.

Overall, the Wolves had opportunities, but are not able to translate those chances into buckets. In a close loss, those missed opportunities are key.

This game featured fouls which did not help Minnesota. The Wolves shot 67% making 10 of only 15 while the Raptors shot 85% making 23 of 27 from the free throw line. #GottaMakeTheFreebies

Highlights of the night? There were plenty.

  • Many great shots by Martin #HighlightReel
  • LaVine’s double-pump dunk with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd #SlamDunkChamp
  • Budinger was a contributor and had a couple nice drives to the hoop #NeedGingerProduction

Who’s Boarding?
I’m still lost by the lack of rebounding #NoDoubleDoubles. The Wolves are not an offensive rebounding team. Heck, they are not a good rebounding team at all. Tonight Wiggins led the Wolves with 3. Yes, 3.

That actually isn’t bad, but in the League it is not good. The leading rebounders were Rubio and Budinger. Yes, Rubio, who had 7 defensive rebounds. #TakeThatIn

Missing Ham
Unfortunately, newest Wolf Hamilton was missing tonight due to illness. The game I watched really looked like it needed some of his presence. At the last home Wolves game, I sat next to a fan who was excited about Hamilton’s impact. This game needed his presence. Paul called it saying that Hamilton IS getting a double-double, but we’ll have to wait and see when. I’ll hold onto the hashtag ‪#‎PaulisCorrect‬ for a future game report.

Congrats to Dwayne Casey
I have to say congrats to Raptors coach Dwayne Casey. The ex-Wolves Coach #Underappreciated is leading the Raptors to the #2 seed in the East. Though the East isn’t the West (the Raptors’ record would put them in the 8 spot in the West), the Raptors are still a nice surprise this season.

Thunder Pull Away From Timberwolves, 113-99

Andrew Wiggins consistently found a way to make the Thunder pay on Friday night! (AP Photo, Sue Ogrocki)

Andrew Wiggins consistently found a way to make the Thunder pay on Friday night! (AP Photo, Sue Ogrocki)

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to Oklahoma City to take on a Kevin Durant-less Thunder squad who continues to fight for their playoff lives.  The Wolves gave their own big gun, Kevin Garnett, the night off as well.  Enough foreplay, let’s get to the action!

The Timberwolves opened up with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Gorgui Dieng (i.e. still no Nikola Pekovic).  The Thunder mixed things up a bit in an effort to get more offensive firepower in the starting lineup, going with Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter, and Mitch McGary.

Both teams came out firing on the offensive end, putting up points with very little regard for the defensive side of the ball.  Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins put the Wolves on their shoulders in the first quarter, with the rookie drawing fouls and going to the line 10 times and making all 10!

However, the Wolves frontcourt defense left more than a little to be desired.  Adreian Payne struggled to cover his man or rotate when necessary.  The lack of prowess led to a quick timeout from Flip Saunders in the quarter, but he pretty much gave up hope shortly thereafter, allowing play to continue throughout a few rough patches.  While the future Rookie of the Year kept his team in the hunt, the Thunder took a 31-26 lead into the second quarter.

Zach LaVine had another “I’m not a PG and stop making me play one on TV” start to the second quarter, with a missed 23 footer, a turnover, and allowing DJ Augustin go off to build the Thunder’s lead to 39-28.  With that, Flip burned another timeout and brought back in the Unicorn.  This sparked a 12-0 run to give the Wolves a 40-39 lead.

As goes the Wolves season, Kevin Martin blew a layup on the next possession and bricked a three-pointer after a nice block from Dieng.  That seemed to give OKC some life as they went on a 5-0 run and were consistently beating the Wolves on the boards.  The Thunder scored 11 points in the final 2:45 of the half and took a 55-49 lead into the locker room.

Halftime highlights include:

  • Gorgui Dieng already amassed a double-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds … to go with 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 assist.  Please stop “tinkering” (PG-rated) with Gorgui’s minutes and role.  He should be a part of the long term plan.
  • Adreian Payne … I don’t see it.  11 minutes and a game low -14.  I know he has shown a few sparks, but to give up a future 1st rounder for the guy is not likely to end well.
  • Aided by Wiggins’ 10-10, the Wolves finished the half 13-13 at the FT line, while the Thunder went 8-8.  Nice, fundamental basketball there!

Aside from a few Justin Hamilton highlights (pick-and-pop made jumper, emphatic dunk) the first six minutes of the third quarter were an abomination for the Wolves.  The Wolves had four points in the first five minutes of the quarter before realizing that the second half started.  After trailing by as many as 14 in the quarter, the Wolves fought back to cut the lead in half heading into the final frame – 79-72.

With the Wolves continuing to trail by seven points, 87-80, the Wolves PR crew sent out the following:

(Insert stomach punch / game over)

As you might expect, this was the actual end of the game as the Thunder pulled away quickly thereafter.  While the Thunder announcers praised the potential for the Wolves, at some point this needs to turn a corner.  Here are a few thoughts from Twitter …

The final score, Thunder 113 – Timberwolves 99 

A few notes from the game:

  • Russell Westbrook barely missed a quadruple-double – 29 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds and 8 turnovers
  • Following up on the halftime notes – Dieng finished with 21 and 14, while Payne finished with a -22 in 20 minutes of action
  • Justin Hamilton finished with a career high 17 points and added 10 rebounds
  • Enes Kanter continues to be a thorn in the Wolves’ side, finishing with 23 points and 15 rebounds

Timberwolves Lose Close Game to the Clippers

(photo credit: fox sports)

(photo credit: fox sports)

Monday’s game proved exciting for all four quarters, and the final score came down to the wire. Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, the Wolves just couldn’t hang on and fell 110-105 to the Clippers. Gary Neal joined the starting lineup and led the Wolves with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio followed close behind with 18 points apiece.

As expected, Chris Paul put on quite the performance for LA, and he played a major role in pulling out the win. Paul, who is averaging 18.2 points and 10 assists per game, finished the game with an impressive 26 points and 14 assists. The point guard made the play of the night, grabbing a bucket over Kevin Garnett with 38 seconds remaining. That basket sealed the win for the Clips.

“[Paul] is a hell of a player,” said head coach Flip Saunders following the game. “We defended him as well as we could on that play, and he makes that shot.”

Garnett praised Paul as well, saying, “He’s probably the best general in the game as far as a guy executing. They’re playing better than anybody.”

Minnesota played well for most of the game, but the fourth quarter proved especially trying for Minnesota. Coming off a 37-point second quarter and 54.5 percent shooting in the third, the Wolves collapsed in the final stretch. The Clippers held Minny to just 7.1 percent from the field, which equaled just a single basket. Of the 18 points the Wolves tallied in the fourth, 16 of those came from the charity stripe. Looking at these numbers, it seemed unrealistic that Minnesota was actually given the chance to tie the game in the final seconds. Neal attempted a shot to even the score, but the launch fell short.

Neal did have the most points in the game, but his shooting was not particularly impressive. The guard shot only 6-of-17 from the field and 2-of-7 from behind the 3-point line.

“We were struggling and I thought [Neal] just thought he could make a shot,” Saunders said. “He thought he maybe got clipped a little bit in his legs. It was kind of a combination of he was looking for a call and also trying to shoot.”

The Wolves shot 43.9 percent overall Monday night, and they easily out-shot LA from the free-throw line with 82.9 percent compared to the Clippers’ 52.6 percent. Minnesota also out rebounded its opponents 47-43.

Here is something you don’t see every day: seven of the eight Wolves players who saw minutes scored in double-digit points. Adreian Payne proved a huge asset off the bench, adding 12 points and five rebounds, and rookie Zach LaVine also contributed 14 points. Garnett tallied 12 points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in his third game back with Minnesota.

Rubio was the stat line of the night, though, grabbing his fourth triple-double of the season. The point guard finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Several good things happened for Minnesota, but in the end it’s still a game in the Loss column. The Associated Press’ Jon Krawcynski posted the following after the game:

Monday’s game marked the first of three home games this week for the Wolves. Up next, they welcome Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Wolves Fall Just Short In Huge Comeback Against Grizzlies

Kevin Garnett's night at Target Center was cut short due to two T's. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kevin Garnett’s night at Target Center was cut short due to two T’s. (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

 

Today’s game recap below is brought to you by Harlie Olson.  Harlie joins the Timberpups.com team via connecting on FanCred.  Welcome aboard!

In the second game of the second Kevin Garnett era the Memphis Grizzlies came to Target Center seeking revenge for their February 6th 90-89 defeat to the Wolves in which Ricky Rubio came up in the clutch with two free throws in the last ten seconds to take the lead. Since then our favorite team has changed quite a bit, the departures of Mo Williams,Thad Young, and Troy Daniels, the injury of Anthony Bennett, and the additions of Adreian Payne, Gary Neal, and KG have all contributed to the changing landscape.

Just watching pre-game warm-ups you could tell the atmosphere wasn’t going to be quite as great as Wednesday’s affair with the wizards, but in the last 7 years it definitely ranks way up there. The match-up that had me the most excited going into the game was Garnett on Zach Randolph. The two had met each other a bunch of times when Kevin was still in Minnesota with KG having the upper hand most of the time, but with Kevin obviously having only limited playing time it just made you need to enjoy what you get to see.

As Kevin gave the crowd a salute as the action got underway. The beginning of the game saw a rather sloppy style of play with both teams running up and down the floor, missing shots, turning the ball over, and committing offensive fouls. The game remained scoreless until Gorgui Dieng hit a free throw two and a half minutes in. In a stretch of two minutes in the first quarter KG had 3 steals,2 points, and an assist where Andrew Wiggins slammed it home. With the quarter halfway over the score was T-wolves 15-Grizzlies 7. Memphis kept the sloppiness deep into the quarter as the wolves ended the quarter with  points off of turnovers. Once KG came off the floor after five minutes Andrew Wiggins stole the show ending the quarter with eight points. The score at the end of the quarter was 24-18 with the Wolves revamped defense flexing its muscles.

The second quarter began with a quick grizzlies run that got to 8-0 before Gary Neal hit a 15 foot jumper and got fouled for an and one which he converted. Despite the Grizzlies early dynamics both teams looked extremely sloppy for the second straight quarter with a stretch of 3 minutes without any effectiveness on offense for either teams. Four minutes into the quarter Zach Lavine had a slam, which reminded us all why he is the NBA’s slam dunk champion. At this point the wolves led by one, and both teams were starting to look much more efficient on offense. That trend continued until Lavine showed us he is still a rookie, as he tuned the ball over on consecutive possessions much like he had in the wolves last game against the bulls.

With five and a half minutes left in the half Ricky and Kevin checked back in the game. With that the atmosphere of Target Center stepped up a few notches. A minute later a mysterious technical foul was called on Flip Saunders for which I couldn’t figure the cause, then a minute later KG started taking at the refs and got a technical. Of course immediately afterwards the crowd chanted KG, KG, KG. He responded with an assist on a beautiful pass to K-mart on the next possession. With two minutes left in the quarter the wolves tied the game 44-44 on a 20 foot KG jump shot. With five seconds left in the half Garnett attempted a three that ended with Dieng getting a rebound, and afterwards fouled that resulted in two made free throws. After that the Wolves went into the half down by two 48-46.

Halftime stats and facts

  • Andrew Wiggins was the best player in the first half with 12 points.
  • The wolves had 9 steals in the first half, and 19 points off of turnovers from 15 turnovers overall.
  • Kg ended the half with 2 points, 3 steals, and a thousand smiles.
  • There were no sightings of Jiggle Boy. I repeat, NO SIGHTINGS OF JIGGLE BOY!
  • Kevin Garnett wears sweats better than anyone, ever.
  • Despite our field goal percentage being 44% compared to 63% we still  stayed in the game very well.
  • Garnett attempted his seventh 3 of the year missing. Making his season total 1/7.
  • Dieng was perfect in the first half with 11 points on 3/3 shooting and 5 free throws that were all made.

The Grizzlies started the third quarter with a 4-0 run before Flip called a timeout, so his troops could regroup. After the timeout the Grizzlies continued their run to 6-0 before Dieng stuffed one in for two. With the Wolves down 54-48 Mike Conley penetrated the paint and forced KG to foul. He made the shot and converted on the free throw. On the next possession Kevin responded with another jumper to bring his point total to six. The game was over for Kevin though, on the next possession he fouled Conley, and out of frustration he threw the ball at the ground … think 1/8th of a Gronkowski spike. Somehow he got the technical for it, his second of the game resulting in his ejection. He walked to the tunnel saluting the crowd before disappearing into the locker room.

Immediately after that the Grizzlies continued their domination of the second half stretching the wolves deficit to 12. Despite Gorgui scoring on the next possession the grizzlies further co tinged the domination making their lead 15 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Andrew Wiggins scored six points on the next three possessions, and then Payne hit a jumper making the wolves have a 8-0 run, and suddenly a close game at 60-67. Ricky got a steal on the next possession, and got fouled to shoot two. He hit the first, and the second to make it a 5 point game, and to stretch the run to 10-0. The Grizzlies would end their drought with a Tony Allen lay up. Wiggins was than fouled and made both shots to bring it back to a 6 point game at 63-69. After that Marc Gasol got a technical, for hitting Payne in the eye, and coach Joerger received one for arguing. The Wolves made both free throws, and Gary Neal followed that up with a three making the score 68-69, and continuing the Wolves run to 16-2. With 0.6 seconds left in the third Rubio was fouled for god knows what reason, and made both shots to make the score 70-72 grizzlies going into the fourth.

Target Center was revved up for what was inevitably going to be a very exciting finish to a game that has included 5 technical fouls. Right away in the fourth Wiggins tied the game up, and the Wolves forced a turnover on the way back. Adrian Payne scored next, and despite my failing to mention him in this recap much, definitely had his best game in the league yet. Ricky Rubio hit a big 3 to take the lead 77-76 that was followed up by a Grizzlies air ball. The next minute was highlighted by great ball movement on the wolves part and an awesome offensive rebound by Gorgui that looked like he had no chance of grabbing.

The Wolves called a timeout to regroup. After the timeout Gary Neal assisted by Ricky hit a big time 3, and the Wolves continued their resurgence to take a 4 point lead because of it. For the second time In the game Zach Lavine got a steal and brought it the other way for a huge slam to make the wolves lead 5 after the grizzlies made one of two free throws on the position beforehand. It felt like the Wolves were getting dominated just moments before, but the Wolves had made their run 30-10.Halfway through the fourth the grizzlies tied the game on a Zach Randolph three point play on just his second bucket if the night. Z-BO would get his third bucket on the grizzlies next trio down to give them a two point lead with five minutes left in the game.

In an unusually quiet night for Kevin Martin he decided to hit from downtown to take the lead by one. The Wolves would have two unproductive trips that were answered by two grizzly buckets to give the visitors a three point lead. The Wolves would get back on the board with a Wiggins turnaround immediately responded by Memphis with a bucket of their own by Tony Allen. With 1:58 left in the game Marc Gasol headed to the line to shoot two, of which he made one. K-Mart hit another big 3 on the next try, and Target Center went OFF.

Gasol made another trip to the line, this time knocking them both down. Down to the last minute of the game Zach Randolph inexplicably,y fouled Rubio, and was benched. Oh yeah, that was responded by ANOTHER KMART THREE TO TIE THE GAME! Unfortunately Mike Conley responded with a three of his own, followed by K-Mart forcing up a bad shot that was put back in with no regard for human life by Andrew Wiggins! The Wolves would foul Conley, and he made both shots setting the Wolves up with a three point deficit, and 11.3 seconds to tie it up. Martin got open and took a shot from three, but he couldn’t knock it down. After that the Pups fouled Tony Allen, after he made one of two Gary Neal put one up as the game ended that wouldn’t have mattered as the Wolves’ fate was sealed.

Reaction
Another day, another loss in Loserville, USA right? I don’t think so, as the Wolves look very different compared to a month ago. Well Adrian Payne and Gary Neal were huge off the bench tonight. Neal had 16 points and Payne seemed to be in the right spot at the right time the entire second half.

Andrew Wiggins continued his climb towards superstardom tonight with yet another 20+ point game, and had one of his first signature moments when he had the huge put back in the last minute of the game. Games like these will help his progression towards being the second Franchise player the team has had.

59.4%: that was the field goal percentage of the Grizzlies for the game. A season high for the second best team in the Western Conference, so how did the Pups stay close? …

32 points off turnovers: if it were not for the turnovers created by the Wolves it would have gotten ugly.

Where was Pek? He only played 12 minutes,and I never heard an explanation, so we’ll have to pay attention to see if we have another injury to a key starter.

I was surprised that in Flip’s presser his top priority was defending KG instead of praising the young guy’s tremendous comeback effort. Games like this will help the team much more than they would hurt it.

Bulls Charge Past Wolves, 96-89

The Bulls laid into Andrew Wiggins and made it a rough night for the rookie. (Photo credit: Nam Y Huh, AP Photo)

The Bulls laid into Andrew Wiggins and made it a rough night for the rookie. (Photo credit: Nam Y Huh, AP Photo)

 

Two nights after the most exciting game at Target Center in years, the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the court to take on the Chicago Bulls.  Before the game started, the teams announced that key players would be missing from both squads.  Most importantly for Wolves’ fans, Kevin Garnett was ruled out of Friday night’s game in Chicago.  Prior to tip-off, the Bulls announced that Pau Gasol would miss Friday’s game, after also announcing that Derrick Rose had successful surgery earlier in the day and may be able to be back on the court in 4-6 weeks.

The Timberwolves opened up with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, an on-fire in recent weeks Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Adreian Payne, and Nikola Pekovic.  The Bulls made the appropriate adjustments due to the aforementioned injuries and countered with Aaron Brooks, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah.

The Bulls got off to a quick start, taking a 15-8 lead and forcing Flip Saunders to burn an early timeout.  Chicago had seven assists on their first seven made field goals.  However, the Andrew Wiggins show started to warm up shortly thereafter, as the rookie scored seven points in a row (for the Wolves) to cut the Chicago lead to 21-19.  At the same time the Bulls were forced to take a timeout as Taj Gibson was injured (and subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the game).  For the remainder of the quarter both teams slowed things down and plodded along a bit.  Chicago took a 27-23 lead into the second quarter.

In typical Bulls’ fashion, the game continued to a somewhat ugly pattern or form well into the second quarter.  If the Wolves were looking for a silver lining, they may look no further than Gary Neal.  Halfway through the quarter and Neal scored or assisted on all but two Timberwolves’ baskets and led the charge giving the Wolves a 37-34 advantage.

That timeout sparked a 10-2 by the Bulls, giving them a 44-39 advantage, sparked by two three pointers from Mike Dunleavy.

For the second consecutive quarter, points became a premium in the final three minutes of the half.  Chicago took a 51-44 lead into halftime and the Wolves were a little lucky it wasn’t worse, as Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler worked the offensive end of the floor but couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the basket.

The Bulls came out of the locker room and couldn’t have looked more lethargic.  The Wolves tied the game at 51 in the first three minutes of the game thanks to the efforts of Rubio and Martin.  After the timeout, the game became a Free Throw contest, with both teams leaving a good number of points on the table.  At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Bulls held a 73-67 advantage.

Zach LaVine entered the 4th quarter with two minutes gone by and tried to take over the game.  It worked for a little while, but with the Wolves down by two points on two different occasions, LaVine turned the ball over that led to a Jimmy Butler layup and then grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled the ball all the way down the court and took missed an off-balance layup.  LaVine then made and assisted on the Wolves next two baskets, but subsequently didn’t rotate or get his hands up on a made three-pointer from Aaron Brooks.

Flip Saunders saw the same thing and called a timeout, replacing LaVine with Rubio.  The moral of the story?  We are still seeing the ups and downs on a minute by minute basis with the rookie.

That three-pointer from Brooks opened up an 84-79 lead for the Bulls and could have been the dagger.  However, the Timberwolves scored the next six points to take an 85-84 lead with about five minutes to play.  Unfortunately for the Pups, they went cold from that point forward, missing shots, turning the ball over, and most frustratingly, missing free throws.  The combination of all three led a 12-4 Bulls charge past the Timberwolves and a 96-89 victory for the home team.

A few notes from the game:

  • Two Wolves had double-doubles – Pekovic with 12 points / 11 rebounds and Rubio with 15 points / 10 assists.
  • Andrew Wiggins was only 4-10 from the line, with the team going 21-31 from the stripe for the evening.  That is a nice way to lose a close game.
  • Gorgui Dieng had 3 turnovers in 25 minutes, but it feels like Flip has way too quick of a leash on the second year pro relative to others.
  • Unrelated to Friday’s action specifically, RIP Earl Lloyd, the first African American to ever play in the NBA who passed away on Friday at the age of 86.

 

Timberwolves Eclipse Suns, 111-109

Eric Bledsoe is wondering where his running mates in the backcourt were on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: Jim Mone, AP Photo)

Eric Bledsoe is wondering where his running mates in the backcourt were on Friday night at Target Center. (Photo credit: Jim Mone, AP Photo)

 

NBA action returned to the Target Center Friday night as the Timberwolves hosted the Phoenix Suns, the first game for both teams since the All-Star break.  Phoenix shook up its roster at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, picking up Danny Granger, John Salmons, Brandon Knight, and Marcus Thornton.  None of those players were available for Phoenix Friday night.  Despite all of those moves, the Timberwolves made just as much noise with one trade at the deadline, acquiring “The Kid” for one last run.  Kevin Garnett will make his debut for the Wolves this coming Wednesday night against the Wizards.

As for Friday night’s action, the Suns opened up with Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, PJ Tucker, Markieff Morris, and Alex Len.  The Pups countered with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and Nikola Pekovic.

Minnesota got off to a quick start, specifically Kevin Martin who scored 8 of the team’s first 10 points.  After two back to back buckets by Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves led 14-9 and led to the game’s first timeout.  The Wolves wound up building a 9 point lead before the Suns started to chip away.  The Morris twins largely led that effort and after the 1st Quarter, the Wolves held a 26-24 lead.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, with about three and a half minutes left in the opening frame, Anthony Bennett was rolled over by two Suns players and had to head to the locker room.

The second quarter was really a thing of beauty for the Wolves and one to forget for the Suns.  Phoenix missed shots, free throws, turned the ball over carelessly and allowed the Wolves build a double digit lead.  Minnesota outscored the Suns 26-18 in the quarter and took a 52-42 lead into halftime.

Here are a few additional halftime notes/stats:

  • Phoenix shot 36% (16-44) in the first half, while Minnesota shot 42% (19-45).
  • The main reason the Wolves only shot 42% was Pekovic’s 1-7 and Rubio’s 2-6 from the field.  Ouch.
  • Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves with a combined 24 points, with both shooting 5-8 from the field in the first half.

The Suns came storming out (see what I did there?) in the third quarter to tie the game with a 15-5 run within the first six minutes of the quarter.  Things may have been a little more negative had this not happened …

Which was preceded by this from the Timberwolves official Twitter account …

Seriously, let’s just pretend it is 2004 for the next few months.  Deal?  Deal.

Despite giving up 35 points in the quarter, the Wolves took an 80-77 lead into the final 12 minutes as Zach LaVine drove to the basket for a layup and the foul with a second left on the clock.  Unfortunately, LaVine missed the free throw thereby proving that he doesn’t want Wolves fans to only say nice things about him.

The fourth quarter was phenomenal from a fan perspective.  The teams combined for 63 points and went back and forth, trading blows throughout.  After multiple lead changes, the Wolves were in a position to close out the game after a Wiggins layup gave the Pups a 110-107 lead with 17 seconds left in the game.  However, the Wolves missed three of their final four free throws giving the Suns a last second heave to pull off a miracle.  Without a timeout to use the Suns had to launch a shot but decided to throw a pass and hope the clock malfunctioned.  It didn’t and the shot the Suns did put up was after time expired (it missed anyway).

The final score of a highly entertaining game at Target Center: Minnesota 111, Phoenix 109.  The Wolves are now off until Monday’s matchup in Houston against Kevin McHale and the Rockets.  What year is it again?

Game Notes:

  • Markieff Morris led the Suns with 31 points, followed by an 11-10-6 (points-rebounds-blocks) performance from Alex Len.
  • The Timberwolves missed 11 free throws on the evening (27-38) … some things never change.
  • While led by Kevin Martin’s 28 points, Wiggins continues to come up with the big plays when the Wolves need them.
  • While Rubio had a terrible night shooting (2-10), he finished with 10 points, 14 assists, and 8 rebounds.  He deserves at least one vote for 5th place in NBA MVP balloting given how much he means to this club.