The last time these two teams met, the Grizzlies were without their starting center Marc Gasol (the reigning Defensive Player of the Year). Tonight, Gasol was back for the Grizzlies, but the Wolves were without Nikola Pekovic. Pek's presence in the paint has REALLY been missed these past couple games, but the Wolves have found ways to win and ways to execute on offense.
Minnesota fell behind by as many as sixteen points, but a great third quarter rally led by Kevin Love & Ricky Rubio reduced the gap and gave the Wolves a one-point lead after 36 minutes.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, things fell apart in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies outscored the Wolves 12-7 in the final four and a half minutes which included a Tayshaun Prince three-point dagger with 59 seconds to play to put the Grizzlies up by six points.
After an incredible fourth quarter, Ricky Rubio came out between quarters and didn't return to the floor. Ricky didn't score in the third quarter, but he did contribute 6 of his 8 assists and some great defense on Michael Conley & Nick Calathes. Rick Adelman decided to go with J.J. Barea (who played the entire final quarter)--much to the chagrin of the Minnesota faithful. J.J. did hit consecutive three-pointers about four minutes into the fourth quarter, but beyond that, the Wolves didn't get a whole lot from him that would warrant Ricky sitting the entire final quarter. Adelman said after the game that Barea was 'getting them into things' and gave the Wolves the 'best chance to win' Ultimately going with J.J. for his O over Ricky's D & playmaking. The last thing I want to see is Barea on the floor jacking up ill-advised three-pointers when the Wolves are trying to stay with the Grizzlies down the stretch.
Minnesota's comeback fell short as they fell to pieces in the final minutes to allow Zach Randolph & Tayshaun Prince to beat them for their 23rd loss of the season. The Wolves had a chance to move two games over .500 and beat a Grizzlies team that was just 1.5 games ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
With no Pek, Ronny Turiaf got the start at center and Gorgui Dieng saw a big bump in minutes. Turiaf finished with 7 points & 10 rebounds while Dieng brought some serious hustle & energy off the bench. He finished scoreless, but added 3 rebounds & 2 blocks in 13 minutes off the bench. Dante Cunningham played 18 minutes off the bench, paired mainly with Love at center. Dante tied a season-high with 12 points (for the second-straight game) & 7 rebounds. The Wolves will need this trio to continue to play some great basketball in Pek's absence. That means energy, hustle, rebounding, defense and the occasional bucket.
Tonight's box score...
Ronny Turiaf played 28 minutes as the starting center tied a season-high with 10 rebounds, which included a new season-high 8 defensive rebounds.
It's obvious that the Wolves were the best with Love on the court. He played 37 minutes, which is 6 less than he played vs. the Pelicans on Wednesday. A big part of that is Minnesota having another game tomorrow night in Atlanta where Love will match up with fellow All-Star (and former Jazz-man) Paul Millsap. Love played some solid defense on Zach Randolph (once again) excluding the last couple minutes where there was simply no stopping Z-Bo. The biggest concern is Kevin Love's ankle. Love landed awkwardly in the first half and sprained his ankle. He walked it off and didn't come out of the game, however for the remainder of the game we saw him grimace and limp quite a bit. Local media said he limped rather noticeably out of the locker room following tonight's loss.
The Wolves are in Atlanta tomorrow night, that game will tip at 6:30pmCST.
Kevin Love played a season-high 43 minutes which included the entire second half, but the Wolves are finally back over .500 at 23-22 for the first time since late-November when they were 8-7. Adelman said after the game (about Love) that "I was just testing his conditioning. He wasn't coming out." It's a bit concerning with the Wolves schedule getting a bit busier the next couple weeks prior to the All-Star break.
Tonight's game certainly wasn't very pretty, but we got the desired result. Minnesota was a bit lucky that they were playing a Pelicans team that is without Anthony Davis (finger), Ryan Anderson (herniated disc), Jrue Holiday (leg) and Jason Smith (knee).
The Pelicans had to rely on Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans for their offense. The problem was that they shot a combined 9-32 from the field. That was thanks in large part to the defense from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. LRMAM played his first meaningful minutes in quite some time. Mbah a Moute played 23 minutes off the bench and saw plenty of time matched up against those two versatile scoring guards.
All around, it was interesting to see how Adelman's rotations changed with Nikola Peković out of the lineup. Ronny Turiaf was the starter at center along with Rubio, Martin, Brewer & Love. Gorgui Dieng saw some court time in the first half, but didn't play at all in the second half. With Turiaf in foul trouble, Adelman turned to a frontcourt of Mbah a Moute, Cunningham and Love.
Dante had one of this best scoring nights of the year, tying a season-high with 12 points and 6 made field goals. He was hitting some mid-range shots, but what was most impressive was his aggressiveness in attacking the paint--something we haven't seen much of at all from him. With Pek out for the next week or more, they're going to need him to continue to be aggressive and got get some scoring inside the painted area. The same goes for all of Minnesota's big men.
Tonight's box score...
The Timberwolves held the Pelicans to just 77 points which second for TWolves opponent in scoring (the first being that game vs. the Jazz last week when they scored 72). The Pelicans also shot just 9.5% from deep which is a new TWolves opponent season-low. The Wolves' defense did look better, but it seemed as though it was more of a very short-handed opponent struggling to find offense with their usually deep rotational players.
As far as injuries to your key players goes--no Wolves fan is going to feel bad for their team beating up on a shorthanded squad.
Minnesota's next outing will come on Friday night with the Memphis Grizzlies in town at the Target Center. The Wolves will have their work cut out for them going up against Zach Randolph & Marc Gasol, without their bruising big man (Pek). That game will tip at 7pmCST. GO WOLVES!
The Timberwolves lost their big man Nikola Peković to an achilles strain just six minutes into tonight's game, the Bulls were even more short-handed as they dropped this one to Minnesota.
The Bulls were without Derrick Rose as he recovers from another season-ending knee injury; Kirk Hinrich sat out with a hamstring injury; Luol Deng was traded to the Cavaliers earlier this month; and Joakim Noah had to sit this one out with an illness.
The Bulls went with D.J. Augustin, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson as their starting five to match up with Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love & Peković. With Pek leaving this one early, Ronny Turiaf & Gorgui Dieng saw a big bump in minutes.
There are few games that I watch where I feel as though the Wolves have the game 'in the bag'. With the Bulls being so short-handed and without so many of their best players, it seemed as though there was little doubt that we'd walk away victorious. Even in the late stages of the fourth quarter when the Bulls cut a double digit lead to a two possession game; it still left little doubt that we'd be able to execute down the stretch and win this one.
That was most certainly the case and the Wolves earned a big win over a team they had to beat. With this win over the Bulls, the Wolves ended their four-game road trip (Utah, Golden State, Portland and Chicago) with a 3-1 record. They're certainly beginning to build some much needed momentum. The next big test will come on Wednesday night when the Wolves host the Pelicans at the Target Center. The Wolves are 0-10 in games since the end of November in which they've had an opportunity to go over .500. They'll have a chance to rectify that on Wednesday.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
The Wolves got a great performance from reserve center Ronny Turiaf. With Pek limited to just six minutes, Ronny delivered with his best game of the year. Ronny finished with season-highs in points (14), field goals made (6), field goals attempted (7), free throws made (2), blocks (3) and minutes played (32). He also tied a season-high with those 4 offensive rebounds. If Pek is forced to miss time with this achilles injury the Wolves are going to need some good production like this from Turiaf.
Kevin Love finished with his 11th 30-point game of the season as he made a season-high 14 free throws.
In addition to big games from Love & Turiaf. Budinger had his best game of the season since his return from that knee injury. Bud scored a season-high 12 points and this was the first game this season in which he's hit multiple three-pointers. Somewhat ironic it came against the Bulls at the United Center as this was the location in which he tore up his knee initially--last season.
With no Nikola Peković the Wolves got beat on the boards and finished with a season-low 5 offensive rebounds. Love had an uncharacteristic 8 rebound game. The Bulls big men had the high-rebound numbers with 14 from Boozer & 10 from Gibson.
The Wolves are back to .500 at 22-22 on the year. Minnesota is back in action on Wednesday night vs. the Pelicans, that one will tip at 7pmCST from the Target Center.
The Minnesota Timberwolves bench has been an inconsistent mess this season and tonight's loss in Portland was yet another prime example of their unpredictable play.
The Wolves second unit combined to score just 15 points on 23.8% shooting (5-21) from the field. Beyond the three players (Mbah a Moute, Price & Dieng) that played the final minute and a half of an already decided game, all of Minnesota's bench finished with a negative +/-. Turiaf was a team-worst -19; Cunningham, Barea & Budinger all finished -17; and Shved was -12.
On the other hand, the Portland bench was a key for a Trailblazer win. Portland's bench combined to score 34 points on 55.6% shooting (15-27). There wasn't a single Portland player who came off the bench that finished with a negative +/-.
When the Wolves had to turn to their second unit, that's when the game began to slip away. With primarily bench players on the court for both teams, the Trailblazers went on a pair of 16-4 runs to start the second quarter and again midway through the fourth quarter (those stats thanks to the Tribune's Jerry Zgoda via Twitter).
It wasn't just "Bad J.J." tonight...it was also "Rough Ronny", "Dire Dante", "Sickening Shved" and "C'mon Chase". I can understand in Chase's 'rustiness' considering he's coming off knee surgery and we saw that same 'rust' when he returned late last season. However, with every missed jumper you hope and pray that he's one step closer to returning to form, because the Minnesota is in dire need of another knock down shooter and an offensive focal point off of the bench.
That run midway through the fourth quarter doomed the Wolves in this one. The lineup on the court during that time was Barea, Martin, Budinger, Cunningham & Turiaf. With Budinger & Barea unable to hit anything, the Wolves had to continue to go to the red-hot Martin and the Portland defense knew it. Adelman got his starters back into the game near the 7:30 minutes to play mark. By that time the Blazer bench had pushed the lead to 17. Over the following four minutes the Wolves were able to cut the lead to 10, but they couldn't get any closer as the Trailblazers were able to close out the game for the W.
The play of Rubio, Martin & Peković were certainly bright spots in a rough night for the Wolves. Rubio attacked the lane and consistently found his teammates for easy looks (particularly Pek). Rubio finished with his 8th double-double of the season and this is his third-straight double-digit assist game. Martin finished just two points shy of a season-high in points. He hit a number of big shots that kept this game close throughout. These past couple outings, he's certainly looked like he returned to that early season form he displayed back in November. Nikola finished with his 22nd double-double of the season with 23 & 11.
When I think of the Portland Trailblazers, I think of the two-headed monster of Aldridge & Lillard. Tonight, they both finished with double-digit scoring nights, but they certainly struggled to score the ball efficiently. Instead, it was the play from Matthews & Lopez as well as the duo off the bench: Robinson & Williams that were keys to the Portland victory.
With this being a nationally televised game (the second of three-straight for Minnesota), we got a special treat: getting to listen to the local Portland Trailblazer broadcast team. I usually have pretty strong feelings about opposing broadcast teams, but I do my best to keep those (usually negative) opinions to myself. The only other time I've complained about an opposing broadcast team this season was the game vs. the Boston Celtics about a month ago. I couldn't believe some of the things that were said during that game, but tonight's idiocy from Mike Rice & Mike Barrett. Some of the many idiotic things that were said tonight: "Rubio is a poor defender". Ricky struggles to get through screens sometimes, but he is certainly one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. He matched up against phenom Damian Lillard tonight and the reigning rookie of the year finished with 14 points on a putrid 29.4% shooting (5-17). "Other more famous freshman" & "I didn't think Shved would play tonight". When talking about the upcoming draft class, the broadcast team couldn't think of one of these 'famous freshman' and they didn't think Shved would play tonight because of that broken nose...despite him playing last night vs. the Warriors in San Francisco. It just shows a lack of preparation--do these guys do any research prior to calling a game?! Just before the final horn they began to talk about Portland's record and one of the broadcasters said and now they'll move to 33-9 or 10 on the season, with the other correcting him: um....33-11. Being part of a broadcast team is one of the greatest jobs and when you have to listen to shoddy and ill-prepared color commentary, it's just a shame because there are so many that could do it so much better. It undoubtedly makes you appreciate Minnesota's broadcast team of Dave Benz & Jim Petersen.
Tonight's box score...
The Wolves got outworked on the glass and that's not something that usually happens. You certainly have to 'tip your cap' to the hustle of Aldridge, Lopez, Freeland & Robinson. Love & Pek are two of the NBA's best rebounders and they combined for 24 of Minnesota's 40. However, the Wolves got just 7 rebounds from their reserves while Freeland & Robinson pounded the glass for Portland's second unit. Turiaf & Cunningham need to do better in that respect.
LaMarcus Aldridge had just 8 points at halftime on 4-of-10 shooting. In the second half he scored another 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He finished with 21 points, but did so by shooting 42.8% from the field. Some of that can be attributed to the defense played by Kevin Love. Love isn't known as a great interior defender, but he was very aggressive tonight and made LA work for everything he got. You could tell Love was 'turned up' for tonight's game on the defensive end and didn't want LA to get the best of him. It's probably the best defense I've seen Love play since that game against Memphis & Zach Randolph back in mid-December.
The Wolves haven't been over .500 since they were 8-7 following a loss to the Houston Rockets on November 23. The Wolves lost their next two games (@Indiana and vs. Denver) to fall to 8-9 on the year. The Wolves have had 10 chances since then to get back over .500 and they are 0-10 in those games (with one of those losses coming tonight). With a win over the Bulls on Monday, they'll get another shot at that on Wednesday night vs. the Pelicans.
Lastly, I'd like to touch briefly on the Love vs. Aldridge debate. Being a Timberwolves fan, you already know who I think is the NBA's best power forward. Kevin Love is a better rebounder, shooter and playmaker hands down! Aldridge holds an advantage in athleticism and post defense and his Portland teams are usually more successful. Love's offensive game and rebounding are just far too impressive and his consistency to put up such gaudy numbers makes him the better player (in my mind). Love did struggle tonight finishing with just 15 points & 13 rebounds for his NBA-leading 37th double-double, but I'd take Love over LA 10 times out of 10.
Aldridge said before the season began that he wasn't sure he wanted to stay in Portland, because he wasn't convinced he could win with the Blazers. With the Blazers at 33-11 on the year, his attitude has definitely changed. He's gone from "not sure I can win here" to "sign me up for another half decade of Blazer basketball". It just goes to show that winning does solve a lot of problems. I know I can speak for the majority of Wolves fans who are hoping that the Wolves can begin winning to convince Love to stick around the Twin Cities for a bit longer.
That's all for now, the Wolves are back in action on Monday vs. the Bulls in Chicago. That game will tip at 7pmCST.
It took twelve tries, but the Minnesota Timberwolves finally won a game decided by four points or less. With tonight's win the Wolves are 1-11 in those games. The fact that the Wolves were able to do so against a very talented Warriors team makes it all the better.
Just one night after the All-Star starters were named, two of them went head-to-head in this one: Stephen Curry & Kevin Love. Curry finished the night with the more impressive point total, however it was Love's all around game that allowed him to finish with 26/14/8. Love also got plenty of help from Kevin Martin who had his best scoring outing (26 points) since the Nov. 30th win over the Mavericks in which he finished with 27. Nikola Peković got the best of one of the NBA's premier interior defenders (Bogut) and posted 22 points & 14 rebounds of his own.
Like every other Wolves fans chewing their fingernails to the bone and on the edge of their seats in the fourth quarter of this one--I REALLY WANTED THIS WIN!
The Wolves are now on a three-game winning streak after they hammered the lowly Jazz in their past two outings. They'll have their work cut out for them if they want to continue with their hot streak as they'll be hosted in Portland by the Trailblazers tomorrow night.
The Wolves have had some very bad losses this month--especially the one vs. Sacramento a couple weeks ago. With other bad losses coming against the Wizards, Celtics & Cavaliers--there's little doubt that tonight's game is likely the best win of the year.
With 27 seconds to play, Kevin Martin fouled Andre Iguodala and sent him to the line for two free throws with the Wolves leading 119-118. Iguodala (a 60% FT shooter) hit both of them to put the Warriors up by 1. Adelman elected to not call a timeout and the Wolves got the ball up court and played a little two man game with Love & Martin. Love got the ball behind the three-point line and both his man and Martin's man came to double team and Love quickly found Martin for an easy two-pointer just a step inside the three-point line. Martin drained it for the 121-120 lead and Love's 8th assist.
Out of a Warriors timeout (with 8 seconds to play) the Wolves played some lockdown defense and took away Golden State's two best clutch shooters (Iguodala & Curry--who both have hit multiple game winners this season). They left Harrison Barnes wide open for a 22-foot jumper that clanged off the iron as time expired. My heart skipped a beat as he put up the shot, but if the Wolves were going to leave one player open--he was the correct choice as he was 1-for-6 prior to taking that jumper.
The Wolves are now back to .500 on the year at 21-21. Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
The Wolves gave up a season-high tying (for an opponent) 120 points including a season-high 66 points in the paint and 49 made field goals. Despite all of that they were able to escape with a 121-120 win.
The Wolves also allowed the Warriors to shoot 55% from the field and usually when that happens, you're not going to win. However, it was Minnesota's effectiveness in getting to the line that allowed them to stay in this game and steal the win. The Wolves went to the line 28 times (to GSW's 15), but hit just 18 and had that Barnes jumper gone down it is the one thing we could've pointed to and just cringed!
The biggest concern coming out of tonight's game will be health. Ricky Rubio drew a charge on Andre Iguodala with 55 seconds to play that happened to be a real turning point in the game, but unfortunately he badly sprained his ankle. J.J. Barea went down with an injury of his own when Stephen Curry undercut him on a drive to the rim and he went toppling to the floor (though he did return to the court for Rubio in the final seconds of the game). Finally, Kevin Love rolled his ankle in the second half and Minnesota called a timeout. He was able to return to the court following the timeout, though he was limping a bit. Then in the final quarter, Love landed strangely on his knee and had to go out once again. After getting some ice on the knee and some rest on the bench, he returned with 8 minutes to play and finished the game for the Wolves win. We should have updates on the three of them prior to tomorrow night's game in Portland.
The Minnesota Timberwolves followed up an easy blowout win over the Jazz with another easy blowout win over the Jazz. If only the Wolves could face these guys a few more times in a row.
The Jazz got Gordon Hayward back after a five-game absence due to a hip injury and he looked as though he didn't miss a beat. He was definitely the best player for Utah tonight. The Jazz were without Derrick Favors who is now nursing a hip injury of his own. Enes Kanter got the start at center in his place.
Favors couldn't stop Nikola Pekovic on Saturday and Enes Kanter didn't have much luck himself. The Wolves went to Pek early and often and found plenty of success. With no Favors, rookie Rudy Gobert saw some more court time and the 7'2" Frenchmen was certainly impressive--blocking a lot of shots and altering plenty more.
Despite some solid play from Hayward, Burks & the rookie Gobert, the Jazz simply couldn't keep up with Minnesota's high octane offense and found themselves struggling from the field in the early going. After one quarter they were shooting under 35% from the field and it took them nearly 8 minutes to break into double digits. However, once they did, the Jazz began to find their shot and got themselves back in the game.
This was a game of runs and each time the Jazz would pull within 8-12 points the Wolves would go on another run to put the game out of reach once again. There was one instance in the third quarter when Utah cut the lead to just 8 points and I felt as though I looked away from my TV for maybe 30 seconds and the next thing I knew the Wolves were up by 21. They had rattled off 11 straight points in under two minutes and from that point on we knew the Wolves were well on their way to a second-straight win.
These last two matchups vs. Utah have been great for a team that has been lacking confidence and has been unable to get into any kind of rhythm that lead to consecutive wins. Minnesota's next three opponents are much more talented than the lowly Jazz squad they've faced in their last two outings. The Wolves will play the Warriors on Friday promptly followed by the Blazers on Saturday and the Chicago Bulls on Monday. All three of those games will be televised nationally on NBA TV.
The hope is that the momentum from these last two wins will carry over and the Wolves can keep this hot streak going.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
Kevin Love fell just short of that elusive triple-double once again, finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds & 8 assists. He did however grab his 4000th career rebound to become the third-fastest player to do so. He ties Dwight Howard who also did it in 327 career games. With 19 points, Love is now at 999 points on the season, too.
Ricky Rubio registered his 7th points-assists double-double of the season along with 5 steals to boot. Rubio & Love combined to finish with 21 of Minnesota's 31 assists.
J.J. Barea continued his recent hot streak from downtown by hitting 3-of-5 from deep and finishing with 15 points. This 15-point outing is his highest since the 17 he scored vs. the Pelicans on New Year's Day.
The Wolves lost two of their shooting guards as both left the court holding towels to their bloody injuries. Alexey Shved was hit in the face by Rudy Gobert at the end of the first quarter. As the buzzer sounded at the end of the quarter, Shved walked to center court to confront the refs who didn't call any fouls and blood poured from his nose. He sat on the bench for a bit, but retreated to the locker room with the head trainer. News came just before halftime that he had broken his nose and wouldn't return. Then, in the third quarter, Kevin Martin got tangled up with Alec Burks when K-Mart went for a steal. He ended up cutting his finger and again the blood began to pour. He left the court and with the Wolves holding a comfortable lead, he didn't return. It remains to be seen if either will miss any time--if Martin will need stitches or if Shved will be wearing a mask come Friday.
The Wolves are back in action vs. the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Friday night. It will be a late 9:30pmCST start.
The Minnesota Timberwolves absolutely dismantled the Western Conference's worst team with a 98-72 win over the Utah Jazz.
Riding a season-high tying three-game losing streak the Wolves found themselves in desperate need of a win. The 14-win Jazz are the West's worst team and they certainly looked like it tonight.
The Timberwolves struggled a bit offensively early on, but it really didn't matter considering the Timberwolves held the Jazz to just 23 first half points! It goes without saying that the Jazz struggled mightily tonight.
They were coming off a big win over the Detroit Pistons last night, while the Wolves were fresh off a loss to the Raptors in Toronto. The Jazz simply couldn't put the ball in the basket and I think part of it was being without Gordon Hayward. They definitely miss his production as their starting shooting guard. I was a bit disappointed he didn't play tonight, because he is by far my favorite Jazzman.
The Wolves scored 23 points in the first quarter, while holding the Jazz to 23 through the first TWO quarters. At the half the Wolves had 51.
The Jazz simply had no answer for the duo of Love & Pek. I thought the battle in the paint would be a little closer considering the Jazz have two young bigs of their own: Derrick Favors & Enes Kanter. I know Kanter has struggled mightily this season (he used to be on my fantasy team, keywords: used to), but I though Favors would do a bit more than the 8 points & 10 rebounds he finished with.
With Kanter struggling this season, they've moved him to the bench and start Derrick Favors at center with combo forward Marvin Williams at power forward. The mismatch of Pek & Favors was made very evident in this one. Had Pek played at all in the fourth quarter, he would have easily set a new career-high. In 29 minutes he finished with 27 points & 14 rebounds. There were a few times when Kanter was matched up with him defensively that Nikola looked as though he was playing against schoolchildren as he muscled his way with ease to the bucket for easy basket after easy basket.
The last third of Minnesota's Big Three also had a great game. Martin hit just 1 three in 6 attempts, but he worked his way inside for easy layups and drew contact for chances at the line. When the Wolves can get Love, Pek & Martin all clicking offensively this Wolves team is incredibly fun to watch.
Tonight's box score...
The Wolves held the Jazz to an opponent season low 28.8% from the field on just 21 made field goals. The Wolves struggled at the free throw line, missing 14 of their attempts, had they made 100% of their chances, the final would have been 112-72: a 40-point win.
This is a great momentum builder and the Wolves need to build off of it. Their next game will be another matchup with these Jazz, but this time in Utah. If the Wolves walk into Energy Solutions Arena and they come in cocky & expecting to win, they'll be in for a rude awakening, because I guarantee that this team will come back ready to play hard against a team that absolutely embarrassed them.
The Wolves also need that win, because after they face the Jazz on Tuesday, they continue a four-game road trip with visits to Golden State, Portland & Chicago. Tipoff for Tuesday vs. the Jazz in Utah is a later 8pmCST.
Can anyone tell me what the above is a picture of? If you answered 'train wreck' you're correct! Now, can anyone tell me what the below is a picture of?
If you answered 'train wreck' you're correct again! To be fair I couldn't find any pictures of the whole team because it's pretty clear that the photo should also include J.J. Barea front and center and Rick Adelman lurking somewhere in the background.
I've seen some pretty terrible Timberwolves teams throughout the years, we all have, the thing that makes this season different is one word: expectations. The Wolves were expected to be great and yet they're now three games below .500 after another close loss to an inferior squad.
Before the game Adelman hinted that he may look to change his rotations and to his credit he did, however if anyone out there can explain playing J.J. Barea in the crunch time fourth quarter minutes while Rubio sat on the bench--I would most certainly welcome an explanation.
J.J. Barea is nowhere near the player he was for the Dallas Mavericks back in 2011 when he helped them win a title. He's a shell of that player and the worst part about all of it is, that the Timberwolves have a capable reserve point guard who could take his minutes: A.J. Price.
Price did see some court time paired with J.J. Barea for the final few minutes of the third quarter and the the early part of the fourth. I could understand playing Price & Shved together, but J.J. & A.J.? By and large Shved has been one of the best players off the bench these past couple weeks and Barea has been the definite worst.
I know why Adelman stuck with him throughout the second half, but I completely disagree with it. Yes, Barea did score 8 of his 14 points in the third quarter and yes, Ricky Rubio struggled early on, but the last thing I want is Barea playing 'hero ball' with the game on the line as he did tonight. He missed two threes with under a minute to play and also airballed a layup attempt (it may have been tipped).
With a player like Rubio who can have off nights where he struggles to distribute the ball or play good perimeter defense, you need a good reserve point guard to come off the bench. That is why a trade with the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller would make total sense. The cost would probably be a player like Dante Cunningham, but the Wolves can't keep playing Barea if they want to win.
J.J. isn't the only problem. Adelman's rotations are a problem, Minnesota's terrible shooting percentages, paper thin defense, bad body language and chemistry issues are all problems! That's just scratching the surface of what's gone wrong this year.
It's not a lost season yet, but the Wolves are almost halfway through the year and they sit three games under .500. That would be just fine if they played in the Eastern Conference. Heck, if they play out East they'd be the 7th seed (the 16-22 Nets are the 7th seed and even the 17-24 Bobcats are the 8th). However, the fact is that they're not in the Eastern Conference and if they want to end this playoff drought they've got to find resolutions to all these problems.
I'm a big Timberwolves fan and I've always enjoyed watching the games (even when the Wolves were terrible), but as I said before--the reason why I'm really not enjoying watching these guys play is because they don't seem to be playing to win despite this being the most talented Wolves squad in years. A team VERY capable of making the playoffs, but obviously lacking the drive and desire to get over the hump.
If the Wolves continue to slip over the next month, you can't expect to see even worse basketball as all of the players will check out.
One change that I think would be very beneficial is a rotational change. Just hear me out. Keep Rubio, Martin, Love & Pek in the starting lineup and swap Brewer with Mbah a Moute. Then have a second unit of Shved, Brewer, Budinger, Cunningham & Turiaf as your second unit. Bench J.J. because he's an inconsistent mess. I know the Wolves would be giving up a bit of offense by moving Brewer to the bench, but this way you keep the defense in the starting lineup and give that first unit a bit more rebounding, too. Brewer will thrive in his natural role as a sixth man/role player who brings energy off the bench. The only problem I foresee with this switch would be the ball handling of the reserves. We know that Shved struggles to play without another ball handler out on the court with him, but it can't hurt to get a look at this change. It's just one idea and I'd like to hear yours! Comment below.
I really like Rick Adelman and his tenure as a head coach in this League speaks for itself--he's a future Hall of Famer. That being said, it's perfectly clear in his time here as the Wolves' head coach that he's someone who doesn't embrace change. Unless forced by injuries his rotations stay much the same all year long. In all honesty, it's really not all on Adelman, if you watched the game you know it's the players who should shoulder most of the blame. They're playing 'not to lose' and when you do that...you lose.
Tonight's box score...
With Rubio playing just 23 minutes, the Wolves didn't get much playmaking tonight. J.J. who played 25 minutes off the bench finished with a team-high 5 assists and the Wolves as a team had just 16.
The Raptors shot just 43.6% from the field, but they hit 11 three-pointers to Minnesota's 3 and that was the key to this loss. It's almost as though we're watching a team that's afraid to win. I think that's probably the best I can sum it up.
The Wolves will play again tomorrow night vs. the 14-27 Utah Jazz, back at the Target Center. If the Wolves lose to the Jazz there will be a riot over social media and if they win it will mean absolutely nothing--because it's a team they should beat...easily.
For a team that's trying to claw their way back into the playoffs after a near decade-long drought, the Timberwolves have played A LOT of bad games this season, but tonight's may very well top them all!
A loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings is far worse than any other loss we've suffered this season. There's plenty of blame to go around...
Jon sums up my feelings exactly. I cannot understand why Adelman continues to try the same schemes and rotations game in and game out and expect different results. I cannot even fathom a reason that Adelman didn't play Luc Richard Mbah a Moute tonight! It makes absolutely zero sense to me.
Here you're facing a team that Mbah a Moute was playing for at the beginning of the season against one of the premier offensive scoring forwards in the NBA in Rudy Gay. Brewer did his best, but he just couldn't get the job done--the same goes for Budinger. Mbah a Moute should've played tonight and while the fact that he didn't isn't the reason we lost--it's one of many.
The Wolves have a great offensive squad that can put points on the board, but as always the defense is absolutely putrid. When you allow Derrick Williams to shoot 7-for-11 from the field, you know you've had a terrible, terrible night.
For those giving Derrick well wishes...why? My feelings toward Williams mirror those that Jim Peterson shared on tonight's broadcast. Ultimately: If he can play good like this tonight, why couldn't he do that during his time in Minnesota and if he's motivated and playing harder because it's against his former team--why can't he muster that kind of motivation every time he steps on the floor--if he was able to do that he'd still be in Minnesota.
Williams finished the night with 16 points in 28 minutes off the bench.
A 7'8" rim protector like Muresan would certainly help, but you know what I'd REALLY like? How about some guards who can stay in front of their man?! Between Barea, Rubio & Martin I've never seen players get caught up on screens on such a consistent basis and then blame Pek & Love because they don't rotate over quick enough. While I agree that a shot blocker on the inside would help--better perimeter defense could also solve some of those problems!
The Wolves are now 0-11 on the season in games decided by four points or fewer. They can't beat the teams they have to beat (Cleveland, Boston, Sacramento), the teams they need to beat (Denver, Dallas, Lakers) or the teams they need to steal some games from (Clippers, San Antonio, Indiana, Miami, Golden State, etc). If things don't change in the very near future, it will be yet another lost season in Minnesota and all summer long we'll get to hear the Kevin Love rumors circulate daily.
The problem is that Adelman refuses to try anything different. I don't think we should start any kind of #FireRick campaign, but he's got to embrace the fact that things aren't working--until that happens expect to remain under .500 and well out of the playoff picture.
The Wolves return to action on Friday night in Toronto vs. the Raptors.
After Friday's blowout win over the Charlotte Bobcats, I talked briefly about this matchup with the Spurs in San Antonio. Ultimately I preached that regardless of winning or losing, we needed to show that same cohesiveness that led to that big win.
Did the Wolves do that tonight? Well...sort of. The Wolves' starting unit struggled mightily on offense all night long--the only player who really found success was the big fella that has been on a tear offensively for the past couple months--Nikola Peković. Since shaking off a rusty start to the season, Nikola picked up steam a couple of weeks into the season and hasn't slowed down since.
Minnesota's best player--Kevin Love couldn't get anything going tonight. The last time he visited San Antonio and faced the Spurs, he exploded for 42 points and 14 rebounds. Tonight he was held to a third of that scoring with 14 and held to half that amount on the glass--with 7 boards. Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, and Jeff Ayres all saw time matched up with Love defensively and they all found a lot of success. Gregg Poppovich wasn't happy with how he scored at will in their previous meeting and it was VERY obvious that Pop put a gameplan in place to take Love out of the game and his squad executed it VERY well (especially in the first half where they held him to 6 points). Love did get things going a bit in the third quarter with 8 of those 14 points. Like the majority of the starters Love sat for a good portion of the fourth quarter as the lead had ballooned and the game fell out of reach.
Beyond Nikola Peković and Alexey Shved, the Timberwolves as a team really struggled to score the basketball and more importantly to do so efficiently. Pek went 10-for-15 from the field and Alexey had one of his best games of the season going 4-for-7 from the field and 3-for-4 from deep. Alexey has been much better these past few weeks on both ends of the floor. It's really nice to see considering how much he struggled early in the season. If I had to guess, I'd say the coaches probably (I'm just guessing) sat him down and told him that with Chase returning, he'd either have to play better or he'd see his playing time dwindle down to only 'garbage time'. Whether that's the case or not, he's responded to something these past few weeks and is playing some great hustle basketball (very energetic).
The Wolves hung tough in this one and didn't allow the Spurs to take a double digit lead until late in the third quarter. Unfortunately after that happened the wheels fell off and instead of sprinting through the finish line the Wolves sputtered to a stop and went out in flames.
The Wolves stayed in the game by forcing turnovers. The Wolves forced San Antonio into 20 turnovers (11 in the first half) and finished with a season-high-tying 16 steals.
Unfortunately Minnesota's effort on defense didn't last a full 48 minutes. There were possessions where it was very clear that they were giving 100% and others where the Spurs would find Marco Belinelli for a wide-open three or Leonard for a dunk or Tony Parker with a slashing layup. The Spurs shot over 56% from the field and near 70% from three. There's absolutely no way that you can expect to win basketball games if you're allowing opponents to shoot those kind of asinine percentages.
Tonight's box score...
Minnesota had one of their lowest rebounding outings of the season. Their 24 defensive rebounds is a season-low and their 40 total rebounds ties the second-lowest total of the year. It wasn't that the Wolves got killed on the offensive boards. The Spurs finished with 7 offensive rebounds, which means that the Wolves grabbed 77% of the available defensive boards. When you allow an opponent to shoot 56.3% from the field, there's not a whole lot of rebounds to corral.
Ultimately you have to take this game with a grain of salt because these Wolves have had some well-documented struggles and I don't think you could've found many who thought we'd come out of this contest victorious (myself included). The important part about tonight's win is to understand that you're not going to win if you don't defend. The offense can be the best in the NBA, but if you can't stop your opponents from scoring you're not going to win. With Ronny & Chase back the Timberwolves are beginning to show that they have a lot of weapons at their disposal that they're still getting integrated into the rotations and familiarized with their teammates. I'm not alone in hoping for a significant Timberwolves winning streak and I really can feel one on the not too distant horizon.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!