At this point, I've finally let go of this Wolves season. I honestly don't care much if we don't win another game. There are a few things I do want to see, however...
I'm sure there are more, but there's a few for ya!
Tonight the Wolves are taking on another team that's struggled this season. The difference between these two teams' struggles is the expectations put upon each team. The Lakers were supposed to be an unstoppable force in the NBA this season, while Minnesota was hoping to make the playoffs until injuries derailed their season.
The TWolves are 20-34 on the season, losers of three straight and 2-8 in their last ten games. As it currently stands, the Wolves are 12th in the NBA (ranked ahead of the Kings, Suns & Hornets who are all tied for 13th in the West). The Wolves are just 2.5 games out of the 15th seed and the Western Conference's worst record. The Lakers are 28-30 on the year, 18-11 at home and 6-4 in their last ten games. As it currently stands, the Lakers are 9th in the West and just 2.5 games out of the 8th and final playoff spot.
The Lakers will likely win this one, if nothing else, because history is on their side. The Lakers have won 20 straight games against the Wolves and 23 in the last 24 meetings. Minnesota's last win in the series came on March 6, 2007 when the Wolves defeated L.A. in double overtime, 117-107.
A big part of the Lakers' success vs. the Wolves? Kobe Bryant. Kobe is averaging 27 points per game in his last nine games vs. Minnesota.
The Lakers have turned things around as of late as they look for a playoff push. The Lakers have won 11 of their last 16 games.
These two teams met once already this season. That first meeting came on the first day of this month (while today's meeting comes on the last). On Feb. 1st, the Lakers defeated the Wolves in Minnesota 100-111. Los Angeles was without Dwight Howard so Pau Gasol started in his place. Pau had 22pts, 12reb, 2ast & 3blks. Kobe added 17pts, 12reb, 8ast & Nash finished with 17pts, 7reb, 7ast & 2blks. These two teams will meet once more after tonight--on March 27th in Minnesota.
The hits keep coming for the Wolves as not only will they be without Kevin Love (hand), Chase Budinger (knee), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip); Andrei Kirilenko is out with a calf strain and from the way things sound, he could be out for a while. He has medical tests scheduled for Monday that should tell us more.
The Lakers are without two of their big men. Jordan Hill is done for the season after havingseason-ending hip surgery. Pau Gasol is dealing with some plantar fasciitis in his foot that's kept him out for an extended period. He was recently cleared to begin running on an elliptical machine, however.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups in this one...
I'm most excited for the Pekovic-Howard matchup in this one. Howard has praised Pekovic as being one of the NBA's strongest and most physical beings. I would love nothing more than to see Pek finish with a 20-15 in this one.
Ricky Rubio had (in my opinion) a terrible game on Tuesday night in Phoenix. While he did finish with 10 assists & 4 steals, he also added 6 turnovers and shot just 2-for-12 from the field which included a game winner that missed (and sent the game to OT) as well as two missed shots in the OT that finally forced Adelman to sit him with 1:40 to play and the game still up for grabs. It'll be fun to watch him go head to head with Steve Nash, a player he's drawn plenty of comparisons to in his career.
While I'm expecting another Wolves loss, I would certainly welcome a Wolves win, putting a halt to these 20 straight losses.
Tipoff is a late 9:30pmCT as the game will be broadcast nationally on TNT as the second of a double header. We'll still have a full gameday recap following the final horn, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
This game was B-A-D. It's unfortunate that one team had to walk away with a W, because both teams were absolutely terrible. I kid you not, some of the worst basketball I've ever seen.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were incredibly infuriating to watch in this one, but I'll be quite honest the player I almost want to blame for this loss? Ricky Rubio.
It's unfair to say that and it's altogether untrue, however he made some very poor decisions late in this one that aided the Wolves to the L. Rubio had a chance to hit a game winner as time expired and he drove to the right side of the floor and pulled up for a contested 17-footer as time expired, the result was as expected...a miss. It looked like hero ball to me and granted, no Wolves player could make shots in this one, the last person I want shooting the ball with the game on the line is Ricky Rubio. He then continued to shoot the ball in overtime and continued to miss, forcing Adelman to pull him (and put in Shved) with just over 1:40 to play.
Rubio would finish the night with 5 points on 2-of-12 shooting and 1-of-2 from the line. He also added 5 rebounds, 10 assists & 4 steals--but had another rough night controlling the basketball and had 6 turnovers (as well as 4 fouls).
As I said, it's unfair to blame Rubio for the loss, because this was certainly a team effort in losing to the last place Phoenix Suns. While Derrick Williams was Minnesota's best player in this one, he also went 3-for-10 at the line. The Wolves missed 9 shots at the line, Derrick missed 7 of those.
The Wolves shot just 36.8% in the first quarter (7-19). I prayed the worst was over, but then the Wolves came out and hit just 6 more shots in the second quarter, while attempting 25. That's 24%! By halftime they were shooting 29.5% as a team! By halftime the Wolves found themselves trailing Phoenix by 14. The Suns were able to stretch that lead to 18 at one point in the first half, which apparently caused the Wolves to start jacking up three-pointers. After going 1-for-2 in the first quarter, the Wolves hoisted and missed 8 threes in the second quarter.
I'm uncertain why I didn't turn the game off at that point. Ultimately I ended up doing a word find for the majority of the third quarter as I wanted this misery to be over. Not just tonight, but this entire Wolves season.
The promise and hope that was instilled in Wolves fans this offseason has been completely extinguished at this point as the "Basketball Gods" have made it abundantly clear: "Timberwolves, You Can't Have Nice Things!" Not only did the Wolves lose to the Western Conference's worst team, they also lost Andrei Kirilenko to another injury. This time it's a left calf strain and depending on the severity he could be out a few days all the way up to weeks. We should know more tomorrow, but it's yet another slap in the face for Wolves fans.
I hate to be so pessimistic and negative because I rarely am when it comes to the Wolves, but tonight's loss and the team's performance is just really frustrating. All in all I'll still be watching them on Thursday night when they take on the Lakers.
With the Wolves down by 18 in this one they could've easily packed it in, but they fought back and outscored the Suns 18-11 in the third quater and 26-19 in the fourth. Thanks in large part to J.J. Barea, the Wolves were able to tie the game at 71 late in the fourth. 12 of J.J.'s 16 total points came in that fourth quarter. However his confidence apparently was a little too high and the last few minutes of the fourth quarter he continued to jack up all kinds of awful, awful shots. Which included a step back, fadeaway 27-foot three pointer as he was double teamed and had a wide-open Dante Cunningham for a mid-range jumper!
The Wolves had a chance to win the game with under 10 seconds to play. Ricky Rubio inexplicably walked the ball up the court and then heaved up a contested mid-range jumper to send the game into OT.
OT came and fortunately, Wes Johnson was on the floor for the entire five minutes for Phoenix. He continued to throw up shot after shot....and....miss, shot after shot! Despite Wes' attempt to hand his former team the win, the Wolves decided that they didn't really want to hit any shot, even the most basic. The most frustrating sequence came on a Derrick Williams drive instead of going hard to the hole and either finishing or drawing the foul, he jumped into the air as he was five-feet from the basket, saw he was surrounded by Phoenix defenders and attempted a pass directly into the hands of said Phoenix players.
Despite all their terrible play, the Wolves found themselves down just one point and less than 15 seconds on the clock. Alexey Shved got the ball, drove the lane and missed a layup. On the replay of that last shot, it appears that a Phoenix Suns player slaps the backboard which should've been an automatic goaltending call. It wasn't called, Marcus Morris rebounded the ball and was instantly fouled by J.J. Barea. He went to the line with just 0.5 seconds to play, missed both his free throws and that was the ballgame.
Derrick Williams played a season-high 40 minutes (his last game in Golden State was his previous season-high of 38). He also added a team-high 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. He shot 8-of-16 from the field, 2-of-6 from deep and was actually pretty fun to watch out there. Unfortunately that 3-for-10 at the line, puts a big damper on an otherwise stellar night. Pekovic added 18 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, a season-high and career-tying 3 steals and 3 blocks in 40 minutes of action. J.J. Barea finished with 16 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and shot 7-17 FG and 2-7 3PT in 28 minutes off the bench.
The Suns were led by a trio of 14-point scorers. Marcin Gortat finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 3 blocks. Markieff Morris fouled out late in the fourth, but contributed 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists & 3 blocks in 32 minutes off the bench. Former Wolf Wes Johnson finished just 6-of-16 from the field, but still had a career-night with 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. He also hit 2 of 4 three attempts and played 36 minutes off the bench. 34-year-old Jermaine O'Neal turned back the clock in this one and was ultra-impressive--especially in the first half. He finished with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks in 26 minutes off the bench. However, by halftime he already had 8 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks!
The Wolves' 34.4% field goal shooting is a new season-worst (beating out the previous-low by 0.1%). They did have the second-most steals of the season, however, finishing with 14. The Suns' 40 defensive rebounds ties a season-best for a Wolves opponent while their 56 total is the second-best of the season. Their 5 made free throws and 35.7% shooting at the line are also two season-lows for a Wolves opponent.
The Wolves are now losers of three-straight as they'll look to turn things around when they visit Staples Center to take on the Lakers on Thursday night. Stay tuned for the gameday preview of that one, until then thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves continue to stumble to the finish line of 2012-13. Coming off a one-point loss to Golden State, after blowing a 16-point lead, the Wolves are in search of their 21st win of the season. They're hoping a matchup with the Western Conference's worst team (the Phoenix Suns) can be that elixir.
The Minnesota Timberwolves currently sit at 20-33 on the season, losers of their last two contests and currently sit at 12th in the Conference. The Phoenix Suns are 18-39 on the year, losers of their last three games and are 15th (last) in the Western Conference. As it currently stands, the Wolves are just four games above the last place Suns!
While both teams are (ultimately) out of the playoff chase, both of these squads will be lotto-bound this summer. The Wolves' 2013 1st round pick is currently the 8th pick while Phoenix's is the 5th pick. As much as I'd love to have a guy like Victor Oladipo or Otto Porter as Minnesota Timberwolves next season, I pray the Wolves have enough respect for the game of basketball to not 'tank'. Of course, with David Kahn potentially (I say potentially because there's a chance his contract won't be extended) making the draft choices he'll probably go with a center like Alex Len or Mason Plumlee, let Pek walk and not sign a shooting guard.
The Timberwolves and the Suns already met once this season. That lone meeting came on December 29th where the Wolves escaped with a narrow 111-107 win. Minnesota was led by Nikola Pekovic (28pts & 11reb) & Kevin Love (23pts & 18reb). The Suns got a HUGE game from Luis Scola (33pts & 10reb), while Shannon Brown added 21pts, 6reb, 3ast.
These two teams will meet two more times after tonight's game in Phoenix. They'll play in Phoenix again on March 22nd and close out the season series on April 13th in Minnesota. That April 13th game is Minnesota's third-to-last game of the season.
While the Wolves were quiet on Thursday's Trade Deadline, the Phoenix Suns made two deals. The first came on Wednesday (2/20). They sent a second round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for former 14th overall pick Marcus Morris. Marcus now joins his twin brother Markieff as two very versatile, young and promising forwards on this Phoenix Suns squad. Marcus is already a part of the rotation as he played 21 minutes off the bench in Sunday's loss to the Spurs. He finished with 7pts, 5reb, 2stls & 1blk. The second deal came on Thursday when they sent former Wolf Sebastian Telfair to Toronto for center Hamed Haddadi and a second round pick.
Two former Wolves are still donning the Phoenix purple & orange. Forwards Michael Beasley & Wesley Johnson. Beas & Wes were excitedly welcomed to Phoenix this offseason and while Suns fans were enticed and thrilled to have two young and promising forwards--TWolves fans were glad to see them go and knew they'd still struggle in PHX. The majority of Beasley's games this season have come off the bench (20 games started, 33 as a reserve) his potential continues to tantalize while his inconsistency continues to frustrate. Mike is averaging 10.3ppg, 4rpg, 1.7apg, 0.4spg, 0.5bpg, 2.1topg while shooting 40% from the field, 33% from deep and 78% from the line in 21.8mpg. It's clear that the Suns are already dreading they gave him that three-year $18million contract. Johnson was Minnesota's starting small forward for the entire 2011-12 season. His role in Phoenix is exactly what it should be, however. Wes is a bench warmer averaging just 8.8mpg in 25 played this season (all off the bench). Wes is averaging 3ppg, 1.4rpg, 0.3apg & 0.3bpg. I'd say there's a good chance he'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer that'll struggle to find any takers. I'd say the D-League is in his not-to-distant future. Honestly, as much #$*@ I give these two, I whole-heartedly hope that they'll figure things out and become consistent above-average players in this League.
The Wolves continue to play on without Kevin Love (hand), Chase Budinger (knee), Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) and Brandon Roy (knees). Check out our injury report on this site for recent updates on Kevin Love & Chase Budinger--who should both return in mid-March.
The Suns have played all season without Channing Frye who is out with a heart condition. Frye won't play at all in 2012-13, but he says he's 95% certain he'll be back for 2013-14.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
Based on the last meeting, apparently the player the Wolves need to commit the most attention to in this one will be Luis Scola. Scola had a great shooting night in that Dec. 29th meeting and I'm sure he'll be a focal point of the scouting report prior to tipoff. I'm excited to see two young point guards battle in this one. Rubio continues to impress as he stuffs the statsheet night after night. Dragic has been one of the few bright spots in a turbulent Suns season.
This one tips off at 8pmCT from Phoenix Arizona. Enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The TWolves got off to a great start in this one in which they built a big double-digit lead. The letdown was inevitable and the fact that they pissed the big lead away surprises no one whose seen more than a handful of Wolves games this season.
The TWolves scored 32 points in the first quarter. The Wolves got little to no production from Derrick Williams & Nikola Pekovic in Friday's loss to the Thunder. Tonight, they made a point of starting this one out strong. Pekovic scored 10 of his 21 points in the first, while DWill added 8 of his 23. AK added another 7 as MIN outscored the Warriors 32-18. Ricky Rubio was especially impressive in that first quarter. After one quarter, Ricky had 2pts, 2reb, 3ast & 4stls. The Wolves shot 54% in the first quarter and really made a point of pounding the ball down low, scoring 26 points in the paint, while holding the Warriors to 0 paint points.
With any strong beginnings for the Wolves, you can assume there will be the inevitable letdown. Tonight was no exception. Golden State outscored the Wolves 34-23 in that second quarter to make it just a 3-point Wolves lead at the half. Carl Landry got going in that second quarter as he scored 12 of his 19 points. At halftime, the Warriors were led by their stellar bench duo. Jarrett Jack had 16 & Landry 12.
The next two quarters were equally disappointing in the final two quarters, especially defensively. The Wolves allowed the Warriors to stroll in for easy layups. On O, the Warriors began to pack down into the paint to stop/slow down Derrick & Pek. The Wolves couldn't hit an outside shot (just 1-for-11 on the night) and thus, the offense stalled.
Minnesota still held the lead after three quarters (81-76) and it looked as though they could seemingly close out the Wolves for the W. Instead, a number of key mistakes late doomed the Wolves. Rubio missed a free throw on an and-one that ultimately would've tied the game up, Derrick Williams was outworked for a rebound on a free throw attempt by rookie Draymond Green that resulted in another late Warriors possession. The Warriors had no business winning this game the way they played and honestly, the Wolves didn't have any business winning with their play late in the game.
Derrick Williams finished as the high scorer for Minnesota. He went for 23pts, 12reb & 1blk while shooting 9-15 FG, 0-1 3PT and 5-5 FT in a season-high 38 minutes. His 9 made field goals is also a season-high and his 4 offensive rebounds ties a season-high. Pekovic, fresh off his awful 5-point performance vs. OKC had 21pts, 8reb, 1ast, 2stls, 1blk and shot 10-for-18 from the field and 1-of-3 from the line in 33 minutes. His 2 steals ties a season-high (7th time this season). Ricky Rubio had an incredible night as he continues to stuff the statsheet. He finished with 16pts, 8reb, 11ast, 6stls while shooting 3-10 FG, 0-2 3PT and 10-11 FT in 39 minutes. Ricky's 7 defensive rebounds ties a season-high, while his 6 steals is a new season-high and ties a career-high (3rd time in his career).
The Warriors were led by Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry & David Lee. Jack finished with 23pts, 5reb, 8ast and 1stl. He shot 8-of-19 from the field, 5-of-7 from deep and 2-2 from the line in 36 minutes off the bench. His fellow reserve, Carl Landry ended the night with 19pts, 9reb, 1stl while shooting 8-of-9 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line, while playing 33 minutes off the pine. All-Star David Lee continued his stellar season. He added 22pts, 13reb, 3ast, 1stl & 1blk, 8-15 FG, 6-6 FT in 41 minutes.
The Wolves now fall to 20-32 on the season and chalk up yet another incredibly awful game for a chalkboard scribbled with far too many this season! The Wolves will look for the bounceback on Tuesday in Phoenix. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Golden State Warriors were slumping heading into the All-Star break, in fact they had rattled off a season-high six-straight losses. Unfortunately, they've turned things around lately and grabbed two consecutive wins to snap their losing streak.
Golden State lost six-straight games to Houston, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Dallas, Houston again and Utah. They got back on track with a win over Phoenix and got a statement win Friday night when they defeated the Spurs in overtime.
These two teams have met twice before. The first game came on November 16th at the Target Center. I was at that game and although it was still fun to watch, the Warriors had little trouble taking down a team that didn't have Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic or J.J. Barea. The next meeting came less than two weeks later at Oracle Arena. The result was a 85-96 win.
This is the second to last meeting as they'll face each other once more (April 9th) at Oracle Arena. The Wolves will be looking to grab their first win in the series this season. The Warriors have won four-straight games over the Wolves, the last three at the Target Center and 9 of their last 11 visits to Minnesota.
That could end Sunday afternoon as the Warriors have struggled to win on the road as of late. Golden State has lost five-straight road games and will look to snap that today. If they lose to the Wolves today, it will be a fifth consecutive season in which they've had a six-game (or more) losing streak. During this road skid, the Warriors are allowing opponents to score 117.8 a game at a 49.4% clip. However, in the last four meetings between these two teams (all Warrior wins) the Wolves have scored an average of 91.3 points a game on 40.1% shooting.
The TWolves are currently 20-32 on the season as they're simply looking to remain a competitive squad over the last couple months of the season. The key is to look to win and not look to continue to coast while we wait for Chase Budinger & Kevin Love to come back. Both are on track to return sometime in March (likely Chase, first). The Wolves also play on without Brandon Roy (knees) & Malcolm Lee (knee/hip).
The Warriors have had a few injury struggles of their own. Early in the season, Brandon Rush tore his ACL. He underwent successful surgery and should return in 2013-14. Andrew Bogut has missed a lot of games thanks to an ankle injury. He's inactive once again, but it's now because of a back injury. He was held out of Friday's win over the Spurs and the official Injury Report has him "ruled out indefinitely". I assume that means he won't be playing Sunday afternoon.
In the Warriors last game (Friday) they debuted their new jerseys. Which you can see pictured to the right. It's an awful bright yellow color and as you can see they do have sleeves. That (in my opinion) isn't even the worst part, I hate the fact that they have these solid yellow tops, with pinstripe bottoms. As if Stephen Curry didn't look like he was a 10-year old already, his outfit makes it look like something his mother picked out and forced him to wear. I have serious doubts that these will ever catch on. Basically I pray they don't! They will wear these twice more this season, but fortunately they won't today!
Let's take a look at today's probable starting lineups...
As I said before, Bogut (7.1P, 5R, 2.3A, 1.6B) is dealing with a back injury and (as far as I know) isn't expected to play. Obviously, his presence down low would've helped the Warriors dearly as now they'll have to rely on Andris Biedrens & rookie Festus Ezeli to guard Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic had a very off-night in OKC on Friday in which he played just 22 minutes and scored just 5 points. I expect a big bounce back performance, especially if he's matched up against Biedrens.
The big concern will, of course be containing Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson. Curry was a big key to those November Warrior wins. Both of those games, the Wolves play without their best perimeter defending guard: Ricky Rubio. While I still expect Curry to get his shots and his points it won't be coming as easy. The concern of course remains with the matchup of Klay Thompson & Luke Ridnour. I have a feeling they'll look to exploit that early and often. I pray that if Klay goes off for numerous buckets in the first as he simply overpowers the bigger Ridnour, that Adelman won't hesitate to make a change to either Shved or Gelabale.
If the Wolves want a chance to win this one they'll need better performances from Nikola Pekovic & Derrick Williams. In that last game vs. OKC, DWill & Pek combined for 14pts on 4-of-18 shooting, 0-for-2 from deep and 6-of-7 from the line. They also added 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. Pek played 22, while Derrick played 23 minutes. That simply won't get it done, they need more from those two!
Tipoff for this one is a very early 2:30pmCT! Enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
J.J. Barea spearheaded Minnesota's red-hot second unit tonight that scored 59 of the Wolves' 111 total points. On any other night that should've/would've been enough to secure a victory, however Russell Westbrook & Kevin Durant had other plans.
Oklahoma City started strong and outscored the Wolves 33-23 in the first quarter. They were led by Russell Westbrook that dropped 11 of his 37 points in that 1st Q.
A big key to the Thunder's victory was limiting Nikola Pekovic. Pek scored all 5 of his points in that first quarter, but OKC made a point of collapsing into the lane--not allowing him to roll to the rim for easy buckets. Pek played just 22 minutes on the night and finished with 5pts, 2reb & 2stls, while hitting 1-of-4 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line. The Thunder defense was solid against him, however if he needs more than 4 shots in a game.
With Pek playing not playing great, Greg Stiemsma saw 25 minutes of action. Greg responded with a career-high 13pts and added 6reb, 1stl & 4blks. As you all know, I'm not a big Stiemsma fan, but he definitely looked solid tonight. I honestly just wish they guy could give us 4pts, 4reb & 1-2blks in 10-15 minutes off the bench every game. If he could do that, my negative attitude towards him would certainly change.
Ricky Rubio had the best all-around game for Minnesota. He scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, while adding 5 rebounds, 9assists and 5 steals in a team-high 32 minutes. In a season where the Wolves have lost 32 games and have been absolutely decimated with injuries, his play as of late has been a lone bright spot.
Despite being without their superstar (Love) the Wolves remained competitive against one of the NBA's premier teams. Getting those 59 points from the bench certainly helped: Shved (17), Cunningham (15), Barea (14) and Stiemsma (13). Beyond those four reserves, 3 other starters: Kirilenko (15), Rubio (13) and Ridnour (10) all scored in double-digits, with Derrick Williams adding 9 as well.
As of late, the play from the Wolves' post players (Williams & Pekovic) have been key. Tonight it was their 'ineffectiveness' that doomed the Wolves. Williams was particularly frustrating. There were numerous times (especially early in the game) that he'd receive the ball for a wide open three-pointer or mid-range jumper and instead of taking it, he'd instead drive into the crowded lane, get bumped and blow the layup then throw up his hands begging for a foul call. Of course, out of the six or seven times he tried this, he got a foul call just once! Williams did score 9 points, but did so on 3-of-14 shooting, while also going 0-for-2 from deep. Just wasn't a good night for the starting 4 & 5 Timberwolves.
While the Wolves bench led the way for them; Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin were HUGE for the Thunder. Russell Westbrook finished with 37pts, 7reb, 9ast, 1stl, 1blk in 35 minutes. Kevin Durant added 27pts, 7reb, 7ast & 1blk in 37 minutes, while Kevin Martin came off the bench to play 25 minutes (and although he fouled out in the fourth) finished with 19pts, 2reb, 1ast & 1stl.
It was that early first quarter Thunder lead that doomed the Wolves. They led by 10 after one and never found themselves down by more than four or five points as they led throughout. The game was based on a number of 'runs'. The Thunder would suddenly 'get hot' and push the lead to double-digits (at one point all the way to 17) only to give up a big Minnesota run that would usually cut the deficit in half and even found themselves down by two possessions a few times.
These two teams will meet one more time on March 29th and (hopefully) by that time Chase Budinger and Kevin Love are back on the active roster. That should make for one terrific game!
That's all for now, the Wolves will play again on Sunday back at the Target Center. They'll face the slumping Golden State Warriors at 2:30pmCT. We'll have a full gameday preview before then. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves came out of the All-Star break and grabbed their 20th win of the season on Wednesday night at Target Center vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Wolves got off to a great first half vs. the Sixers, but things definitely went downhill in the second half. In fact, the Wolves scored just one field goal in the fourth quarter, but hit 16 free throws to escape with the 94-87 win. As bad as the Wolves were late in that one, the Sixers were even worse. I wouldn't count on a similar scenario tonight vs. the Thunder.
Although the Thunder have lost three consecutive games and with a loss tonight they'd lose their first four-straight regular season games since Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook teamed up. Unfortunately as rough a stretch the Thunder have gone through lately, a win over the TWolves seems pretty likely.
The Thunder have won 13 of the last 14 meetings. This season, the Wolves are 1-1 vs. OKC. The Wolves beat the Thunder on Dec. 20th by a slim 99-93 final. That W snapped a 12-game losing streak for the Wolves vs. the Thunder. These two teams met again on Jan. 9th (in OKC) and the result was a drubbing and an 84-106 final. Durant & Westbrook combined for 49 in that game.
The Thunder are fresh off a 122-119 loss to the Houston Rockets. That was a game in which they allowed their former teammate--James Harden, to score 46 points and sneak away with the slim victory.
While the Thunder have struggled lately, they've won 16-straight games at home when facing Western Conference opponents.
The Timberwolves will continue to be without a quartet of players: Kevin Love (OUT-broken hand), Chase Budinger (OUT-knee), Brandon Roy (OUT-knees) and Malcolm Lee (OUT-knee/hip).
The Thunder could be without two of their players. Seldom-used backup rookie shooting guard Jeremy Lamb is dealing with a back strain and is questionable for this one. OKC's starting center Kendrick Perkins is currently dealing with a sprained knee and could also be out for this one. He's currently listed as a gametime decision.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
If the Thunder are really going to be without Kendrick Perkins (4.6P, 5.9R, 1.2B) in this one that gives the Wolves a HUGE advantage in the post. There's no one else on that team that can match up with Nikola Pekovic (physically). If Thabeet starts, I guarantee he'll have two fouls and be on his way to the bench within the first 3-4 minutes of action.
The obvious concern will be containing Westbrook & Durant. Our two best defenders (Rubio & Kirilenko) will be matched up against them and you can't ask for much more, however that likely won't be enough.
Oklahoma City was one team that made a few trades prior to yesterday's Deadline. They sent seldom-used third-string point guard Eric Maynor (who was coming off ACL surgery) to the Portland Trailblazers and received a $2.2million traded player exception in return. They then sent a future second round pick to the New York Knicks for benched swingman Ronnie Brewer. Brewer is a solid addition to an already great Thunder squad. He'll backup Kevin Durant at the small forward and they could make for some very lethal defensive lineups like: Westbrook, Sefelosha, Brewer, Durant & Ibaka. They certainly have a few more lineup options with him in the mix.
Tipoff is set for 7pmCT, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves got off to a very hot start, which (this season) seems to guarantee a letdown in the second half. Such was the case in tonight's 94-87 victory.
The TWolves scored 35 points in the opening quarter, however the final quarter was a completely different story. The Wolves made just one field goal in the fourth (the first they attempted via Pekovic) and then went 0-for-11 down the stretch. Thankfully they got 16 points at the line (going 16-for-22 from the line in the fourth). To close out an equally poor shooting 76ers squad.
Minnesota scored 35 in the first quarter and that was thanks in large part to their dominance down low. Derrick Williams scored 10 of his 17 in the first, while Pekovic added 9 of his 27. The Sixers countered with 8 apiece from both Jrue Holiday & Dorrell Wright. Minnesota went 13-for-22 from the field (59.1%) while Philly went 10-for-20 (50%). The Wolves also out-rebounded the Sixers 12-6 and forced them into four turnovers (3 of which came in the first few minutes of play).
The second quarter was much the same for the Wolves. Their field goal percentage dropped slightly (to 51.2%) for the game at halftime, however they outscored the Sixers 21-16 to take a 15-point lead (56-41) at the half. Shved scored all six of his points in that second quarter, while Pekovic added another 5 to give him 14 at the half. Nikola also added 11 rebounds at halftime to give him his 20th double-double on the year (as well as the 37th of his career). The Wolves played a little loose with the basketball in the second quarter as they were forced into 6 second quarter turnovers. They countered that by grabbing another 18 rebounds, while holding Philly to just 9 in the quarter (MIN out-rebounded PHI 30-15 in the first half). The Wolves also added 14 of their 34 paint points in that second quarter.
The third quarter was when the 'wheels began to wobble'. Pekovic continued to dominate scoring another 8 in the quarter (to give him 22 through three quarters). Both AK & DWill added 5 each. The Sixers outscored the Wolves 26-20 in the third quarter to cut the lead to just 9 after three and that was thanks in large part to Evan Turner. Turner scored 14 of his 17 points in the third quarter as he simply hit everything he threw at the rim.
Then came the fourth quarter. I will be honest, with the lead (once at 19 points) at just 9, I assumed we had another opponent comeback in the works that would result in yet another extremely disappointing loss. Unfortunately, the Wolves played so poor that the should've been left with their 32nd loss. Fortunately the Sixers (somehow) played even worse and the Wolves escaped with a 7-point win, despite giving Philly numerous chances to pull ahead for the W in this one. As Jim Pete put it: It seemed like neither team wanted to win this game tonight.
With this game, the Wolves have their 20th win of the season and as much as I'd like to say this could be a stepping stone for future success in the second half of the season, I don't think you can/should build off tonight's performance.
The Wolves were led by a dominating performance from Nikola Pekovic. Pek finished with 27pts, 18reb, 1stl & 2blks. His 18 rebounds ties a season/career-high. He also shot 9-for-16 from the field and 9-for-15 from the line. His 15 free throw attempts is a new season/career-high. He also played a game-high 41 minutes. The rest of the frontcourt also performed very well in this one. Derrick Williams added 17pts, 8reb, 1ast & 1st; while shooting 7-of-12 from the field, 2-4 from deep and 1-2 at the line. Andrei Kirilenko came back following his five-game absence (thanks to a quad strain). It goes without saying that the Wolves are incredibly glad to have him back. AK finished with 15pts, 5reb, 5ast, 2stls & 3blks in 37 minutes. He shot 4-of-8 from the field and a perfect 1-1 from deep and 6-6 from the line.
The Sixers were led by Evan Turner. Amid trade speculation/rumors, Turner had that big third quarter and finished with 17pts, 6reb, 2ast, 2stls & 1blk. He didn't shoot the ball very efficiently, however going 6-16 from the field. Jrue Holiday had a solid all-around game, but foul trouble limited him all evening. Holiday finished with 16pts, 3reb, 5ast & 5stls, but he also struggled shooting the ball finishing 7-17 from the field, 0-1 from deep and 2-4 from the line. The 76ers bench scored 31 on the night and were led by former Wolf Damien Wilkins. Wilkins played 26 minutes off the bench and had 13pts, 3reb and 2ast.
Some notes from tonight's game...
The Timberwolves will be back in action on Friday night when they travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder who are fresh off a loss to James Harden and the Houston Rockets (tonight). Stay tuned tomorrow for any potential TWolves rumors, trades, etc. The Deadline is set for tomorrow at 2pmCT and there's a chance the Wolves could be dealing. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
It's been seven days since the last Timberwolves game and hopefully that's a good thing. The 19-31 Minnesota Timberwolves were in dire need of some extended time off to recharge and hopefully come out of All-Star break strong.
The Wolves are still far from being at full-strength and that's perhaps what scares me the most. The team can't come back from this break and play subpar basketball while they continue to wait for the cavalry (Kevin Love & Chase Budinger). It's clear at this point (with the Wolves sitting 7.5 games out of the 8th seed) that Minnesota won't be making a postseason appearance, but they still have plenty to play for.
Not only are the Wolves waiting for Love & Bud to return from their injuries, but Thursday's Trade Deadline is lurking. The closer we get to that Deadline, the more it sounds like the Wolves will be making some kind of transaction. My opinion on that? If it nets us a true shooting guard (Arron Afflalo, Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley...) I'm all for it. However, in all honesty it's not worth sacrificing the long-term--considering there's almost no chance for a playoff push, this season.
The Wolves have 32 games left to play and they begin the 'second half' vs. the 76ers on Wednesday evening. The 76ers have had injury struggles of their own (but, not quite on the scale of the TWolves). Despite Philly's injury struggles they still sit at 9th in the Eastern Conference and just 4 games out of that eighth and final playoff spot.
The Sixers obviously made that preseason trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers. The Sixers sent Andre Iguodala to Denver and Nikola Vucevic to Orlando and got Andrew Bynum (and Jason Richardson) in return. Vucevic is having a breakout season in Florida, while AI is a key piece of that Denver squad that's one of the West's best. Andrew Bynum on the other hand...hasn't played a single game for Philly as his lingering knee problems have kept him on the sidelines all season.
Beyond Bynum who remains out, Jason Richardson is out after a having season-ending knee surgery. J-Rich's rehab will be 9-12 months. Thaddeus Young was having a terrific year, but he'll be out until March sometime with a hamstring injury. He said the hammy injury felt like a rubber band popping. That's three of their probable starters that are sidelined.
This just means that they'll have to lean on guys like (All-Star) Jrue Holiday, Nick Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.
These two teams met once already this season, back on December 4th in Philly. It turned into a laugher and was one of the Wolves' best shooting nights of the season. Minnesota shot 41-77 FG (53.2%) and 13-25 3PT (52%). The Wolves won 105-88 behind 17pts, 3reb, 4ast, 1blk and 4-7 3PT from Alexey Shved and another 16pts, 10reb, 1stl from Josh Howard (who started at small forward). The Wolves were without Andrei Kirilenko in this one (as he was battling back spasms), but he's expected to play in this one (after missing the last five games leading up to the break with a quad contusion). Kevin Love did play in that 12/4 matchup, but wasn't a big contributor as he finished with just 6pts on 2-of-10 FG as well as 10reb & 5ast. This game was 'so long ago' that Malcolm Lee was still the starting shooting guard--he finished with 10pts on 4-of-4 FG as well as 2reb & 1ast in 19 minutes.
Kirilenko's return will certainly help, but the Wolves will still be playing without: Kevin Love (hand), Chase Budinger (knee), Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) and Brandon Roy (knees).
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
Hopefully AK's return will give the Wolves a bit of a boost, both in the starting lineup and returning Gelabale to the bench and back with that second unit. If the Wolves want a win, it will be all about containing All-Star Jrue Holiday. With so many injuries to key players for Philly, he's being ask to carry a big load and on the nights he can't deliver, the Sixers struggle to win. That being said, I'm actually pretty excited to see how Ricky matches up with Jrue on both ends of the floor.
The other concern will be Nick Young. He's a sharpshooter that can get hot in a hurry and Luke will most certainly have his hands full with yet another bigger guard. Beyond that, I don't have too many worries with AK & Turner or DWill & Pek handling Allen & Hawes in the post.
Tipoff for this one is set for 7pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
The Wolves gave themselves chances down the stretch in this one, but couldn't pull ahead in the final seconds as the Jazz hit free throws and Minnesota missed a number of shots.
Utah went on a good run that gave them a double-digit lead for the majority of the third and fourth quarters. In fact, with roughly two-and-a-half minutes to play, the Jazz found themselves up by 13. I was listening to the Jazz broadcast and Matt Harping quipped (at that point), "well the Jazz are on their way to their 30th win of the season."
Then the Wolves went on a 9-0 run thanks to two buckets apiece from DWill & Pekovic. With 30 seconds to play the Wolves found themselves down by just four points.
Rubio missed a layup with 31 seconds to play and Earl Watson grabbed the board. He was quickly fouled by Ridnour and hit two at the line. Coming out of a timeout on the ensuing possession, Rubio found Pekovic for an easy layup to make it 88-92 with 25 seconds to play.
Utah inbounded the ball who was promptly fouled by Williams. Millsap went 1 of 2 at the line, to give the Jazz a five-point lead, but "leave the door open" for the Wolves. Out of another TWolves timeout, Minnesota found Williams in the corner for a three, he missed but was fouled by Millsap and would go to the line for three shots. He hit all three and made it just a two-point game with 19 seconds to play.
Utah took a full timeout and inbounded the ball to Foye, he was fouled and they went to the line for two shots--making them both and bumping the Jazz lead back to 4 with 15 seconds to play. Rubio then rushed down the court and went in for a layup that was swatted by Earl Watson, they got the o-board and found Ridnour for a three, that airballed and DWill grabbed the miss. He had a scoop pass to Rubio down low who was then fouled and would go to the line for his 12th and 13th free throws. He hit both to make it a two-point game, once again, with 5 seconds to play.
They fouled Randy Foye on the inbound again and he hit two more free throws to "close the door". Rubio fired up a three at the buzzer that didn't go and the Timberwolves lost 93-97.
The TWolves got off to a great first quarter in this one--defensively, holding the Jazz to just 10 points...I don't know if that was Timberwolves D or tired Jazz-men from a big win the night before. That didn't carry over to the second quarter however, where the Jazz scored 32 to give themselves a two-point lead (40-42) at the break. Through the first half, Paul Millsap led the charge for the Jazz with 13 and Al Jefferson added 8. The TWolves got 12 points from both Williams & Ridnour and another 8 from Rubio.
Pekovic had a terrible first half, he went 0-for-5 from the field and finished with just one point. He got going in the third quarter, however. He went off for 8--and added another 10 in the fourth to give him 19 on the night.
For once, the Wolves big men BOTH turned in impressive games. Williams finished with 24 points and 16 rebounds. He struggled slightly shooting the ball on the night (7-for-17 from the field), but added another 8 points at the line (on 11 attempts) in 37 minutes. Nikola Pekovic was bad early, but he still finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and despite that 0-for-5 start, he went 7-for-11 in the second half. He also added one steal and one block in 40 minutes of action. Ricky Rubio had his best all-around game of the season. He didn't shoot the ball well from the field (3-13 FG & 0-3 3PT), but was dynamite at the line where he went 12-for-13 and finished with a near triple-double: 18 points, 9 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals and 1 block in 40 minutes. He did have 10 rebounds late in the game, but they 'took it away' in the final minute. Luke Ridnour also continued his VERY solid play. He had 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists on the night.
There have been a few trade rumors regarding Luke Ridnour lately and with his play, there's no doubting his 'stock' could be rising. One team that has reported interest is Utah (another is New York). This was as good a 'showcase' as you could hope for. Minnesota has said they are looking to get Alec Burks in return...
Alec Burks had a pretty impressive game of the bench. Burks played 30 minutes and finished with 9 points (4-9 FG), 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, I was definitely impressed with the young combo guard and as much as I like Ridnour, getting a true shooting guard who can do a little bit of everything for you. He may not be the three-point shooter the Wolves crave (just 16-for-48 on the year--including tonight), but he was fun to watch.
Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson both went off for big games tonight. Millsap finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 36 minutes. His frontcourt mate Big Al added 20 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 1 block in 34 minutes. Coming into tonight, I talked about how their play would ultimately decide who won or lost this one. For the second time (in two meetings) this season the Jazz absolutely dominated the paint (30-54) thanks in large part to their big man duo...which by next week may not be together! (With the trade deadline coming up it's rumored that one or potentially both could be moved).
MISC. PLAYER STATS: Both Ricky Rubio & Derrick Williams had career nights! Rubio tied season-highs in points (18) and threes attempted (3). He also set new season/career-highs with 12 made free throws, 13 free throws attempted and 9 total rebounds. He also set new season-highs in defensive rebounds (7), minutes played (40) and blocks (1)--which also ties a career-high. Williams set a new season-high with his 24 points (3 off from tying his 27-point career-high). He tied a season-high with his 17 field goal attempts. His 8 free throws made, 11 attempted, 12 defensive rebounds and 16 total rebounds all set new season & career-highs. His also tied season & tied career highs with his 4 offensive rebounds. His 37 minutes played ties a season-high for the 3rd game this year.
The Wolves had a putrid shooting night, hitting just 29 on 85 attempts to finish 34.1% from the field. They also went 5-for-22 from deep (22.7%) and left 8 points a the free throw line (30-38). In a four-point loss, any freebies you leave at the line, hurt! Other areas that hurt the Wolves: just 12 points from the bench (6 apiece for J.J. & Dante) compared to 43 from Utah. The Wolves were also outscored on the break 8-17. The one surprising stat of the night was the turnovers. The Wolves tied a season-low in turnovers with 10 and allowed just 8 points off them, not bad for a team that's had 20+ turnover nights this season (including 22 for 34 points in Cleveland on Monday).
MISC. TEAM STATS: The Wolves tied a season-high with made free throws (30) and set a new season-high in free throw attempts (38). The Wolves also tied two season-lows: 29 made field goals and 10 team turnovers. The Jazz tied a season-high (for a MIN opponent) with their 40 defensive rebounds and also had the second-best rebound numbers (for a MIN opp) with their 53 total rebounds. They also tied season-lows (for a MIN opp) in threes made (2) and tied the second-worst numbers of the season in threes attempted (by a Wolves opp) with 11.
With this loss the Wolves move to 19-31 on the season heading into the All-Star break. The break could've certainly come sooner for a Wolves team that's won just 4 in the last 21 outings, but they definitely need the time off. They won't play again until next Wednesday (2/20) when they'll take on the 76ers at the Target Center. Ricky Rubio & Alexey Shved will play in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend and we'll have updates on that this weekend! Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!