The result of tonight's TWolves-Grizzlies game was the same as the last ten meetings between these two teams: a Timberwolves loss. The Grizzlies have now won 11-straight games over the Wolves and snapped a pesky five-game road losing streak the endured lately.
Despite Ricky Rubio's best efforts, the Timberwolves just couldn't follow up yesterday's Thunder win with another great encore.
The Wolves kept it close through three quarters and at one point in the first half even held a 12-point lead, but playing in the second night of a back-to-back certainly seemed to 'catch up' with the Wolves in that final quarter. After three quarters the Wolves were up 67-65. The Grizzlies then outscored the Wolves 34-19 in the fourth to strut out of the Target Center with a 86-99 victory. Ultimately this game was actually a lot closer than the final quarter
The Wolves just couldn't slow down the Grizz in that final quarter. Darrell Arthur scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, Mike Conley & Quincy Pondexter each added 7 to help put away the Wolves.
The Wolves were playing this one without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees), Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle). Pekovic was a late scratch, but he suffered a sprained ankle in yesterday's win over the Thunder. It was really unfortunate that Pek couldn't play as I was definitely looking forward to the center matchup vs. Marc Gasol. Nikola had his best game since coming back from his abdominal strain. Pek went for 22 & 15 vs. the Thunder and the Wolves definitely could've used him tonight. Without him the Wolves managed just 30 points in the paint and once again the Wolves' offense was disjointed. With no real low-post threat a stingy Memphis defense became even better as they could key on jump shooters and step in front of slashing Wolves.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
Despite Pekovic being out in this one, Chris Johnson (the, then backup center) only logged two minutes on the night. The big minutes instead went to Greg Stiemsma. Greg played 40 minutes which is a new career-high. As you probably well know, I haven't been a supporter of Stiemsma this season, but I can't say he's been terrible in the last few games he's had to start for an injured Nikola. Do I want Greg to log 40 minutes a night, just so I don't view him as absolutely terrible? NO! If he's going to be back next season, he needs to find a way to be productive in those limited minutes, playing only 12-17 minutes a night.
Ricky Rubio was the star for the Wolves. He finished with a career-high 23 points while playing a season-high 40 minutes. He also fell just one assist shy of a triple-double. He was pulled from the game with just over one minute to play and had he stayed in he might of been able to grab his second triple-double of the season and of his NBA career.
The Wolves got just 20 points from their bench (some nights J.J. Barea can score that himself). The Wolves lost by 13 in this one and they left 11 points at the line, going 23-34. Too often that's been the story for the Wolves--leaving points at the line will almost always come back to haunt you in the end. The Wolves' 17 turnovers for 18 Memphis points is another backbreaker.
The Wolves will be back in action on Monday night at the Target Center when they'll take on the Boston Celtics. Stay tuned for the preview of that one, until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off a stunning win over the Oklahoma City Thunder and they hope to follow it up with another win over yet another Western Conference 'powerhouse'.
This is the third of three meetings between these two teams. The first came on Feb. 10th in Memphis, the result was a 88-105 Wolves loss. Luke & Ricky each scored 17 apiece for MIN, while Z-Bo had 16pts & 8reb, Prince had 18pts on 8-8 FG and Conley added 16pts & 8ast for MEM.
The second meeting came on March 18th, also in Memphis and the result was another big Grizzly win, 77-92. Shved led the team with 12pts & Gelabale & JJ each added 11 off the bench. The Grizz were led by Conley w/20pts, Bayless added 15 off the bench and Gasol had a great all-around game with 16pts, 8reb, 5ast & 4blks.
This will be Memphis' first visit to the Target Center since April of last season. Memphis has won 10 games in a row over Minnesota and 4-straight at the Target Center.
They're desperate for another big win over the Wolves so they can snap a season-high 5-game road losing streak. With their recent struggles on the road, they've slipped slightly in the standings, but they still have a great chance to get within the Top 4 of the Western Conference. The Grizz have already clinched a playoff berth, but Memphis is 1/2 game behind the #4 Clippers and 1 game behind #3 Denver, as it stands today.
The Grizzlies are a savvy defense team and the Wolves need to find some kind of hole in that D (good luck) if they want to win this one. The Wolves aren't a stellar defensive squad and their recent success has been thanks to their play on O.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
Nikola Pekovic is coming off his best scoring night since that abdominal injury sidelined him for 8-straight games. His 22pts & 15reb against the Thunder was very impressive and he'll look to build off of that. Kendrick Perkins is a good low-post defender, but tonight Pek will be going against (in my opinion) a Top 3 center in this League. Marc Gasol does a little bit of everything. He's a 7'1" big man that can score in the post, from mid-range, crashes the boards, finds his teammates in the seams for easy buckets passing out of the post, plays passing lanes and protects the rim. If you compare his numbers to Kirilenko's, Gasol is doing all of that and then a bit more. It should be quite the battle down low.
This game will depend heavily on offensive execution. If the Wolves can battle for easy buckets and find a way to break down the stingy Memphis D, there's no reason to think they can't snap this 10-game losing streak to the Grizz.
Tipoff is set for 7pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, have a Happy Easter weekend, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
With tonight's win, the Minnesota Timberwolves grabbed their 26th win of the season and ended the season series vs. the Thunder 2-2. Tonight's win ties the total wins from last season (finished 26-40). With one more win the Wolves will have the largest win total since the 2006-07 season (when Minnesota went 32-50).
The Thunder seemed to come into tonight's game expecting a win against the lowly Wolves. And why not, they had won two-straight vs. the Wolves and 15 of the last 16 coming into the game. They were riding a three-game winning streak and looked to put up an easy W to pull even closer to that #1 seed in the Western Conference.
Instead, the Wolves took advantage of staying close through three quarters and thanks to some late execution (something we've seen very little of this season) the Wolves were able to boost their lead to 9 points and ultimately held on for the victory.
When you let an 'inferior' team 'hang around' in a game, you're asking for disaster. The Wolves simply wouldn't let the Thunder pull away.
I said in the Gameday preview that the key to a Thunder victory will be the play of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin & Serge Ibaka. I added that if we could slow down just one of those guys, we could steal a victory tonight. Well, Kevin Durant went for 36, though he did miss a number of shots down the stretch. Westbrook added 18, but it took him 17 shots to get there. Serge Ibaka shot 40% from the field (4-10) and had 10pts and Kevin Martin was the key. K-Mart scored just 4 points on 1-9 and struggled the entire night with foul trouble. Cutting off that production from the bench and not allowing a secondary player like Sefelosha or Jackson or Collison go off for a big offensive night was key to this W.
I'm sure plenty of the playoff bound teams will be watching the tape from tonight's game to find some weaknesses in OKC's game. If a team that came into tonight's game with a .357 winning percentage can take down the Thunder twice in one season, they're doing something right.
At 9:37 left in the fourth quarter Kevin Durant stepped to the line and sunk two free throws. At that point the Wolves were up just three points, 84-81. It wasn't until 5:01 left in the fourth that the Thunder would score again on a Ibaka 15-footer. Over that 4+ minute stretch the Wolves scored 8 points to take a 92-81 lead.
The Thunder went 'cold' again late in the fourth. Durant hit an 8-foot jumpshot with 3:31 to play to make it a 92-87 Wolves lead. Fortunately Minnesota didn't allow the Thunder to score again until there were 58 seconds to play. With 58 seconds to play the Wolves were up 97-89. The Thunder would score only two more baskets and miss two threes. On their final possession, Ricky Rubio picked the pocket of Westbrook for his 4th steal of the night and dribbled the clock out for the 101-93 win.
Holding Kevin Martin to those 4 points and Westbrook's 18 on 17 shots was a big boost for the Wolves.
With roughly five minutes to play in the game and the Wolves up 9 all I could think was we have to hold on for the next couple minutes when Durant gets hot (which he always seems to). He hit a couple of late shots that had me worried, but the Wolves defense did an excellent job of changing things up on him. Adelman played a variety of defenders on him in that fourth quarter. Kirilenko had him for a stretch, Cunningham was guarding him for a few plays and even Chase Budinger had some time against him. Surprisingly, Budinger did a REALLY excellent job on D. I say that, because I never saw him as an above-average defender and instead an athletic scorer who excels in catch and shoot and spot up situations. I didn't by any means feel he was a bad defender, but seeing so little of him this season...I just didn't really he had those kind of 'defensive chops'.
The Wolves held the advantage on the boards, they forced the Thunder into more turnovers, got much better production from their bench, got to the line more and executed with a 81.5% clip. It was just a great all-around W for the Wolves and will be remembered as one of the few bright spots in yet another lost Timberwolves season.
The Wolves will look to make it two in a row tomorrow night vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. That one tips at 7pmCT from the Target Center, stay tuned for the preview, until then thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves continue their homestand with a Friday night matchup against one of the NBA's best teams: the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder (53-19) are currently 2nd in the Western Conference, but they're just 1.5 games behind the #1 San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder have just ten games left (including tonight) in the regular season to close that gap and grab the West's top seed.
The TWolves (25-45) are on the other end of the spectrum as YET ANOTHER TWolves season comes mercilessly to an end. To be quite honest, I'm REALLY sick of writing that same sentence as season after season winds down in Minneapolis. The Wolves have just 12 games (including tonight) remaining this season.
The Wolves are coming off that controversial loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. If you didn't catch that one and are wondering about the 'controversy', you can read this: NBA Admits Bryant Fouled Rubio.
The Wolves have put together their best offensive stretch of the season over these last few games and they'll look to continue that tonight. The Thunder are the NBA's highest scoring team at 106.2ppg. If both teams continue on this current trajectory, this could be a very high-scoring affair.
The Thunder are currently on a three-game winning streak and have held four-straight opponents to 90 or fewer points. In OKC's three-straight W's, the Thunder have given up 84ppg & 38% FG. So...maybe it won't be a game decided in the 100s.
This is the fourth of four meetings this season between these two teams. The Wolves are 1-2 vs. the Thunder this season and OKC has won 15 of the last 16 meetings. Russell Westbrook is scoring 34.0ppg in his last five matchups with the Wolves, while Kevin Durant is averaging 39.0ppg on 56.8% FG in his last four trips to Minneapolis. The Thunder have scored 115.2ppg in its last 11 games vs. the Wolves.
In the first meeting this season (12/20) the Wolves came out with a narrow 99-93 win at the Target Center. Kevin Love had 28pts, 11reb, 7ast & Pek added 24pts & 10reb in that win. Kevin Durant had 33pts, 7reb, 6ast while Westbrook finished just one assist shy of a triple double: 30pts, 11reb, 9ast.
The second meeting this season (1/9), the Thunder won 84-106 in OKC. Durant had 26pts & 8reb while Westbrook added 23pts, 8reb, 7ast. Pek had 17pts & 10reb while Williams added 14pts & 11reb.
In the most recent meeting (2/22) in Oklahoma City the Thunder walked away with a 111-127 win. Westbrook finished with 37pts, 7reb, 9ast & Durant added 27pts, 7reb, 7ast. Alexey Shved led the Wolves with 17pts & Rubio added 13pts, 5reb, 9ast & 5stls.
The Wolves are facing a Thunder team with 'no significant injuries', while Minnesota continues to play on without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip).
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
I'm excited for three matchups tonight: Westbrook vs. Rubio, Durant vs. Kirilenko & Perkins vs. Pekovic.
Westbrook is obviously a much more capable guard on the offensive end, but hopefully Rubio can lock him down and stuff the stat sheet tonight. Kirilenko is an excellent defender on of the NBA's best and that doesn't mean much...Durant will still probably score 30+ tonight...he's just that good. Lastly, Pek & Perk. They had a bit of a confrontation in a game earlier this season, both are very physical big men, but Pekovic holds the distinct advantage. Nikola is a better scorer & rebounder and without a doubt the NBA's strongest player.
Tonight's game will be decided on how well Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka & Kevin Martin play. If you can take away a guy like Martin and his production that would make stealing a W much, much easier.
Tonight's game will tip at 7pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Los Angeles Lakers have now won 22-straight games over the Minnesota Timberwolves and they did so with a little help from the officials. We'll get to that in a moment, though.
The TWolves kept it close through the first quarter. As per usual, they began the game looking for Pekovic down low--to establish that presence in the paint. Pek certainly delivered on that as he scored 10 of his 19 points in that first quarter. On the other end, it was Pau Gasol getting going early. They looked to get their big man going in this one, finding him for a number of easy looks as he'd finish with 9 of his 17 in the first quarter.
The Wolves continued to keep things close in the second quarter. Chase & Alexey both had 5 points off the bench as the Wolves led a balanced scoring attack through halftime to trail just 46-50. At halftime, the TWolves had one player in double figures (Pekovic, 13). The Lakers had a fairly balanced first half (scoring) as well. They ended the half with two players in double figures (Jamison & Howard--both with 12). At the half, the Wolves were down 46-50.
The Wolves came out in the third quarter and scored 33 points! Unfortunately, they allowed the Lakers to go for 41 and take a 12-point lead after three quarters. Kobe Bryant scored 16 of his 31 points in that third quarter as it looked as though he wanted to put the Wolves away and sit for the remainder of the game.
And for the first part of the fourth quarter, Kobe was able to sit down on the bench, but the Wolves put together a nice run--got themselves back into the game and forced D'Antoni to bring his starters back to the floor.
Let's recap the final three minutes of this game...
Out of a Lakers full timeout, Ricky Rubio hit two free throws to make it a 10-point game 101-111. That's when Adelman decided to employ the "Hack-a-Howard" strategy. Ridnour intentionally fouled DH and he went to the line for two free throws. Dwight missed both free throws and Dante Cunningham came down with the defensive rebound. The Wolves came up empty on the ensuing offensive possession as Pau Gasol blocked Budinger's three-point attempt and Ridnour missed a 13-footer off the o-board.
The Wolves again fouled Howard and sent him to the line for two more with 2:40 to play. Howard again missed both and Budinger grabbed the defensive board. Rubio was blocked on a driving layup by Howard on the next possession, but Ridnour grabbed the offensive board and found Dante Cunningham for a wide-open 19-footer to make it 103-111 with 2:24 to play.
The Wolves again fouled Howard and sent him to the line, where he went 1 of 2 (missing the second). Budinger missed a layup on the other end, but Dante was there for the offensive board found Chase for the driving layup.
The Wolves again fouled Howard who went to the line and made 1 of 2 (missing the first one). On the other end, Dante Cunningham made a jumper on a Rubio assist, which made it 107-113 with 1:58 to play.
The rule with intentionally fouling a player off the ball is that it cannot be done with under two minutes to play. Stupidly, Ridnour again fouled Howard at that 1:58 mark. Thus, the Lakers could choose any player to shoot two free throws and then they'd also get the ball back. Steve Nash stepped to the line and made 1 of 2 to make it 107-114. On their extra possession, Kobe Bryant missed a three-point jumper that probably would've sealed the Lakers' W.
Pekovic secured the defensive board and Rubio raced up the court to hit an off-balance jumper to make it 109-114 with 1:35 to play. Steve Nash would make a bad pass on the next possession that Rubio easily intercepts. Rubio found Dante for a wide open jumper, but he missed, fortunately Budinger was there for the offensive board and the putback, 111-114 with 1:08 to play.
Everyone knew who the ball was going to go to here. Steve Nash passed the ball to Kobe and he brought it up the court. He sized up his defender a bit (Budinger) before driving the right side of the lane and pulling up for the patented fadeaway Kobe jumper. It (of course) found bottom to put the Lake Show up 111-116 with 48 seconds to play.
Out of a full timeout, the TWolves again found Dante for a wide-open jumper which he knocked down, 113-116, 39 seconds to play.
The Lakers ran some time off the clock and eventually found Jodie Meeks for a mid-range jumper on the following possession. He missed, but Pau Gasol was able to tap the offensive rebound out to mid-court (toward Kobe Bryant). The Wolves had two defenders around Bryant and Dante ran toward Kobe to intercept the ball (and did), but knocked Bryant to the floor, sending him to the line with 15 seconds to play. Kobe hit 1 of 2 at the line to make it 113-117. Out of a 20-second timeout, Chase Budinger missed a three-pointer, but Dante was again there for the offensive rebound and this time, the putback. That made it 115-117 with just 11 seconds to play.
The Wolves intentionally fouled Nash who went to the line and hit two free throws to push the lead back to four: 115-119. Ridnour missed a jumper on the ensuing Wolves possession and yet Nikola Pekovic was there for another offensive board and putback (on a Howard goaltending call) to make it 117-119. The Wolves then intentionally fouled Kobe Bryant who walked to the line for two free throws with 3 seconds to play. He went 1 of 2 (missing the second). Rubio grabbed the rebound and quickly raced up the court for a last-second desperation three-pointer to tie the game and send it to overtime.
As Rubio jacked it up from just inside the halfcourt line, Kobe Bryant came across his arms and CLEARLY fouled him. The refs were too cowardly to make the call, Kobe got credit for a 'block', the shot fell well short and the Wolves lose their 22nd straight to the Lakers.
Without a doubt, no foul was called because of who committed said foul. Superstar treatment at its finest. Had that been a guy like Jodie Meeks or Earl Clark, there's no doubt that Rubio would've been at the line for three free throws.
Rubio said after the game, "I don't like to lose...sometimes it's tough when you give everything and something like that happens."
Kobe Bryant had a few words of his own: "That's not a foul, no, they ain't calling that shit. I don't think I got him. That's a tough call to make." It's only a tough call to make because he's Kobe Bryant. Bryant also added this insult, when asked if the foul would've been called, "We would have gone into overtime and won the game. It's as simple as that."
I've always been about giving a player his due respect and with Kobe's illustrious career he's earned that respect. Unfortunately, humble isn't in Kobe's dictionary and it's hard to respect a player who doesn't respect his opponent. That being said, I've never been a Kobe fan and this game just further fuels that fire.
Pekovic finished with 19 & 16 against one of the NBA's premier low-post defenders. Dante Cunningham was HUGE in that fourth quarter, he finished with 18 on the night--16 of which came in the fourth. Budinger finished with his highest point total since coming back from that knee injury and he also came up big in the fourth, scoring 9 of his 14. Williams added 15, but continues to have lower and lower numbers on the boards. He's had games of 8-12 boards this season and he's recently slipped on that--something he'll need to pick back up in these last twelve games. Rubio had 13 and added a few boards, a few steals and 7 assists. Barea, AK & Luke all finished with 11.
The Lakers were led by Kobe who ended the night with 31, 23 of which came in the second half. Dwight Howard finished the game strong, scoring 11 of his 25 in the fourth. Jamison added 18 off the bench and added 10 points to the Lakers' 2nd quarter totals.
The Lakers played just three subs: Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake & Earl Clark. Without Metta World Peace (who tore his lateral meniscus on Monday and is expected out 4-6 weeks) this team is going to struggle in these last few weeks of the regular season. I really don't think this team has what it takes to make it into the playoffs. Sure, they have the talent, but they don't have the cohesiveness.
With them making the playoffs they'll likely face either the Spurs or Thunder. It will be a good series, but a well-oiled machine like San Antonio or the defending Western Conference Champs will dispatch the Lakers in that first round.
But hey, I guess that's better than 25-45 and not making the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season. BLAH. That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Timberwolves are right back in action tonight when they'll take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Target Center. This, following a blowout TWolves win in Detroit on Tuesday night.
This is the third of three meetings between these two teams this season and that means one last chance in 2012-13 that the Wolves will have to snap that inane 21-game losing streak to the L.A. Lakers. The Wolves haven't won a game vs. the Lakers since March 6, 2007. The result was a 117-107 double overtime win.
In the previous two meetings the Lakers cruised to double-digit victories: 2/1 vs. LAL, 111-100L & 2/28 @LAL, 116-94L.
The Lakers (36-35) are currently the 8th seed in the Western Conference, but thanks to a recent three-game losing streak, they're just one game ahead of #9 and in serious danger of slipping out of the playoffs. Let's hope they do just that!
During the Lakers' current three-game losing streak, Los Angeles is allowing opponents to shoot 42% from downtown. The Wolves have struggled shooting from deep this season (just 30%), however they've shot over 50% from 3PT in their last two games. The Wolves hit a season high 14 three-pointers in their win over Detroit on Tuesday.
The Wolves continue to play on without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip). The Lakers will be without Jordan Hill who continues to recover from hip surgery and their starting small forward Metta World Peace. MWP tore his lateral meniscus in Monday's game vs. the Golden State Warriors. This is the same injury that Chase Budinger suffered on November 10th and he just returned late last week. It goes without saying that MWP's season is over.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
I assume Earl Clark will step back into a starter's role without Metta World Peace, however the Lakers could also choose to start Antawn Jamison (9.2P, 4.8R, 0.4S) at that small forward position.
The biggest concern will be Kobe Bryant. The Wolves simply don't have an answer for him defensively. The defender that could match up with him the best is Mickael Gelabale and since Chase Budinger has returned, Gelly has played in 3 of the 4 games and a combined 11 minutes (all of which were 'garbage' time--when the game was already decided). In the previous two meetings we saw a lot of 2-3 zone from the TWolves...I wouldn't be surprised to see some more of that--especially if Nikola Pekovic gets into early foul trouble.
This one is set for 7pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves have won consecutive road games for the first time since March of 2012. This is also the first time in franchise history that the Wolves have won consecutive road games, each by 20+ points!
It was thanks in large part to the Wolves continuing their current hot shooting. Over the past three games the Wolves have shot 53.2% @PHX, 50% vs. CHI and now 53.2% @DET. Tonight was also the second game that the Wolves have shot over 50% from deep.
The Wolves hit a season-high 14 three-pointers en-route to a 23-point victory.
Nikola Pekovic (8), Luke Ridnour (7) and Ricky Rubio (4) combined to score all 19 of the Timberwolves' first quarter points. They went to Pekovic early and often in that first quarter to establish that low-post presence.
That continued on into the second quarter as Pek added another 6 points and Dante chipped in 6 of his own. By halftime the Wolves were up 44-38.
'Historically' this season the Wolves have suffered major letdowns in the second halves of games. It certainly something that wasn't out of the question as the third quarter began, however those fears quickly dissipated as the Wolves erupted for 38 points, while holding Detroit to just 16. Each starter scored at least 4 points: Kirilenko led with 9 points, Rubio had 8, Luke & DWill each had 6, Pek had 4 and Budinger added another 5 off the bench.
By the end of the third quarter the Wolves were up 82-54 and they set this one on auto-pilot as the reserves played the final twelve minutes and Minnesota secured their 25th win of the season.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
J.J. Barea led the team in scoring thanks to his 14-point fourth quarter. Nikola Pekovic faired very well in our key matchup of the game. Pek went head-to-head with another young, promising and rising center in this League: Greg Monroe. Pek had little trouble scoring as he went for 18 & 11 in this one on 7-of-10 shooting, while holding Monroe to just 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Pek certainly won that battle.
Our other key matchup was the battle of the Spaniards. Two good friends going head-to-head at the point guard position: Jose Calderon vs. Ricky Rubio. Surprisingly, Calderon finished with just 1 assist on the night, but did lead his team in scoring with 14.
The Wolves' 14 threes made is a new season-high and their 87.5% FT is their second best mark of the season. However, the Wolves' 7 free throws made and 8 free throw attempts are both the second-lowest numbers on the year. There weren't a whole lot of fouls called in this one. Just 26 personal fouls were called between these two teams. The Pistons were whistled for just 12 fouls and that's a new season-low for a Timberwolves opponent.
The Wolves, now 25-44 will head back home tonight to face the Los Angeles Lakers at the Target Center on Wednesday night. Stay tuned for a preview of that one! Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves (24-44) travel to Detroit to face the Pistons (24-47) on Tuesday night. Two teams that had their hearts set on returning to the playoffs and now, two teams that are lotto bound this summer.
This is the first of two meetings between these two (they'll play again on April 6th in Minnesota). The most recent meeting came in April of last year (4/19) in Detroit. The result was a 91-80 win for the Wolves. Pek led the way in that one with 23 points & 9 rebounds.
The Wolves have gone 1-9 in their last 10 road games, with their most recent game away from home was the lone win in a blowout over the Suns in Phoenix. The Wolves will be searching for back-to-back road wins for the first time since March 2012. The Wolves are 8-27 on the road this season.
The Detroit Pistons are on a six-game home losing streak and will be looking to snap that skid. Detroit snapped a 10-game losing streak on Saturday against the Bobcats in Charlotte. Charlie Villanueva hit a go-ahead basket with 15 seconds to play for a 91-92 win.
Before the Pistons' W on Saturday, they were allowing 111.8 points per game on 54.7% FG in their previous six contests. The Wolves are coming off two solid offensive outings with that win over the Suns on Saturday and the loss to the Bulls on Sunday. Hopefully the Pistons can fall back into their defensive woes and the Wolves can continue their hot streak.
The Wolves have won two-straight and four of six on the road in this series.
This is the start of eight games in the next twelve days for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Kirilenko had this to say about Detroit: "Dont look at their record. We can't afford that. We have to go in there and fight hard and get those wins."
They'll try to do that without three of their players. Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) are all out for this one.
The Pistons will be playing without backup point guard Willy Bynum and backup center Andre Drummond. Bynum is dealing with a hand injury that could potentially shut him down for the season and Drummond is still trying to recover from that back injury that shut him down in early February.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
The big concern will be Greg Monroe. Their leading scorer and rebounder against our leading (active) scorer and rebounder.
Another good matchup will be at point guard where good buddies Ricky Rubio & Jose Calderon will go head-to-head. The two Spaniards known for their playmaking capabilities and friends from the national team will match up in this one.
Tipoff for this one is set for 6:30pmCT from the Palace of Auburn Hills, enjoy the game and thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
For the fourth consecutive season, the Chicago Bulls have swept the season series vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Despite Chicago's recent struggles on the road (1-5 in last 6 coming in), the rough month and a half they've had: 9-14 since the beginning of last February and the fact that they were coming off a narrow victory over the Pacers on Saturday, the Bulls handed the Wolves their 44th L on the year.
Chicago has now won 7-straight game vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves and they did so tonight without two of their top three players: Derrick Rose (ACL) & Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis).
Despite a career night from Derrick Williams thanks to an explosive second half where he scored 23 of his 28 points to tie a career-high, set just four games ago in a win over the Hornets.
Despite playing without Derrick Rose & Joakim Noah, the Bulls got big games from Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng & Carlos Boozer to boost them to a 7-point W. Even though the Bulls were shorthanded and playing in the second game of a back-to-back, Tom Thibodeau used an 8-man rotation. Starting Hinrich, Butler, Deng, Boozer & Mohammed and bringing Robinson, Cook & Gibson off the bench.
For once the Wolves had more player available than their opponent, but it didn't matter in this one. Every time the Wolves put together any kind of run to pull themselves within striking distance, the Bulls would muster enough energy to boost the score back to double digits.
Tonight's box score...
Williams was instrumental in keeping this one close with that huge second half, however beyond him & Rubio there were more negatives than positives in individual performances tonight. Rubio had yet another big game he stuffed the stat sheet as usual, but also as usual, he had plenty of intangibles to his game and things that don't show up in the box score that really aided the team. His energy, his spirit, his hustle, his defense and most recently his fearlessness when driving to the rim for layups that more and more end in made baskets or him parading to the free throw line.
I said in the our gameday preview that the Bulls would need big performances from Deng & Boozer and that Robinson was likely to score (at least) 15 points in this one. Well...Boozer & Deng both finished in double figures and Robinson led the team with 22 points & 10 assists in 34 minutes off the bench. Chicago finished the night with 5 players in double figures.
The big key to this Chicago win was their hustle and determination on the boards. Noah is Chicago's leading rebounder with 11.4 a game and without him the entire team knew they had to make a concerted effort to get to the loose balls. The Bulls tallied up 20 offensive rebounds and ended the game with a +20 advantage overall.
If Derrick Rose ever decides to come back this season and Noah's foot heals up, they could make some noise as a late seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
The Wolves play again on Tuesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit to face the Pistons. Stay tuned for a preview of that one, until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves are seeking back-to-back wins and if accomplished, it will be the first time since a four-game stretch in December that they achieve that feat.
They'll look to do so against a Bulls team that's trending downward as the season comes to an end. Chicago is also searching for back-to-back wins in quite some time. The Bulls have achieved that feat only once since the beginning of February.
The TWolves are 24-43 this season, 16-16 at home and 4-6 in their last ten games. The Bulls are 37-31, 18-15 on the road and 4-6 in their last ten games.
The Bulls are 9-14 since the beginning of last month as they continue to lose key players to injury and Derrick Rose's season hangs in limbo. From everything we've heard from Rose this season, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't play till 2013-14. He's been quoted as saying that he's leaving his return 'up to God' and also that he won't come back until he's 110%. Since that's mathematically impossible, can we assume he's going to retire? :)
The Bulls could really use a boost right now as the body count on the IR continues to pile up. In addition to Rose, Richard Hamitlon is currently dealing with some back spasms that have him 'out indefinitely'. Kirk Hinrich played last night, but left the game early and didn't return after suffering a thigh bruise, he'll be questionable for this one. Joakim Noah didn't play in the Bulls' win over Indiana last night (87-84) as he's dealing with plantar fasciitis, he's doubtful for this one.
The Wolves continue to play on without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip). They've gotten quite a bit healthier in the past couple weeks: Andrei Kirilenko & Nikola Pekovic both returned from lengthy absences last week and on Thursday, Chase Budinger played his first game since tearing his lateral meniscus back on Nov. 10th.
In fact, that game on 11/10 was against the Bulls in Chicago. A game that they won 80-87. It was during that game that Chase suffered his knee injury that would keep him out over four months. The injury occurred when Chase was shoved from behind by Taj Gibson & Marco Belinelli underneath the basket. Chase fell to the floor and had to be helped off the court and to the locker room. You can find the play in a recap of that game on Youtube and decide for yourself if it was a dirty play or not. I don't really think so...but I still don't like it!
The Bulls have won their last six meetings against the Wolves, including three-straight games in Minneapolis. The Wolves will look to take advantage of the Bulls' recent struggles on the road (1-5 in their last 6) and the fact that they're undermanned and playing in the second game of a back-to-back set.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
If Hinrich is unable to play with that thigh bruise, expect Nate Robinson (12.2P, 2.2R, 4.4A, 1.1S) to get the start at point guard and of course, if Joakim Noah (12.1P, 11.4R, 4.1A, 1.2S, 2.2B) is able to play, he'll start at center. Just looking at those stats for Noah, I really didn't know he was putting up those kinds of numbers! Really doing it all for this Rose-less Bulls team.
And that's another thing, with Derrick Rose out, the Bulls have relied VERY heavily on Luol Deng & Joakim Noah. Deng is averaging 38.9mpg, while Noah averages 37.7 a game. As the Bulls season has reached 68 games, that begins to take a big toll on a player, playing those big minutes. Hence the recent string of injuries suffered by a number of Chicago's key players.
The big concerns will be Luol Deng & Carlos Boozer. Without Noah, those two are going to be asked to do it all for the Bulls. Robinson will probably chip in 15 points & Belinelli will add a couple of threes, but if the Bulls are going to pull out a win, it'll be through big games from Luol & Carlos. I also would expect them to play a little harder on D, considering they don't have a lot of offensive firepower to turn to. My guess is this will be a game decided in that late 80s-early 90s final.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 6pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!