We knew it wasn't going to be pretty going in and the Minnesota Timberwolves didn't disappoint. They turned in another terrible performance against the Clippers and are a team that has most certainly given up as the season dwindles down.
In the face of adversity and a big run by the Clippers, it was Minnesota's starters that played terrible basketball. In a season in which the second unit has been the achilles heel, tonight, they were the only guys who played well.
The third quarter killed the Timberwolves as the Clippers built a huge lead on the back of their transition offense and the typical no-defense Timberwolves.
With the Wolves down by 22 after three quarters, Adelman turned to a second unit of J.J. Barea, Shabazz Muhammad, Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel & Dante Cunningham. This was the unit that put them back into the game and a big part of that was the offense of Muhammad who scored 7-straight points for the Wolves while they rattled off a big run to cut the lead to 12. Shortly thereafter, Rivers put his starters back in. They calmed the storm a bit, but the second unit came storming back to cut the lead to 8. Not a single Wolves starter played in the fourth quarter. The way the performed in the third quarter and they certainly didn't deserve to.
The story of the game was that the starters dug too big a hole for the second unit to pull out of in the final quarter. That is something we haven't said all season...usually it's the other way around; with the second unit blowing leads or getting outplayed and falling into a big deficit the starters can't recover from.
Watching Muhammad, Budinger & Hummel play together was the only enjoyable aspect about tonight's game. They put together excellent fourth quarters and made the final twelve minutes a little more enjoyable after one of the worst outings from the starting unit we've seen this season.
Muhammad finished with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting along with 3 rebounds & 1 assist in 12 minutes (all in the fourth quarter). Budinger finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals & 1 block. Robbie Hummel had his best offensive game of his NBA career. He finished with season-highs in points (11) and three-pointers made (3), also adding 2 rebounds, 3 assists & 1 steal.
Kevin Love led the team with 20 points & 13 rebounds along with 4 assists & 1 steal. However, in a game in which Blake Griffin (back) was out and Jared Dudley started at power forward, Love should've had a huge game. Instead, he finished with 20 points on 21 shots in 29 minutes and a -30 in +/-. He's been shouldering the load all year long and if anyone should be excused for an off-night (or couple of nights) it's Kevin Love.
The Clippers also played without Jamal Crawford (calf), J.J. Redick (back) and Danny Granger (hamstring).
The Wolves got within 8 points multiple times late in the fourth quarter, but that is as close as they'd get, the Clippers walked out of the Target Center with a 104-114 win. The Wolves will be back in action Wednesday night vs. the Grizzlies, that one tips at 7pmCST from the Target Center.
When the Minnesota Timberwolves lose by 15 points to that Brooklyn Nets team, you know they've officially given up on the year. There's no reason that a team without three of their Top 5 or 6 players should beat the Wolves like they did tonight.
The Brooklyn Nets are playing without Brook Lopez (foot) who is out for the season. They were also without Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) and Kevin Garnett (back) for tonight's game. Despite that and the obvious mismatches a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce & Mason Plumlee should've outdone Minnesota.
Don't get me wrong, there is some tremendous talent in Brooklyn, but watching them play, they seem very disjointed in running their offensive sets. Nothing really seems to flow. I say nothing seems to flow and yet they score 114 points.
Paul Pierce's 22 points & Joe Johnson's 19 aided the Nets in their triumph over the Wolves. These two teams met earlier in the year when the Nets were one of the worst teams in the NBA. They've figured some things out since then and are a likely 5th or 6th seed in the East playoffs next month.
With 10 games to go in the season, it appears that the Wolves who have all but technically fallen out of the playoff race, have called it a season and are looking forward to another playoff-less spring in Minnesota.
Kevin Love had another off night. He scored 14 points on 14 shots along with 9 rebounds and 3 assists in 33 minutes. He also seemed to injure himself in the final minutes of the game. He came out with just over two minutes to play with an apparent knee injury, though it didn't appear to be anything serious.
Corey Brewer & Kevin Martin once again led the team in scoring with 21 points apiece on very good offensive nights for the Wolves swingmen. Unfortunately, Minnesota's downfall came from the play of their second unit. Shocker...right?! The Wolves bench led by Barea, Budinger, Mbah a Moute, Dieng & Cunningham started the second quarter with the Nets up 3. Within the first few minutes, the Wolves found themselves down by 12 points.
Adelman eventually had no choice, but to put the starters back in. They got the Wolves back into the game, erased the deficit and actually took a 6-point lead at one point in the third quarter. However, another spurt from the Nets helped them roll to a 99-114 victory.
If the Wolves truly have given up on the season, it is going to be an ugly last 10 games. Minnesota's last ten opponents in order: Clippers, Grizzlies, Heat, Magic, Spurs, Bulls, Rockets, Kings, Warriors & Jazz. The Wolves will be lucky to end the year with more than 3 or 4 more wins.
The Wolves will face the Clippers tomorrow night, back at the Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST, try to enjoy the game.
Led by Kevin Love's second career triple-double and the return of Nikola Pekovic, the Minnesota Timberwolves blew out their second-straight opponent, with this one even more convicing than the last.
Love played just 29 minutes, but managed a 22-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. As a matter of fact, Love grabbed his 10th rebound just as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter just in front of the Wolves bench as they stood and cheered. Love became the first player in Timberwolves history to finish with a triple-double in less than 30 minutes played.
Nikola Pekovic got rolling early and the likes of Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly & Jordan Hill didn't stand much of a chance of slowing down the big fella. In the first quarter, Pek played 7 minutes and went a perfect 4-4 FG & 4-4 FT for 12 points. He finished shooting 90% (9-10) from the field, 8-for-8 from the line along with 3 rebounds and 26 points.
The Wolves controlled this one from the tip and they didn't let up at all. They scored 41 in the first quarter to take a 17-point lead and added another 33 points in the second quarter to take a 31-point lead at halftime. Those 74 points in the first two quarters set a new season-high for points in a half and fell just three shy of tying the franchise record.
With no Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol and playing with an injured Steve Nash (who is a shell of the former MVP he was) hasn't got it done for the Lakers this season. I've been caught off guard by the Lakers fans that think they'll have a quick turnaround next season. They'll be paying Kobe $48million over the next two years and it remains to be seen if he'll return to the court anywhere near the All-Star level. He tried this season and failed miserably. At 35 years old, I'm not so sure he can return to anywhere near that level...though if anyone could do it, it's Kobe Bryant. Add to that the $7million-plus they have to pay Nash and the fact that they're likely to lose Pau Gasol in free agency, if I'm a free agent, I don't want any part of what has become a toxic LA environment these last couple seasons.
The Wolves got a good win and avoided any mistakes over the inferior team. By the end, Alexey Shved was lobbing dimes to Gorgui Dieng & Shabazz Muhammad for alley-oops...it was that kind of a night.
Here are a few things I liked about tonight's game...
Nikola Pekovic's return to the starting lineup and the 'issue' it creates with, does Pek or Dieng start? When you have two talented big men who deserve big minutes in the frontcourt, that is the exact type of situation you want. It will definitely be interesting to see how Adelman manages the minutes at center between Pek & Dieng in these final 11 games.
The J.J. Barea to Dante Cunningham alley-oop! The oops from Shved to Dieng and Shved to Muhammad & Shved to Dieng! Alley-oops for everyone!!
A game like this where everyone on the roster gets minutes. Granted, the game became a glorified pickup game at some point early in the second quarter, it was still nice to see Shved running the point, Shabazz & Hummel getting some fourth quarter minutes and even Mbah a Moute getting extended minutes checking Nick Young, Jodie Meeks & Kent Bazemore.
Kevin Love's triple-double and the fact that he grabbed that 10th rebound as the third quarter buzzer sounded. It just puts the cherry on a easy win in a season when the Wolves have struggled in so many close games.
That the Lakers suck. It isn't very often that the Lakeshow is terrible. These past two seasons, they've been bad. They were mediocre a year ago and they're absolutely dreadful this year. As a Wolves fan who has been drug through 10-years of playoff-less basketball, it's nice to see a team and a city that takes winning for granted, lose and fail so miserably. Fair weather Laker fans have left their team proven that by the STAPLES Center suddenly not being the hot ticket in LA and sold out every night.
A few things I didn't like about tonight's game...
Just one: Jordan Hill's hair. What in the hell?!
How can you dislike anything about a game in which the Wolves score 143 points and win by 36?!
That's all for now, the Wolves will be back in action on Sunday evening in Brooklyn, when they take on the Nets at the Barclays Center, tipoff is set for 5pmCST, enjoy the game!
The Atlanta Hawks are without two of their best players and a couple of role players, but they didn't get any sympathy from the Minnesota Timberwolves who had little struggle completely dismantling this reeling Hawks squad.
Tonight's win snapped a 3-game losing streak, but in one way this win is slightly bittersweet. The Wolves just infantilized the Hawks tonight as a lot of their opponents as of late have been doing. The Hawks came into tonight's contest losers of 17 of their last 23 outings. Despite that rough stretch, they're still the Eastern Conference's 8th seed. Eight games under .500 at 31-39 and the Hawks are still most likely playoff-bound?! Even more baffling? The Western Conference has three teams (Phoenix, Minnesota & Denver) all with better records than the Hawks. All three of those teams currently sit out of the playoff picture. Forget trying to fix tanking, sleeved jerseys or expansion--new NBA commissioner Adam Silver has to do something about the way the playoffs are constructed.
Grantland had a short little article a couple days ago that showed what the current standings would look like in a Sweet 16 bracket...
No more divisions, no more conferences. The best 16 teams make the playoffs. Period. What's even more frustrating is that teams like the Bobcats & Hawks that are under .500 and on their way to the playoffs are playing more games against these terrible Eastern Conference teams--they face teams like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando & Boston three or four times a year, instead of the two meetings Western Conference teams get. Sure, they face Miami & Indiana more...but outside of those two powerhouses, the rest of the East is slightly above average, at best.
I doesn't matter much right now. The Wolves will miss the playoffs for the tenth-consecutive season and the Atlanta Hawks will get swept by either Indiana or Miami in the first round.
Tonight's win was powered by stellar performances from Corey Brewer & Kevin Martin, each of whom finished with a game-high 18 points; rookie Gorgui Dieng who notched another double-double with 15 & 15 (his 5th in 6-straight starts); and Ricky Rubio who despite shooting just 1-for-6 from the field, dished out 10 assists & 6 steals and was ultra aggressive throughout.
Kevin Love finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds & 4 assists in 29 minutes of action. It was certainly not the Love we're accustomed to, but with so many others playing well, he seemed more than happy to delegate a bit to his teammates. The results speak for themselves. I'm not saying Love should delegate to his teammates more, I'm simply saying that, that was what tonight's game called for and he had no problem playing that role. There have been/will be plenty of other nights in which they've relied on him to put the team on his back and he's responded in a lot of those situations as well.
The Hawks were playing without their starting center Al Horford who is out for the season with a shoulder injury and their sharpshooting swingman Kyle Korver who sat with back spasms. Also out for the year, role players Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) & John Jenkins (back).
Without Korver, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer turned to a starting unit that featured four forwards (DeMarre Carroll, Mike Scott, Paul Millsap & Pero Antic) & point guard Jeff Teague. It created some mismatches with Brewer guarding Scott & Martin guarding Carroll, but it also created some mismatches with Scott guarding Brewer & Carroll guarding Martin. With 18 apiece for both Martin & Brewer, we know that those mismatches certainly worked in Minnesota's favor, most of the night.
Tonight was the first time the Wolves have held an opponent under 100 points since March 1st vs. Sacramento (97) and under 85 for the first time since January 29 vs. New Orleans (77). Tonight's game was also just the fifth time all season they've held a team under 85 points. It's also the first time they've held an opponent under 45% shooting since their March 7th win over the Pistons (40.4%) and under 40% for the first time since their February 12 win over the Nuggets (39.3%).
With tonight's win the Wolves move back to .500 on the year. They've hovered around that mark for the majority of the season and it remains likely that the Wolves will likely finish with 40-41 wins and a record of 40-42 or 41-41. Wouldn't it be nice to see them take their final twelve games this season? Yes, but with the inconsistency this squad has shown all year long, it's assonine to think they could suddenly pull it together for a final push--finishing the year on a 13-game winning streak (especially considering they still have to play the Clippers, Nets, Rockets, Spurs, Heat, Grizzlies, Bulls & Warriors).
The Wolves will be back in action on Friday night, when they host the Los Angeles Lakers at the Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST, enjoy the game!
The Minnesota Timberwolves turned in yet another stinker, as such, they're now on a three-game losing streak.
During this three-game losing streak the Wolves have yet to hold an opponent under 50% shooting from the field. Tonight, the Grizzlies shot 52.7% from the field which is actually the lowest during the three-game losing streak!
Add to that, the fact that the Wolves haven't held an opponent under 100 points since March 1st, as Minnesota's last 11 opponents have scored 101 or more. It's clear that the Wolves are playing their worst basketball at the most inopportune time.
The Wolves will finish out of the playoff picture for a tenth consecutive season (the longest such stretch for any NBA team). The race for the bottom two seeds in the West is down to three teams: Phoenix, Memphis & Dallas.
If the Wolves can remain in 10th place in the West, they'll keep their lottery pick in the upcoming draft. If they finish 9th in the West, they'll be the best team that doesn't make the playoffs and finish with the 14th pick, which means the pick would go to the Suns.
As per usual, another season winds down with Wolves Nation looking forward to the draft and not the postseason.
The one thing that sticks out to me these last few weeks is the Timberwolves' complete disregard for playing any kind of scheme resembling an effective NBA defense. When you allow opponents to shoot over 50% from the field and score in the 100s every night out, you're not going to win games.
After Minnesota's loss to the Suns on Sunday afternoon, Adelman came out and said the Wolves problem in the second half of that game was that "We didn't score". He's certainly correct, but if the Wolves had made any kind of effort on defense, perhaps they wouldn't have allowed Phoenix to score 127 points and shoot 57.5% from the field. This team's problem isn't scoring, it's preventing the other team from doing so.
Tonight was more the same and unlike in most games, the Wolves were flat from the start. Minnesota is the NBA's best first quarter scoring team and the NBA's worst shooting fourth quarter team. They held true to that putrid shooting mark, but they scored just 15 points in the first quarter while they average more than double that mark. It was all bad from the get go and the Wolves are now one game below .500--truly one step forward (two games over .500) and ten steps back.
Kevin Love had one of his worst outings of the year. He finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds & 4 assists in 34 minutes, but finished with a -32 in +/-. I don't think I've ever seen him finish with a worse +/-. He was the worst on the team, followed by a -26 from Rubio & a -20 from Martin. When you're Top 3 (healthy) players struggle like they did tonight, the Wolves (with one of the NBA's worst bench) don't really stand a chance.
Gorgui Dieng finished with his fourth career double-double in his 5-straight start. He finished with 11 points & 17 rebounds along with 1 assist & 1 steal. Needless to say, I'm glad I picked him up for the fantasy playoffs! His future in the NBA and with the Wolves definitely incites some excitement in yet another disappointing season.
Mike Conley led the charge for the Grizzlies with his 23 points, Zach Randolph added 17 and without Nikola Pekovic to counter Memphis' bruising big man, Marc Gasol finished with 14 points & 12 rebounds.
The Wolves will continue their march to the NBA Draft Lottery on Wednesday night vs. the Atlanta Hawks at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST.
The Wolves have squandered more double digit leads this season than I even care to think about. Tonight, the Wolves led by as many as 22 points, but the end result is a 7-point loss to the Phoenix Suns. While the Wolves won't technically be eliminated from the postseason for another couple weeks, this game is most certainly a backbreaker for those that were still holding out.
The saddest thing about this game is that anyone who was watching it and saw the Wolves score 41 points in the first quarter and 73 points total in the first half (a season-high) knew that their offensive onslaught wouldn't last. As per usual, they'd get complacent and just seemingly stop trying, allowing the opponent to get back in the game in seal the deal late in the fourth.
It's a blueprint that the Wolves have followed an inordinate amount of times this season.
The Wolves were led by another near triple-double effort from Kevin Love. For the third time this season he finished just one assist shy of a triple-double: 36 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists & 2 steals.
Ricky Rubio continued his aggressive play. He may be playing the best and most efficient basketball of his NBA career these past couple weeks. Ricky finished with 19 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists & 3 steals.
The Wolves just looked sloppy down the stretch and it almost seemed as if they expected things to come to them. A trait they've consistently shown all year long. The biggest difference between these two clubs is that while the Wolves have the more talented roster, the Suns play hard 48 minutes a night and each one of their players is put into a position to succeed and contribute. Needless to say, the same can't be said about the Timberwolves.
It's obvious that a quartet of Love, Rubio, Pek & Martin should trump Dragic, Bledsoe, Green & Markieff. It should, but it hasn't. Perhaps it's an entitled attitude and an assumption that you're far superior to your opponent that you can give less than 100% and expect to win. Unfortunately that's just one of many flaws for this Wolves team this season.
The Suns got down early in this game, but they maintained their composure and took it one play at a time. That strategy allowed them to cut a once 22-point lead to 11 points at halftime and for the remaining two quarters they continued to chip away at the deficit. Ultimately, they were able to get over the hump in the final minutes and the Wolves' poor execution in those final minutes would be their ultimate demise. The Suns went on to win by 7 and also win the season series 2-1.
Back to .500! With this loss the Wolves fall 6 games out of the 8th seed, while the Phoenix Suns are now 0.5 games behind the Grizzlies for 8th. Minnesota will travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies tomorrow night at the Fed Ex Forum. Tipoff: 7pmCST.
Dieng has gotten better with each game he's started and tonight his production reached an impressive pinnacle. Gorgui scored 22 points & grabbed 21 rebounds and became the first Wolves rookie to finish with a 20-20 game (and just the 5th player overall).
Unfortunately it wasn't enough as the Wolves were dismantled by a Rockets team playing without their center (the best in the game) Dwight Howard. In his place, stepped Omer Asik, who would be an NBA starter on quite a few teams (which makes Dieng's stat line a bit more impressive).
Led by James Harden and Chandler Parsons the Rockets were able to overcome a typical hot start by the Timberwolves. It was Minnesota's typical 30+ point first quarter, followed by three ensuing quarters of shoddy basketball on both ends. If the Wolves could play a fraction as well as they do in the first quarters, they'd be a playoff basketball team.
Ultimately, with tonight's loss, the Wolves can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye. Now through 67 games, the Wolves have just 15 games to go and they now sit six full games behind Dallas/Memphis for a final seed in the Western Conference playoffs. To make the postseason, the Wolves would need to play near perfect basketball and hope for an epic collapse from one of the above teams. Unlikely and improbable, but not impossible. Just to be clear, I don't think it is at all possible; at least not for this group of Wolves that just seem afraid to succeed.
The Timberwolves led early in this one thanks to a great first quarter and as per usual, Adelman put the second unit into the game and they squandered the lead. By doing so, they got the Rockets going and even when Adelman turned back to his starting unit, it proved to little to late.
The Rockets led by 16 points after three quarters and Adelman decided the game was too far out of reach and the only starter to see any fourth quarter minutes was Gorgui Dieng (mainly because he usually is a reserve and he's currently the only true [healthy] center on the roster).
Tonight's box score...
Gorgui's 22 points, 22 rebounds & 4 assists in 38 minutes are all new career-highs. It'll be interesting to see if/when Pekovic and/or Ronny Turiaf return how Dieng's role changes...the bigger question should become: should it?
What I Liked About Tonight's Game...
What I Disliked About Tonight's Game...
Rant over...I feel much better. The Wolves are back in action on Sunday afternoon when they'll take on the Suns back in Minneapolis at the Target Center. Tipoff is an early 2:30pmCST.
Ricky Rubio put on quite a display on Wednesday night in Dallas as his Timberwolves outlasted Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks for their 34th win of the season.
The Wolves got going very early in this game. They forced the Mavericks into a lot of early turnovers that led to a lot of easy transition buckets. Corey Brewer scored 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter and the majority of them were run-outs on the break.
Even when the Wolves weren't getting transition baskets, they were running very simple offensive sets that ended in wide open layups at the rim.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle was livid in the first half of the game. He burned through 4 of his timeouts in the first thirteen-and-a-half minutes of the game. Apparently, whatever he said in that fourth timeout, his Mavericks took it to heart.
The Mavericks committed to playing at least a little defense and outscored the Wolves 20-35 in the final ten and a half minutes of the first half, capped by a Vince Carter buzzer beater three just prior to halftime.
Things didn't come as easy for the Wolves through the remainder of the game (at least not like they did in the first quarter). They shot over 65% in the first quarter and finished the night shooting just under 48%.
The Mavericks struggled on offense and that was slightly hampered by Monta Ellis. Ellis got into early foul trouble and it plagued him for the majority of the game. Vince Carter also struggled with foul trouble and he picked up his sixth with 2:16 remaining in overtime.
When you couple that with Dirk Nowitzki's 11-for-27 shooting (including 0-for-7 from deep) and it's hard to combat a hungry Wolves team.
The Wolves held a 22-point advantage early in the second quarter, but the Mavericks were able to battle back before halftime and keep this one close for the remainder.
The Mavericks actually took a brief lead late in the fourth quarter thanks to Monta Ellis, who scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth. He had an and-one and scored three-consecutive triples to give his team a 111-113 lead with 1:25 to play. Rubio's two free throws with 50.1 seconds to play made it 113-all. The two teams exchanged a couple misses to finish regulation and send the game into overtime.
The Mavericks scored the first five points of overtime, but the Wolves fought back with buckets from Brewer & Rubio. Shortly thereafter Vince Carter picked up his sixth foul by fouling Kevin Love attempting a three-pointer. Love made all three free throws and finished with 6 of Minnesota's 10 overtime points including what ended up being the game winner (with four Mavericks defenders surrounding him). Dirk Nowitzki's shot just before the buzzer clanged off the back rim and was rebounded by Brewer, who hit the floor as time expired.
Tonight's box score...
Things I Liked About Tonight's Game...
Things I Didn't Like...
I'm sure there were a few more, but that's all I've got for now. The Wolves will be right back in action tomorrow night in Houston vs. the Howard-less Rockets. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST, enjoy!
Nikola Pekovic and DeMarcus Cousins were both unavailable for tonight's game with lower body injuries. As such, each team turned to their reserve center and in Minnesota's case that meant third-string center rookie Gorgui Dieng.
In his first career start, Dieng finished with his first career double-double. He set new season-highs in points (12), rebounds (11) and blocks (5) in a season-high 37 minutes.
Dieng provided the rim protector the Wolves have been missing since losing Ronny Turiaf to that knee injury. Dieng blocked 5 shots and altered another half dozen. If Pek is going to miss extended time, Adelman may decide to stick with Dieng at center (instead of Dante Cunningham who he has started before when both Pek & Turiaf are out of the lineup).
The Wolves got great production from their stand-in center and just as the last time these two teams met, Kevin Martin had little trouble scoring at will against rookie Ben McLemore. Martin finished with a game-high 31 points which included a number of clutch free throws down the stretch that helped seal the two-point victory, hitting a perfect 14 for 14.
Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas got hot late and brought his Kings all the way back. The Kings couldn't get the stops down the stretch.
The Kings are the only team in the NBA with three 20+ point per game scorers: Isaiah Thomas, Rudy Gay & DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins sat this out this one with knee tendinitis and Gay played just 26 minutes and finished with 14 points on 40% shooting. Thomas was the only one to hit that 20+ with 27. Thomas scored 9 of those points in the fourth quarter, with all 9 coming in the final two minutes and 7 of those 9 coming in the final 17 seconds.
This Kings team obviously employs former Wolves forward Derrick Williams. He was sent to Sacramento in November for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. His play in Sacramento mirrors what he did in Minnesota--the occasional awe-inspiring game combined with a lot of inconsistent play in the majority of his outings.
Williams says he gets 'turned up' going against his former squad. Unfortunately he can't seem to exert that kind of energy and effort in every contest. He finished with a double-double: 26 & 11 in 28 minutes off the bench.
The Wolves were out-rebounded once again, finishing with 35 rebounds for the second-straight outing. They also allowed their opponents to shoot a high percentage from the field, but made up for that disparity by attempting 19 more free throws and hitting 16 more. They also limited their turnovers, while forcing Sacramento into 17 of their own.
As promised, Adelman shortened his rotations and that meant limited minutes for guys like Mbah a Moute (6) and Budinger (4). It also meant that after playing 14-straight games and giving the Wolves some production, Shabazz Muhammad received a DNP-CD. Instead, Adelman turned to Robbie Hummel and it proved to be beneficial. Robbie came in and in his first 60 seconds on the floor he scored 4 quick points and drew a charge on Derrick Williams. As the season winds down, it'll be interesting to see how Adelman handles his rotations especially if/when Pek & Turiaf return (and if guys like Muhammad, Hummel & Dieng continue to provide production off the bench).
The Wolves move to 33-32 on the year and head into a critical three-game stretch this week, with a back-to-back Texas Two Step: Wednesday in Dallas & Thursday in Houston, followed up by a Sunday matinee in Phoenix. All Western Conference teams vying for a playoff spot (though Houston has a spot practically wrapped up).
Tipoff on Wednesday night is set for 7:30pmCST from Dallas.
Former Timberwolf Al Jefferson and newly-acquired Gary Neal had little trouble taking down a Timberwolves squad that seemed intent on giving a lackluster effort for the second-straight outing.
The Wolves went through the motions on Tuesday night, but were able to pull out a victory thanks to some late execution vs. the Bucks. Tonight, the Wolves allowed Charlotte to get any and every shot they wanted and as expected, the result was an easy win for the playoff-bound Cats.
The Wolves have had their defensive deficiencies this season and tonight was another key highlight as they didn't even try to stop the Bobcats from getting easy buckets. Charlotte found that out early and they just never let up, relentlessly attacking the rim against a listless Wolves squad.
The last time these two teams met, Al Jefferson scored 8 points in the first quarter and then was held scoreless for the remaining 36 minutes. Tonight he avenged that off-night with a 25 & 16 outing. Those are Love-like numbers, unfortunately Love didn't deliver anything close to what he's capable. Love finished with just 18 points & 6 rebounds in 36 minutes, despite matching up with mediocre defenders Josh McRoberts & rookie Cody Zeller the majority of the night.
Love scored 14 of his 18 points in the first quarter and my thought was that he was well on his way to a huge night. Instead he added another 4 points in the second quarter and then was held scoreless for the entire second half.
The Bobcats averaged just over 96 points per game which is bad enough for a bottom-five offense in the NBA. They make up for that with good defense allowing just over 97 points a night--good enough for a Top-five defense. The Wolves allowed the Bobcats to shoot 48% from the field and hit 8 three-pointers. They also were out-rebounded 35-54, edged in points in the paint 38-46 and on the break 10-17.
Just like on Tuesday night, the Wolves came in expecting to win. The difference between tonight's game and Tuesdays is that on Tuesday they were facing the worst team in the NBA and tonight they were going up against a playoff-bound Charlotte squad that has hung their hat on tough D this season.
Granted, if the Bobcats were a Western Conference team they'd be behind the Wolves in the standings and (before tonight's win) 7.5 games out of a playoff spot. Instead, they're the 7th seed out East. You also have to take into account that as an Eastern Conference team you see the NBA's worst teams 3-4 times (Milwaukee, Cleveland, Philadelphia, etc). If they played in the West they'd face those teams just twice and play 1-2 more games against the much more competitive West.
With all that information, all that you can take away is that the Wolves lost to yet another inferior squad and if you thought the playoffs were still a possibility, tonight's loss and the Wolves' effort has to have you thinking differently.
Tonight's box score...
The last time these two teams met, Nikola Pekovic led the team with 26 points and got the better of Big Al in the paint. Tonight, Pek played just 17 minutes and finished with 8 points & 4 rebounds. He played sparingly because of soreness in his ankle (the same one with bursitis). Whether he landed wrong on it or Adelman pushed him to hard playing him major minutes despite the trainers minute-restriction is unknown, but a playoff push becomes near impossible if the Wolves don't have Pekovic and Turiaf. Losing to three inferior Eastern Conference squads (New York, Toronto & Charlotte) the past week and a half doesn't help either.
The Wolves couldn't do anything to stop Jefferson. With Pek sidelined for the second half, they had to turn to Gorgui Dieng for some minutes matched up against Big Al. As expected, Jefferson took the rookie to school and had little trouble maneuvering for easy buckets in the paint. Nikola Pekovic is not only my favorite Wolf, but my favorite player in the NBA. With that being said, I can't help but to think what a Love--Jefferson frontcourt would look like had Kahn not traded Big Al (for Kosta Kofous and two second-rounders).
Gary Neal scored 11 of his 19 points in the second quarter. That second quarter was where the Bobcats really took control of the game. They built a sizable lead and never let the Wolves get too close again. That was thanks in large part to Neal and the rest of the Bobcat bench; Douglas-Roberts added 5 points, Ridnour had 4 and both Zeller & Biyombo contributed 2 in Charlotte's 32-point second quarter.
The Wolves are back to .500 on the season and at this pace they'll be lucky if they win 40 games this season. The Wolves will take on the Sacramento Kings at the Target Center on Sunday night, tipoff will again be at 6pmCST.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!