Caron Butler made things interesting down the stretch, but the Minnesota Timberwolves were able to whether the storm.
Butler came off the bench to score 24 points in 31 minutes. The Wolves led by as many as 19 points in this one, however a late rally courtesy of Butler and the play of reserve guard D.J. Augustin, got the Pistons back into the game.
They were able to tie it at 88 with 1:43 to play. Thaddeus Young hit a three-pointer with 90 seconds to play to put the Wolves up. They'd finish the game on a 9-3 run for the 97-91 victory.
The biggest concern heading into the game for the Wolves had to be the matchup at center. Nikola Pekovic has struggled through the preseason and in last night's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Nikola Pekovic got off to a slow start. He had 6pts on 2-of-6 shooting & 5reb at halftime. Andre Drummond finished the first half with 8pts on 4-of-10 shooting and 8reb.
Nikola Pekovic really got going in the third quarter. He went after Drummond and drew three fouls against Drummond early in the third, forcing him to sit with foul trouble. Pekovic scored 9pts on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with 5reb in that third quarter. Thaddeus Young added 9pts himself and Andrew Wiggins turned around a slow start to the game (0-for-4 from the field in the first half) to score 8pts on 4-of-5 shooting. It was all part of Minnesota's 30-point third quarter that gave them a 10-point lead, 75-65 lead after three quarters.
For the second straight game Thaddeus Young led the team in scoring with 19pts (7-13 FG, 2-4 3PT, 3-3 FT) in addition to 5reb, 2ast, 3stls, 1to, 3fls in 34 minutes. He was a game-high +15 on the night.
Kevin Martin returned to the active roster after missing Wednesday's opener. He came off the bench, while Flip went with the same starting lineup (Rubio, Brewer, Wiggins, Young, Pekovic) and scored 12pts in 20 minutes.
Flip elected to go with his veterans down the stretch, sitting Andrew Wiggins while the game was still "up for grabs". The vets executed with that late push for their first win of the season.
Here's the full box score from tonight's action...
The Minnesota Timberwolves committed just 12 turnovers after coughing the ball up 23 times against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. It's likely a combination of two factors: a more concerted effort for ball control and crisp passing AND facing a weaker team defense. Ricky Rubio turned the ball over 7 times against the Grizzlies in the opener, but committed just 1 turnover in 29 minutes tonight against Detroit. The Wolves have yet to break out their fast break game. They had 11 fast break points tonight.
-Zach LaVine made his NBA debut tonight. He played 5 minutes off the bench, but accumulated no stats. Mo Williams picked up two fouls and he came into the game midway through the second quarter.
-The Wolves have until 11pmCST on Friday night to reach an extension with guard Ricky Rubio. If no deal is struck, Rubio will become a restricted free agent this summer. As of Friday afternoon, the two sides remained about "$6million apart".
The Wolves will be back in action on Saturday when they'll face the Bulls. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST.
The success of the Memphis Grizzlies this season hinges quite a bit on the play of their big men: Zach Randolph & Marc Gasol.
They both got going early taking advantage of their mismatches defensively against Thaddeus Young & Nikola Pekovic.
We saw in the Wolves' last preseason game (vs. the Chicago Bulls) what a pair of big men could do against the Wolves. The Grizzlies knew going in that their offense would run through their big men. Unfortunately the Wolves were ultimately unable to slow them down--hence the reason the Grizz kept going to them in the paint.
Randolph was a beast, finishing with 25pts, 13reb, 1ast, 1stl, 1blk, 5tos, 3fls, 12-16 FG, 1-1 FT in 35 minutes. Amazingly he was able to finish with 25 points and shot just one free throw! Marc Gasol was even more impressive. He scored a game-high 32pts also adding 9reb, 3ast, 2stls, 2blks, 3tos, 1fl, 12-17 FG, 8-10 FT in 37 minutes.
The Grizzlies have a "Big Three" of their own with Z-Bo, Gasol and Michael Conley. Conley had a nice game himself: 16pts, 1reb, 6ast, 1stl, 1to, 3fls, 7-14 FG, 1-4 3PT, 1-3 FT in 34 minutes.
Between the Grizzlies' "Big Three", they shot 65.9% from the field (31-for-47). The rest of the Grizzlies shot just 34.2% from the field (12-for-35).
The Wolves were more balanced offensively. They got GREAT production from their bench. Mo Williams led the second unit with 18pts off the bench to go with 4ast, 1stl, 3tos, 3fls, 6-9 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-4 FT in 26 minutes. Shabazz Muhammad was another key reserve off the bench, also scoring in double figures. Muhammad finished with 13pts on 5-10 FG to go along with 7reb, 1ast, 1stl, 1to, 1fl, 1-2 3PT, 2-4 FT in 23 minutes.
The Wolves were without their starting shooting guard, Kevin Martin. He sat this one out with a sore ankle. In his place, the Wolves started Corey Brewer. He joined Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nikola Pekovic in the starting lineup.
The Wolves definitely could've used Martin tonight, though in his place, guys like Muhammad, Budinger and Williams saw extra time and made the most of it.
Nikola Pekovic struggled mightily going against Marc Gasol--on both sides of the ball. He shot just 2-for-9 from the field and finished with 5pts, 8reb, 1ast, 1blk, 3tos, 2fls, 1-2 FT in 29 minutes. Pekovic definitely got off to a slow start in the preseason and it seems as though that has carried over to the regular season. The Wolves NEED his low-post scoring and rebounding this season. Here's hoping he figures things out sooner, rather than later.
Ricky Rubio had a decent game, however he really struggled with his ball control. Ricky finished with 12pts on 5-12 FG & 2-3 FT along with 6reb, 7ast and 1stl. However, he also committed four personal fouls and turned the ball over 7 (of Minnesota's 23) times. Rubio shouldn't turn the ball over that many times in four games, let alone one!
It was Minnesota's sloppiness that often killed their rhythm. It was often times a lazy pass or trying to get to fancy with the ball that led to a Wolves turnover. If Minnesota happened to be on a little run at that time, that quickly brought their momentum to a halt.
Most impressive for the Wolves? The play from Thaddeus Young. Young was stellar offensively finishing with a team-high 26pts to go along with 4reb, 4ast, 2stls, 1to, 2fls, 10-18 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-4 FT in 34 minutes. He struggled some against the much stronger Zach Randolph, however, like Randolph using his strength--Young took advantage of his quickness and range on the other end and found a lot of easy buckets against the defensively-inept Randolph.
The Wolves did a lot of great thing tonight, however there are certainly aspects that need plenty of work. Taking better care of the basketball should be one major point of emphasis for the Wolves moving forward. Considering they turned the ball over 23 times and were still in a game against a team that should be in the thick of the race for a lower seed in the Western Conference playoffs this year--is good news. Getting Kevin Martin back and Nikola Pekovic going would be a massive help, too.
The Wolves have a VERY quick turnaround. They'll face the Detroit Pistons tomorrow (Thursday) night at the Target Center in their home opener. The Pistons also play on Wednesday night (as I write this they're battling the Denver Nuggets in a close contest midway through the third quarter). Tipoff for Thursday's game is 7pmCST.
A unit consisting of J.J. Barea, Zach LaVine, Chase Budinger, Anthony Bennett and Gorgui Dieng were on the floor for the final five minutes of Friday's game in St. Louis vs. the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls held a 12-point lead and the Wolves appeared to be well on their way to a preseason finale loss. J.J. Barea and Company had other plans. They battled on both ends and over the next three minutes they cut into the lead and with 2:05 to play, Anthony Bennett hit the go-ahead basket to make it 107-106. Two free throws from LaVine with 4.2 seconds to play made it 113-109.
Out of a timeout, Mike Dunleavy hit a turnaround, fadeaway three-pointer, well behind the three-point line. They fouled Thaddeus Young on the inbounds play and he stepped to the line with 0.8 seconds to go with a 113-112 lead. He missed the first free throw. Chicago had no timeouts remaining, so Young missed the second free throw on purpose and a last second Dunleavy heave from three-quarters-court clanged off the backboard as the Wolves escaped with a narrow one-point lead.
The Timberwolves finished their 2014 Preseason with a 5-2 record and finished with a four-game winning streak.
Ricky Rubio led the way for the Timberwolves. He played his best game of the preseason and was very aggressive looking for his shot. He finished with a team-high 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He was definitely confident offensively in this one. Hopefully he uses this game as a springboard moving forward and continues this aggressive play. Ricky also added 2reb, 5ast, 2stls, 3tos, 1fl in 26 minutes.
Thaddeus Young looked good in this one. He struggled a bit dribbling the ball and turned the ball over a few too many times (4tos), however he was en fuego from deep and hit four three-pointers. He finished with 17pts, 2reb, 5stls, 1blk, 4tos, 2fls, 6-10 FG, 4-5 3PT, 1-4 FT in 27 min. He was very impressive defensively. He's going to have nights where he struggles to match up with big men like Pau Gasol. Thad is stronger than he looks and despite being undersized his quickness and athleticism more than make up for those deficiencies. I can't tell you how many times I've watched the Wolves in preseason action and thought (or said) to myself, "Man it's nice to have a power forward who actually tries on defense!" Young won't be the offensive talent that Love was for Minnesota, however his contributions on defense will be a welcome addition for a team lacking interior presence for quite some time now.
Anthony Bennett continued his awesome preseason. He was a part of that unit that brought the Wolves back for the win. He scored 17 points and added 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 foul, 6-10 FG and 5-7 FT in 21 minutes off the bench. He's a completely different player from a year ago and showing the potential and ability that made him the #1 pick a year ago. He could be in for a VERY big (bounce back) season with Minnesota. If he continues to produce like he has in the preseason, Flip will find him plenty of playing time.
The Bulls were led by Derrick Rose who scored a game-high 27 points on a number of different ways: floaters around the basket, dunks, layups, mid-range pull ups, three-point bombs. Rose did it in every way and looked like the player of old that became the youngest MVP ever. The Bulls have been successful sans-Rose the past couple years. With a healthy Rose and the addition of players like Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls are most certainly contenders in 2014-15. The only concern I have is the production on the wings. With Luol Deng gone, they'll be relying heavily on Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Doug McDermott and Tony Snell. If one or two of those guys can have a breakout season, I would actually pick them over the Cavaliers to come out of the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, there's still A LOT of questions for the Bulls heading into the regular season.
Mike Dunleavy added 17pts & 5reb. Taj Gibson came off the bench and dumped in 14 points while snagging 11 rebounds in 31 minutes. With Jimmy Butler sitting because of a sprained thumb, Kirk Hinrich started at shooting guard and finished with 14 points & 3 assists.
The Wolves shot a scorching 51.9% from the field (41-79) as well as 57.1% from deep (8-14). There's no way the Wolves are going to be able to shoot like that on a consistent basis, which means they need to improve in other areas. For instance, the Bulls out-reobounded the Wolves 38-50. Minnesota gave up a lot of second chance points to Chicago. Rebounding will be a concern for the Wolves this season--especially when they face teams with big frontlines like Chicago (Pau Gasol & Joakim Noah).
The preseason has now wrapped up and the Wolves will play their first regular season game this coming Wednesday (10/29) vs. the Grizzlies in Memphis. They'll follow that up on Thursday with their home-opener vs. the Detroit Pistons. Both of those games will tip at 7pmCST.
The Wolves sat Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Mo Williams and Ronny Turiaf. As a result, Saunders started Rubio, Budinger, Muhammad, Young and Pekovic.
The Milwaukee Bucks countered with Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and John Henson. The Bucks were without their starting center, Larry Sanders as he recovers from surgery (though he should be ready for the Bucks' season opener next week).
The two players that don't usually start (Budinger & Muhammad) both played a game-high 33 minutes. Muhammad finished with a game-high 19pts on 6-13 FG, 1-2 3PT and 6-8 FT in addition to 5reb, 3ast, 2stls, 1blk, 1to & 4fls. Chase Budinger finished with 15pts on 5-12 FG, 3-7 3PT, 2-2 FT as well as 7reb, 2stls & 2tos.
With no Larry Sanders and the Bucks relying on John Henson & Michael Eric at center, Pekovic had his way in the paint. He shot 6-for-11 from the field and finished with 15 points and was the only player tonight in double digits on the boards with a game-high 13.
The Wolves definitely have a style of play that they're leaning on. They like to play quickly offense. They use all their long, athletic gambling perimeter defenders to force the team in turnovers that they capitalize on, quickly. The Wolves forced the Bucks into 23 turnovers and scored 25 points off of them. They finished with 18 fast break points and did so without two of their best transition players (Wiggins & Brewer).
Jabari Parker was the only Bucks starter to finish in double digits. He scored 18 points (12 of which came in the second quarter). He also added 9 rebounds. He is fully entrenched as the Bucks' starting power forward. It's most likely that Milwaukee's starting lineup will include: Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Larry Sanders.
Antetokounmpo is certainly a player with a lot of crazy potential. However, tonight he was putrid offensively. He scored just 1 point and shot 0-for-7 from the field. He did add 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Unfortunately, he also added 8 turnovers and 3 fouls and got into a couple altercations with Shabazz. He'll definitely get a lot of burn with the Bucks this season.
The Wolves have just one preseason game remaining. They'll play the Bulls on Friday night in Chicago. That one will tip at 7pmCST.
I was unable to watch the Wolves' two most recent contests and as such, the following two recaps have been consolidated and will be brief.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were back in action on Friday night in Cedar Rapids for a border battle with the Milwaukee Bucks. The result was a 98-105 win for the Bucks, led by Jabari Parker (21pts), Giannis Antetokounmpo (19pts) and O.J. Mayo (19pts).
Jabari Parker was the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 Draft after Andrew Wiggins went number one overall. In addition to his game-high 21 points, Parker added 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 35 minutes of action.
The Bucks have a nice young core that will continue to learn and build together over the next few seasons: Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brandon Knight and John Henson. It's likely that Jabari Parker will go forward as the cornerstone of this franchise as they continue to put pieces around him.
The Wolves also have a nice young core that they're hoping builds and learns quickly over the next few seasons to finally end the postseason drought: Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad.
The biggest difference between these two teams this year is that the Wolves not only have a number of young and talented players, but also a nice mixture of veteran talent that will be big contributors (Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, Thaddeus Young, Nikola Pekovic, J.J. Barea, Mo Williams and Ronny Turiaf).
The Wolves sat regular starters Ricky Rubio & Kevin Martin in this one. In their place, Saunders started LaVine at point guard and Corey Brewer at shooting guard. Joining them in the starting lineup: Wiggins, Young and Pekovic.
The Bucks also sat two of their regular starters: point guard Brandon Knight and center Larry Sanders. Their starting lineup included Kendall Marshall, Khris Middleton, Jared Dudley, Jabari Parker & Zaza Pachulia. The Bucks have a couple of veterans that could definitely help this team win some games, however their roles on the team will likely be determined by how the team fares in first portion of the season. For instance, if the Bucks are 20 games back from the playoff picture a few months into the season, it's likely that coach Jason Kidd reduces the roles of veterans like Zaza Pachulia, Jared Dudley, Ersan Ilyasova and O.J. Mayo.
The same could be said for the Wolves and players like Thaddeus Young, Nikola Pekovic, Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, etc.
The Timberwolves faced the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday evening. The Thunder were, of course, without their franchise superstar (Kevin Durant). As such, this is most certainly Russell Westbrook's team. That being said, this wasn't the same Westbrook we've seen in year's past against the Timberwolves.
Russell finished with just 11pts, 3reb, 2ast, 1stl, 5tos, 1fl, 3-12 FG, 0-3 3PT, 5-5 FT in 23 minutes. It's nothing to look into too much, however considering this is only a preseason game. Come the regular season, I'd say there is a VERY good chance Westbrook is leading the NBA in scoring after a month!
The Wolves played a lot of zone defense and pressured in the ball in full-court and half-court sets. With so many long athletic defenders, this is something the Wolves will do quite a bit this season. Flip Saunders has said that they will run those types of defensive sets this season--so long as they are effective. Those that have watched the Wolves the past couple seasons, they know zone defense wasn't something that Adelman ran too much.
Those looking at the box score will notice that the Wolves started a very interesting unit. Saunders started J.J. Barea, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Thaddeus Young and Ronny Turiaf. The reason? Apparently the Wolves played some scrimmages on Saturday. They were sorted into three teams and the first team to notch four wins; won. It wasn't until Sunday evening that Saunders informed his players that their reward for the wins was starting against the Oklahoma City Thunder that night.
It was definitely interesting having regular starters like Ricky Rubio & Nikola Pekovic come off the bench. Pekovic finally 'got going' around the bucket. he knocked down those shots, finishing with 11pts on 5-of-8 shooting. I think bringing Pekovic off the bench, is something the Wolves could/should look into doing this year. Starting Gorgui in that very athletic/defensive starting unit could be great for the Wolves. Pek would still play his 24-30 minutes a game and he'd being going against some lesser competition, too. The only problem? Do you want to pay your backup center $12million a year? That would be the question many would ask, however playing those 30 minutes a game--he'd be a lot more than just a backup.
Backup point guard Mo Williams led the way with 19pts on 6-7 FG in 23 minutes off the bench. In year's past a concern was how the Wolves would fair without a healthy Ricky Rubio. If the Wolves end up keeping J.J. Barea--they have a terrific three-prong committee at point guard. Mo Williams is an upgrade over J.J. Barea and J.J. Barea is a BIG upgrade over A.J. Price (from a season ago). The greatest thing about having three veteran point guards all capable of getting it done? Flip Saunders will have complete confidence in calling any of their numbers--on any given night. That wasn't something that Rick Adelman could do a season ago with Rubio, Barea & Price.
Through four preseason games, Saunders continues to play with rotations. It's not entirely clear what Flip's rotations will be, however from what we've seen thus far...
PG: Ricky Rubio, Mo Williams, J.J. Barea
SG: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine, Chase Budinger
SF: Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson
PF: Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, Robbie Hummel
C: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf
In this scenario, the Wolves cut Brady Heslip. They still have 16 players under contract and a big decision looming with who will be the last cut. Will it be Chase Budinger departing via trade? J.J. Barea traded or waived/bought out? Glenn Robinson cut? At this point, your guess is as good as mine. However, if you twisted my arm...I'd say the Wolves trade Chase Budinger for a pick/exception and keep Barea & Robinson.
The Minnesota Timberwolves (pre)season is officially underway as it began in Indiana at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana against the injury-riddled Pacers.
The Pacers were without Paul George (leg), Chris Copeland (knee), Ian Mahinmi (shoulder) and C.J. Watson (foot). This was also their first game playing without the recently departed Lance Stephenson who bolted in free agency to join the Charlotte Hornets this summer.
The Pacers signed C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey and 28-year-old rookie Damjan Rudez to help fill those big shoes and, at least for tonight, they did an admirable job against this young Timberwolves squad.
The Wolves were playing without the injured Kevin Martin (abductor strain) and Anthony Bennet (hip). The decision was made to rest veterans Mo Williams and Nikola Pekovic as well.
As a result, the Timberwolves started Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Gorgui Dieng. That was countered by Indiana with George Hill, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, David West and Roy Hibbert.
Wolves fans got their first real look at their young prospects in this preseason affair. Andrew Wiggins made his debut as a Wolf, starting at small forward, he finished the night playing a game-high 32 minutes, finishing with 18pts, 4reb, 3ast, 1stl, 3blks on 4-11 FG, 2-2 3PT and 8-10 FT. His 18pts & 3blks were also game-highs.
The Wolves played a good first half of basketball. Thaddeus Young was especially impressive early. His versatility on both ends of the floor was noticeable as he scored Minnesota's first three field goals to begin the game. Much of Young's time on the floor was spent guarding former All-Star David West. Initially, I thought West would have a big strength advantage on Young, however Thad held his own in the paint and thanks to his quickness, it was actually a matchup that favored the Timberwolves.
Young finished the night with 12pts on 5-10 shooting along with 4reb, 2ast and 1stl in 18 minutes.
This Indiana Pacers team will play much different than they have in years past. There was much more ball movement for the usually isolation-heavy Pacers offense. That of course, is directly correlated to the fact they are without two of their biggest playmakers of the past couple seasons in Paul George (who suffered that horrific broken leg this summer) and Lance Stephenson (now with the Hornets). With a clear advantage in the post against many teams, we should see some big games (and possibly career-years) from Roy Hibbert and David West. Rodney Stuckey's role will be much different than the past few years in Detroit where he was utilized as mainly a sixth man. George Hill had himself a very good game, scoring 17pts, 11 of which came in the third quarter where the Pacers outscored the Wolves 36-20 and ultimately took control of the game.
The Wolves found themselves in a double-digit hole midway through the second quarter, but battled back and ended the first half on a 10-3 run to make it a 4-point ball game at halftime.
The Pacers offense exploded in the third quarter. After six minutes of third quarter action, the Pacers had scored 20 of their 36 third quarter points and continued to force the Timberwolves into a lot of poor shots.
The Wolves shot just 37.2% on the night from the field. By the end of the third quarter, with the Pacers leading by 20; 62-82. The game was essentially over as it was likely Flip would play some of the 'end-of-the-bench' guys. That held true as the Pacers offense continued to roll and the Wolves looked like a stagnant mess on their own end--expected for a team trying to find its offensive identity sans-Love and (at least for tonight) sans-Pekovic.
Some miscellaneous observations from tonight's game...
That's all I've got for tonight. The Wolves face off against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night in Minneapolis. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST. Following Friday's game, the Wolves have a full week off before their next preseason bout, scheduled for the following Friday against Jabari Parker and the Milwaukee Bucks in Cedar Rapids. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!