The Minnesota Timberwolves turned in a bounce-back win over the Milwaukee Bucks in their return to the Target Center following that 1-3 road trip through the West Coast.
This win is thanks in large part to five players: Alexey Shved, Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. All five players scored in double digits AND Kevin Love/Nikola Pekovic combined for 30 rebounds (of MIN's 56) on the night.
The Timberwolves move to 7-8 on the year and will head into their next game (Tues @PHI) with a chance to move back to that .500 mark.
The TWolves trotted out yet another, different starting lineup. Without Andrei Kirilenko again, out with back spasms, the Wolves started Josh Howard (again) at small forward. Malcolm Lee was also out, missing this one with a groin injury. So, Adelman started a backcourt of Luke Ridnour & J.J. Barea and a frontcourt of Josh Howard, Kevin Love & Nikola Pekovic. There were some concerns with how Luke & J.J. would match up (defensively) with Ellis & Jennings, however both did a fairly decent job, holding them to inefficient shooting nights (we'll get to that later though).
Despite an 11-point third quarter from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the still led by 5 points after three quarters and outscored the Bucks 27-22 in the fourth, thanks in large part to Luke Ridnour who had 7 of his 16pts and Alexey who added 10 of his 16 in that final quarter.
The Wolves struggled to score in the paint, thanks to a great shot-blocking presence, led by Larry Sanders, however they were able to hit more mid-range and three-point jumpers to secure this win. Nikola Pekovic scored 14pts in the game and 10 of his points came in the paint (10 of MIN's 26 on the night).
Let's take a look at the top performers for each team in this one...
HOT: The Minnesota Timberwolves! Those five players above in double figures led a very balanced and effective scoring attack for the Wolves who were without their starting small forward (Andrei Kirilenko) who misses his second consecutive game with back spasms AND with an 'ill' Kevin Love, who was rumored to be battling a bout with food poisoning and was a gametime decision in this one. He continues to struggle to shoot the ball however, connecting on just 5 of 19 overall and 1 of 7 from deep. For the Bucks, it was Larry Sanders off the bench. Sanders recorded a triple-double and tied a Bucks record for most blocks in a game, he now shares the record with former great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
NOT: Monta Ellis & Brandon Jennings. Both dumped in 18 apiece for the Bucks, however they did so with very little efficiency, combining to shoot 14-of-41 from the field (34%). It was clear going into this game--if you could contain or bother them defensively the Wolves would have an excellent chance of winning. I'd consider them shooting 34%--some bothersome D.
The Wolves finally got their three-point shooting going. Making 8 on 19 tries. Those 8 makes is their second-best this season and that 42.1% is the Wolves' best three-point shooting night so far this season. Those 56 total rebounds is also a new season-high for the team and the 40 defensive rebounds is the second-most on the year. The Wolves struggle to keep a handle on the ball as they turned it over 16 times, though that advantage on the boards and those solid shooting percentages helped them escape with the win. You can tell why the Bucks had that large advantage in points in the paint, when you look at all the blocks they tallied thanks (mostly) to Larry Sanders.
That's all for now, the Wolves have the next few days off, they won't return to action until Tuesday night when they face the 76ers in Philadelphia. Ricky Rubio should be practicing these next few days and we should have an update on that sometime this weekend. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves return from their four-game West coast road trip to face the Milwaukee Bucks at the Target Center on Friday night.
The TWolves come off that road trip 1-3, with losses to Portland, Golden State and the L.A. Clippers and a W over Sacramento. They return to the Target Center 6-8 and losers of 6 of their last 7 games.
The Milwaukee Bucks are 7-6 thus far this season, they're currently 4th in the East with that record, they're also 4-2 on the road and 5-5 in their last ten games. The TWolves are 3-3 at home and 3-7 i their last 10 games. They're hoping to get back on track after they started the season 5-2.
They could struggle with 'getting back on track' as they'll be without small forward Andrei Kirilenko. AK will miss his second consecutive game as he continues to deal with back spasms. They could also be without Kevin Love who's dealing with an 'illness'. He's questionable for tonight's game, a gametime decision. If he's unable to go, it's likely Derrick Williams will be back in the starting lineup.
For the Bucks, they'll be without their starting small forward (whose been out all season) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Mbah a Moute had offseason knee surgery and was targeting a late-November return. There's a small chance he could make his season debut tonight, but I wouldn't count on it.
The Timberwolves are coming off a narrow loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night in L.A. It was a back-and-forth affair, however the Clippers were able to pull away in the final minutes for the 95-101 victory. Love had 19pts, 12reb, 3ast, 1blk, but struggled shooting the ball, just 3-of-12. Shved added 17pts & 2reb in a career-high 36 minutes off the bench. Luke finished with 13pts, 1reb, 7ast, 1stl and Pek added 11pts, 10reb, 2ast, 2stls, 1blk.
The Bucks also played on Wednesday night in a matchup with the New York Knicks. It was an easy victory for the Knicks as they had no problem bouncing their East rivals. Jennings had 18pts, 3reb, 5ast; Ellis added 17pts, 2reb, 7ast, 3stls and Ben Udrih came off the bench to dump in 18pts, 2reb, 1ast. Looking at those three statlines, I'm a little concerned for the Wolves considering their thin backcourt and struggles against better backcourts.
Let's take a look at the likely starting lineups...
The Timberwolves may very well be without two of their starters. Coming into this season Luke Ridnour & Nikola Pekovic are the only guys on that list that should be starters for this team. Of course, Ridnour will be replaced by Rubio by the end of the month as well. For the Bucks, they've got some great play from their backcourt, but they've struggled to get production from their starting frontcourt. John Henson has replaced Ersan Ilyasova in the starting lineup. Ilyasova was one of the NBA's Most Improved Players in 2011-12. This summer he got a big $40+ million contract. He started the first 11 games, but has moved to the bench for the last two with averages this year of 6.7ppg, 4.8rpg, 0.5spg, 0.3bpg, 35% FG, 21% 3PT, 47% FT in 22.3mpg. Not the statline you want to see from your second-highest paid player on the roster.
Let's take a look at the last five games for each team...
Both teams have struggled as of late, both going 1-4 over their last five games. I don't doubt the Wolves are the better team, I'd say if Kevin Love can play and does so at a 20-10 level the Wolves should walk away victorious, that's assuming Monta & Jennings don't both turn in big games against the likes of Luke Ridnour & Malcolm Lee. The good news is, Lee excels at guarding smaller guards, which both Ellis & Jennings are, he'll match up with Ellis and we should get a good reading on Lee's potential as a defensive stopper in this League against one of the best offensive shooting guards in the NBA.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 7pmCT, which I think anyone who watched the last four games (with start times of 9-9:30) is thrilled about (I know I am). A full gameday recap of this one can be found on this site following the final horn, until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves stuck in this one all night long and I know many of us were hoping for a finish similar to last season's first matchup with L.A., when K-Love hit that buzzer beater three for the W.
Unfortunately the Wolves couldn't execute in that final minute and they walk away, now losers of 6 of their last 7 games. This also ends Minnesota's four-game West coast road trip, which they finish 1-3 (with losses to Portland, Golden State and the Clippers).
Minnesota found themselves leading by one-point heading into the final quarter. Usually the fourth quarter is a time Love takes over, unfortunately he could only muster two points. Alexey did all he could to get Minnesota the win, scoring 10 of his 17 in that final quarter, however thanks to 20pts (combined) from Chris Paul (10), Blake Griffin (6) and DeAndre Jordan (4) and some solid execution in that final minute, the Clippers win this one 95-101.
After playing 41 minutes in the win over Sacramento last night, Andrei Kirilenko was unable to play tonight due to back spasms. In his place, Josh Howard got his first start in a TWolves uniform. It's also his 400th career start (this coming after his 500th career game last week at Golden State).
Let's take a look at some of tonight's top performers for each team...
HOT: Alexey Shved came off the bench for the Wolves to have another great game, scoring 17pts while playing a team-high 36 minutes. For the Clippers, it was (as usual) Chris Paul. The best point guard in the League had little trouble vs. Luke Ridnour & Malcolm Lee.
NOT: Kevin Love. Yes, Love scored 19pts, but did so on 3-of-12 shooting and you could easily see that, that hand was bothering him. For the Clippers, Caron Butler was coming off a 33-point game vs. the Hornets on Monday, but tonight he finished with just 2pts on 1-of-8 shooting.
Let's take a look at the team stats...
The Minnesota Timberwolves absolutely crushed the Clippers on the boards, holding a +17 as well as a +10 in offensive rebounds. The Clippers made up for that rebounding differential, by forcing the Wolves into 20 turnovers which they turned into 19 points, many of them courtesy of those 22 fast break points.
The TWolves will be back in action on Friday vs. the Milwaukee Bucks back at the Target Center. We'll have a full gameday preview of that one before then. That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves were finally able to end that five-game losing streak with a win over the Sacramento Kings last night. Tonight, they'll be facing the Los Angeles Clippers who are looking to avoid a five-game losing streak, after dropping their last four games.
The Wolves are 6-7 on the year and 3-4 on the road. The Clippers are 8-6 this season and 5-3 at home. The Wolves & Clippers are both teams that got off to a hot start, but have gone through a rough stretch this past week and a half.
The Clippers are coming off a 98-105 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night. A loss to one of the worst teams in the West and the entire NBA. Caron Butler had 33pts, 6reb, 2ast and shot 9-for-15 from deep; Chris Paul added 20pts, 4reb, 8ast and 4stls; the Hornets were able to hold Blake Griffin to just 4pts on 1-of-9 shooting, likely a key for the loss.
The TWolves are coming off that 97-89 win over the Kings in Sacramento. The Wolves finally played four quarters and got some great offensive output from all five of their starters, who finished in double-digits. Kevin Love had 23pts, 24reb, 2ast, 2stls, 1blk; Ridnour finished with 18pts, 2reb, 5ast, 1stl, 1blk; Nikola threw in 16pts, 8reb, 4ast, 1blk and Kirilenko continued his solid all-around play with 14pts, 6reb, 5ast and 3blks.
Let's take a look at each team's last five games...
The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Clippers met four times last season. The Wolves won the season series 3-1. They beat the Clippers on 1/20 in L.A., 101-98. That was the game K-Love hit that buzzer beater as time expired. They met again on 2/28, also in L.A. resulting in another TWolves win, 109-97. On 3/5 they met in Minnesota for a one-point Wolves win, 95-94. Their last meeting came on 4/12 when the Clippers won 95-82. The Wolves have won those last three matchups vs. the Clippers, WHEN Kevin Love plays. He didn't play in that last game because of the head injury that made him miss the last ten games or so.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups...
Chauncey Billups will be making his season debut tonight. There'll always be concerns about the Wolves' starting backcourt, hopefully Luke & Malcolm can turn in another good game like last night in Sacramento. The biggest concern for me, however is Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. AK played 41 minutes last night, Love played 44 and Pek, another 36. Those are three players the Wolves need to have on the court for extended minutes if they want a chance to win ball games. We'll see if those big minutes in the win last night plays negatively into this one.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 9:30pmCT and full gameday recap can be found on this site following the final horn. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Multiple times this season I've criticized certain players for poor or inefficient play. That was the case in my gameday preview of this one when I spoke ill of the Wolves' starting backcourt (Luke Ridnour & Malcolm Lee) and Kevin Love's inefficiency, shooting the ball since his return. Tonight this trio gave me a slap in the face, much like Greg Stiemsma, Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea have this year.
I said Stiemsma wasn't boxing out and couldn't finish offensively, he then grabbed 7 rebounds and scored a season-high 12 points in the following game. I (like most) criticized Derrick Williams lackluster performances. Then he went off for that 23-point night. Yesterday I said the starting backcourt just wasn't working and that they should consider a lineup change. That was following a night when the Warriors' starting backcourt (Curry & Thompson) combined for 44 and Ridnour/Lee could only muster 2. Luke Ridnour entered the game snapping the net and doing so at a high clip. Surprisingly, so did Lee! They combined for 28 on the night and some good D vs. Brooks & Evans (early on). Kevin Love ditched the pad and tonight he shot 47% from the field (despite going 2-for-8 from deep).
When the fourth quarter rolled around I was nervous for another collapse, however thanks to some key contributors, the Wolves were able to hold on. The Wolves were up 75-67 after three quarters, however the Kings were able to cut that lead to just three points (75-72) with just under two minutes gone in the fourth. Then, Alexey Shved hit two threes on consecutive posessions to push the lead to 81-74 with just over nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The Kings were able to cut the lead down to three once again (88-85) with right around three and a half minutes to play. With 1:20 to play it was a two-point game, 91-89. AK hit Pek for a wide-open layup to push the lead to 4, then AK blocked Cousins on the other end. The next possession, with the shot clock winding down, Love hit an unbelievable circus-esque turnaround jumper. A defensive stop on the next possession sealed the W for Minnesota.
The losing streak has finally been halted, the Wolves are now 6-7 on the year, though things don't get much easier as they'll face the Clippers tomorrow night.
HOT: Kevin Love! Love hauled in a season-high 24 rebounds as well as a career-high 21 defensive rebounds. Playing without that protective pad, he looked very comfortable out there and finished with a VERY impressive stat line. For the Kings, Evans & Cousins both finished with 20pts, however for Cousins it was ultimately a rough night. He only played 28 minutes because of (his usual) foul trouble and still jacked up 22 shots, hitting only 9 of them, shot 41% from the field in the game.
NOT: Derrick Williams & Greg Stiemsma. Two players that were pegged to be key players off the bench for the Minnesota Timberwolves, now (since Kevin Love has come back) can't get off the bench.
MISC. STATS: Malcolm Lee finished with 10pts which ties a season and career-high. He also hit two three-pointers (a new career-high).....Nikola Pekovic finished with 4 assists on the night, which is also a new career-high....
On the back of Love's 24 rebounds, the Wolves absolutely crushed the Kings on the boards, holding a +15 advantage! The Wolves finally knocked down their free-throws, leaving just three at the line. The Kings were able to force Minnesota into 17 turnovers, which they scored 22 off of, that huge advantage on the boards (when you look at these team stats) is likely the key reason Minnesota was able to snap that nasty five-game losing streak.
The Wolves are back in action tomorrow night vs. the Clippers in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Tipoff for that one is set for 9:30pmCT and a full gameday preview of that one can be found on this site before then. That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
If the losing streak doesn't stop here I won't be having a good night. A loss to the Kings and extending this losing streak to six games isn't something any of us want.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are 5-7 on the season, 2-4 on the road and 2-4 vs. the Western Conference. The Sacramento Kings are 4-9 on the year, 4-4 at home, 3-5 vs. the West and 0-1 vs. the TWolves this season.
These two teams met in the season opener, which resulted in a 92-80 win for the Wolves. J.J. Barea came off the bench and dumped in 21pts in that one, slicing up the defense with his slashing, dishing and easy buckets.
Now, the Wolves are even better, even if their record as of late isn't reflecting that. There's no doubt that the Wolves are better with Kevin Love, however I think the Wolves would be EVEN better if Love take a few less shots. Give those touches to Nikola Pekovic. Clearly Love's hand is bothering him and it's throwing off his shot (he went 6-for-20 on Saturday).
Giving Kevin Love a few less touches is one adjustment the Wolves could make. A lineup change wouldn't be a bad idea either. It's clear that this Luke Ridnour/Malcolm Lee backcourt isn't working (they were outscored by the Warriors' starting backcourt--Curry & Thompson 2-44). Perhaps J.J. at point guard, Alexey or Howard at shooting guard, something needs to change. I won't pretend I know more than Adelman, though. If nothing changes, I still trust in him more than I ever could: Kurt Rambis, Kevin McHale, Randy Wittman, etc.
The Wolves will be without Ricky Rubio (rehabbing from reconstructive knee surgery), Chase Budinger (recovering from recent knee surgery) and Brandon Roy (recovering from recent knee surgery). The Kings, on the other hand, have no significant injuries (currently).
The Wolves' last game came against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday (11.24). The Wolves blew yet another first half lead, this time in the fourth quarter for an 11-point loss, 85-96. Pekovic had 17pts & 6reb; Love added 15pts, 15reb & 2ast; Kirilenko finished with 11pts, 6reb, 3ast, 3stls and J.J. Barea added 8pts & 10ast off the bench.
The Kings' last game also came on Saturday night, a 108-97 win over the Utah Jazz. The Kings outscored the Jazz 32-19 in the third quarter to take control and finish with an 11-point victory. This was after suffering a loss to the Jazz in Utah one night before (102-104). In Saturday's win: Tyreke finished with 27pts, 5reb, 5ast & 2stls; Jason Thompson added 16pts, 9reb, 2ast & 1blk; DeMarcus Cousins had 14pts, 9reb & 3ast.
Let's take a look at each team's last five games...
The Wolves haven't registered a win since November 12th when they beat the Mavericks in Dallas, 90-82. The Kings, on the other hand have grabbed two wins over likely playoff teams in the Western Conference, the struggling L.A. Lakers and last season's 8th seed in the West, the Utah Jazz (nearly beating them twice on consecutive nights).
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups...
I assume Adelman sticks with this lineup. Although Lee is known as a pretty good perimeter defender, a matchup with a big guard like Evans who can muscle his way to the lane at will isn't something that'll favor Minnesota. I'm not too worried about Ridnour vs. Brooks, perhaps they'll put Kirilenko on Evans and Lee on Salmons. Salmons is still a better guard, but I like these matchups exponentially more.
That's all I've got for now, we'll have a full gameday recap of this one following the final horn, until then, tipoff is set for Tuesday at 9pmCT from the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Thanks for reading HOWL, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
This time the TWolves play a decent three quarters of basketball, until the wheels fell off in the fourth quarter and Minnesota lost their fifth-straight game.
The Warriors backcourt simply dominated Minnesota's, combining for over forty points, compared to just two from Ridnour & Lee. Without a true shooting guard on this team, the Wolves will continue to struggle, however that's not to say this loss lies solely on the shoulders of Malcolm Lee. A terrible shooting night for the entire team from deep and for Kevin Love overall, equals another Wolves loss.
The Timberwolves held a four point advantage at halftime (51-47) and had forced the Warriors into 10 turnovers through two quarters, while also holding a 30-16 advantage in points in the paint.
The Warriors were able to tie it at 66 with just 2:25 to play in the third quarter, but Minnesota would regain their four-point lead at the end of the third quarter, leading 74-70 after three. By that time, the Wolves had a 40-26 advantage in points in the paint and a 35-10 advantage in bench points.
The Warriors went on a furious rally in that fourth quarter, with just over four minutes to play the Wolves were down by five and that's as close as they'd get, losing by 11 and falling to 5-7 on the year, after starting the season 5-2.
Watching the Fox Sports North broadcast, they said the Wolves made just 12 baskets in the entire second half! There's absolutely no doubting that this Wolves team has some issues to sort through. If they lose to the Kings on Tuesday, I think we all have permission to go into full panic mode.
A few sidenotes...
Let's take a look at tonight's top (statistical) performers for each team...
For the Wolves, Kevin Love was able to add 15pts & 15reb, however his 15pts came on 6-of-20 shooting. It's taking him quite some time to get back in his shooting groove (not surprising considering he broke his shooting hand). A number of missed and heavily contested hook shots in the fourth quarter didn't help, at all! The entire team struggled shooting from deep, Barea went 1-for-3, AK47 missed all five of his attempts, Love knocked down 1 in 5 tries. Anyone else miss B-Roy & Chase?
The Warriors got great production from their starting backcourt. It was a key we highlighted in our preview and it's no surprise that the likes of Curry & Thompson combined for 44pts, matched up against Luke Ridnour & Malcolm Lee. The Wolves starting backcourt finished with just 2pts (from Luke). The W's also got some great play from Carl Landry off the pine, he chipped in 18pts, 10 of which came at the free throw line.
Let's take a look at the team stats...
The Warriors held the edge on all shooting percentages, out-rebounded Minnesota by a +9 and finished with a +4 in fast break points. At halftime the Wolves held an advantage on the glass, however over those final two quarters, the likes of Barnes (11), Landry (9), Lee (8), etc. got the better of the Wolves' bigs. The Warriors absolutely destroyed Minnesota in points in the paint in their matchup last Friday, however tonight, with Kevin Love & Nikola Pekovic back in the lineup, the Wolves help a +10 advantage (though the Warriors were able to slow them down in the second half, contesting their shots at the rim very well).
That's all for now, the Wolves will be back in action Tuesday vs. the Kings in Sacramento. Tipoff for that one is set for 9pmCT and a full gameday preview of that one can be found on this site, before then. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves continue their West coast road trip with their next stop in Oakland California. The Wolves come to the Bay losers of four-straight. They'll be facing an opponent they faced just one week (and a day) ago: the Golden State Warriors.
The TWolves are 5-6 on the season and they'll be facing the 7-6 Warriors. Both of these teams played on Friday night and both suffered losses to Western Conference opponents. The TWolves suffered an 8-point loss to Northwest division rivals: the Portland Trailblazers. The Warriors were at the Pepsi Center, facing the Nuggets and lost by 11.
The TWolves did face the Warriors just a week ago, however a much different Wolves squad is coming to Oakland. They have three of their best players back on the active roster. Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and J.J. Barea are all back, but the Wolves have been unable to snap this skid that started with a loss to the lowly Bobcats (and included losses to the Warriors, Nuggets & Blazers).
The TWolves will still be without Ricky Rubio who continues to rehab from knee surgery, as well as Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger who are both coming off knee surgeries.
The Warriors will again be without their big man Andrew Bogut (who continues to rehab a sprained ankle) and Brandon Rush (who's out for the season with a torn ACL). Richard Jefferson missed his third-straight game with a calf strain and will likely be a gametime decision for this one. Klay Thompson had been dealing with an eye injury, but did play in Friday's loss to the Nuggets.
The Wolves advantage will lie in the frontcourt with David Lee vs. Kevin Love & Festus Ezeli vs. Nikola Pekovic. Like the game in Portland, the Wolves will have to worry about a MUCH better backcourt. Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson is a much better backcourt than Luke Ridnour & Malcolm Lee.
The Wolves will need much more from their bench as well. These past two games (since Love has returned) the bench hasn't looked so good. Guys like Dante Cunningham, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved and Josh Howard will need to have better games (on the offensive end). Minnesota also needs to figure out their pecking order. Kevin Love will be taking the majority of the shots, but they also need to have possessions that involve Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Luke Ridnour, etc.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
It's important that the Wolves get to work on that advantage in the paint and pray that Curry & Thompson can be contained.
I've been overly optimistic these past two games. I expected (with Love playing) that they could beat the Nuggets on Wednesday. Then the matchup with Portland on Friday, I assumed our bench production alone would dominate the Blazers. Both games the Wolves were up by double-digits and blew first half leads for a 7 or 8 point loss.
So, I won't say I assume the Warriors are going to win, I'm just going into this one with some VERY guarded optimism.
That's all for now, this one tips at 9:30pmCT and a full gameday recap can be found on this site following the final horn. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
For the lucky people who turned off your televisions and went to bed after halftime you watch two quarters of fun Minnesota Timberwolves basketball. For those of you who decided to burn the midnight oil and catch the second half, you can share in the utter disappointment and frustration of the recent stretch of these awful second half Timberwolves.
Minnesota held a small lead (5 points) at halftime, however they had pushed the lead to double-digits in that second quarter. It was certainly another "Tale of Two Halves" as the TWolves continue to blow first half leads, now dropping their fourth straight game. The Blazers outscored Minnesota 40-53, for that 8-point W.
This second half onslaught by Portland was courtesy of the Portland Trailblazers starting backcourt. Damian Lillard & Wesley Matthews combined for 58pts, 4reb, 11ast, 4stls, 1blk on 23-34 FG, 9-14 from deep and 3-6 from the line. The Wolves just didn't have an answer for either of them, the likes of Luke Ridnour, Malcolm Lee, Alexey Shved, J.J. Barea or Josh Howard could match up.
The Wolves held an advantage in the frontcourt as Kevin Love & Nikola Pekovic turned in some solid performances. It's the guard situation that needs to be sorted out, the return of Ricky Rubio will definitely help, but the gaping hole at shooting guard (without Brandon Roy & Chase Budinger) will be the Timberwolves' biggest issue, moving forward.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers from each squad...
Luke Ridnour also added 14pts, 2reb, 2ast, 6-10 FG in 33 min. However he definitely struggled guarding the rookie Lillard as he scorched the Wolves for 28pts. Derrick Williams registered his second DNP-CD in a row, as did Greg Stiemsma. Two players that you assumed would be a big part of the TWolves second unit, not seeing any action. I'm not blaming Adelman though, considering how awful those two have been, as of late. Kevin Love turned in another big game (though he did shoot 40% from the field) and finished with another double-double with 24pts & 13reb.
I knew Lillard would be in for a good game, matched up against Luke Ridnour. I assumed though that LaMarcus Aldridge would lead the Blazers, however he struggled with foul trouble the majority of the game and finished with 13pts, 6reb, 6-13 FG in 28 minutes.
Let's take a look at the team stats...
The Blazers held advantages in field-goal & three-point percentage(s), but really, that was about it. The TWolves crushed the Blazers on the boards, with a +14 (+11 on offensive boards), more fast break points, points in the paint and bench scoring. The Wolves lost to an opponent that shot 44.4% from the line! I wasn't as upset with the Wolves losing to the Nuggets on Wednesday, but this one stings!
Luckily the Wolves will be back in action tomorrow (Saturday 11/24) vs. the Warriors in Oakland. Tipoff for that one is set for 9:30pmCT and a full gameday recap can be found following the final horn. That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves begin their four-game West coast road trip on Friday night vs. the Portland Trailblazers, at the Rose Garden.
The Wolves are 5-5 on the year, 2-2 on the road, 2-2 vs. Western Conference foes and tied for 2nd in the Northwest division, at .500. The Portland Trailblazers are 5-6 on the season, 3-3 at the Rose Garden (home), 4-5 vs. Western Conference opponents and ranked last in the Northwest division.
The Timberwolves are looking to avoid a fourth consecutive loss, while Portland had won three straight games until their loss to Phoenix on Wednesday.
The TWolves may have lost three-straight games, however there's certainly some optimism for Wolves fans. Wednesday night, we had the pleasure to see Kevin Love back in action for the first time this season. After roughly four weeks, Love's hand has healed enough to the point where he can stroll into the arena and drop 34pts & 14reb on the Nuggets...in a loss.
Wednesday night's loss to Denver also marked the return of Nikola Pekovic from an ankle injury (after missing two games) and J.J. Barea's return from a mid-foot sprain (after missing five games).
The TWolves now have twelve healthy players after struggling through a few games with 9-10 healthy guys. Ricky Rubio (rehabbing from reconstructive knee surgery), Chase Budinger (recovering from knee surgery after tearing his lateral meniscus) and Brandon Roy (recovering from athroscopic knee surgery). I'm sure we'd all love if we got another surprise and Ricky Rubio made his return on Friday...but I can say with almost certainty that, that won't happen.
The Blazers will be without swingman Elliot Williams who tore his achilles during training camp and is likely out for the entire season. Portland's starting center J.J. Hickson sat out their last game (a loss to Phoenix). He was dealing with a shoulder injury, though he said after the game it wasn't his choice to sit as he was 'ready to give it a go'. I expect he'll play and start on Friday night. Nicolas Batum had been dealing with the flu earlier this week, but he did play (33 min) on Wed. vs. Phoenix, I'd assume he'll be in the lineup, again on Friday, as well.
Minnesota's last game was that 7-point loss to the Denver Nuggets, 94-101. The Wolves were up by 17 points just prior to halftime however the Nuggets outscored them 36-57 in the second half, for the Denver victory. Kevin Love finished with 34pts, 14reb, 2ast, 2stl, 1blk; J.J. added 12 pts (on 4-of-7 shooting from deep), 4reb, 3ast, 1stl; Pek added 10pts, 7reb, 1blk and Kirilenko finished with 7pts, 8reb, 2ast, 3stls, 1blk.
If it's one thing the Wolves need to do a better job of, it's getting more of their players involved in the offense. Kevin Love took 25 attempts on Wednesday night and they had just three players (Love, J.J., Pek) in double figures.
Portland's last game came against the Phoenix Suns, also on Wednesday night. The result was a 27-point loss. The Suns outscored the Blazers every quarter and cruised to this comfortable victory. Rookie Damian Lillard finished with 24pts, 3ast, 1stl; Batum added 13pts, 5reb, 4ast, 1slt; Aldridge added 12pts, 7reb, 1ast and Wes Matthews chipped in 13pts, 3reb, 2ast and 2stls.
I'm sure we'll hear plenty about Nicolas Batum in this one. Batum was, of course Minnesota's main offseason free agent target. The Wolves offered Nicolas a large 4-year $40-45million offer sheet. The Blazers ended up matching the offer (though there were discussions of a sign-and-trade that would've likely sent Derrick Williams to Portland...but those fell through) and Batum is now an early Most Improved Player of the Year candidate.
Another headline we'll hear plenty about is Brandon Roy. Roy was originally supposed to return to the court on Friday, in a homecoming to Portland. Unfortunately he underwent knee surgery earlier this week and won't be back on the floor (if at all) until mid-late December.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for both teams...
The Trailblazers certainly have a lot of offensive firepower in that starting lineup, three starters averaging 19-20 points a game, another just over 16 a game and Hickson averaging a double-double, 10-10 a night. There starters are quite good on O, but they may have one of the worst benches in the NBA. A second unit of Ronnie Price, Sasha Pavlovic, Victor Claver, Jared Jeffries and Meyers Leonard should struggle mightily against J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Josh Howard, Dante Cunningham and Greg Stiemsma.
Last season the TWolves went 2-1 vs. Portland, winning the season series (3/3 @POR, 122-110W; 3/7 in MIN, 106-94W; and 4/1 @POR 106-119L).
Another thing I'll be keeping an eye on is whether or not Derrick Williams registers another 'did not play--coach's decision'. It was his first DNP-CD of the season and if Dante Cunningham continues to produce consistently, I reckon he'll be traded before we see him in extended minutes on the floor in a TWolves uniform.
The key to this one will be containing their 'Big Four' (Lillard, Wes, Batum & LA) and getting some more of the TWolves players involved in the offense. Minnesota hitting their free throws wouldn't hurt either.
That's all for now, tipoff for this one is set for 9pmCT and a full gameday recap can be found on this site following the final horn. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!