Timberwolves fans around the world were holding their breaths in the final minutes of the fourth quarter as we were engaged in yet another close game that easily could've gone either way in the final minute of action.
Luckily it was Minnesota who finish with the win and move one game over .500 on the season. With the win the Wolves finish the month of December 7-5, it's their first winning December since 2004 (8-6) and their 3rd best winning percentage ever in this month (11-2 in 2003 and 10-5 in 2001). This is also the TWolves' best start to the season, since they began 2005-06 14-13.
In our Gameday preview we highlighted the struggles of the Minnesota frontcourt in that last game (vs. the Rockets on Wednesday) and how if Minnesota wants to win games this season, they need those guys (AK, Love & Pek) to contribute big time on both ends. Tonight they showed why their one of the best frontcourts in the NBA as they combined for 71 points led by Nikola Pekovic who had a dominant game, finishing with 28 points--definitely getting the edge over Marcin Gortat in one of our key matchups of the night. Gortat finished with just 9 points on 3-of-6 shooting in 28 minutes. After watching tonights game, I stand by my assertion that Gortat isn't being utilized fully and should be leading this team in scoring.
This one was a back-and-forth affair all night. The TWolves pushed the lead to 7-8 points on a number of occasions, but the Suns' high octane offense was able to come roaring back and either tie it up or take a slim 1-2 point lead. That was the story all night long and heading into that final minute of action with the score so close and given the TWolves history in late game situations this season, TWolves fans everywhere were certainly 'on edge'.
Luckily, thanks to a couple of late defensive stops courtesy of Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham as well as made free throws by the aforementioned duo, the TWolves sent the Suns to their 20th loss of the season, as well as their 13th road loss on the year. The Wolves are now 14-13 on the year and 9-4 on their home turf.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers highlighted by Phoenix's Luis Scola and Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic...
HOT: Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic absolutely shredded the Phoenix Suns' interior defense, getting easy buckets and putbacks at will. I was expecting a bit more of a battle between him and Gortat, but Pekovic clearly showed why he's considered one of the NBA's strongest players. Phoenix's Luis Scola put up one heck of a fight for his team in this one. It seemed like every shot he put up found bottom as he used an array of post moves to get the best of Kevin Love in the post as well as hit some difficult mid-range jumpers. Very impressed with Scola in this one. If you'll remember: the Wolves were VERY interested in acquiring Scola this summer after he was amnestied. The Wolves didn't have any money to make a bid on him however as it was all tied up in the Nicolas Batum offer sheet.
NOT: Minnesota's former players. Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson & Sebastian Telfair made their return to the Target Center tonight, but were certainly less than impressive. Telfair finished with 0pts on 0-6 shooting along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover and 1 foul in 12 minutes off the bench. Michael Beasley played 10 minutes off the bench and finished with just 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting along with 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 foul. Wes Johnson received a DNP-CD. He's played in just 12 game this season (and 5.9mpg in them) as Suns head coach Alvin Gentry says they're high on Wes, he's just in a bad situation--on a team with a lot of quality wing players.
MISC. STATS: Kirilenko's 10 made field goals ties a season-high.....Dante Cunningham's 2 made free throws also ties a season-high.....
KEY STATS: The Minnesota Timberwolves shot the lights out from the field, hitting over 50% of their shots from the field. They held a slight edge on the boards with a +5 as well as a +14 in bench scoring. The Suns forced the Wolves into 10 turnovers and capitalized with 13 points. They had 11 of those points in the first half. Both teams struggled from the free throw line, hitting just over 60% from the line. Usually the Wolves lose a game when they shoot that poorly--and leave that many points at the line, luckily the Suns shared in their struggles at the line.
MISC. STATS: The Wolves set new season-lows in steals (2), fast break points (3) and team turnovers (10). The Suns set new season-highs for a TWolves opponent with 45 field goals made, 97 field goals attempted and 107 points. Phoenix's two made threes tied a season-low for a Wolves opponent and their 5 turnovers, a season-low.
That's all for now, the TWolves won't be back in action until Wednesday night (1/2) vs. the Jazz in Utah. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Wolves have certainly had their highs and lows this season. The Wolves are currently in one of their 'downs' as they've lost four of their last five games. Hopefully a game against the Phoenix Suns (lost four straight) will help get Minnesota trending upward.
Many of Minnesota's struggles stem directly from injuries. Take away every injury any Wolves player has suffered this season and this team isn't just a .500 squad. Kevin Love doesn't break his hand and averages his usual 25pts & 12reb and does so efficiently. Ricky Rubio is available to start the season and as the starting point guard he averages 10pts, 11ast & 2stls. Roy's knees hold up, Chase doesn't tear his meniscus and Lee's 'chrondal' knee injury never happens. You then have one of the top teams in the NBA. That isn't the case and we can play the 'what if' game all we want, but this team is a .500 squad and all we can do is move on from where we are now.
How do we get better? Ultimately the majority of Minnesota's problems right now stem directly from Kevin Love's poor outings. Kevin Love is the star of this team and without his contributions on the offensive end it makes everything harder for each member of this team. Without Kevin Love's three-point shooting and ability to stretch the floor and have to respect his outside game, teams will clog the lane and that harshly hampers Nikola Pekovic's game. Love is in a slump and a lot of that can be attributed to injury. There are a lot of TWolves fans that have turned on Love and had some incredibly harsh criticism for Minnesota's superstar. I can guarantee you this though, when he gets back to those 25-12 nights and does so efficiently, which coincides with TWolves Ws, those skeptics will be quieted and once again cheer on their All-Star forward.
Well then, let's get back to TWolves vs. Suns...
The Wolves come into this one 13-13, 8-4 at home, 5-5 in their last 10 games and having lost two-straight games. The Suns are 11-19 on the year, 2-12 on the road, 4-6 in their last 10 games and having lost four-straight games.
The Phoenix Suns will be a lotto team come Summer 2013 and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Suns make some trades prior to the February trade deadline.
The Suns lack a star on this team. If I was Alvin Gentry, I would give the keys to this offense to my big man: Marcin Gortat. Gortat is (in my opinion) one of the NBA's top centers. He has the brute strength and post proficiency of a guy like Nikola Pekovic, but also possesses the athleticism and low-post defense of some of the better defensive centers in the League. I wouldn't be surprised if Gortat has a new home in a month or so.
Looking at the injuries for both of these teams, for the TWolves I'll direct you to our very recently updated Injury Report. Included on there are updates on Brandon Roy & Chase Budinger. Nikola Pekovic played limited minutes in the loss to the Rockets on Wednesday because of an illness. He practiced on Thursday & Friday and will play tonight and should be just fine.
For the Suns, they've been without Channing Frye for the entire season after doctors found he had an enlarged heart. He won't play at all this season, but doctors says there's 'a better chance than not' his heart will heal completely and he'll be able to return to the court in 2013-14. Goran Dragic missed the Suns last game vs. the Pacers after a fall in their game vs. the Knicks. On the fast break, Dragic went up for the easy layup and was undercut by J.R. Smith. Dragic hit the floor hard, landing on his back/hip. He's questionable for tonight's game with what they're calling a hip bruise.
In Minnesota's last game (an 84-87 loss to Houston on Wed.) their starting frontcourt struggled mightily. Nikola Pekovic was battling an illness that limited him to just 23 minutes. He finished with 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting along with 7 rebounds, 1 turnover and 1 foul. Kevin Love finished with 7 points on 3-of-14 shooting, including 0-for-7 from deep and 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers and 1 foul in 36 minutes. That magnifies exactly what I highlighted in the first few paragraphs here today. The Wolves need more from these two guys if they're going to have any chance of closing out games and making the playoffs. Andrei Kirilenko played 29 minutes on Wednesday and finished with 8 points on 2-of-6 shooting and 4-of-6 from the line, as well as 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block and 2 turnovers. That isn't a terrible statline, but when guys like Pek & Love struggle the Wolves need more from a guy like AK. Kirilenko is capable of doing more offensively too. He's had his 20-point games this season. To put it all on him isn't fair: Ridnour, Shved, Barea, etc. can all do more. Kevin Love getting out of this slump solves a lot of TWolves problems though.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups in this one...
If Goran Dragic is ruled out for this one because of that hip bruise, Sebastian Telfair (6.5ppg, 2.8apg, 0.8spg) will start again (he did yesterday vs. Indiana). The former Wolf Telfair finished with 19pts, 1reb, 6ast, 1stl in yesterday's loss to the Pacers.
The battle in the post will be the matchups to watch in this one. Nikola Pekovic vs. Marcin Gortat will be two HUGE battering rams going at one another. It's going to be a battle and A LOT of fun to watch. Don't count out the battle at power forward though. I'm sure most of you haven't forgotten "The Stomp" last season, when Kevin Love stepped on Scola's face as he was down on the floor and was subsequently suspended for two games because of it. We'll see if it gets 'chippy' again tonight between these two.
Just one last thing I wanted to add here today, the former Timberwolves that are on this Phoenix Suns roster: Sebastian Telfair, Wesley Johnson & Michael Beasley. Telfair didn't play much in his second tenure with the Wolves under coach Kurt Rambis, despite the underperforming Jonny Flynn, Telfair was still the third string PG and hardly ever saw the court. Now, Sebastian is the main backup to starting point guard Goran Dragic and playing fairly well in his role with this Suns squad. Wes Johnson & Michael Beasley aren't having the same 'rebirth' with the Suns, however. Beasley began the season as the starting small forward, but has since been relegated to the bench. He's currently averaging 24.2mpg this season along with 10.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.3apg, 0.4spg, 0.7bpg, 2.1topg and shooting 38% FG, 32% 3PT and 75% from the line. Wes Johnson started 64 of the 65 games he played last season in Minnesota, but his role on this Phoenix Suns squad is slightly different. Wes has played in 12 of the Suns' 30 games this season and is averaging 5.9mpg with 0 games started. Playing only 'garbage time' Wes has season averages of 2.3ppg, 0.8rpg, 0.4apg, 0.2bpg and shooting 33% FG, 29% 3PT and 67% from the line. I remember watching the Suns press conference after he was traded to Phoenix and listened to him talk about how playing in Minnesota was a bad fit and he was sure he fit better on this Suns roster and could kickstart his career here. I still don't understand the "didn't fit" thing as he started 64 games and was given every opportunity to succeed here. His performance this season in Phoenix proves that Wes Johnson, simply sucks. I'm not saying he can't turn things around, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's playing in the D-League or overseas next season.
That's all for now, tipoff for this one is set for 7pmCT and full gameday recap can be found on this site following the final horn, until then thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
It wasn't the high-scoring affair we were all expecting. We all assumed it would be a game decided in the 100's, but both teams were finished in the 80's, unfortunately the Wolves were on the wrong end of it all.
We got a bit of deja vu in the fourth quarter of this one. In Minnesota's last game (vs. the Knicks on Sunday), they led by double-digits during the game, but allowed New York's star (Carmelo Anthony) to go off for a big final quarter that sealed a TWolves opponent win.
Tonight, it was the Houston Rockets star--James Harden. Harden scored 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets were able to seal a narrow three-point victory behind his incredible offensive game. Through the first three quarters the Wolves held Harden to just 13 points and were on pace to hold Harden under 20 points for the first time in nine games. Unfortunately he exploded for those 17 fourth quarter points, finished with 30 on the night and extended his streak of 20+ point games to 10 (games).
The Timberwolves held a 14-point lead early in the third quarter, however Minnesota's offense absolutely disappeared as the Rockets amassed a big run and were able to regain the lead late in the third. With just 2:45 to play in the game, the score was knotted at 81. Kirilenko went 1 of 2 at the line to make it 81-82 Wolves with 2:20 to play. A Harden basket, just ten seconds late made it 83-82 Houston. On Minnesota's next offensive set Shved hit AK in the post for a quick bunny that gave Minnesota the 84-83 lead with 1:50 to play. With 45 seconds to play the Wolves were still up 84-83, Kevin Love clanged a three-pointer and the ball went out of bounds on Minnesota. The Rockets took a timeout with 44.1 seconds to play. Harden took it to the rim and gave the Rockets the 85-84 lead with 37 seconds to play. Barea turned it over on the next possession and Harden made the defensive stop count as he hit another layup and gave the Rockets an 87-84 lead with 11.7 seconds to play. The TWolves took a timeout, but the play they ran turned out to be absolutely dreadful as they had to hoist up a last-second desperation shot. Alexey Shved threw up a well-contested three that had no chance of finding the bottom of the net, the TWolves lose 87-84.
In the gameday preview, I stated confidently that the Minnesota Timberwolves held a HUGE advantage in the frontcourt (AK, Love, Pek) and they would ride those players to victory. That couldn't be any farther from the truth. Kirilenko didn't have a terrible game, but offensively he had just 8pts on 2-of-6 shooting and added 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 block. Nikola Pekovic was dealing with an illness that limited him to just 23 minutes of court time. He finished with 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting along with 7 rebounds. And worst of all: Kevin Love. Love finished with just 7 points (all scored in the first quarter) on 3-of-14 shooting, 0-for-7 from deep as well as 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block and 5 turnovers in 36 minutes.
Many fans had some very negative reactions to Kevin Love following this loss. The most recurring statement (mostly via Twitter) was that tonight showed why Kevin Love wasn't worthy of a maximum offer contract and James Harden was/is. I don't agree with that statement. I still adamantly believe (like YOU should too) that Kevin Love is a star and if the TWolves are going to have any chance at a postseason run, it'll be K-Love that leads them there. It's clear that his hand is still hurting him and he doesn't have the conditioning to play 35+ in a game, yet. At least not effectively/efficiently.
Ricky Rubio did see a slight bump in minutes. He played 21 minutes after news came he'd see a slight bump in minutes from the 18 minutes a game he has been held in his first few games back. Rubio finished with 8 points on 2-of-5 shooting, 4-of-4 from the line along with 2 assists and 1 steal.
Let's take a look at some of tonight's top performers in this one...
HOT: James Harden's fourth quarter. He continued to split the defense and get to the rim for easy buckets. The Wolves couldn't get it through their heads that if they wanted to win--they had to stop him...either that, or they lacked the know-how/ability to do so.
NOT: Kevin Love. He turned in another awful, awful game offensively. Just 3-for-14 from the field, including an 0-for-7 shooting clip from downtown. Had the Wolves gotten just a bit more production from him (their star player) the outcome wouldn't have been a 3-point loss.
MISC. STATS: Barea set new season-highs in defensive rebounds (6) and total rebounds (7) in this one.....With Love struggling and Pek limited due to that 'illness', Dante played a season-high 37 minutes......Rubio's 21 minutes are obviously a new season-high, since the Wolves readjusted his 'minutes cap'.....
KEY STATS: The Rockets shot higher percentages in all three of the above categories. The Wolves shot 76.5% from the line, which isn't terrible, however they left those four points at the line and in a close game such as this, four misses from the line can be a big difference-maker. The Wolves held the NBA's best transition team to just 13 fast break points along with just 5 points off those 14 Minnesota turnovers (10 of which came in the second half). The Wolves got a big boost from their bench. They played four players off the pine: Barea (18), Williams (9), Rubio (8) and Cunningham (8) combined for 43 bench points.
MISC. STATS: Minnesota's 28 three-point attempts are tied for first on the season, the Wolves also tied a season-low with 12 fouls and had their second-worst scoring night with just 84 points. Houston's 31 three-point attempts along with their 40 defensive rebounds are both season-best for a TWolves opponent.
The TWolves will be back in action vs. the Suns on Saturday (12/29). 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!
The Minnesota Timberwolves are back at the Target Center following the Holidays and will be looking to extend their hot streak at TC with a win over the Houston Rockets. Doing so would push the Wolves' consecutive win total to six games at the Target Center and would be the longest such streak for the Wolves since the 2003-04 season, when those Wolves rattled off 14-straight victories in front of the Minnesota faithful.
It'll be no easy task however, as the Wolves are facing the red-hot Houston Rockets, who are looking for their fifth-straight win.
The TWolves had great success vs. the Rockets in 2011-12, winning the season series with a 3-0 sweep. However, that doesn't mean much this season as it's (basically) an entirely new Rockets squad. Houston's busy offseason of trades and draft picks along with the James Harden trade that happened just prior to opening day, has radically transformed this roster. It was assumed they'd be a cellar-dwelling team this season, however that hasn't been the case as they're now 15-12 through the first third of the season.
Gone is Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Kevin Martin (Oklahoma City), Luis Scola (Phoenix), Chase Budinger (Minnesota), Samuel Dalembert (Milwaukee) and Marcus Camby (New York). All of these players were starters for the Rockets at some point last season and now they're all playing for other teams. The only returning starter for Houston this season is Chandler Parsons.
The TWolves are 13-12 on the season and have certainly had their ups and downs through the first third of the 2012-13 season. Through it all, they have defended their home court quite well, amassing an 8-3 record. Minnesota is 6-4 in their last ten games and losers of three of their last four games. The Rockets, as stated before are 15-12 on the year, 4-7 on the road and also 6-4 in their last ten games. They have rattled off four-consecutive W's, too.
Let's take a look at the injury report for this one...
MINNESOTA: I'm going to direct you to our injury report homepage, where you can always find the up-to-date injury news on your Minnesota Timberwolves: Injury Report.
HOUSTON: Patrick Patterson (OUT/knee) he's unlikely to return this week, though he has 'stepped up' his on-court rehab. Royce White (OUT/personal) he has yet to play a game in the NBA, though it sounds as though he'll begin working with a Houston staff member this week. Chandler Parsons (game-time decision/knee) he left Tuesday's win over the Bulls with swelling in his right knee, it remains to be seen if he'll be able to play tonight in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off a three-point loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday (12/23) at Madison Square Garden. There were some very questionable 'calls'/'no calls' in the final minutes. Carmelo scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter (boosted by some calls from the refs thanks to his superstar status). Yes, I'm still a bit bitter. Pekovic scored 21pts and added a career-high 17 rebounds as well as 2 assists; Alexey Shved added 18pts, 5reb, 4ast, 1stl and Dante Cunningham came off the bench for his second double-double of the season: 12pts, 10reb, 1ast, 1stl.
The Houston Rockets are coming off a 120-97 Christmas Day victory over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Houston led 58-41 at halftime, the Bulls were able to cut into the lead early in the fourth quarter to make it 85-100, but a 6-0 run by the Rockets halted the Bulls' rally and ultimately sealed a big win for the Houston Rockets. James Harden finished with 26pts, 5reb, 6ast, 2stls, 1blk; Chandler Parsons had 23pts, 5reb, 2ast, 2stls; Jeremy Lin added 20pts, 1reb, 11ast, 1stl, 1blk and former-Bull Omer Asik had a big night, finishing with 20pts, 18reb, 1ast and 3blks.
Each of those 20-point scorers for the Rockets played right around 35 minutes in Tuesday's win over the Bulls. Tonight will obviously be a back-to-back game for the Rockets, considering their best players played big minutes last night, hopefully the Wolves can use that to their advantage in the second half of tonight's game.
Let's take a look at the probable starters for this one...
If Chandler Parsons is held out of this one because of swelling in his right knee, the Rockets are likely to start Carlos Delfino (8.6ppg, 3.6rpg, 0.9spg) at small forward in this one. Ricky Rubio still isn't a part of the starting lineup, however it's sounding as though that 18-minute limit will be increased--by how much, remains to be seen. Just don't expect Ricky to be playing 40 minutes a night in the near future.
In order to defeat the Rockets, here's what we need to do...
That's all for now, tipoff for this one is set from 7pmCT and a full gameday recap can be found on this site following the final horn. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
If you watched this one and you're a Timberwolves fan, I don't have to go into to much detail about how inconsistent the refs were in this one and how some late calls that went to the Knicks doomed the TWolves to an 'UnMerry Christmas'.
I'll admit there were some no calls or questionable calls that went the TWolves way, however by the time the final few minutes of the fourth quarter rolled around it was as if the refs decided that every slight nudge while the Knicks were on offense, the Wolves were whistled for a foul.
A couple of possessions late in the game there were some VERY clear fouls on Nikola Pekovic. No fouls were called and the Wolves lost this one.
Carmelo Anthony was less than stellar through three quarters, however he turned in a great fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his 33 total points in that final quarter to seal the W. His 19 points were 23 of New York's in the fourth! I'd be lying if I said that his 'superstar status' didn't get him a number of foul calls late in the game.
Andrei Kirilenko's game didn't show up too much in the stat line, however if you watched the game you saw him working extremely hard denying Carmelo the ball and contesting every shot he put up. If you go back and watch there were at least two fouls that were called on AK that he hardly touched Melo, however that's his superstar status coming into play. Much like Kevin Love has earned.
I've been hearing a lot about these New York Knicks and how they're one of the best teams in the East and the entire NBA, however from what I saw tonight, they seem incredibly one dimensional. There's no way they're going to win a playoff series if they have to rely on Carmelo to drop 40 a night. If this is one of the NBA's best teams, I'm left quite unimpressed. There's no way this team has a chance of beating Miami or Chicago in a best of seven. I may sound spiteful, but I assure you, I'm not...just observant.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
HOT: Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic had a great first three quarters, however he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter thanks to some double teams and defense...or no-call fouls...whatever it was... For the Knicks it was Carmelo Anthony's fourth quarter. I don't think I have to go into to much detail as to why a player scoring 19 points in a single quarter could be considered 'hot'.
NOT: Carmelo Anthony's first three quarters. Melo had a stretch in the first half when he missed ten straight shots! At halftime he had just 9 points (all scored in the first quarter) and added 5 in the third to have 14 through three quarters, before that huge fourth 19-point fourth.
MISC. STATS: Nikola Pekovic's 17 total rebounds is a new season/career-high....J.J. Barea got his second start of the season and set new season-highs in field goals attempted (14) and minutes played (38).....Dante Cunningham got his second double-double of the season......Alexey Shved tied a season/career-high with his four made threes and his nine attempted threes is a new season/career-high.....
Let's rundown the team stats...
The Wolves lost another one despite their big advantage on the boards. The beat the Knicks with a +12 on the boards, despite being without one of the NBA's premier rebounders in Kevin Love. The Knicks had just one offensive rebounds at halftime, compared to Minnesota's six. The Knicks did a good job of capitalizing off of the TWolves' turnovers. It was a close game and you can tell that not only by the final score, but the stats on either side certainly mirror one another. Unfortunately the one stat that matters W-L is quite different.
That's all for now, the TWolves will be back in action on Wednesday, when they face the Houston Rockets at the Target Center. We'll have a full gameday preview of that one before then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves will be carrying a bit of momentum into Sunday afternoon's matchup with the New York Knicks, following a Thursday night win over the powerhouse Oklahoma City Thunder. They'll have to take down one of the Eastern Conference's best, however, without their star player: Kevin Love. We'll get to that in a bit though.
The Wolves are 13-11 on the season (now two games over .500 on the season) and proving they can defeat any squad in the NBA. Minnesota is also 5-8 on the road and 7-3 in their last ten games.
The Knicks are 19-7 this season, 11-2 at home and they're also 7-3 in their last ten games. They've been able to do all of this without their star forward Amar'e Stoudemire who has yet to play this season (though he's getting close).
The Knicks have won the last two meetings as well as three of the last four at Madison Square Garden.
Let's take a look at each team's (unfortunately) lengthy injury reports...
Both teams are riddled with injuries at this time. Looking at the Knicks injuries, they'll be without a lot of their frontcourt help. Unfortunately the Wolves will be without their main frontcourt player and now they'll have to rely on a big game from either Dante Cunningham or Derrick Williams. I'm already assuming a big game from Pek, despite matching up against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Let's take a look back at each team's last games...
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups in this one...
Adelman says he isn't sure who will start in Kevin Love's absence, however Andrei Kirilenko will basically be the starting power forward in this one. That is, he'll be matched up with Carmelo Anthony. Then, Adelman will likely decide to start either Dante or Derrick. I'm thinking Dante, just because of his better defense and foot speed as he'll be asked to guard Ronnie Brewer (not the greatest offensive player anyway). If the Wolves still had Josh Howard, he would likely start at small forward in this one. I wouldn't rule out a Ridnour, Barea, Shved, Kirilenko, Pek lineup or even a Rubio, Ridnour, Shved, Kirilenko, Pek lineup. Both are less likely, but there are certainly a few options.
The biggest concern will be containing Carmelo Anthony. The Wolves have one of the best defensive small forward in the NBA in Andrei Kirilenko, so if anyone can slow down Melo (I say slow down, because there's very little chance you can 'stop' Carmelo Anthony). Slow down Melo--upset one of the Eastern Conference's best teams.
That's all for now, tipoff for this one is set for 4pmCT and a full gameday recap can be found on this site later this evening. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves halted the Oklahoma City Thunder winning streak at twelve games with a 99-93 win at the Target Center on Thursday night.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were led by their frontcourt that continues to dominate against some of the best teams in the NBA. Serge Ibaka & Kendrick Perkins had their hands full as Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic combined for 52pts, 21reb, 7ast, 1stl, 4blks and 19-38 FG.
The Wolves outscored the Thunder 30-18 in the first quarter. They held the Thunder to nine points in the first nine minutes of action and they used that 12-point lead through the final three quarters. The Thunder outscored Minnesota in the last three quarters (23-26, 23-25, 23-24), but it was that big first quarter that Minnesota rode for the W.
The Wolves got some great offensive play from their imposing power forward/center combo, however if you watched the game, you know how valuable Andrei Kirilenko was in this game. His great game doesn't show up in the stat line (9pts on 3-of-10 shooting, 4reb, 2ast, 5tos, 6fls), however it was his defense vs. Kevin Durant that was key for the Wolves in this one. He bothered Durant all night with his smothering D as Kevin missed nine of his attempts and three of his attempts from deep, while also turning the ball over 3 times and committing 5 fouls.
I was thrilled with Minnesota's play through the first two quarters, however after halftime as we moved into the second half, I (along with nearly every Wolves fan) was tentative as the thoughts of many, many games this season, where the Wolves blew double-digit leads in the third/fourth quarter(s) for another heartbreaking loss. Tonight it was different. Tonight the Wolves were playing the best and hottest team in the NBA and they weren't about to let these Thunder walk over them for their 13th straight W and another 'notch in their belt'.
The Thunder were playing without their offensive firepower from the bench--Kevin Martin, who missed the game with a thigh contusion. It was clear they missed his offense tonight as the Thunder bench could only muster 7 points on the night (3 from Maynor, 4 from Jackson). You won't find any Wolves fans feeling sorry for the Thunder, being without Martin as the Wolves were shorthanded themselves. They played without Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee. Word also came before the game that the Wolves waived Josh Howard after finding out he tore his ACL and would be out for the season. With just eleven players and one player (Rubio) with a minute restriction (18 minutes). The Wolves still eked out the six-point win.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
HOT: J.J. Barea pushed the Wolves to the win in this one with his performance in the fourth quarter. He scored 14 of his 18 in that final quarter (including 4 consecutive made threes). Kevin Love finally got back on track with 28pts on some decent shooting (9-20). Nikola Pekovic dominated the interior as the likes of Kendrick Perkins (4 fouls) and Hasheem Thabeet (2 fouls) didn't stand a chance.
NOT: Russell Westbrook. Russ scored 30 on the night, but took 28 shots to do so (he shot the ball more than Kevin Durant which--in my opinion--IS NOT a winning formula for this Thunder squad). He also committed 8 turnovers (which ties a season-high). He was still one assist away from a triple-double though.
MISC. STATS: Barea set a new season-high with 7 field goals made and tied season-highs with 13 field goals attempted and 2 offensive rebounds.....Kevin Love set new season-highs with four made threes, 7 assists (just two away from tying a career-high) and two blocks, he also tied a season-high with 9 attempted threes.....Alexey Shved set new season/career-highs in defensive rebounds (5), rebounds (7) and assists (12) while also tying a season/career-high with two offensive rebounds......
How do you beat the Wolves even though you shoot 44%, leave 7 points at the free throw line and turn the ball over 15 times? You hold the Thunder to 40% FG & 25% 3PT, while hitting 45% of your threes and force OKC into 16 turnovers of their own. Minnesota's 45% from three is their second-best shooting percentage on the season, while those 6 fast break points ties for second as a season-low for Minnesota.
The Wolves won't be back in action until Sunday vs. the Knicks. Minnesota will be back at practice on Saturday and Brandon Roy is expected to participate with the team. We should also be hearing a lot of rumbling about free agent prospects the Wolves could sign now that Howard is gone, Lee could be out for the season and the Wolves are in desperate need of help at the 2/3. That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves will be facing the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night at the Target Center. The game is a nationally televised game and if the last matchup between these two teams is a gage for how this one will go, we're all in for a great night of basketball.
If you'll recall the Wolves faced the Thunder in Oklahoma City back in March 2012 when the Thunder defeated the Wolves in double-overtime. This was a game that saw Kevin Love dump in 51 points (a franchise best), while Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook added 40 apiece and Minnesota's J.J. Barea chipped in a triple-double! The Wolves ran out of gas and ended up losing, however if you remember that game, you remember who was on the court when it mattered: J.J. Barea, Luke Ridnour, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Tolliver and Kevin Love. Needless to say we're a bit better now, with a much improved roster and fourth quarter lineup.
I'm trying to make this quick as tipoff is just 30 minutes away. I apologize for not getting this up sooner, but as I said in a post earlier this week--the next few days leading up to Christmas day are absolutely hectic for me, I apologize again for my tardiness on TWolves news in advance!
Minnesota comes into this matchup 12-11 while the Oklahoma City Thunder are 21-4. A win tonight would solidify Minnesota's bid for are legitimate playoff team this season.
Ricky Rubio will play tonight after having Tuesday off (because he won't play in back-to-back games to start). It's sounding like he'll still have a cap on his minutes: 18 minutes or so. The Wolves also recently waived Josh Howard after news came that he tore his ACL in that game vs. the Hornets. We'll have more on that in a news post shortly, though.
That's all for now, tipoff is just 30 minutes away (6pmCT) and a full gameday recap will be available on this site following the final horn. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Wolves understand where their weaknesses lie after 22 games into the 2012-13 season. They understand that they're a great first half team, but then, coming out of halftime they stumble back on to the court and night after night let games slip through their grasp.
Such was the case on Monday vs. the Magic when they blew a fifteen-point lead that they held midway through the third quarter to lose by nine. Tonight, the TWolves were exchanging blows with the defending champion Miami Heat and through two quarters were exposing some HUGE weaknesses for the Heat, however another second half faceplant saw the Heat grab a twenty-point lead late in the game and despite a short little run in the fourth with Minnesota's end of the bench playing, this one was over and the Wolves would go on to lose it by eleven, 92-103.
The TWolves did do an incredible job on the boards and exposed a big weakness in Miami's infatuation with playing 'small ball' as Kevin Love & Nikola Pekovic absolutely abused Udonis Haslem & Chris Bosh in the post. At halftime the TWolves held a 28-10 advantage on the boards as well as a 23-5 advantage in second chance points. After 19 first half minutes Kevin Love already had 14 (of his 18) rebounds and Pekovic added 7 (of his 12) in 17 first half minutes. At the half, no one on the Heat squad had more than two rebounds. Bosh had just one and Udonis Haslem & Joel Anthony both contributed zero.
At some point the Minnesota Timberwolves will figure things out. Putting a healthy team out there wouldn't hurt though. The Wolves had just ten healthy players tonight as they were playing without Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, Josh Howard, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee. That meant they had just one guard coming off the bench (J.J. Barea). It's sounding as though Howard could return on Sunday, Brandon Roy sometime after Christmas and Ricky Rubio will be back on the court Thursday vs. the Thunder (he didn't play tonight as the Wolves have decided not to play him in back-to-back games this season).
Let's take a look at some of tonight's key players...
HOT: Andrei Kirilenko had a great game and he was matched up against the reigning MVP. Both turned in great games, however AK had a great game defensively as LBJ deferred to Wade in the first half. AK then switched to Wade some towards the end of the first half and in the second half. That's when Wade deferred to LeBron. AK had another great all-around game, even though this one may not show up as much in his stat line.
NOT: Kevin Love. Although Love dominated on the boards, especially in the first half (14 first half rebounds), however his poor shooting continues on and on. He went just 2-of-10 from the field and wasn't much of a factor offensively for Minnesota.
Although the Wolves held one of their most lopsided rebounding advantages of the season in this one, the Heat's 13 made threes on 52% shooting as well as forcing MIN into 20 turnovers in which they turned into 22 points was key for their 11-point victory.
If you didn't know Minnesota history this season in the second half, you'd assume it was simply the Wolves playing in a back-to-back game tonight, with just ten healthy players against one of the best teams in the NBA, but Minnesota's second half struggles have been well-documented this season. Here's hoping they figure this out soon.
That's all for now, the Wolves will be back in action on Thursday vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Target Center. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Miami Heat will play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight, which will end a short two-game road trip in Florida. The Minnesota Timberwolves will be looking to avenge a loss to the Orlando Magic last night, while the Heat will look to build off one of their best defensive nights of the season after holding the Wizards to just 72 points in their last outing.
Minnesota is 12-10 on the season, 5-7 on the road and 7-3 in their last ten games. They'll be looking to start a new winning streak vs. the defending champion Miami Heat who are 15-6 on the year, 11-2 at home and are also 7-3 in their last ten games.
Minnesota's winning streak was halted at four games with last night's loss to the Magic and tonight the Heat will look to continue a streak of their own over the TWolves. Miami will be looking for a fifth-straight win over Minnesota.
Minnesota will have to start a new streak without their star point guard, Ricky Rubio. The medical staff has decided that Ricky won't play in back-to-back games right away, now that he's returned from reconstructive knee surgery. Ricky played 16 minutes last night vs. the Magic and finished with 2 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
Unfortunately he isn't the only Wolf that'll miss this game in Miami. Brandon Roy is rehabbing from knee surgery and is expected to return to practice later this week. Budinger is out until March as he rehabs from that torn lateral meniscus. Bud tweeted this out earlier today via Twitter, "Things looking good with rehab!" Josh Howard is dealing with a hyperextended knee, but he's targeting a Sunday return vs. the New York Knicks. Malcolm Lee is listed as out indefinitely with what they're calling a chrondal knee injury. Reports said that Nikola Pekovic had his back examined by doctors in Orlando following that loss to the Magic. Ultimately the classified it as just a sore back. I assume he'll be on the active roster and start at center. And let's hope that's the case as he's averaged 23.3ppg & 9.3rpg in Minny's last four games.
The Miami Heat have been a bit more fortunate with injuries this season. Terrel Harris is the only player on the IR. He's listed as questionable after he missed Monday's practice with an illness. Ray Allen took a shot to the face/eye in Monday's practice, however he's expected to play tonight.
Let's take a look at each team's last games...
Kevin Love seemed to get back on track last night vs. the Magic, at least offensively. He shot 10-of-20 from the field after shooting 30% from the field in his previous seven games. Hopefully it's a turning point and he'll get back to the production and efficiency we've become accustomed to these past few seasons.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups...
The TWolves' biggest concern will be dealing with that Big Three. I don't have to tell you that though, I assume we all know that any one of those guys can carry the Heat to a victory any given night. I'm most excited to see the Kirilenko-LeBron matchup, AK is the clear defensive anchor of our squad and it'll be interesting to see the final stat line of LBJ in this one. I am most concerned however with who defends Wade. Can Alexey be expected to lockdown one of the best shooting guards in the NBA and in the history of the NBA? I'll guess we'll find out soon enough.
Tipoff for this one is set for 6:30pmCT 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!