Had the Minnesota Timberwolves played even semi-decent defense in the first half, they wouldn't have found themselves in the situation they did on Monday night.
The Mavericks scored 62 points in the first half on exactly 60% shooting from the field. The Mavs also had 21 first half assists on 27 made field goals. The TWolves shot just 44.7% from the field and turned the ball over 13 times for 15 Maverick points. At the half, J.J. had 4 turnovers & Martin added 3. Shawn Marion scored 21 of his 32 in the first half. His previous season-high was 21 and the 32 points he finished with is a new high for him as a Dallas Maverick.
The Wolves started the second half a bit slow thanks to a lot of open misses (particularly from Martin). The Mavericks built a 21-point lead early in the third quarter however by the time the third quarter buzzer sounded the game was all tied at 81. That was thanks in large part to big plays from all five starters. Brewer led the charge scoring 11 of his 16 in that third quarter.
It was back-and-forth throughout the entire fourth quarter, but we'll just fast forward to the final 3 seconds, because that's all anyone will ever discuss when it comes to this game.
With 3 seconds to go, the Timberwolves had the ball with a sideline inbounds. The Mavs had a foul to give on the previous possession and Calderon did foul Rubio to set up the sideline out-of-bounds. The Wolves inbounded the ball to Kevin Love who dribbled to the right and attempted to put up a three-pointer as time expired for the win. Love's foot may have been on the line, but that's the least of concerns. All the controversy came on a 'no-call' where it looks as though Marion basically hooks Love's arm completely and the ball pops out of his hands as time expires with no whistle.
In real time it looked like a terrible 'no-call' and an atrocity. Then, I watched the 'Phantom Cam' angle at least forty times and came to the conclusion that it may not have been a foul... Here's that footage for you to make the call yourself courtesy of @cjzero: PhantomCamLoveArmMarionHit. I would recommend zooming in close and watching a few dozen times.
Technically the rule in the NBA is if you hit a shooter on the hand, that's legal. From the replay, it doesn't look as though Marion hits his arm, but gets all hand/ball. That being said, in real time it looked 100% like a foul and I'm actually pretty stunned that there was no whistle.
I got flashbacks of Kobe Bryant fouling Ricky Rubio as time expired on a half-court heave that would've sent the game to overtime. Being that it was Bryant, there was no whistle and the Wolves lost. A few days later the NBA came out with an 'apology' saying the refs missed the call.
Ultimately (and a lot of Wolves fans will disagree with me) I don't think it was a foul, however from the angles of both of the referees in that replay, I don't see how they couldn't have whistled a foul. From those angles it had to look like Marion was hammering Love's arm. So despite watching the replay over and over and over myself and coming to the conclusion that it wasn't a foul, I think it still should have been whistled so...if that makes any sense.
Tonight's box score...
Five points off the bench. Five. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Uno, Dos, Tres, Cuatro, Cinco. That's HORRIBLE! It's no wonder the Wolves can't be competitive, they've got terrible offensive reserves. Barea scored all of those 5 points, while the rest of the reserves went a combined 0-for-8. You've got two defenders in Mbah a Moute & Cunningham that can rarely get hot and knock down some jumpers and contribute some hustle buckets and then your other two reserves are players that have the skill set to contribute offensively, but can never get anything done (Shved & Hummel). I missed the first quarter and part of the second quarter, so I didn't see Shved tonight, but Hummel missed two pretty wide open corner three-pointers (a shot I don't think I've seen him make this season--though I've seen him take at least 7 or 8). The Wolves DESPERATELY need Chase Budinger back, the problem is, when he does finally return it will probably take at least a month for him to return to half the player he was--we saw that first hand last season when he was rehabbing from the same injury. If the Wolves ever want to even say the word playoffs without a tinge of sarcasm, they need something other than what they're getting from their second unit!
Beyond that, the Wolves buried themselves with those 13 first half turnovers. They finished with 18 on the night, but had they cut their first half totals in half, there wouldn't have been any controversy in the final seconds because we would have secured a lead and ultimately a win by then.
With each and every incredible game that Love produces and the subsequent loss that seems to be following, I get more and more worried that we'll hear him becoming increasingly frustrated in Minnesota and want out. I honestly don't think he should be asked to do more (though, it's amazing to think he's probably capable). Other players need to step up and the entire team needs to commit to playing for 48 minutes. If not, we'll continue to see this team piss away Love's superb performances night in and night out en-route to another lotto-bound summer (where we wouldn't have a pick anyway).
That's all for now, the Wolves are back in action on Wednesday night vs. the New Orleans Pelicans in their first meeting of the season. Thanks for reading HOWL and C'MON MALLOY!
The Minnesota Timberwolves handed the Washington Wizards their worst loss of the season on Friday night and it was the perfect beginning to a vital stretch in Minnesota's schedule.
The Timberwolves have had plenty of ups and downs this season, however avenging the loss in November to the Wizards, with a win tonight as the perfect remedy to recent woes.
I was unfortunately unable to watch the game because I was on the road--traveling to Tennessee to visit some relatives. It was about a 14-hour drive and we did it in one day. I'm here until January 2nd and the coverage on the site may not be as it usually is, but I'll be back on the 2nd and I'm heading to the Target Center for the January 4th game vs. the Thunder!
So, the first game I missed this season was one where the bench performed quite well. Alexey Shved & J.J. Barea turned in terrific performances as they combined for 30 points on 65% FG. If Minny's reserve backcourt can parlay this performance into future success, this Wolves team won't stay under .500 for long.
It's no secret that one problem has been production from the bench. If the Wolves can right that wrong, it's a big step into the Western Conference playoff picture. The other is, of course DEFENSE!
The Wizards had Bradley Beal on a minute-restriction (he played just 26) and were without their starting power forward--Nene. John Wall was up to his usual tricks and despite limited minutes, Beal turned in a solid offensive performance. The Wolves have struggled with good offensive backcourts. Wall & Beal combined for 40 points, but the Wolves were able to shut other players down (Ariza, Webster, Gortat, etc.) to secure a MUCH needed win.
In addition to Barea & Shved's production, the Wolves got good production (the usual production) from Kevin Love & Nikola Peković. The Bruise Brothers each finished with a double-double and Ricky Rubio finished 2 rebounds & 1 assist shy of a triple-double (though he played just 27 minutes).
Here's a look at the box score...
The Timberwolves actually held a team under 50% from the field and what was the result?! A win! I can't speak to seeing good defense (because I didn't watch the game), but this Wizards team is one that has plenty of offensive firepower and holding them to 45.8% from the field isn't superb, but it's a step in the right direction for a team that has allowed so many opponents to snap the nets at such a high rate.
The Wolves also won the rebounding battle 44-35 and the battle in the paint 48-34. The most impressive stat to me was the turnover number. The Wolves turned the ball over just five times to Washington's thirteen. The box score is from ESPN and I have a feeling that (points off turnover) number is incorrect--I can't fathom how the Wizards would score 19 points off of 5 turnovers! Even if they nailed a three off of each turnover--that's just 15 points. So, I think it's safe to say that's an error.
The Timberwolves are right back at it Saturday night in Milwaukee at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. A showdown with the Bucks is set for 7:30pmCST. I will say, it's highly unlikely I'll have time to write a preview for that one, but I'll do my best! Thanks for reading and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves came into tonight's game fresh off a great win over the Washington Wizards the night before. The last thing they wanted, was to follow up that solid performance with a dud against an inferior squad, that has only won six games this season.
There's no doubt that a lot of Milwaukee's struggles have been the result of injuries to their key players. If any franchise knows that pain it's the 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves. I would never wish the 'injury bug' on another team, but I can definitely say--I'm glad it's not us!
Minnesota's Bruise Brothers bullied their way to a win on Friday night and tonight was no different. Each finished with double-doubles. Love had 33 points & 15 rebounds while Pek added 18 points & 11 boards. Kevin also added 6 assists. Love & Pek have been on a tear the last few weeks and it's incredible how dangerous Minnesota's offense is when they're both on. When you add in the Kevin Martin factor (who has struggled somewhat the past few weeks), the offense is near unstoppable. Martin returned to his early season form tonight as he finished with 20 points which included 4 made threes.
It was Minnesota's three-point shooting and forced turnovers that earned them this W. The Bucks turned the ball over 20 times for 25 TWolves points. The Wolves made 11 three-pointers and shot 45.8% from deep.
The Wolves built a lead that ballooned to 30-plus in this one, but a late rally in the final quarter forced Adelman to put Love back in to ensure there would be no Bucks comeback. Love helped slam the door and the Wolves earned the W.
There seems to be very little doubt that the Bucks are already viewing this as a lost season. I wouldn't be surprised if guys like Khris Middleton & Giannis A. (no, I'm not even going to try to spell his last name) more playing time. There will definitely be a youth movement in Milwaukee this season and it goes without saying that players such as O.J. Mayo, Caron Butler & Ersan Ilyasova could probably be had via trade.
I really like the skill set of the "Greek Freak". His potential is incredibly tantalizing, I'm really excited for his future in the NBA, because it's abundantly clear that he has all the physical gifts to be a real star in this league. Just to think, he was taken just one pick after Flip took Shabazz Muhammad. I'm not ready to write off Shabazz, but it's definitely concerning that a team that is in desperate need of scoring off the bench hasn't given the rookie known for his scoring ability a chance! Unfortunately, the chances of that happening this season are none, barring injuries.
The Wolves are now back at .500 on the season, which means they also moved up in the standings. They're now 9th in the Western Conference (2 games out of the 8th seed) and they're 3rd in the Northwest division (passing the 14-15 Denver Nuggets).
Here's tonight's box score...
The Wolves played some decent halfcourt defense tonight and the result was a 22-point victory. It's clear that Minnesota's offense has been pretty good all season long (there have definitely been some hiccups, but this is a team that is capable of putting points on the board every night out), but when they couple good offense with even average defense, the results are usually pretty favorable.
The .500 Minnesota Timberwolves won't play again until Monday vs. the Mavericks. That game will be in Minneapolis at the Target Center. The Wolves have already defeated the Mavericks twice this season. Dallas is actually, currently the 8th seed in the West at 17-13. Thanks for reading and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had five days off and let's hope that time was spent figuring some things out, because through Minnesota's first 28 games, the Wolves are still trying to find their footing.
There have definitely been some highs through the first third of the season, but Minnesota's inconsistencies have produced twice as many lows. The main concern is effort--especially on the defensive end.
Minnesota has the potential to be one of the NBA's best teams, but without better effort on both ends of the court, they'll hang around .500 all season and find themselves on the outside looking in come April.
The excuse that the Wolves will be better once Budinger & Turiaf returns, is an excuse I'm tired of hearing. This current Timberwolves squad has all the talent to be much better than 13-15 on the season. That being said, I'm very excited to have them return--there's little doubt that the Wolves will be better with them back in the rotation.
Chase is making gradual progress, but isn't ready to return yet. Turiaf hasn't yet done any 5-on-5 in practice, but Adelman says he'll be doing some in the near future. Further updates on these two can be found in the Injury Report page on this site.
After five days off, the Wolves return to action tonight vs. the Washington Wizards. This is the second of two meetings between these two teams this season. The first came on Nov. 19th. That was a game that the Wolves built a substantial lead only to blow it in the final quarter and lose to an inferior team (100-104). The Wizards were led by their backcourt duo of John Wall (14pts & 16ast) & Bradley Beal (25pts).
The Wizards currently sit one game below .500 at 12-13, while the Wolves are two games below .500 at 13-15. Minnesota needs to win this game--a game against a VERY winnable opponent. If the Wolves continue to lose winnable games, they'll be the exact thing we can point to as the reason we don't make the playoffs...again!
Minnesota's biggest achilles heel has been defending good backcourt players, to often their either left wide open on the perimeter to nail open jumpers or they drive with limited resistance directly to the rim. These are problems with plenty of blame to go around--the guards defending on the perimeter & the big men in the post allowing easy layups.
The biggest reason the Wizards won back in November was the play of Wall & Beal, if the Wolves can contain those two, there's little chance that the Wolves will be victorious tonight.
Fortunately the Wizards struggle in Minnesota. The Wolves have gone 10-2 in the last 12 meetings between these two teams. The Wiz haven't won in Minnesota since March of 2009.
Tipoff is set for 7pmCST from the Target Center, I'll be on the road and won't be able to watch the game, but you can expect a recap sometime Saturday afternoon! Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves have dropped another one to the Los Angeles Clippers. They're 0-3 vs. LAC this season and those three games have now been decided by a grand total of 10 points! A two-point loss and two four-point losses. The Wolves will have one last chance to avoid the season series sweep on March 31 in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves had this game in the bag. With 18 seconds to play, Kevin Love was fouled by Blake Griffin (his sixth of the game). The Wolves were up by three points and two makes would've sealed the deal. Love went 1-for-2 at the line, making the second to make it 106-102. Out of a Clippers timeout, they went to Jamal Crawford who came off the screen, which the Wolves had to switch and Crawford was able to maneuver around Nikola Peković for the lay-in. With 13 seconds to go, the Wolves came out of the timeout and we all knew the gameplan: GET THE BALL TO KEVIN MARTIN. That's exactly what they did, Martin then proceeded to hold the ball in the backcourt and get it stolen away which resulted in another Jamal Crawford basket to tie it at 106 with three seconds to play, with no timeouts, the Wolves inbounded the ball to Barea who didn't get up a shot and sent the game into overtime.
Heading into the third quarter Chris Paul had just 4 points, after three quarters he had 6, so I was almost certain that he'd go off for at least 10 in the final quarter for a Clippers win. However, after four quarters he had just 10 points total. Paul delivered his clutch performance in the overtime period where he scored 9 of his final 19 points. Five of those nine came from the free throw line.
A lot of people want to blame Nikola Peković for the loss. He missed some crucial bunnies in that overtime period (three to be exact). I've got a pretty good theory on why that is...
In the fourth quarter, Kevin Love was on the bench and Nikola Peković was in the game paired with Dante in the post. At the eight minute mark I knew the Wolves had to get Love back into the game and get Pek on the bench for 3-4 minutes so they could bring him back for the final 2-3 minutes. Love checked back in with roughly 7:30 to play, but Pek remained in and he didn't come out until 46 seconds to play in the overtime period and then was back in with 19 seconds to play. Pek also played all expect for the final 1:23 of the third quarter, which means he didn't play for roughly 1 minute & 40 seconds of the entire second half and overtime period. He played a season-high 46 minutes on the night. Yes, he missed some shots late, but the big fella was gassed!!
You've also got to question (despite the good positioning and matchup Pek had on that final possession--with 5 seconds to play in OT and a chance to tie the game, that the Wolves didn't go to their superstar--Kevin Love. The Wolves were out of timeouts on the possession and had to work quickly, because the Wolves had the ball off of a missed Chris Paul free throw with limited time on the clock.
Some fans on Twitter were looking to blame Ricky Rubio because he went scoreless. Ricky did go 0-for-4, but he also contributed in a number of other areas with his 12 assists and good defense on Chris Paul through four quarters. Of course the Wolves could use a bit more production from their point guard in the points column, but his ability to create for others makes him very valuable. Add to that, the fact that the alternative is extended minutes for the erratic J.J. Barea and I'll take a scoreless, 12-assist night for Rubio every night of the week.
Kevin Martin was incredible to start the season, but he's REALLY struggled lately and tonight was another prime example. He finished with 14 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting, while also adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists--however he committed 6 turnovers and fouled out in overtime. His one turnover discussed above was the key point in this game and he had another one with roughly 3 minutes to go in overtime where he snagged a rebound underneath the basket and then proceeded to throw the ball chuck the ball towards mid-court, right to the other team that quickly ran down court for the transition basket to tie the game at 110. Nikola & Love have been terrific lately, but if they can really get Martin going it will REALLY round out the offense and make the Wolves near unstoppable.
Bad offense? Corey Brewer jumpers, Ricky Rubio at the rim, Ricky Rubio jumpers, Alexey Shved driving the lane, J.J. Barea in 'hero ball' mode, Mbah a Moute from deep, Mbah a Moute attempting to dribble the basketball, Kevin Martin when he doesn't get a foul call and lastly and most importantly--any possession in which Kevin Love doesn't touch the basketball! Guess what? We saw all of those things tonight!
Bad defense? Everything the Wolves do. ESPECIALLY on transition defense! You can usually see Brewer attempting to get back down court and I understand if Love & Pek are a bit behind, but where in the hell are Ricky Rubio & Kevin Martin on transition D? And why is it always just one person trying to stop a 2-on-1 or 3-on-1 break?!
The Wolves don't play again until Dec. 27th vs. the Wizards. That gives them five days off over the Holidays to get some things together. Even when the Wolves shoot a low percentage as a team from the field, they're still able to muster 100-point outings. While the Wolves offense could use some work, it's the defense that's the killer. Unless Minnesota figures out something different to do defensively, the losses will continue to pile up. It doesn't matter how lethal your offense is, if you can't stop ANYONE, you're never going to be a consistent winner.
Tonight's box score...
I have nothing more to add.
Have a Happy Holidays.
Tonight the Minnesota Timberwolves play their final game before Christmas. They'll take on the Los Angeles Clippers at the STAPLES Center. After tonight's game they won't play again until the 27th of December vs. the Washington Wizards, back at the Target Center.
After another incredibly disappointing effort vs. the Lakers on Friday night, the Timberwolves desperately need this win--especially against a team that has handed them two narrow defeats already this season.
This is the third meeting of four this season. The Clippers took that first meeting at the STAPLES Center on November 11th, 107-109. That was the game where Kevin Martin missed the game-tying jump shot and then Pek missed a tip-in and then Love missed a tip-in as the buzzer sounded. The second loss came at the Target Center just nine days later (11/20). The Clippers escaped with another narrow, 102-98 victory. The Wolves need a win tonight if they don't want to lose the season series. The last meeting of the season between these two teams will come on March 31st at the Target Center.
Since the last time these teams met, the Clippers have lost just five games whereas our Timberwolves have dropped eight games. The Clippers are 19-9 on the year, 11-2 at home, 13-3 vs. the Western Conference and winners of four-straight. The Timberwolves are below .500 once again at 13-14, 5-10 on the road, 6-9 vs. the Western Conference and 5-5 in their last ten games.
The Wolves played on Friday vs. the Lakers and had yesterday off. The Clippers played against the Denver Nuggets last night in L.A. The result was a 112-91 win for LAC. The Wolves will definitely have the 'fresher legs' and we could see a big offensive first quarter from the Wolves as a result. That will be all for naught if the Wolves don't execute throughout the game. They're most definitely not playing to win right now--they're playing not to lose and the result has been a lot of losses against teams that have no business beating the Timberwolves (most recently the Celtics & Lakers).
Ricky Rubio was battling an illness in that game vs. the Lakers, but it sounds as though he's doing better and will be good to go for this one. Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow) are still out, thought it sounds as though their returns are on the horizon, if not after Christmas, then sometime early in the new year.
The Clippers will be without three of their guards. Maalik Wayns is still recovering from surgery on his torn meniscus. Reggie Bullock is dealing with an ankle injury that will keep him out until sometime in early 2014. Lastly, starting shooting guard J.J. Redick had a wrist injury in a game vs. the Kings (I believe it was in Derrick Williams' Kings debut--because I remember watching the game). In his place, sixth man Jamal Crawford has been starting at shooting guard for the Clips. Reserve swingman Matt Barnes had missed the previous 16 games after undergoing surgery to repair a torn retina in his eye. He returned last night against the Nuggets sporting some protective goggles and contributed 13 points off the bench.
If the Wolves put forth the kind of effort that they have vs. the Celtics & Lakers this week, the Wolves are going to get blown out! All I want for Christmas from the Minnesota Timberwolves is effort on both ends of the floor! Just effort...that's all!
Tonight's game is a late 8:30 tip, enjoy the game, Happy Holidays and GO WOLVES!
The Minnesota Timberwolves lost another winnable game and this one may hurt even worse than Monday's loss to the Celtics in Boston.
The Lakers were without Kobe Bryant or a true point guard (at least one that Mike D'Antoni would play--the Lakers did officially sign Kendall Marshall this afternoon prior to tonight's game). Despite playing with some makeshift floor generals, the Lakers were still able to take down Minnesota.
A lot of that was their transition offense, which the Wolves just could not stop. Add to that the difficult shots that their swingmen were hitting (Nick Young, Jodie Meeks & Xavier Henry)--coupled with Minnesota's inability to get into any kind of rhythm on the offensive end.
Nick Young, Xavier Henry & Pau Gasol absolutely killed the Wolves tonight. Pau has been clashing with Mike D'Antoni for the past couple weeks over his role on the team and his role on offense. Despite his clashing with the head coach, he had one of his best games of the season. The Lakers may have been without a point guard, but Pau helped out in that capacity--he finished with 8 assists on the night and fell just 2 assists shy of a triple-double. Minnesota's big men all took turns against him defensively, but Gasol was just playing like the All-Star he was just a few short years ago.
It's hard to understand how a team can take down the NBA's best team (Portland) one day and that win is sandwiched in between two games where the Wolves played like a team looking for a high lottery pick come June (despite the fact that, that pick would go to Phoenix as part of the Wes Johnson deal). Oh...hey, speaking of Wes, guess who the Lakers' starting shooting guard is? Jodie Meeks. Oh...and Wes starts at small forward.
I, like most Wolves fans pray that the return of Chase Budinger & Ronny Turiaf can alleviate a lot of those concerns. Unfortunately I don't think they're the antidote. Neither is a trade, so the Wolves need to take the group of guys that they have available to them. It's not as simple as just shooting their way out of this slump. The Wolves offense isn't the (biggest) concern. If the Wolves can't play even average team defense, then I personally guarantee that we'll find ourselves on the outside looking in come April.
Why couldn't Derrick Williams cut it in Minnesota? One simple word. Inconsistent. Why can't the Wolves cut it in the Western Conference? One simple word. Inconsistent. I was hoping the one word to describe this team this season would be: contender or elite or dominant, etc. That's just not the case and until the Wolves can figure out these defensive woes, we'll have games where we're blowing out the NBA's best and others where we're losing to the bottom feeders.
The Timberwolves kept this one close throughout, but the Lakers were able to pull away in the final few minutes for the victory. A small part of that was some questionable calls by the officials (ie: an offensive foul on Barea & a number of blatant 'no-calls' on Minnesota's big men. The rest was shoddy defense and the inability to get anything going offensively.
The Timberwolves didn't make a field goal over the final five minutes of gameplay! While you expect this team to be able to get their points (with offensive dynamos Love, Pek & K-Mart), that just wasn't the case. At the end of the day, the Timberwolves simply got overworked on both ends, all night!
Tonight's box score...
How invaluable is having a prolific scorer off the bench? Nick Young outscored the entire Timberwolves bench by his lonesome! Just 19 points for Minnesota's second unit. The hope is that Chase Budinger can fill that role, but it's going to be a couple weeks before he returns to the floor and another couple months before he's regained any kind of form, excluding the occasional scoring outburst.
The Wolves dominated the offensive glass--they finished with a season-high 22 offensive rebounds, 10 of those came from Nikola Peković, which is a new career-high for the big fella. That work on the glass was about the only thing the Wolves did well tonight.
The Wolves shot a miserable 35% from the field and 23% from deep, while allowing yet another opponent to shoot above 50% from the field. I thought that this team would be a lot of fun to watch--a real offensive juggernaut, but to be perfectly honest, I'd rather have a dominant defensive team that struggles to put points on the board! A lockdown squad that's going to make you work for every possession. The Wolves don't have the personnel to accomplish that, but they do have the potential to be much, much better than this!
The Wolves move a game below .500 once again and it gets no easier as they'll face a team they've already seen twice this season (both losses)--the Clippers on Sunday night. Stay tuned for the preview, thanks for reading and C'MON WOLVES!!!
This weekend is the final trip to the STAPLES Center this season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. They'll face the Lakers tonight for the second time this season (both in L.A.) and they'll take on the Clippers for the third time this season (second in L.A.) on Sunday.
Tonight it's the Los Angeles Lakers, a L.A. Lakers team that has had a number of injuries to a lot of their key players. After the season the Timberwolves had last season, I never can feel too bad for a team (injury-wise).
The Lakers found out on Thursday afternoon that just weeks after Kobe Bryant had returned from an achilles injury, that he'd miss another six weeks with a fracture of the tibial plateau in his left knee. The injury won't require surgery, it's just a matter of letting the bone heal. Bryant won't be back in the lineup until sometime in February. The Lakers are also without point guard Steve Nash who has some nerve problems in his back that have kept him out of the lineup for quite some time now, there were some reports that he was even considering retirement, but they were quickly dismissed. L.A.'s Jordan Farmar is dealing with a hamstring injury and will be re-evaluated on December 24th and lastly, Steve Blake tore a ligament in his elbow and will be out until sometime in January.
So...that leaves the L.A. Lakers with just one true point guard. A player who was playing in the D-League just a few days ago! The Lakers signed former Phoenix Suns lottery pick Kendall Marshall from the D-League after news about Kobe Bryant's injury broke. Bryant had been basically playing the role of distributor in his return, but now they'll have to rely on failed lotto pick Marshall and a couple guys who have been known for their scoring and shooting during their NBA career than their playmaking abilities: Jodie Meeks & Nick Young to help run the team a bit.
The last time these two teams met (Nov. 10) the Timberwolves ended that nasty 22-game losing streak to the Lakers and now with a win under their belt and Kobe sidelined, they have a good chance to make it two-straight--and who knows, maybe start a big streak of their own.
The Timberwolves currently sit at 13-13 after a disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday in which they appeared to think the win would simply come to them. That issue was quickly rectified on Wednesday night when the Wolves took down the NBA's best team (at that time, record-wise) the Blazers in a 120-109 win. A game in which they built a 32-point first half lead only to find themselves in a 5-point game in the final 40 seconds of the fourth quarter. Nonetheless it was a great win and a big morale booster after one of the worst games of the season, Monday in Boston.
The last time these two teams met the Timberwolves did exactly what they did to the Blazers on Wednesday night. They attacked early and built a HUGE lead. The Lakers chipped into the lead a bit in the second half, but it was clear after two quarters that the Wolves would win that game. That'll be a big key tonight--come out ready to play right away and get up big early on these guys. The last thing you want to do is let them hang around and have Meeks & Young hitting three-pointers to get them back into the game.
The Lakers currently sit one game below .500 at 12-13 and despite having similar records, there's really no comparison to which of these teams is better. Having Kobe and all these point guards out of the lineup makes it all the easier. The Timberwolves are the superior team and they should come out and play like it, because while this team lacks talent, there's definitely a number of competitors on this roster.
The Wolves are without Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow). Budinger returned to full-contact practices yesterday and did some four-on-four work, he said after practice that they knee felt good, but his feet were burning and he definitely had some work to do, conditioning-wise. No actual updates on Turiaf have really been published, it's clear the injury was worse than the doctors initially thought, but according to the TWolves Public Relations twitter account (when asked by a fan last night), Turiaf is making progress every day. So...that really nails down a timetable--making it abundantly clear they have no idea when he'll get back on the court.
Tonight's game is a late 9:30pmCST start, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
I said in the gameday preview that if the Wolves came out an played like they did against the Celtics, they'd be blown out and it would probably be a 30-point Blazers victory. The Wolves played as though they assumed things we come to them in that loss to Boston.
Tonight, the Blazers played like the Wolves did on Monday night. Holding the best record in the NBA coming into tonight's contest and sitting atop the NBA standings (which they made sure everyone knew by posting the overall NBA standings on their Facebook page just a few days prior). They came in assuming that they'd steamroll the Wolves like they had done so many times before. The Blazers came in with five-straight wins over the Wolves, winners of 21 of the last 23 meetings including 10 of 11 at the Target Center.
They came in expecting to win, but quickly found themselves down and a short time later found themselves down BIG! The Wolves led by 32 points at one point in this game thanks to...EVERYONE! There wasn't a player out on the court sporting TWolves white that didn't play well in the first half! Nikola dominated Robin Lopez in the paint, Kevin Love let everyone know he was still the NBA's premier power forward, J.J. Barea & Alexey Shved looked like competent guards capable of making plays off the bench, Mbah a Moute & Cunningham attacked the glass and got easy buckets, overall it was just fantastic to watch. I found myself thinking; if the Wolves could play half as well as they did in the first half tonight, they'd be one of the NBA's elite teams.
Unfortunately, as we know, no lead is safe in the NBA and that goes double for the Minnesota Timberwolves. I don't know the exact number of big blown leads these past few seasons in Minnesota, but I can definitively say it has been A LOT.
The Blazers came out in the second half and played much better defensively and all the shots that they were missing in the first half started to go down. Little by little that big lead (which was 26 points at halftime; 69-43) started to shrink. That was thanks in large part to the play of second-year guard Damian Lillard, who is undoubtedly already a top-five point guard in this League. Lillard scored 17 of his 36 points in that third quarter.
With 3:33 to play in the third quarter Joel Freeland made a layup that made it just a 10-point game. The Wolves responded with a 17-8 run to end the third, making it 78-98, a 20-point game after three quarters. Love had 7 of those 17 and Barea hit two three-pointers within the final 40 seconds of the quarter.
The Lillard-led Blazers were relentless and they definitely made this a game down the stretch thanks in large part to their three-point shooting. Lillard hit some insanely difficult threes throughout this game and it was no different in the final period.
Nicolas Batum hit a three-pointer out of a timeout with 46 seconds to play that made it just a five point game. That was the closest that Portland had been since very early in the first quarter. That, however was the last bucket the Blazers made and the Wolves paraded to the free throw line (4-for-4 for Rubio & 2-for-2 for Martin) to finish this one out with the 11-point victory.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
The Wolves scored a season-high 72 points in the paint tonight and a lot of that can be attributed to the stellar play from big man Nikola Peković. Robin Lopez didn't have a chance, trying to stop him and Pek finished just 1 point shy of tying a career-high. Even more impressive? Pek played just 29 minutes tonight, but still finished with those 30 on 14-of-19 shooting to go along with 9 boards.
Kevin Love was a man on a mission, out to solidify his standing as the NBA's premier power forward and I think it's safe to say--he did just that! Love was just 2 assists shy of a triple-double at halftime! That's right, 8 of his 9 assists came in the first half as did 17 of his points and 11 of his rebounds. The defensive focus certainly shifted to him in that second half, but he still added another 12 points & 4 rebounds. Unfortunately, for the second time this season he falls just short of his first career triple-double, however those 9 assists are a new season-high and tie a career-high. Ricky Rubio said after the game that he was concerned that Love (with all those assists) is trying to take his job. After the 'nutmeg' Rubio had on Nicolas Batum, I think his job is safe for now.
Kevin Martin returned to his early season form after having a dreadful last few outings and of course missing Monday's loss in Boston with a sore knee. He got a lot of easy baskets early and you could see his confidence being rebuilt. He finished with 22 points on 53% shooting.
The bench definitely seems to be making strides and with the impending return of Budinger (likely sometime this month--most likely after Christmas), this is great news! J.J. said after the game that he's finding a rhythm with his shooting and that bodes quite well for the Wolves who have been hoping he'd turn around his early season woes. Dante played through a sprained ankle and finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds and some pretty good defense on his former teammate LaMarcus Aldridge.
Terry Stotts said this before tonight's game...
I had this to say at halftime...
"With all due respect" to Terry Stotts, I actually thought I read his original quote as "no offense", hence the reason I wrote that. Regardless, Kevin Love left little doubt tonight with his performance that he's cream of the crop. Aldridge finished with just 15 points on 7-of-22 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds and 3 assists.
This should make for a great rematch when these two teams meet again on January 25th in Portland. TWolves will be back in action on Friday night in Los Angeles where they'll take on the Lakers, stay tuned for the preview, until then, thanks for reading and GO WOLVES!
If the Timberwolves come out and play like they did vs. the Celtics on Monday, tonight could very well be the worst game of the season. The Wolves went into Monday's game in Boston assuming that they'd steamroll the inferior team like they did to the Celtics a month earlier at the Target Center. Instead, the found themselves in a close game and ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard at the final buzzer.
The big difference between Boston & Portland? Boston is one of the terrible teams in the Eastern Conference, while the Blazers are the best team in basketball right now. Holding a prestigious 22-4 record, Portland is playing some incredible basketball.
No matter the year, no matter how good or bad the Wolves are and vice versa (how good or bad the Blazers are) doesn't seem like Portland always has the better team and always wins? Well, they've won the past five consecutive meetings and 21 of the last 23 overall which includes 10 of 11 at the Target Center. So, for roughly the past five-six seasons the Blazers have had little to no trouble with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Considering that both teams are probably the best they've been during that five-six season stretch, this should be a pretty good game.
The Wolves are hoping that Kevin Martin (knee) and Dante Cunningham (ankle) will be able to play tonight. They're both currently listed as gametime decisions. Regardless of whether they play or not; J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will all likely see a bump in minutes tonight. The Wolves desperately need Kevin Martin's scoring, especially after Nikola Peković & Corey Brewer both had their worst games of the season on Monday in Boston. The Wolves will definitely be without Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow). Budinger has been cleared for full-contact practices starting tomorrow, however Turiaf's return date to the court still remains very unclear.
The Blazers made a few changes this offseason, bringing in Robin Lopez to replace J.J. Hickson who left via free agency to the Denver Nuggets. They also drastically overhauled the bench. They brought in Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Dorrell Wright & Thomas Robinson; while also picking up Allen Crabbe & (the currently injured) C.J. McCollum. I was uncertain that their new bench unit could be as effective as they have been, however when you consider how well their starting five played last season--with an improved bench, they were destined to be much improved. That being said, no one saw them being this good this season.
Minnesota needs to limit the drives to the rim tonight--especially against Lillard, Batum & Matthews. Kevin Love also has to play as well defensively against Aldridge as he did against another great Western Conference foe--Zach Randolph in Memphis. If the Wolves come out an shoot in the high-30s like they did against Boston, I guarantee the Wolves would lose by at least 30 points.
Tipoff is set for 7pmCST, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!