The Timberwolves opened up the season at home for the 13th-consecutive season and they certainly didn't disappoint...almost...but, no! In many ways it was a new beginning for a franchise that has had a tumultuous past decade, however trends of the past couple seasons still made appearances in this overtime thriller of a win.
Much like the Wolves of 2012-13, the 2013-14 Timberwolves blew a big double-digit lead in this one and let one of the NBA's inferior teams back into this game. The Wolves nearly threw it all away, but we got another vintage K-Love triple much like that 2011-12 game in L.A. vs. the Clippers.
Despite blowing a 17-point lead, the Wolves had the ball down by three with 12.4 seconds to play and Love caught the ball and found himself wide open (thanks to some excellent screens--primarily from big man Nikola Peković) and buried the bomb to knot it at 103 with 10.1 seconds to play.
Out of a timeout, the Magic got the ball to Arron Afflalo who let the clock run almost entirely out before turning for the fadeaway jumper that was too flat and bounced off the side of the rim. It was newcomer Corey Brewer who provided some excellent defense that forced the miss and thus overtime.
Kevin Martin & Nikola Peković each converted and-ones in overtime, Martin led with 7 points and Pek added 5 to help the Wolves outscore the Magic 17-12 in the extra quarter for the 5-point, 120-115 win.
There's very little question that this Timberwolves team is the best it has been in a VERY long time, but they still have plenty of work to do. The Wolves are playing to get back to the postseason and they were just pushed the edge by a team that's hoping to land a top pick in the 2014 Draft.
The Wolves have to find a way to maintain a lead once they've built it. There's no reason this offensive juggernaut can't hold a double digit lead that allows the stars to sit and spectate down the stretch.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
The Wolves hit just 32% from deep and 42% from the field, but it was their free throw advantage that helped propel them to this W. That's thanks in large part to adding Kevin Martin to the roster and having a healthy Kevin Love back. The two Kevins went 21-for-25 while the rest of the team went 7-for-9. Martin went a perfect 9-of-9 in the game and 3-for-3 in overtime. The Magic shot just 18 free throws to Minnesota's 34 and hit just 61.1% of them.
Surprisingly the Wolves were out-rebounded in this one by a +5 (those extra five coming on the defensive end). Despite that the Wolves held advantages in fast break points (+7), assists (+6) and committed just 19 fouls to Orlando's 29. The Wolves also turned the ball over just 15 times, despite playing a 53-minute game.
A lot of positives for this Wolves team, however the Wolves' overall team D needs to improve and they have to prove they won't be complacent with big leads.
FINAL NOTES: Adelman played just nine guys tonight and one of those wasn't Derrick Williams, a lot of the backup small forward minutes went to three-guard lineups (with some combination of J.J./Shved/Rubio/Martin). Brewer also played 40 minutes and Dante saw some time there as well. Will be interesting to see how that evolves throughout the season. I do like Brewer in the starting lineup, but it leaves J.J. Barea as the only big offensive threat off the bench. The Wolves' bench scored just 26 points and 21 of those came from J.J. (11) and Dante (10). They HAVE to get more production from Alexey Shved and could really use someone else off that bench to provide instant O.
The Timberwolves are back in action on Friday night. Same place (Target Center), same time (7pmCT), but against division-rivals, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!