We got our first look at the Love-less Timberwolves tonight vs. the Bulls. Little did we know that we'd be without Nikola Pekovic as well. Pek got hit hard in the hand on Wednesday and Adelman sat him to make sure everything fully heals. The Wolves will rely heavily on Pek. Adelman took the opportunity to give Stiemsma, Cunningham, Williams and Amundson a good look in the frontcourt.
With Love out, Dante Cunningham started at power forward. With Pek out, Greg Stiemsma started at center. Dante got the nod over Derrick Williams and even though they played the same amount of minutes, Cunningham had the MUCH better game. Granted, Dante played with the starters and Williams played with the second unit. You could argue the other way too: D-Will should've shined more with the reserves on the floor. As of right now, Dante Cunningham holds the advantage of replacing Kevin Love in the starting lineup. I'm sure we'll see Williams starting one of the Wolves' next two preseason games. Perhaps in the other we'll see Kirilenko at the four (maybe Budinger at the three).
The Wolves stumbled out of the gate. The Bulls found themselves ahead 14-2 early in the first quarter. The TWolves couldn't hold onto the ball and by halftime, they had given it up 7 times. Cunningham showed some of his 'ball hawking' skills. He had all three of his steals with 4:30 to go in the first quarter, he also showed some great hustle--chasing after loose balls and staying active on the defensive end.
In the second quarter the Wolves continued to get worked on the boards (we miss you Kevin). Nikola will definitely help in that area, though. With 8:54 to go in the second quarter, the Wolves found themselves trailing Chicago, 19-31.
By halftime the Wolves were getting worked on the boards: 13-24 (+11 advantage for CHI). Surprisingly, the Wolves forced Chicago into 12 turnovers, which they scored 12 points off. Not surprisingly, the Wolves coughed up the ball 13 times for 16 Chicago points.
Andrei Kirilenko caught fire in the third quarter, where he had 9 of his 12 points by 6:00 to go in the third quarter. The offense looked REALLY rough. With no Love and no Pekovic, Minnesota didn't have any inside threats, therefore they were unable to work "inside-out". Dante showed off his solid mid-range jumper, could easily give Minnesota 8-10 points a night. AK could probably give another 6 or so (assuming he'd average 8 w/Love), Roy could give another 6 points (assuming he's scoring 12 points w/Love) and Pekovic could give another 5 points (assuming he'd average 15 w/Love). That means AK averages 14, Roy averages 18, Pekovic averages 20...sounds like wishful thinking, huh?
In the final quarter Adelman trotted out the end of the bench. We saw training camp invitee Mike Harris take the floor along with Shved, Conroy, Amundson and Williams. Malcolm Lee also made his preseason debut, he finished the night with 6pts & 1reb on 50% FG (2-4) in 7 minutes off the bench.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers for each squad...
Dante & Kirilenko need to hammer the boards with Love out, they didn't do that and it certainly showed up on the scoreboard (check the rebounds totals below). Pek will help on the boards, but those two guys (especially) need to step up...way up! Budinger's points off the bench become even more important, considering Love's absence.
For Chicago, Boozer took advantage of Love's absence and absolutely bullied the Wolves big men. I can't express how badly I wanted Coach to bring Pek in to guard Booz! Not only Boozer, but Gibson controlled the paint as well, collecting up rebounds (on both ends), throwing down dunks and sending back shots. Don't you wish we had Taj behind Love?
Let's take a look at the team stats...
Minnesota's awful three-point shooting (16%), free-throw shooting (leaving 6 points at the line), out-worked on the boards (+6 for CHI), Chicago also held the advantage in fast break points (+8) and forced more turnovers (+4) and more points off them (+7) for the 11-point win.
The Timberwolves are back in action on Wednesday night vs. the Detroit Pistons, that one will tip at 7pmCT from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg (Canada). That's all for now, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!