The Minnesota Timberwolves continue their downward spiral as they dropped yet another one, Wednesday night at the Target Center vs. the Brooklyn Nets.
The Wolves had their chances down the stretch, but every time the Wolves would get within a bucket or two the Nets would answer quickly with a mini run that would push the lead back to a multiple possession game.
The first quarter ended with Minnesota trailing 24-17. The game began with a 14-2 run from the Nets, but the Wolves eventually found their shot thanks to a Rubio layup and a couple of Dante's 15-footers. The Nets got off to a hot start, hitting 57.9% of their shots in that first quarter, while also holding a +5 advantage on the boards (11-6) and a 14-6 advantage in points in the paint, thanks to some early dominance from Brook Lopez. Brook ended the first quarter with 10 of his 22 points and Joe Johnson added 8 of his 18. The Wolves were led by 6 points from Dante in that first quarter.
The Wolves continued to battle in the second quarter and they actually got to within a single possession three times during the quarter, they failed to take the lead as the Nets always put together a run to regain the momentum. Chris Johnson got rolling in the second quarter as he dumped in 10 of his 12 points on the night. Deron Williams scored 9 of his 18 in the second and no one seemed to be able to lock down Andray Blatche as he went off for all 9 of his points in the second quarter. The Wolves brought their shooting percentage up from 38.9% in the first quarter to 48.7% by halftime. The Nets continued their dominance on the glass, holding a 26-14 advantage at the half.
The Wolves inched closer as they uncharacteristically had a better offensive third quarter than their counterparts. Minnesota outscored Brooklyn 20-15 in the third quarter. Derrick Williams scored all 9 of his points in the third and Ridnour added 8 of his 13 to cut the lead to just 6 points (62-68) after three. By that time the Wolves had shot all the free throws they would in the game: 6. Despite playing without their best low-post scorer the Wolves continued to knock down shots in the painted area, going toe-to-toe with the Brooklyn bigs, both teams finishing with 36 points in the paint after three.
The Wolves pulled within single possessions multiple times in the fourth quarter, but failed to take the lead, resulting in a 8-point MIN loss. J.J. scored 7 of his 11 in the fourth and Dante added 8 of his 14, but it just wasn't enough. On Monday, it was Jannero Pargo that went off for that 14-point fourth quarter that boosted the Hawks to a win, tonight it was C.J. Watson. C.J. scored 9 of his 14 in the fourth and helped shut the door on a Wolves team that had already upset them once this season.
I hate to point to the refs in any game, but the fact that their were only 22 free throws shot between these two teams tonight and I saw multiple plays on both ends that were clear fouls. We saw awful calls on who touched the ball last as it sailed out of bounds as well as jump ball calls & no-calls. J.J. Barea actually picked up all five of his personal fouls in the fourth quarter during a span of 2 minutes and 44 seconds! Like I said, I grow tired of constantly criticizing refs, but tonight's game was just another prime example of the NBA protecting their big markets--not allowing D-Will, JJ & Lopez to lose to the lowly, short-handed Wolves.
It was a very balanced scoring effort tonight as the team had five players finish in double figures along with a sixth, Williams who finished with 9. Andrei Kirilenko continues to produce solid all-around games, but the bigger story tonight was the play of two of the Wolves' reserve big men. Dante & Chris. Dante is finally finding that mid-range shot once again as he knocked down 7 of his 12 attempts, many of them those 14-17 foot jumpshots. Johnson exploded with a big second quarter. He had a number of big athletic dunks, but also showed a bit of range on a putback in the second quarter and a turnaround jumper in the fourth. He also hit the boards and protected the rim, while limiting those silly fouls that got him in trouble vs. the Hawks on Monday. Johnson also showed off some impressive passing skills as he found AK & J.J. with some nifty bounce passes for easy buckets (both of which should've been and-ones!).
The Nets had a clear advantage at center and in the backcourt and as you can see by the players listed above, they did a very good job exploiting those mismatches tonight. Lopez played just 26 minutes but finished with 22 points on some efficient shooting. Matched up against Rubio, Ridnour, Barea & Gelabale, it didn't seem to matter Williams & Johnson had no trouble draining mid-range shots over the top of the defenders, slicing to the rim for an easy 2 or stepping out for a long-range bomb. They certainly had a gameplan to attack those areas and executed that quite well.
MISC. STATS: Dante Cunningham tied a season-high with 14 points (4th time this season), 7 made field goals (2nd time this season) and his 1 three point attempt (2nd time this season).....Luke Ridnour tied a season-high with 1 block (7th time this season).....Ricky Rubio tied a season-high with his two made field goals (5x).....Mickael Gelabale's 2 three-pointers attempted and 1 assist both tie season-highs, while his 25 minutes are a new season-high.....Chris Johnson had another career night: a new season-high/career-high with his 6 made field goals and 10 field goal attempts, his 5 defensive rebounds is a new season-high and ties a career-high, he tied a season-high with his 6 rebounds, he finished with two assists which is a new season-high and career-high, his 3 blocks are a new season-best and tie a career-high (for the 3rd time in his career), he also played a season-high 24 minutes.....
KEY STATS: Both teams shot similar percentages in all areas, but the Wolves going to the free throw line just six times is a big key for this Brooklyn win. Neither team went to the line much in this one, but Brooklyn's +7 made free throws nearly makes up the difference in this game. Without Pek, the Wolves continue to struggle on the boards, however these last few games they've upped their fast break numbers and tonight, despite playing just four players off the bench: Gelabale, Johnson, Barea & Cunningham they all had good games and combined for 39 points off the pine. The big problem for the Wolves in this one was the free throw disparity. The Wolves are a team that usually gets to the line A LOT more and it's a different ball game if that was the case tonight.
MISC. STATS: The Wolves set new season-lows with their 4 made free throws and 6 free throw attempts, they also tied the second-worst marks of the season with their 3 made threes and 6 offensive rebounds.....Brooklyn's 16 fouls ties a season-low for a Wolves opponent.....
The Wolves are back in action Friday in Washington vs. the Wizards. That one will tip at 6pmCT and we'll have a full gameday preview late tomorrow night. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!