TWolves WIN! TWolves WIN! Road to 89-0, still on track! Double WOO-HOO!
Now that I've got my VERY irrational exuberance, out of the way, let's get to the gameday preview.
The TWolves began their preseason 1-0 against the Indiana Pacers in North Dakota at the FARGODOME. An Indiana Pacers sqaud without three of their top four players. We've certainly learned some things about our new TWolves and all in all I had A LOT of fun watching all the newcomers take the court.
The Pacers played without George Hill, Danny Granger and David West (three of their starters). D.J. Augustin started at point guard, Gerald Green at small forward and Tyler Hansbrough at power forward.
Starting lineups: J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic vs. D.J. Augustin, Paul George, Gerald Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert.
Nikola Pekovic took it at Mr. Hibbert all night long and got him into foul trouble early in the thrid quarter, inevitably sending him to the bench for the night (w/5 fouls). We saw the debuts of newcomers: Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham, Louis Amundson and Greg Stiemsma.
Some early impressions of the new guys? B-Roy can still ball! He was cutting and slicing inside, pulling up for jump shots and adds to those 'ball handlers' Adelman demanded this offseason. He can easily average double digits all season long (assuming he stays healthy). Alexey looked rather Rubio-esqe tonight...and no it wasn't just his hairstyle. He has some great court vision and knows court & passing angles. We didn't see his shooting touch tonight (0-4 FG), we soon will, though. Kirilenko had only three points, but his energy on both sides of the ball was apparent and he didn't pretty much everything else in this game. Kirilenko had 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. With scorers like Love, Pek & Roy on the squad--AK doesn't need to score. Bud also made his TWolves debut and did so QUITE WELL. Bud finished with 14 points on very effective shooting. Initially I wasn't a big fan of trading our first-rounder for him, but as time's gone on I've changed my stance on that and tonight put the final 'nail in the coffin' (however, I would check out Terrence Jones' stat line from tonight's game). Bud is just the kind of spot up/knock down shooter the TWolves need. I wasn't so impressed with Stiemsma. He had a couple of blocks that got me excited, but there were a lot of times, in the paint, that Greg seemed to be standing watching; instead of battling for a rebound or contesting a shot. I don't know if he's still hampered by that foot injury, but something looked off for him tonight. Lastly, Dante Cunningham & Louis Amundson. These two played together in the fourth quarter. I think you'll only see them on the court together if the Wolves are down or up big and it's 'garbage time'. Both are energy guys. Watching Dante, my first impression? He doesn't have the foot speed to play a whole lof of small forward, his main position will be as a backup four. Lou had a few boards and a putback, as well as coming VERY close to a highlight reel dunk. I also didn't realize how long his ponytail has gotten.
Let's take a look at each team's top performers...
This would've been a completely different game had the Pacers been at full strength, but honestly, was this game about the W? No, it's the preseason, it may be important to some fans, but all in all I was just thrilled to see the TWolves back on the court. Sure, summer league was fun, but seeing Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love & Co. take the court once more (with all those newcomers) was A LOT of fun.
Let's get a look at the team stats...
The Pacers not only were three men down, but they also struggled shooting and holding onto the ball. 35% from the field and 25 team turnovers...ouch. The TWolves had a few lapses (as a team) on the defensive end, but we had heard all week that, that would be the biggest question mark heading into their first preseason action. Clearly the offense was solid, but the defense (while not terrible) should still be classified as a work-in-progress.
That's all for now, the TWolves are back in action Friday night. They'll face the Pacers in Indiana. We'll have a full gameday preview of that one either tomorrow night or Friday morning, so stay tuned for that! Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!