The Minnesota Timberwolves had a rough outing. In many aspects tonight's Timberwolves team mirrored the Knicks team they faced last night: they dug themselves a big hole with some poor play on both ends of the court only to get themselves back into the game in the final five minutes of the game thanks to a large run.
Unlike last night's Knicks, the Wolves were able to pull within just one point and actually had a chance to win it with under ten seconds to play. The Wolves went on a 17-2 run in the final 4:30 to pull within just one point. With 15 seconds left to play Kyrie Irving missed a stepback jumper, Kevin Martin corralled the defensive rebound and got the ball to J.J. who raced the ball up the court and then with just over 11 seconds to play, Rick Adelman called a timeout.
A lot of people (on Twitter) were upset with Adelman calling the timeout considering the Cavaliers' defense wasn't set and they could've attacked for a quick bucket and the lead. There were a few games in which the Wolves had the ball with a chance to win the game in the final seconds and Adelman didn't call a timeout and from my recollections, the majority of those games didn't end well.
With 11 seconds to go J.J. drove the lane, but nearly lost the basketball, but he was able to tip it out to Kevin Love who got a clean look at a three that couldn't find bottom. Jarrett Jack jumped on the rebound as the buzzer sounded on Minnesota's first loss of the season.
I say Kevin Love had a clean look at the bucket, however in the final few minutes of this game he was hit in the face twice by the Cavaliers' big men, the first of which had to of poked his eye. So, we'll say he had an open look, but maybe not a "clean/clear" look.
I'm not trying to make a lame excuse and I hope the Wolves don't make any either. The fact of the matter is that they played some terrible basketball through the first three quarters. There are however some positives to take away from this game. The biggest of which is how these Timberwolves didn't quit like they have so many times the past couple seasons and they battled back and gave themselves a chance to win. They showed some incredible heart and despite the first loss of the season, there are some major positives you can take away from Minnesota's fourth quarter play in this one. Hopefully they'll use this as a learning experience and come out strong Wednesday vs. the Warriors at the Target Center.
The Wolves got down in this one letting Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Anderson Varejo and Tristan Thompson score at will--putting up very little resistance against a Cavaliers team that isn't and won't be known for their defense this season.
The Wolves probably just faced one of the better defensive teams in the League (likely a Top 10 this season). So the offensive struggles are somewhat understandable, but the Wolves need to improve their team defense. Some of Minnesota's best offensive possession have come of a defensive stop. Defense leading to offense is the best kind of offense!
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
The Minnesota Timberwolves 36.2% from the field definitely hurt them. That number was worse before the Wolves went on that big fourth quarter run, while they let the Cavaliers shot 45.9% and that number was obviously higher before the Wolves went on that run. Another big thing that hurt Minnesota was their three-point shooting. Kevin Martin was the only one to hit a three-pointer. He hit all five of Minnesota's threes and went 5-for-8 on the night while the rest of the team went a combined 0-for-20. The biggest culprits being Love's 0-for-7, Barea & Brewer's 0-for-4's & Rubio's 0-for-3.
The Wolves are a much better three-point shooting team than what they showed tonight, unfortunately they just regressed to their ways of 2012-13, when they were the worst three-point shooting team in the League. Some of that was Cleveland's defense, but on a lot of those threes, guys had open looks and just couldn't knock them down.
Ricky Rubio did a solid job defensively picking up 5 steals in this one, however he did allow a lot of open looks for Kyrie Irving early in this one. While the Wolves went on their run, Rubio was on the bench and it was J.J. Barea running the point and defending Kyrie Irving. Barea actually didn't look half bad defensively and he got some stops on Irving that were crucial down the stretch--while also getting some help defense from his teammates as it looked as though Kyrie was trying to play some "hero ball" in this one. Though, who else was going to take the "clutch" shots for Cleveland?
The Timberwolves got some production from their bench, but it wasn't nearly enough. Minnesota's second unit looks like a rotation that is REALLY missing Chase Budinger. The Wolves have some talented guys in their second unit, but J.J. Barea & Derrick Williams are the only real offensive threats. Unfortunately they're both pretty inconsistent when it comes to production offensively. Getting Chase back will help, but that second unit needs to find their identity because there's no way the Wolves can go 82 games with Love, Rubio, Pek & Martin all averaging 38+ minutes a game!
That's all for now, stay tuned for a gameday preview of TWolves vs. Warriors. That one is coming up at the Target Center on Wednesday night, until then, thanks for reading & GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!