A once lost Love; Wolves win 97-89

Timberwolves Kings BasketballThree Positives:

Jonah: Hooray! When you’re given a schedule as easy as the Wolves, even road games can be considered likely wins going into them. Tonight, the Wolves won for a couple reasons, and one was certainly the defense. Although it can be tough to stop Tyreke Evans, and I was awfully scared of the backcourt matchup coming into this one, they actually held their own and beyond. Rotations, especially in the paint, were timely and crisp. They also knew that Demarcus Cousins wouldn’t continue to nail jumpers from 15-23 footers and allowed him to shoot it. All in all, I’m thoroughly pleased with the team defense tonight.

Tom: The biggest positive, by far, was Kevin Love FINALLY looking like a comfortable part of the offense. His 23-24 was cool, but it was way more fun to watch him pass comfortably and run the floor with his teammates. On at least two plays (possibly more), Love could have been credited with a hockey assist, making a nice pass to Kirilenko on the interior who then dished to Pekovic for an easy two. Remember all our chatter about how good this team could be if they put it all together? They didn’t put it all together tonight (Sacramento, really not a very good team, was in this game right up until the end), but they definitely took a step in the right direction.

Derek: What do you do when you’re fed up with losing to inferior teams after toying with lineups, and trying on the smallball fad for size? Strip your rotation down to the necessities and leave out all the rest. Much like a band that has gotten out of touch with it’s roots, and strips down the electronic samples, fancy vocal layering, and posh production, Adelman rolled with a four (Well, three if you don’t count Josh Howard’s seven minutes) man bench tonight, and leaned on his very best players to get the team back on track. Sure enough, it worked, even if it came at the expense of playing Love and Kirilenko 40+ minutes, Pekovic 36 minutes, and Ridnour 30 minutes.

It’s not something you can do for the rest of the season, but works just fine when you’re in a bind like the Wolves were tonight.

Three Negatives:

Jonah: JJ Barea has returned to midseason form, and many of you may not enjoy that fact. Tonight he was 1-5 from the field and also missed his two open three-pointers. He did, however, push the ball and the tempo when he came in, which led to some nice dishes in transition for easy buckets. But these are the unsettling games that make me wiggle a little watching Barea slither around and think, “Why can’t Shved just be in?”

Tom: The Wolves still are not shooting 3-pointers very well. Tonight they finished shooting a painful 27.3%. Love took too many, going 2-8. Ridnour and Barea were 0-3 and 0-2 respectively. Surprisingly, the best 3-point shooter was Malcolm Lee, who knocked down two very nice looking bombs in three attempts. Let’s not bet on that continuing, though.

Derek: The Timberwolves appeared to have solved their free throw shooting woes. And that solution was have just Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour and Andrei Kirilenko shoot them. The problem is that no one else was drawing fouls, and between Malcolm Lee and the four bench players (Cunningham; Shved; Barea; Howard), they attempted just six shots in the painted area that led to zero free throw attempts.

Probably an anomaly, but it just seems odd to look at, and leads me to believe one of two things: 1) They weren’t being aggressive enough; 2) Their passes weren’t setting teammates up to draw fouls off of their high-percentage shots.

Three Observations:

Jonah: Now, I’ve noticed this before but never really thought much of it until tonight. Nikola Pekovic travels in the post more often than not. It’s never blatant, usually it’s an awkward looking skip that moves him just that much closer to the hoop. His footwork is still solid if you watch but there’s instances where his plodding feet get all out of whack and move where they shouldn’t. He doesn’t normally get called for it, so hopefully that trend continues.

Tom: I really hope, for his sake, DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t get used to shooting from mid-long range. To his credit, he’s very good at it. But it’s not an efficient shot, and that showed in his final line for the evening (9-22 from the field). Cousins is very good at getting to the hoop off the dribble (as evidenced by his spin into the lane and layup at the basket in the first half), and frankly, he’s got the body to be a dominant presence right next to the basket. I like his game. I hope he succeeds.

Derek: Hey, guys! Did you see Isaiah Thomas play well tonight? I did. Four turnovers, you say. I say four “do-overs” for the Timberwolves. Seriously, I like Thomas’ game, and he was efficient tonight.

Notes: Derek is deeply sorry for not posting a preview for today’s game. Have no worries, he’ll be fine, and will be released in time to write a preview for the next game. Won’t you, Derek…

Next up: The Wolves round out their West coast trip in L.A. to play the Clippers tonight at 9:30 pm.

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