Bench on board; Wolves win 105-88

Timberwolves 76ers Basketball

Josh Howard and the bench lifted the Wolves to a blowout in Philly

Three Positives:

Jonah: The three-point barrage, the work on the glass, the intense pace and relentless force that the bench proved to be; they were all positives in my book tonight. Focusing on the bench’s work tonight, JJ Barea and Alexey Shved were just fantastic tonight. Barea did a wonderful job of changing the pace of the offense in transition, similar to what a second running back does to a starter. And Shved, the day I write about his rising three-point percentages, especially with the coming return of Ricky Rubio, hits four big ones off the bench and never let off in terms of creating plays off the dribble. The rest of the bench filled their respective roles and helped give the Wolves’ starters a much-needed break heading in to Boston tomorrow night.

Tom: The Wolves P&R Ball Handler plays, per Synergy Sports, were fantastic tonight. Minnesota was 9-15 from the field for 1.18 points per possession and a Turnover Percentage of just over 11, which is nearly .4 PPP higher than usual this season with nearly 7% fewer turnovers. So why did the P&R Ball Handler plays work so well?

For one thing, the Sixers defense was abysmal, and it seemed like after the Wolves went up by 14 and kept hitting threes, Philadelphia lost a step. The Sixers were slow getting around screens (sometimes several steps slow), which isn’t likely to happen against a rested Boston team tomorrow. But in the early going, the Wolves were able to convert a variety of shots out of the pick and roll, including two layups by Luke Ridnour and mid-range jumpers by Josh Howard and Malcolm Lee. After that, when the Wolves started knocking down all of their spot-up opportunities from 3-point range, it was pretty much smooth sailing offensively.

Derek: How have none of you mentioned the man who gave us “The Josh Howard Game”? Ok, nobody — except for, probably, Josh’s Mom — will call it that, but that won’t stop me from enjoying his unsustainable 16 and 10 on 7-12 shooting. Even if he winds up halfway between being the Josh Howard we’ve see the rest of the year, and the Josh Howard we saw tonight, the Wolves will be much better for it once Ricky Rubio and Chase Budinger return.

Three Negatives:

Jonah: The Wolves are one of the league’s best at getting to the free throw line yet they rank 23rd in free throw percentage. Tonight they 17 attempts from the charity stripe and only converted on 10 of them, mostly because of Derrick Williams’ three ugly bricks. It’s nothing to gripe about in a blowout win but tomorrow night, in Boston, those free throws could be vital in a winning effort.

Tom: Clearly, Minnesota’s production was unsustainable, although it should be noted that Kevin Love also won’t be 2-10 for six points every night either. Also Kirlineko sat out with back spasms, so he would help quite a bit too. Um, this isn’t coming out very negative. What did Barea do? Ten assists, 50% shooting…I give up guys. Awesome game.

Derek: On a night like tonight, this feels like being that overbearing sports parent who rips their kid for hitting three homeruns instead of four in his little league game, but I suppose I could mention they got beat on the break 22-10 on Tuesday night.

Three Observations:

Jonah: The Wolves’ broadcast on FSN stayed away from prolonged looks of Andrew Bynum and his ‘do on the bench tonight. I didn’t like it. I wanted more.

Tom: Honestly asking: At what point do we stop thinking of Malcolm Lee’s 3-point shooting as flukey and start to think of it as a part of his game that could be sustainable for a while? After an dismal start to the season, he’s shooting over 57% from 3-point range in his last 4 games. Granted, that only takes seven 3-point attempts into account, but it also demonstrates his ability to hit them cold, without a ton of shots to get himself in rhythm.

I’m not saying Lee is going to be an elite 3-point shooter. I’m just wondering at what point we stop writing off his good nights as flukes.

Derek: Just looking at the Sixers’  field goal attempts, and Evan Turner led with 20; Jrue Holiday with 13; Jason Richardson and Thad Young with 10 each. Now, unless we’re watching the 2010 Ohio State Buckeyes, having Evan Turner taking that many shots probably means you lost.

Notes: Wolves set a season-high in three-pointers made with 13, and Kevin Love breaks his double-double streak at six games and the first single-digit scoring performance since returning on November 21.

Next up: Big game tomorrow night as the Wolves head to Boston. Don’t let Tom sway you into Celtics fandom, either. (Tom’s note: I love you all.)

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