Rocky Mountain Redemption: Timberwolves defeat Nuggets, 101-97

Oh, how I love good JJ Barea games. (Photo: Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY sports)

Two Positives

Derek: Per the voice of the Timberwolves, Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea combined for 19 points on 9/11 shooting in the 4th quarter. It was the type of thing that the Wolves needed following Love’s exit from the game, and exhibited something that good teams get: role players stepping up. We saw the Timberwolves taking smarter shots, and they wound up outscoring the Nuggets 45-31 after Love’s absence.

Tom: It makes a lot of sense to allow Alexey Shved to continue starting. 17 points on 7-13 shooting is solid, but his five assists also led the Wolves. Not only that, but Shved played pretty good defense as well as a part of the first unit and his size makes more sense than Ridnour’s as the starting 2-guard.  He turned the ball over five time, and his 3-point shooting could use some work (or perhaps just some moderation), but that’s a fairly prevalent problem.

Two Negatives

Derek: Here’s a negative for you: Kosta Koufos had 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks with no fouls or turnovers. Or, as Webster’s calls it, “unacceptable.

Tom: Transition opportunities are usually an easy way to get baskets because they so often end in layups. But the Wolves averaged just 0.59 points per possession in transition tonight, shooting just 3-13 from the field. The good news: only three of the transition shot attempts were 3-pointers. Most of the rest were dunks and layups. So do you consider missed dunks and layups good news, since they will probably fall in the future? Or are you discouraged that Minnesota couldn’t finish easy opportunities?

Two Observations 

Derek: As ugly as the first half was with both teams shooting under forty percent, the Timberwolves were able to build their lead by getting to the line twelve more times than the Nuggets. Early on they forced starters Danillo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried into foul trouble while converting on seventy percent of their attempts. It was a simple philosophy to make them play defense to stop them inside, or be forced to go to their bench earlier than expected.

Tom: So happy that JJ Barea had a great game. Nice to see him hit some shots. Good to see him dish out some assists. But I won’t come around on him until I see it happen much much MUCH more consistently.

Notes: Kevin Love left the game early after putting 17 rebounds in 24 minutes (against the league’s best rebounding team) for what was later revealed as a sprained finger on the same hand he previously broke…We saw Anthony Randolph again, and it took all of a minute for Dante Cunningham to get AR to leave his feet with a simple ball fake. I do not miss those days.

Up Next: Saturday Damian freaking Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers going into town. You should go. I want to go, but I have to work, unless one of you wants to work for me. – Derek

About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.

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