New half, new Wolves? Wolves win 94-87

76ers Timberwolves Basketball

AK47 gave the Wolves a huge lift in his return from injury

Three Positives:

Jonah: In the five games before the All-Star break, Derrick Williams was averaging 16 and 9. He kept that streak of high-octane offense going tonight by posting 17 and 8 on 7-12 shooting. Actually, he began 7-9 before missing his next three shots. With the trade deadline looming, I firmly believe that trading him at this point in his development would be a major mistake because he’s starting to come into form and will prove to be a viable asset — For a major trade or strong role player — down the line once the team is healthy.

Tom: I glanced at Nikola Pekovic’s box score after the game and saw 7 and 18. I initially thought that was his shooting percentage and thought “Hmm, that seems low.” It was. Turns out those numbers were his offensive and total rebounds. Pek’s ACTUAL shooting percentage was 56.3%, on 9-16 shooting.

Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to abuse Philadelphia inside. But it’s great to see Pekovic scoring so easily, especially in the post on a series of turnarounds.

Derek: Oh you know…Andrei Kirilenko’s line of 15-5-5-3-2 on 4-8 shooting returning from extended time off…no big deal for the guy who has probably kept this team in the more games this season. I hope he doesn’t opt out, because I could watch him play for a long time.

Three Negatives:

Jonah: The Wolves’ bench, as depleted and exhausted as it is, was pretty awful tonight. Cunningham, Shved and Barea combined for 58 minutes and went just 5-22 from the field. Cunningham shoots too many mid-range jumpers, from where he’s desperately funking. Shved’s shot selection is also too sporadic and come from waiting too long in the offense to make his move. And Barea, well, is Barea; he’ll go through these kinds of nights at least once a week but might give you 20 points next time out. If there is any serious run left in this team, they’ll need the bench to become much more consistent.

Tom: Ricky Rubio turned the ball over six times, and several of them were in transition, which was a bummer. Even more of a bummer: his fourth turnover was a between-the-legs pass to Pek that the 76ers totally closed off. On a selfish level, I really really hope teams aren’t adjusting to Rubio’s flash. I JUST WANT HIM TO BE ABLE TO FLASH. That came out wrong.

Derek: You know what the Sixers did in the second half on offense while the Wolves’ was stalling? With Evan Turner running the offense, the Sixers tried and successfully managed to get the Wolves to switch D-Will on Turner from the longer, more athletic Kirilenko and Turner got pretty much whatever he wanted against him. Turner was even able to successfully assist on made baskets by players Derrick was guarding. Williams has improved, but we just need to see that consistency, although this could be attributable to returning to play after a week off.

Three Observations:

Jonah: Two mind-blowing statistics here: nine out of the 10 starters in this game had three or more fouls. The only one not to register a single foul all night was Derrick Williams. Hold your brains in. As result from all those fouls, both teams combined for 76 free throws, 44 for the Wolves.

Tom: I also cover the Boston Celtics, so I can say this with all sincerity: Treasure the fact that the Wolves aren’t completely tied up in the trade deadline rumors. It’s nice to be able to watch a game without wondering “Is this the last time I’m going to see Ricky Rubio in a Timberwolves uniform? How about Pekovic?”

Derek: I don’t know why, but I’ve never noticed that Pek does not have much in the way of shot blocking ability. He only averages 0.8 on the season, 0.7 on his career, and 0.9 Per 36 Minutes for his career, so I knew he wasn’t going to be accused of being elite in this area. I realized this tonight when a smaller player drove the lane against Pek and Pek managed to move his feet to stay in front of the 76er. When the player rose up for the shot, Pek just put his hand up to hope to alter it, instead of timing it to leave his feet.

It’s a skill that you either have or you don’t, but being a poor defensive playmaker while being a good defender is better than the other way around.

Next up: Wolves head to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Friday night, 7 pm.

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