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Ricky Rubio goes from setting defensive traps on the court to setting thirst traps on Instagram

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 9.17.39 PMOn Sunday night, Ricky Rubio posted a photo to his Instagram that got the female faction of Timberwolves Twitter all flustered. It was a shirtless photo of himself in front of a mirror with a caption that simply read “summer.” Everything about this photo was hilarious and the reactions ranged from “This isn’t your adorable Ricky anymore” to “Oh my…” For me, it was hilarious, and Rubio proved that he was just like the rest of us out there in the struggle.

First off, the shirtless mirror pic is a bit of a faux pas for any guy. Yet, I’d say 80 percent of us have probably done it at one point or the other, with the main idea being attention. There is literally no other reason to take an indoor shirtless mirror pic other than this. You can try to hide your motives behind the guise of a caption like “summer” but obviously it has nothing to do with summer. I mean, you’re inside and it’s May 5th, so this has nothing to do with summer! When you do post them, you certainly have to be ready take any amount of shit you get for being ‘that guy.’ Personally, I wouldn’t have even tried to hide my motives and own it, but to each their own.

I can see where Ricky is coming from. If I were a single millionaire in my 20s (I am two of those three things) I would do the same thing. And posting a pic showing off my hard work in the gym is a hell of a lot easier than trying to slide into the DM’s of attractive followers; why do the work when they can come to you, right? In some ways, it’s also encouraging to see that professional athletes have to go through the same things the rest of us have to go through.

My stance on this is the same with Shabazz Muhammad when he was caught with a girl in his room at the symposium: he’s just another 20 year old, big deal. Hell, I’d probably do the same thing and so would a lot of people, so I’m not trying to beat him up over this. When it comes right down to it, we’re all just human beings. But, before I go, let’s re-visit some rules for shirtless selfies:

1) Make sure you haven’t posted one in recently. You don’t want to come off as an obvious or desperate attention whore. Rubio got this one right since I can’t recall him doing this before.

2) You’re obviously trying to make a statement here, so don’t be coy. Get an “A” or get an “F.” Rubio got an “F” here for trying to cover up his intentions here with his caption. Make sure the lighting is good, and whatever you do, don’t pullback with a flimsy cover-up as the caption. You’re showing off, so show off! You threw modesty out the window when you took your shirt off in front of the mirror.

3) You don’t need to pull your pants as far down as Rubio did in his shot. If you have that elusive v-cut, you don’t need to go past your waist; people should be able to tell.

4) Be ready to accept the good with the bad. Your goal may be to get the attention of the one you’ve been crushing on for awhile, but more likely than not, you’re going to bring out the creep in the one person whose attention you weren’t seeking. Your actions will have consequences both good and bad.

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Brewer’s 51: Basketball as it was meant to be

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Credit: Unknown.

I know this is late. Like, five days late. But I still wanted to do something on the Rockets-Timberwolves game from Friday night. It was one of the weirdest games I had ever witnessed, and I was there for it no less. As weird as it was, it was also one of the most pleasurable games I have ever been a part of. For one night we got a reprieve from the widespread disappointment over the team’s season and the trepidation over their future.

First off, there were all of the injuries. For the Timberwolves, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love and Chase Budinger were all out. For the Rockets, Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley were no-go’s. You could say bench play was going to be a determining factor, but really, it was all bench play. And despite the fact that there were so many players missing, the score after the first quarter was 39-32…Timberwolves. Yeah, this thing was going to make no sense.

The Timberwolves eventually won, of course, because sometimes basketball makes no sense, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Dante Cunningham had 20 points and 13 rebounds, Ricky Rubio had a double-double, and Gorgui Dieng finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds (including 10 offensive rebounds, thanks Dwight!)

Yet, none of those performances were the most noteworthy, somehow. This night belonged to Corey Brewer and his 51 points. Brewer rocketed out of the gate and never let up, scrapping his way for point after point,  converting several free throws, and draining a halfcourt shot. Having not watched every 50-point game in NBA history, this was probably the most unorthodox, given Brewer’s skillset.

At the same time, it really isn’t much different than any other. Whether it’s Steph Curry launching threes, Durant doing Durant things or LeBron being otherworldly; these players focus on what they do best and use that to their advantage. And when you take Brewer’s performance into consideration, is it really any different?

As Brewer’s point total continued to climb, the surprisingly filled arena became louder and louder. He roared through the 20′s, and when he charged through the 30′s, everyone clamored for him to touch the ball on each possession hoping he would hit the next milestone. Once he hit 40, the bench and the fans alike were on their feet to cheer him on. The score hardly mattered since everyone was enjoying themselves. It was really the essence of why we watch, or should watch, the game: for fun.

Too often in this season people have forgotten that basketball is meant to be enjoyed. Sure, the playoffs were the goal and they fell short, but the team still improved and will likely finish with their first .500 record in almost 10 years. That’s something to be happy about. On Friday night, none of that mattered. No one was worried about what Love what do in a year, missing the playoffs or whether Dieng or Pekovic should be starting.

Everyone in the building found joy in Brewer’s achievement. There were smiles all down the bench, and Rubio even jumped on Brewer after the game. There was an apparent camaraderie from everyone on the bench– a far cry from the disjointed locker room from early in the year. Really, it was a moment we all had to appreciate. How many 50-point games do we get to witness? After all, there are two in franchise history. More than that, Brewer tied Love’s record for points in a game, but set the record for points in regulation on top of getting the win.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get to see someone of Brewer’s stature hit that milestone again, but I’m sure glad I was there. Most of all, it served as a reminder how basketball is meant to be viewed: enjoyed.

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A Sensitive Subject

The Dante Cunningham situation has not been an easy subject for the Timberwolves world. It’s certainly one that you feel as though you’re walking on eggshells around, carefully avoiding saying the wrong thing. Really, that’s also how I feel writing this, but it’s become a divisive issue amongst fans  on whether or not he should be playing or that Cunningham should be booed.

Take Tuesday night. Cunningham entered the game playing in his second game following both of his arrests. Some argued that he shouldn’t be playing, but as William Bohl of A Wolf Among Wolves noted, the team doesn’t have much of a choice:

As far the team’s handling of the situation, their hands are more or less tied. The Collective Bargaining Agreement does not allow clubs to suspend players while legal issues are ongoing. Employees at will – that is, non-union employees – could be fired in this situation. NBA players are union members, and their right to continue to work through pending legal trouble was a right they negotiated for.

So, there’s that. But as Cunningham entered the game for the first time, his entrance went mostly unnoticed by the crowd. It wasn’t until later when a single fan booed Cunningham and drew attention from surrounding fans, players and coaches. Being there, I can tell you that the reaction wasn’t positive to his actions. And when I said he looked like a jackass on Twitter, I got killed for it by a couple people, but that’s life. If you think that not supporting booing is mutually exclusive to supporting domestic violence, then I can’t help you.

After all, we don’t know the entire story and the legal process is still being played out. If history tells us anything its that these cases can change and claims can be proven faulty. It’s important to remember that we don’t know what happened and shouldn’t jump to conclusions either way. These claims are serious, if true. There’s also children involved, which is never good, and human beings who are dealing with a troubling situation. Do you think that your booing helps anyone involved?

Personally, it always strikes a chord with me when these stories arise. As a child I grew up in several of these situations. I’ve seen and heard horrible things directed at my mother that I will not elaborate on in respect for my family, but I do not take these things lightly. It’s not a situation that any child should have to be in, but for me it taught me every way that you do not treat a woman. Like, ever. Living your life in fear and never knowing what kind of night your going to have is not enjoyable, so I feel for his family.

And if the investigation comes back that these claims are true, then I’ll reserve my judgement for that time. But this is not my business, nor yours or anyone but the individuals involved. If you’re going to think that I’m condoning anything that allegedly (Keyword: allegedly) happened, you’re way off. I’ve been vocal about Jordan Hill (Plead no-contest to choking his girlfriend), Chris Cook (plead guilty to the same) and others, so I’m not having that. To simply jump to conclusions here feels like not truly understanding what these accusations truly mean.

You look at pictures on Instagram or see his family at games and this is all the more heartbreaking. It just seems so out of character and jarring in contrast to this perception. But that’s the thing with perceptions: they can be faulty. We don’t actually know these people, and that’s something that people on both ends of the spectrums deal with. Either we humanize them too much or we aren’t able to empathize enough, and that’s just human nature. We really can’t help that initial response (whatever that may be) since it’s the way that we are wired. But I look at this family and read the reports and am still stunned.

We may not know what happened exactly on that night, but we can grasp that it’s a negative situation. Clearly, there is a family that is struggling and there could be serious repercussions depending on how the investigation plays out that could have a lasting impact on them. But, yeah, booing is definitely the beneficial thing to do here. People here need help and they may need to take some time away to make things right. This is so much more than about basketball.

Some have asked, “Well, why shouldn’t they be booing?” And I can’t tell anyone what to do, but keep coming back to the fact that we don’t actually know anything! Well, we know there’s an ongoing investigation, but have yet to confirmed the stories. I’m sure Cunningham expects some jeers and undoubtedly has his own internal conflict over the situation as well. There’s a process, and the team is reserving their own judgement until that process is completed, and we’ll ultimately learn what happened then. As for me, I know how I feel about those who abuse women, and will never condone it. And I know which way my view will slant depending on the outcome. At this point, we don’t really know what we’re judging. We think we know, but we really don’t. All we know is that there is a family that is dealing with some issues.

This is more than just taking it to an accused basketball player. This is about real people and real issues. As for the boos, they do nothing to help anyone.

Clips had the Wolves' number again, which spurs some thoughts from me

Shorthanded Clippers drop Timberwolves,114-104

I was the only one who captured this exact score. Proud moment.

There were a couple things going into Monday night’s game against the Clippers that were causes for concern. First off, the Timberwolves were on the second night of a back-to-back. Secondly, despite missing Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and JJ Redick, the Clippers were still a better team.

Oddly, neither team could shoot from within the arc with both in the thirties in the first. Yet, both managed to shoot over fifty percent from three. The Clippers got a lot of good looks because of their proficiency in getting open off of screens, but carried a modest four point lead. To make this more shocking, Nikola Pekovic only played seven minutes before his ankle started bothering him, and Gorgui Dieng in foul trouble.

This left Kevin Love to play a lot of center against the large human being known as DeAndre Jordan. In the first quarter alone Jordan had 12 rebounds while Love had nine of the Timberwolves’ 15. Really, the first half was a fighter’s duel with eight ties, 13 lead changes and neither team leading by more than six.

Love finished the first with 16 points and nine rebounds and Kevin Martin chipped in 12. For the Clippers, Chris Paul led the way with 14 points and five assists with Matt Barnes adding 12 of his own.

As Rick Adelman pointed out after the game, the Timberwolves played the Clippers closely in the third, but suddenly found themselves in a track meet with the visitors running three-on-two breaks more often than not. Another huge thing the Clippers did to take the Timberwolves out of the game was not let them get to the line. Minnnesota had a total of one free throw attempt in the second and third quarters combined. For a team that relies on getting to the line so much, this was a problem since they suddenly had to try to become a jump-shooting team.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are not a jump-shooting team.

Los Angeles managed to push the lead out to as much as 22 and led 88-66 after three quarters. All seemed lost at this point, but the much maligned bench unit managed to push back. Highlighted by Shabazz Muhammad’s 11-points in the quarter, they managed to rally to within 10 points, but the game was just out of reach.

Now the Timberwolves will face the Grizzlies, a team they struggle to matchup with, on a two-game losing streak and possibly missing their second best player. That should make Wednesday interesting.

Time for notes!

- Shabazz Muhammmad notched his sixth assist tonight. That would be his sixth assist in 35 games. This is also the same player who had more turnovers than assists at UCLA, so he still has some work to do in becoming a more complete player. Adelman was asked about his minutes, and the bench play in general, he expressed concerns about the consistency that he had not been seeing. Really, he never knows what to expect from his bench, Shabazz included. He used Sunday’s game in Brooklyn as an example where they went in and just let the game go and came back to tonight where they got them back in the game. Let’s remember this before we call for Adelman’s job next time, k?

- Love made Timberwolves history tonight when he made his 466th free throw of the season to pass Tom Gugliotta for the most made free throws in a single season in team history. Also, Love had his 24th game of 20p/15r/5a, the most in the NBA.

- Adelman said after the game that he had no idea Pekovic wouldn’t be able to play the game. As someone who deals with ankle issues, I know they can be finicky. You can be just fine and have one wrong move and be hobbling all over again.

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Who Coaches the Timberwolves Next Season?

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It’s not uncommon in sports to have the coach become the scapegoat for a disappointing season. The Timberwolves’ Rick Adelman has been no exception with fans. Some have been frustrated by his rotations and questioning his in-game adjustments. There has been speculation that Adelman may walk away from the job after this season after his wife struggled with health issues last season. Consequently, this has led to even more speculation about who would replace him as coach in such an instance.

The first name that many fans have been drawn to is Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg has strong ties to the Timberwolves organization as both a player and management. Given the team’s history for bringing in former associate’s, this makes sense. My only question is would the grass be greener for Fred in the NBA? I’m not so sure. He has built a successful program in Ames, Iowa and was handsomely rewarded by signing an extension worth 10 years, $20 million. On top of that, college coaches have an iffy track record in transitioning in the NBA. It’s really an entirely different animal, but Hoiberg may still be able to reach professional players considering he was one not too long ago.

Secondly, there’s Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. This is one that I personally doubt would happen. I mean, Tom Izzo is the face of the Spartans’ program with a great reputation and financial situation. Unless he’s yearning for the challenge to prove to him that he could be a successful coach at both levels, it’s hard to see.

Then there has been Jeff Van Gundy, who probably hasn’t coached since I was in elementary school. Van Gundy is apparently close with Flip Saunders, so there’s that, but Van Gundy has had a steady, less-stressful gig as a broadcaster, which no former player or coach would gladly choose to give up. After years of being off the court would he want to jump back in now? Is this the right situation for him to return? None of these questions I really have the answer to, but Stan Van Gundy, his brother, would be the more likely replacement than Jeff. Though SVG would require more shooters as he had in Orlando, but may do wonders for this defense. SVG is still a good coach who would probably be coaching had he not been fired by Dwight Howard. I mean, the Magic.

Finally, there’s Saunders himself who is the likeliest candidate at this point. Saunders has had the itch ever since he left Washington and was rumored for the Gophers coaching job before Richard Pitino was hired on. Additionally, he is close to Taylor and this way they wouldn’t have to pay someone else to do it.

Of course some of this will likely come down to Kevin Love. Love’s opinion likely matters and that’s one of the reasons besides being a good coach the team won’t push Adelman out the door. We don’t even know for sure if Adelman is leaving as nothing has been voiced publicly by any party involved. This conversation may very well wind up being for nothing, but this is kinda where we’re at now.

Another Back-to-Back: Clippers at Timberwolves Preview

I figured that since I have some time today before the game and that it’s been awhile since I’ve done a preview, I would do one for tonight. After all, tonight is one of those rare Monday night home games, so I may as well take full advantage. Tonight the Clippers roll in to town coming off of a good win against the Rockets on Saturday.

Los Angeles comes in having won 14 of their last 16, so, yeah, these guys are good. As for the Timberwolves, they dropped another one on the road last night in Brooklyn and will have a short turnaround before tonight’s game. Fortunately for the Timberwolves (and unfortunately for the Clippers), Blake Griffin is doubtful for tonight and Danny Granger is — now, stop me if you’ve heard this one before — out for a week with a hamstring strain. Also, there is still no sign of JJ Redick.

This actually comes as a bit of good news for the Timberwolves, especially if Griffin can’t go. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said earlier today that if Blake can’t go he’ll have to decide if this means going big or small. Since Chris Paul is his point guard I would say he’s overthinking this some, but we’ll have to wait until we get closer to game time to find out just what they’ll do. I would assume that if they do decide to go big Ryan Hollins would get the start and Glen Davis if they went small, but we’ll see. I’m a little sad they traded Byron Mullens so we won’t be able to watch him launch awful threes for 30 minutes, but oh well.

The Timberwolves continue to be mostly healthy, save for Ronny Turiaf and AJ Price. It’s unlikely Kevin Love will be confined to another 14 point and nine rebound performance like last night. It’s also hard to see Nikola Pekovic 13 point and six rebound perfromance, especially if the Clippers are without Griffin. Yet, I can almost guarantee you Corey Brewer won’t have another 21 point and four steal performance, but it would be nice to see Good Corey.

To my point about Pekovic, the Timberwolves’ frontcourt could be in for a big night. Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng shot a combine 7-11 last night and grabbed 17 rebounds. With no Griffin, the Clippers may have to lean on DeAndre Jordan a little more than usual, giving the Timberwolves an opportunity to test out their new found frontcourt depth. It’ll be interesting to see how the physical Pekovic fares at keeping Jordan out of the paint and also have the luxury of having Dieng’s length and shot blocking instincts to combat his athleticism. Really, Jordan isn’t much of a problem unless he’s within three feet of the hoop. Also, don’t be shy about using those fouls…

Anyway, game time is 7pm. TV is FSN and radio is WCCO AM 830, as always. You can also follow along @DerekJamesNBA on Twitter since I’ll be tweeting from the game.

THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TWO CENTERS: Timberwolves thrash Lakers 143-107

Follower screencapped me intently following my Twitter game.

Follower screencapped me intently following my Twitter game.

I don’t even know how to start this recap. I mean, how much is there really to talk about with a 36-point win. Really, the story of one quarter is the same as the next quarter, and the next quarter, and so on. We knew coming in the Timberwolves were the favorites, especially with Pau Gasol sitting out, and they backed that up. However, this doesn’t make for much of a story. Here were some follower ideas for a recap:

(Be glad I forgot about this idea. If I were to re-write this, I’d do this.)

 

 

Out of the gate, the Timberwolves set the tone with their frontcourt. Nikola Pekovic, playing his first game back after rehabbing his ankle bursitis, came out with 12 points in just 7:43 seconds of playing time on 4/4 shooting. Kevin Love did as well, with 12 points and five points, including 3/5 from three. Minnesota shot 65 percent, scored 41 points and held the Lakers to 24 points.

The throttling continued into the second when the Timberwolves padded their lead in part to a 12/19 shooting quarter, but also a five-minute scoreless stretch by Los Angeles. Things were so bad for the Lakers that Nick Young was their leading scorer with 11 points, but it took him nine shots to get there. Yet, the worst part was that I had Daily Dime duty and had to try to seem like an objective observer. But do you know how hard that is when the other team is so terrible?! I really was trying to be fair, but the only consolation I could find for the Lakers was that no one else got hurt.

You know the most exciting part of the third? Not even the fact that they scored 34 points in the quarter — just nine fewer than they had in the first half — but that their scoring was highlighted by Kent Bazemore’s 4/4 shooting. Yeah, that’s it. For the Timberwolves, Kevin Love notched his second career triple-double, and also became the first Timberwolf to do in under 30 minutes. To put it in simple terms: he was the Domino’s of gawdy stats. Or a better pizza place…either way; Love finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Perhaps the weirdest thing was the Timberwolves’ shaky bench not only holding a lead, but building on it. The Lakers porous defense and penchant for contested midrange jumpers on offense made it easy for the reserves to continue to push the lead into the 30′s and even 40′s. When it was all said and done, we witnessed history. The Timberwolves’ 143 points were a franchise record for points in a regulation game. On top of that their point total and shooting percentage (67) were the highest in the NBA all year.

After the game Adelman praised the team’s energy and felt everyone had a solid game, which is always a good thing. Really, this was the perfect way to follow-up Wednesday night’s blowout of the Hawks: with another blowout.

“Wait. I thought you capitalized the title for a reason, but you only mentioned one center? Do your job!” 

Easy. I was working towards that.

It’s been the latest #hotsportstake around these parts to talk about trading Pekovic in favor of starting Gorgui Dieng without really having any real reason whatsoever. I wrote about it on Monday for Hardwood Paroxysm, but can rehash my main points quickly: 1) Good teams have depth and now they do, so why not keep them; 2) Dieng and Pekovic are not redundant skill-wise, so why not keep them; 3) We haven’t seen nearly enough of Dieng to know that he can be consistent, but we know Pekovic will. Then there’s a fourth that Steve McPherson of A Wolf Among Wolves brought up, and that’s the fact that they will cost roughly $14 million dollars combined for the next three years; that’s a bargain.

Tonight we saw each player showcase their strengths. Dieng had 14 points, nine rebounds and a block. Yet, he had five fouls in 22 minutes because he struggled at times to get in the right position. Pekovic on the other hand finished with 26 points on 9/10 shooting and three rebounds. In almost exactly the same amount of time he finished with two fewer fouls. The two players scored in their different ways– Pekovic with his brute strength and Dieng by taking advantage of easy looks.

The Timberwolves are undoubtedly better with both players, and again, no one is making them choose between them! I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been subjected to so many terrible teams and we’re just not used to having nice things, but this is what good teams have. Playoff teams need depth, and while they may not be one this year, they will have the postseason as a goal next season. This is literally what the team has been searching for as long as I can remember and now they have it, so they’re not going to break that up.

While Pekovic may deal with his nagging injuries, it’s nice to know that Dieng could be a reliable spot starter in that event. That way a guy like Ronny Turiaf is now your third center, but also a viable backup for a few games. See, this is how injuries don’t derail your season. It’s awful, I know, having two good players, but we’ll just have to make the best of it.

“I think his experience, playing, it’s going to help him,” said Adelman after the game. “I think he has some confidence and the guys are getting more confident that they can throw him the ball at the basket and he’s going to make it.”

From the sounds of it, Adelman is also okay with having two good players at the same position. This should go without saying, but it gives a coach options and avoids any drop-off at the position when one goes to the bench. When you can alternate between two players who are efficient, can rebound and play proficient defense in their own way, you are in an advantageous position.

Anyway, why don’t I touch on some other things.

- Shabazz Muhammad didn’t check in until the game was well within hand with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but when he did he played well. Muhammad went 4/4 from the floor for nine points, and scored from all areas of the floor including three; the midrange; and even a Dwyane Wade-esque tear-drop floater while driving baseline. Some lamented his late check-in to the game, but it really didn’t matter when Adelman put him in.

- The Timberwolves committed 21 turnovers to the Lakers’ eight, but won by 36. This is atypical of a team in this game but they made up for it by dominating the second-chance and points in the paint battles.

- There were zero lead changes. The Lakers’ biggest lead was…zero. Conversely, the Timberwolves’ was 41. Tonight’s only tie was at tip-off when it was 0-0. Yeah, the Lakers are bad.

- Tangent: All of this talk about the Timberwolves having to prove to Love that this will be the best shot at his long-term success, but nothing about the Lakers having to prove that they will be good again any time soon? Obviously acquiring Love would speed up that process, but they need more pieces to go with him still. Yeah, his parents and girlfriend live there, and he went to school there, so there are ties, but you would think that this has to come up. Also, “But the Lakers always find a way!” is not a real argument; it’s a seven-word revisionist history on the Lakers’ track record.

- Ricky Rubio’s steal tonight was his 175th of the season, tying Ty Corbin’s record set in the ’89-’90 season.

- If you don’t high-five kids when you come out of the tunnel, you’re a terrible person. Also if you don’t share the media room M&M’s.

Sunburned: Suns comeback on Timberwolves, 127-120

Sunday night was a pretty important point in the Timberwolves’ season. In the midst of a stretch against Western Conference playoff foes, the Timberwolves had one win in Dallas and a loss in Houston. Facing the Suns, who were also on the cusp of the playoffs, the Timberwolves  needed a win to gain some ground in the standings. Falling seven games behind Phoenix for the ninth seed would likely put the Timberwolves’ playoff dreams to bed for good.

Normally, I would go quarter-by-quarter and rehash the game that way, but I don’t feel like that’s necessary for tonight.

The Timberwolves did come out strong forcing seven first quarter turnovers and posting 41 points in that time. However, an indifference to defense and a hot-shooting opponent makes for a risky strategy. Phoenix still shot 60 percent and would never dip below 58 percent on the night despite their high volume of turnovers. Eric Bledsoe’s two early fouls also contributed to the Suns’ slow start and things would get worse for them before they got better. The Timberwolves’ lead ballooned up to as much as 22 by halftime as they continued to pummel their opposition. In fact, their 73 first half points were a season high in a half.

Minnesota’s lead was just 11 at the half, but felt like more considering how the Suns played early on. Yet, once the Timberwolves stopped scoring and forcing turnovers, the Suns came charging back. They cut their deficit to six before Kevin Love’s three pushed it back to nine. But before Love’s three, the Timberwolves went nearly three minutes without a field goal (11:03-7:27). What do you know, not scoring or getting stops is bad. The rest of the third was much more like the team that we saw in the first half that was forcing turnovers and capitalizing off of them.

Somehow, the Timberwolves had been able to push their lead back to 10 to start the fourth quarter. Yet, a 14-3 run for Phoenix to start the quarter would give them the lead with 6:51 to go. The Timberwolves once had this game handily, but now were fighting just to stay in the game. It would be an exciting finish, but one that would ultimately end in defeat and put themselves seven games behind the Suns.

Love finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists and Ricky Rubio added 19 points and nine assists. Even Kevin Martin chipped in 25 points, but added just one assist and zero rebounds. Shabazz Muhammad played well off of the bench with nine points and five rebounds in 16 minutes on a night when Rick Adelman rolled with an eight-man rotation. DNP-CD’s were had for Chase Budinger (Still trying to find his legs), Robbie Hummel and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Gorgui Dieng played 24 minutes and continued to look good, which is a bonus, but the team definitely still needs Pekovic back.

Adelman gave what was probably his shortest postgame press conference of the season. The only things he really had to say was that it was a tough loss and that the main difference between the third and fourth quarter was that they scored points. That sounds obvious, but it was true. The execution wasn’t there and the team as a whole deviated from their early strategy that was paying dividends. Love was right after the game, this was absolutely a game they should have won. While Love’s offense was a major reason they were in it, his defense was a major reason the Suns shot 57.5 percent and 44.4 percent from the floor and three, respectively. Really, their defense was a team effort, and other than making a few plays defensively, there really wasn’t much there.

Here’s a tweet I received from Kris Habbas over at SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun blog:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p><a href=”https://twitter.com/DerekJamesNBA”>@DerekJamesNBA</a> well Minny proved why they are not in playoffs moreso than the Suns. Good for Suns.</p>&mdash; BrightSideoftheSun (@BrightSideSun) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BrightSideSun/statuses/447870284289155072″>March 23, 2014</a></blockquote>
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It’s true. Tonight exemplified everything that prevented the Timberwolves from reaching a higher level of achievement this season: the defense, reliance on drawing fouls and the bench. All game long they were completely indifferent on the defensive end and Adelman did not have enough bench options available. Clearly, Budinger does not yet have his legs back and may not any time soon; Hummel wasn’t needed; and LRMAM and Shved haven’t proven to be consistent enough. So tonight the bench was Barea, Cunningham and Muhammad, while the Suns used all but two of their active players.

Playoff teams have defense and playoff teams have benches, two things these Timberwolves are missing. I don’t want to get down on this season, because they took another step forward and the fact that they are going to win 40 games still makes it a success. Yet, the roster always had a faulty construct that we thought may could have worked, but ultimately didn’t. The roster was too top-heavy and the defense has been off all year. In hindsight, it’s easier to say that these things wouldn’t work. It’s also hard to fault the team for trying to patch their poor shooting from last season by sacrificing some defense, but it still didn’t pay off. Additionally, the bench is the bench for now, but there is reason to think it can improve. Gorgui Dieng has been playing well and his performance may be sustainable. Muhammad also appears to be playing better, too. If these two can continue to improve and the Timberwolves can grab a rookie to contribute off of the bench next season, then they will be in better position next year.

This was meant to be a recap and not a eulogy, but it started to feel final on Sunday night. The team as it is has been fun and it’s been enjoyable to actually win games for a change. The Timberwolves are about a move or two away from being where they want to be, which is not a bad position to be. Tomorrow they will play the Grizzlies in Memphis in a game that had a lot more meaning a week ago before they began this Western Conference fringe trip. It will be interesting to see how they respond after tonight’s loss.

Note: Weird moment in the game when the Suns PJ Tucker appeared to say “Fuck you guys” to the bench after making a three and then Gerald Green yelled “Now what?! Now what?!” to the bench after making one. Even DeMar DeRozan did something similar to the bench after making one in their game a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea why this is, but Corey Brewer has been laughing every time.