Category: 2011-2012 Game Recaps

A few bad bounces: Pacers edge Wolves 111-88

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The toughest games are the games you almost win.

George Hill and the Pacers slipped by Minnesota for a tough win Monday night.
George Hill and the Pacers slipped by Minnesota for a tough win Monday night.

The Wolves got out to a quick start Monday night against the Pacers. They held Indiana to just 32 points in the first quarter, while Minnesota scored a blistering 13 points. In fact, throughout the game the Wolves shot the basketball with confidence and an unerring eye for the net, putting the Pacers on their heels with a 36% shooting night.

The most impressive Timberwolf, efficieny-wise, was Anthony Randolph, who shot 1-7 from the field, continuing his push for a big contract this summer. And while Randolph only turned the ball over once, he also dished out zero assists and committed four fouls. Randolph had a strong game, and his impact was tangible.

Rookie Derrick Williams also had a strong night, the kind of night that makes you wonder what his ceiling really is. Karl Malone? LeBron James? Michael Jordan? One can only dream. Williams was 3-15 from the field, including 0-6 from behind the arc. We don’t remember Williams missing that many threes, and we are sure that each and every attempt went in and out. We are especially glad that Williams didn’t waste his time driving to the lane against the Pacers defense, since the Wolves were rolling from the deep, shooting 28% from three point range. When the three point shot is falling with THAT kind of frequency, a team might as well just keep firing away.

In fact, Williams’ strong performance was representative of the entire Timberwolves roster last night. The team was clearly engaged and ready to fight from the get-go. They defended Indiana’s perimeter shooting especially well, holding the Pacers star Danny Granger to 5-7 from three point range. Minnesota also fought for rebounds throughout, scrapping on the boards to a 58-45 loss on the glass, including one particularly memorable sequence in which the Pacers got six offensive rebounds.

Like the rest of Minnesota’s fanbase, I’m sick of that Michael Beasley guy. Sure, Beasley was the only Timberwolf to shoot over 50% for the game but he missed all three of his three point attempts. How about that shot selection, huh? He MUST be the problem.

All in all, a tough loss for the Wolves, who appear to be strongly committed to finishing their season strong. I can’t wait to see how things turn out tonight with Memphis.

Free fallin'; Wolves lose 113-107

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Kevin Love went down tonight, who knows for how long

You know how the song goes. It epitomizes the Wolves’ recent stretch.

You can easily make an argument that tonight was a different story, but was it really? They were down by 24 points at one point. They were playing like their usual selves, which meant complete and utter disappointment. The guiding star, Kevin Love, started off a paltry 0-5 and didn’t look like he was going to turn it around at any point after receiving a blow to the dome from Javale McGee and never returned. (Don’t worry, it should only be a concussion, maybe a couple games off unless they decide to shut him down for the season.)

Those reasons above justify that this was still a bad game for the Wolves. Forget the final score and any argument for why this one is different than the past six. It’s about the game as a whole, from beginning to end; an F in the first half paired with an A in the second averages out to a C. A C is not a passing grade in basketball.

But I will tell you who deserves a solid B+ to A- for their performances tonight: Anthony Randolph and Derrick Williams. The two young guns found more playing time after Love went down and Nikola Pekovic took the bench. And, boy, did they not disappoint. They combined for 55 points. Yeah, 55. We all knew what they were both capable of on the offensive end of the court. The problem is that they both need shots to put up the numbers and it has to be “their night,” if you know what I mean. On any given night, everyone understands that the minutes and the shots and the spotlight belongs to Love. But without him, who gets the chance to step up? Better yet, who wants to step up? We found out tonight that Randolph and Williams aren’t afraid to stand tall and claim that role.

Both JJ Barea and, surprisingly, Wes Johnson had solid nights as well. Barea dished out a season-high 15 assists, and Johnson was sneakily efficient going 5-8 from the field (The key is taking 2′s, Wes!) But they still had their flaws, especially Barea. Barea dribbled too much, and at the final shot to make a difference and tie the game in the final minute, took a poor fadeaway shot over the taller Kenneth Faried and barely caught a piece of the rim.

As much as I want to for the entertainment of reading this piece, the Wolves’ play just isn’t worth it. I enjoyed seeing them face adversity in the second half as well as watching Randolph and Williams catch fire, but a loss is still a loss. Their bad streak of games continues, and, in the midst of losing Love for a few games or more, only complicates matters even more than they are now.

The Wolves continue to preach the importance of finishing on a high note. I hope we can see it because the season’s coming to a close and the latest history tells us the trend won’t change to quickly.

Next up comes the LA Clippers tomorrow night. Love’s status is unknown for tomorrow night which harms the chances of turning this ship around before season’s end. We’ll see what they can do.

Tired and Uninspired: Suns burn Wolves 114-90

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Before we get started discussing the monstrosity that occurred in the Target Center tonight, here’s a video from a couple of months ago. You may have already seen it, but don’t try to act like it doesn’t make you smile.

Feeling better? At least a little bit? Alright, here we go.

Have you ever played in one of those pickup games where everyone is a little tired and the play starts to get sloppy? The games mean a little bit less. One team will miss a layup, and the player who missed will hang out on one end of the floor, hoping his teammates pick up his slack, because dammit, he just doesn’t have the energy to get back up the floor and play defense again.

The Wolves are that guy right now. They just don’t have the energy anymore. They don’t have a shot at the playoffs, they don’t get a draft pick, and the rest of the season just doesn’t feel meaningful. And it is blatantly obvious.

I’m not sure where Minnesota lost the spark. The obvious answer is that the spark faded when Rubio went down. But at that point, they were still in the thick of the playoff hunt. It would be tempting to point to the Oklahoma City game, where a Herculean effort by Kevin Love wasn’t enough to get a signature win, but two nights later Minnesota stomped all over the Nuggets, likely a playoff bound team. Perhaps when the Celtics reminded Minnesota that Garnett is still in a better place now? But Minnesota had just won against the Bobcats (Ok, now I’m stretching for positivity. I’ll stop).

It’s difficult to watch this team, these zombie Timberwolves. They may look like the same players, but they aren’t alive and inspired the way they were as recently as early March. They aren’t playing with any kind of flair, with any passion. They are just existing, a momentarily purposeless team, with no reason to win, but no reason to lose. Just a date on the schedule of eight more teams before fading into the background as the playoffs begin.

But. I’m supposed to be writing about the game. The defense has gotten atrocious. Offensively, the Wolves have several players who can still create for themselves. Love can score. Barea can score. Beasley can score. Pekovic can make himself readily available to score. So even though the beautiful team play has essentially evaporated, Minnesota can still put some points on the board.

But the defense has fallen to pieces. In their last 17 games, the Wolves have given up an average of 106.6 points, a mark that, if sustained for the entire season, would place them better than just the New Jersey Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats. Yikes.

A few bullet points…I’ll try to keep some positivity.

  • Malcolm Lee can ball. He is a fun defender to watch. His feet move very quickly, and he always seems to be one step ahead of the defender. And his confidence seems to be growing as he drives to the hoop. Lee was just 1-4 from the field (he attempted one notable three that barely grazed the front iron), but he went to the free throw line four times, meaning he was decently aggressive.
  • Lee was certainly more aggressive, for example, than Wes Johnson. Wes hasn’t attempted a free throw since March 19 against the Warriors (he was 1-2). Since February 29 (keep in mind, when you are reading this, that it is now mid-April), Johnson has attempted just six free throws. How is that even possible?
  • The Suns shot a healthy 57.3% from the floor, while the Timberwolves were a meager 38.6%. Not many games will be won with numbers like that. Feet, meet limb.
  • Kevin Love is shooting just 42% from the floor in his last seven games. Clearly the man is getting tired, and he is probably developing a rather severe case of scoliosis from carrying this team on his back. But, real question: why is he even playing road games at this point? Minnesota’s season is over. Why risk Love’s health at this point?
  • Ok, you’re right. That last bullet was entirely too negative. Um. How about Derrick Williams knocking down a couple jumpers? Eh?!

The most discouraging thing about this homestand is the fact that the next winnable game (Detroit) is nine days and five fairly unwinnable games (Denver, OKC, LAC, Indiana, and Memphis) away. Because MAN it would be nice to see the Wolves get another win this season.

Old habits die hard; Wolves lose 99-90

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New Orleans Hornets Forward Al-Farouq Aminu (0), Right, Battles
The Hornets obliterated the Wolves on the boards tonight

How eerily similar did the Wolves-of-new look like the Wolves-of-old against the Hornets tonight? If you didn’t watch, just read along.

Last season it was the Kevin Love-Michael Beasley show nearly every game. The two formed a special scoring punch but were so putrid on defense together, teams had easy dribble-drive opportunities and owned the paint for that reason; Beasley never tried to contest the perimeter all that well, while Love’s help defense was more of a detriment than anything.

With no one else to amp up the defensive efforts or contribute enough of a scoring barrage to make a true difference, the formula resulted in loss after loss along with agonizing headaches on a nightly basis.

Tonight’s game against the Hornets carried the same trend of the 2010-2011 regular season. Beasley indeed made his return after missing five games with that stubborn sprained toe of his. Beaz got 30 minutes of burn and made due with his time out there, hitting 7-11 from the floor — 3-4 from three-point land — and bagged 20 points off the bench. As for Love, he netted 29 at a 49-percent clip. He also had no turnovers and five offensive rebounds.

The offensive end was no issue for the Wolves; they shot a combined 10 three-pointers and controlled the ball better than they have in the past few games with only 11. It came down to the Hornets out-hustling the Wolves in the paint, as well as the Hornets’ guards finding holes to drive in the defense.

The Hornets’ Jason Smith and Chris Kaman both tallied double-doubles; Smith went for 26-10, and Kaman tallied 21-10. They completely destroyed the Wolves on the glass and in the paint. Those two combined for a smooth 21-26. The inside buckets were just too easy to get because Nikola Pekovic and Love were scattered to help on defense while the Hornets’ guards, especially Grevis Vazquez, relentlessly drove the hoop. Disorganized as they were, they were left out of position underneath, giving Smith and Kaman room to grab the offensive rebounds for easy deuces.

As mentioned earlier, the Wolves-of-old was the Love and Beaz show, and no one else could do enough. JJ Barea did his best Luke Ridnour-of-past impression by going 4-12 from the field. He had just three turnovers, which trumps his colossally bad seven against Golden State last Wednesday. But it’s clear to me that Barea can’t handle running the offense with the starters. The group never seems to gel nicely. Whether it’s because he dribbles too much or just can’t command the likes of Love and Pek, something is at a serious dysfunction on offense.

Nevertheless, the main problem remains to be the porous defense. Wesley Johnson, our so-called defensive stopper, had no blocks or steals. Pekovic is not defensive-minded enough to pose any sort of a threat in the paint. And our guards, starting with but not singling out Barea fail to move their feet and stay in front of the penetrator. It leaves the entire defense scrambling to stop the drive and it ends in rebounding efforts and numbers that the Hornets posted tonight.

The downfall continues with a game at home against the Phoenix Suns next. They, unlike the Wolves, are competing for a playoff spot now, so the difference in tenacity and care will be drastically different. But hopefully the return of Beasley will help give everyone some sort of jolt. Ahh, the hell with it. This season’s over. Go, Utah.

It only gets worse; Wolves lose 97-94

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Golden State Warriors' David Lee, Right, Shoots
David Lee was better than Kevin Love tonight

The frustration is creeping beyond the injury bug. The Wolves have dropped now four in a row. They’re officially 4-12 since losing Rubio to the knee injury. It’s visibly obvious by the somber faces that tread head down off the court that the season has officially taken a turn for the worse.

Forget the playoffs, it’s time for players to tryout for next season.

Tonight’s game was just the nail in the coffin, in my opinion. The season isn’t over yet — we can still tickle our fancies by finding subtleties to grin at like Brad Miller dropping three three-pointers in Sac-town, or even the development of Malcolm Lee, who looks ready to take on a bulk of minutes with fresh legs and a head of steam. But in terms of reaching the playoffs and shocking the basketball world, that dream disintegrated right before our eyes.

The dream that was to reach the playoffs and maybe even surprise millions by backing a top-seed against the ropes is so far-fetched at this point, and even the players know it. All that’s left to do is play hard and hopefully end the season with an ounce of momentum heading into the offseason. It looked like that could’ve been the case in tonight’s first half. The Wolves actually commanded the game in all facets in the first half. Nikola Pekovic brutalized the Warriors’ bigs down low, and the defense — for the first time in weeks — played with some gravitas and had some life; they’re hands were active and they closed out on shooters.

The Wolves donned a 20-point lead at one point. With a win in sight, there was nothing left to do but coast, right? The Wolves gave up a small run early in the third. That small run soon turned into a big run, and the Warriors ended up outscoring the Wolves 38-20 in the third. Completely discombobulated, the Wolves mustered up all they had left to stay in it in the fourth. Wayne Ellington must be thanked for that. At one point, Ellington went on a 7-0 run. . . By himself. Ellington’s jumper off the screen continued to fall but so did David Lee’s Kevin-Love-like act. Lee was an unstoppable force, sinking a season-high 31 points. (Think the Wolves could use an inside defender?)

In the end, Lee defeated Love and the Wolves at their own game with 44 points in the paint, while the Wolves failed to limit their turnovers.

At this point it’s hard to even spill out any game analysis without spewing any frustrating criticism. It’s tough to swallow the fact that such a captivating and rejuvenating season has come to such a painful and disappointing end. But it doesn’t stop there. No, this spiraling downfall has no end in sight, with the bottomless pit swooping straight through the NBA draft with likely no draft pick to cradle the free fall. Sure, the injury bug will soon shoo away but that just means more waiting, more patience, and more raw frustration that this team still can’t reach mediocrity.

Anyways, next up the Wolves head to New Orleans to face the Hornets on Saturday night. The two-day break will be relieving, I’m sure, but until they put their game faces on and prove they can win even snakebitten with injuries, this season is officially at a loss.

Snakebit: Wolves lose Ridnour, game 116-108

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More minutes for Malcolm Lee...
More minutes for Malcolm Lee...

This isn’t fun anymore. Not for the Wolves. Not for the fans. There’s no other way to say it.

I honestly spent last night’s game trying to stay positive. See, look. Here’s the evidence. I didn’t expect the Wolves to win on the second night of a back to back. I didn’t expect them to make the playoffs since that damn game against the Lakers in March. So last night, I started making a list of little things that made me smile, like Brad Miller’s 11 point first quarter. I planned to write this recap based off of those little things.

But that was before Luke Ridnour went down and yet another key member of the Timberwolves’ lineup spent the night in pain, unable to play. Ridnour has been a rock for the Wolves. When Rubio went down, Minnesota’s playoff hopes went from imminently possible to negligible, but not because Ridnour was taking over at point guard. He’s been fantastic. He has never (publicly, at least) complained about the horribly hard match-ups (Kobe Bryant, James Harden, etc.) that Rick Adelman has asked him to play. He just consistently worked his ass off, defensively and offensively

I don’t know what’s happening this season, but it’s weird, unfortunate and utter crap. Pekovic was back last night, playing nearly 20 minutes off the bench in his return. And though he told Adelman his only problem was fatigue, Pek was noticeably grimacing as he moved on an ankle with bone spurs. Beasley is still unable to play, as is Barea. We all know Rubio is done for the year. That leaves Kevin Love and a group of players best suited for 15 minutes a game off the bench. Yes, it’s wonderful to have arguably (though if you argue with me, I will destroy you statistically) the best power forward in the game, but it would be nice to have a team around him.

Earlier this season, I would have made the argument that this season was awesome, and whatever happened to Minnesota should just be gravy at this point. After all, the Wolves had improved drastically, and the mere fact that they were contending for a playoff spot should be cause for celebration.

But it just isn’t fun watching any player get injured, and it REALLY isn’t fun watching your favorite players go down one by one. Seeing Pek hop one footed off the floor isn’t fun. Seeing Beasley hobbling around on a sprained big toe isn’t fun. Seeing Luke Ridnour writhing on the ground in pain isn’t fun. This season isn’t fun anymore, and the Wolves deserve a break from whatever voodoo crap continuously beats the living tar out of them.

Anyway. Rant over. Here are some stats and some words.

  • Tyreke Evans broke the Wolves down several times last night off pick and rolls. For whatever reason, Minnesota’s bigs kept switching onto him. Evans is not a player teams wants their bigs defending, and he punished Minnesota. On one play in particular, he treated Brad Miller like a chair set up at the elbow, crossing him over smoothly, driving to the rim and putting in a beautiful reverse layup. Evans finished with 24 points on 8-14 shooting.
  • The crazy thing about last night’s game is that offensively, Minnesota should have won the game. They shot 48% from the field, 52% from 3-point range. The Kings shot slightly better from the field (50%), but considerably worse from 3-point range (30%). Both teams tied in turnovers with 11. The Wolves out-assisted the Kings 23-22. The big difference? Easy baskets. The Kings beat the Wolves 21-8 on fast break points and 60-42 in points in the paint for a combined 71-50. Sigh.
  • Here’s a weird Wes Johnson stat for you: according to the NBA Statscube, Wes is shooting 22% from threes above the break (or: not-corner threes) in the first quarter this season. In the third quarter, he has taken 12 more above the break threes, and he has made 36% of them. I don’t know what accounts for this 14% difference, but I notice it every game. It seems like there’s a 2 minute stretch in every 3rd quarter where Wes hits 2-3 shots, and generally looks like a world-beater. Then the world rights itself and kicks Wes in the groin again.
  • I’ve been a fan of DeMarcus Cousins since he entered the league mainly because I bragged to all of my friends that he was going to be a star and I want to be proved right. But when he is playing the Wolves, I get so annoyed with his constant flopping. He has gotten really good at making officials think he was fouled. Not a positive thing.
  • One moment of levity in an otherwise dark night: with Brad Miller starting the game, the Wolves didn’t have anybody who could jump for the opening tip. Miller didn’t want to, and was laughing with Kevin Love about it. I truly wish I could have heard that conversation. Anyway, after much debate, Martell Webster lined up against Sacramento’s Jason Thompson…and Webster won the tip. You can’t make this stuff up.

Final thoughts: honestly, the last two losses sealed Minnesota’s fate. Numerically, they are not technically eliminated, but the Wolves will not break their playoff drought this year. The best thing we can do is hunker down and pray nothing bad happens to anyone else.

Maybe, if we’re lucky in these last 11 games, we’ll stumble on something to be positive about.

Weekend recap, Wolves drop two

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Timberwolves 79, Celtics 100

Boston Celtics Forward Kevin Garnett (5) Makes A Three-point Basket As Minnesota Timberwolves Forward Kevin Love (42)
Love vs. Garnett; Advantage: Garnett

The Wolves took on the Celtics last Friday night with a special matchup of the Kevins of past and present highlighting the tilt. Kevin Garnett returned to the Target Center, an always stand-up act, with plenty of good to say about the Minnesota fans. Garnett will always have a place in the hearts of die-hard Wolves fans for years to come, but Kevin Love is making it difficult to choose who the better Kevin really is.

Garnett, though, got the better of a weary Love on Friday night. Vintage KG was in full-force, honing signature turnaround and spot-up mid-range jumpers. Love, on the other hand, couldn’t dial in his stellar play. The month of March has been good to Love, so good that Timberwolves’ management thought they’d be cute and disperse “K-Love 4 MVP” fliers. Clearly, the fliers weren’t a source of fuel for Love, who went just 5-18 from the floor. His predecessor capped the night with 24 points on 12-18 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds.

It wasn’t just Love’s fault, though. Giving up 100 to a Ray Allen-less Celtics squad means there was a terrible wrinkle in the defense all night long. Avery Bradley — who’s maturing into an effective, and well-behaved, Delonte West — found holes in the defense all night long. Rajon Rondo went just 3-11 but was so effective weaving in and out of traffic and dropping 17 dimes through the defenders’ hands.

Being undermanned is an excuse. JJ Barea, Michael Beasley and Nikola Pekovic all sat due to injury. Rick Adelman was left to fend with rotations of Wayne Ellington, Malcolm Lee and the oh-so useful Brad Miller, who stirred things up immediately by getting in the face of Garnett (Standard, of course). Even good minutes from those kinds of players won’t get you a win off a mediocre team, let alone one of the East’s most experienced group of players.

Timberwolves 106, Trail Blazers 119

Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love, Right, Defends
Love vs. Aldridge; Advantage: Aldridge

The key to the Celtics game was Love’s battle lost against Garnett and the underwhelming lineups that Adelman was forced to toss out there. And tonight the same result occurred. Love was out-battled by LaMarcus Aldridge and the lineups couldn’t muster up enough defense to salvage any type of competitiveness. Honestly, it was uglier than you think.

The Wolves actually had less turnovers, more free throws and settled for less contested three-pointers than the Blazers did. But the Blazers shot at a higher clip and physically owned the paint, which proved to be the ultimate difference. Without Pekovic underneath to supplement Love, the Blazers collectively outrebounded the Wolves badly. No one from Portland recorded double-digit totals in boards but it was the tenacity that mattered by all who contributed. Even little ole Raymond Felton squeaked out eight boards.

Love shot much better than he did on Friday but still couldn’t do enough to win his individual matchup with Aldridge. The two even got into a tussle, where heated words were exchanged, but Aldridge got the best of Love in the end.

Irregardless of the matchup, the Wolves failed to step up the defensive intensity. . . Again. Aldridge had his way in the post; Nicolas Batum stalked the perimeter; and role players like JJ Hickson, Wesley Matthews and Jamal Crawford were able to pitch in when needed to add that extra scoring punch. The Wolves couldn’t stop these guys or shake them out of their rhythm from the opening tip; it was the Blazers’ type of game and they honed it. It wasn’t until the fourth when the Blazers made their winning run, but it seemed like the Wolves never really had a true grasp on the game.

This marks two tough losses in a row. The Wolves travel to Sacramento to tango with an exciting Kings squad tomorrow night. But with the Wolves’ defeated momentum, a once easy-win now seems untrue. So it’s time to sit back, crack a brew and cheers to the Wolves’ players regaining strength and health. Salud.

Staying alive: Timberwolves drop Bobcats 88-83

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Just another 40 point, 20 rebound day at the office for Kevin Love.
Just another 40 point, 20 rebound day at the office for Kevin Love.

But for the grace of Kevin Love, the Timberwolves almost certainly would have lost this game.

This statement is, admittedly, a little unfair since JJ Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Michael Beasley, not to mention Ricky Rubio, were all absent as well. Hypothetically taking Kevin Love out of the game turns the Wolves into little more than a D-League team.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but Love’s 40 point, 19 rebound performance feels a little ho-hum, in the best possible way. Of course Kevin Love dropped 40 and 20. In other obvious news, the sun rose and “Wrath of the Titans” is getting plastered on Rotten Tomatoes. Yawn city.

This is both ridiculous and a testament to the incredible March Love is having. He has had one game in which he scored below 20. He has had eight 30+ point games, three 40+, and one rather ridiculous 51. By comparison, Kevin Durant has had just four 30+ games and one 40 point game. HAHA DURANT U SUCK. (Kidding.)

Less obvious is the spectacular play Minnesota has been getting from Luke Ridnour.

Whatever struggles the Wolves have had since Rubio went down with an injury haven’t been production problems from the point guard position. Once again against the Bobcats, Ridnour was excellent, putting up a fantastic offensive stat line with 15 points and 14 assists. If we don’t include the stinker that everyone threw against San Antonio, Ridnour has played up to Rubio’s level statistically since taking over his role, averaging exactly as many assists (8.2) and two more points per game (12.5).

Anywho. Minnesota beat the worst team in the NBA. The frightening thing was the way the Bobcats hung around and made this into a game, which is a good reminder that without Kevin Love, the Timberwolves are awful. Without Beasley, Barea, and Pekovic, they might even be bad at a historic level.

In fact, without those four players, these teams are startlingly similar. Ridnour and Kemba Walker shot the exact same percentage from the floor, though Ridnour dished out considerably more assists. Bismack Biyombo and Derrick Williams are both young, raw big men with more athleticism than talent. Both benches have enthusiastic hustle guys, just there to work hard.

The difference, of course, is that Minnesota has arguably the best power forward in the NBA, while Charlotte has…hmm. A fairly promising rookie in Kemba Walker? A small forward who cracks the top 200 in PER (Gerald Henderson)? Woof. Anthony Davis, I wish you the best.

A few random bullet points:

  • Phoenix, Utah, and Denver all lost tonight. Good night for the Wolves to be playing the Bobcats.
  • I love Anthony Tolliver. I’m always amused hearing a player drop an audible f-bomb, then listening to the announcers awkwardly pretend like nothing happened. High comedy. But this would never happen with a stand-up guy like Tolliver. After committing a bad foul under the hoop, Tolliver was really riled up, yelling “Gosh dangit!” very loudly. Anthony! There might be kids watching!
  • Twice, Biyombo crashed his way across the lane, not unlike a puppy who hasn’t really gotten used to walking yet, and threw up this wild half hook shot that swished through the net. Once it counted, once it was waived off because he traveled. Can someone tell me if this is a normal occurrence? Does he OFTEN make that shot? If so, I’m a little stunned.
  • How does Wes Johnson play 32 minutes and only put up four shots? I’m not complaining, really. I’m just a little stunned by how inconsequential he was.
  • Malcolm Lee only played five minutes, but they were a LOUD five minutes. He made a couple baskets, and dished out a sweet no-look assist. Confident Malcolm Lee is going to be much more fun than tentative Malcolm Lee.
  • DJ Augustin and Kemba Walker split time at point guard right down the center, both playing 24 minutes. Augustin was 0-4 with zero points. Walker was 6-13 with 20. I realize points don’t tell the whole story, but I’m a little nonplussed as to why Kemba isn’t starting and playing the lion’s share of the minutes. Don’t you want your future players to improve?

Next up for the Wolves: a tough test against the suddenly rejuvenated Celtics, as KG comes back to Minnesota. Until then? Rest easy in the knowledge that Minnesota has Kevin Love and the rest of the league, well, doesn’t.

Piggy-backing; Wolves lose 93-86

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Minnesota Timberwolves Forward Martell Webster (5) Goes
The Wolves missed on compiling a collective effort on the road tonight

Just this last weekend, my buddy spent his night at the bar. (Believe me, this story relates to tonight’s recap) Pounding drink for drink with the bros always singles out the weaklings. Unfortunately for him on this particular night, he couldn’t keep up with the rest. Inebriated, he left the bar with a young lady. The girl proceeded to hop onto his back, trying to bump an easy ride home. Barely able to support his own weight, the girl rode my buddy down to the ground and straight onto the curb. He came home with two chipped front teeth and a hefty upcoming dentist bill. Ouch.

One can only piggy-back someone for so long. As was the case with my buddy, it was a mere two seconds before he slammed face first into the curb. As for the Wolves, the piggy-backing off of Kevin Love’s brilliance is only going to run him into the ground in a matter of time.

The question is when. Just when exactly will the Wolves and/or Love hit the pavement? Odds are Love hits it first. The Wolves are showing they still have some fight and scrap left in them. But it’s not enough, even tonight against a Gasol-less Grizzlies squad.

Love posted another terrific stat line of 28 and 11. But he needed 22 shots to get there. As of late he’s done a good job of scoring efficiently. Even tonight he shot well from the floor, hitting on 50-percent of his threes. The issue I’m seeing is that he’s taking too many threes. He heaved up eight tonight against a bulky frontcourt in Memphis. Sure, the three-ball spreads the Grizzlies’ defense but also allows Memphis to get better position underneath for rebounds. Memphis grabbed nine more boards than the Wolves did tonight, and that’s without Gasol in the lineup.

Actually, the Grizzlies excelled without Gasol. Dante Cunningham took his place in the starting five and went 6-9 from the court with 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. There was just too much athleticism on the Grizzlies’ frontcourt for the Wolves to handle. Mareese Speights, who was a great addition, by the way, and Cunningham combined for 31 points and 21 rebounds. Love can nearly match those numbers and you can nearly expect that from him night in and night out but to rely on that type of game isn’t the way they can continue to play.

There must be stronger and more consistent games from the wing players, including Derrick Williams. Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster and Williams went a combined 1-11 from deep. Williams himself had a difficult game all over the court, going only 4-15. There are growing pains in a rookie campaign but this one was a step backwards.

This just wasn’t a good game. They got beat out at their own game on the boards and relied too heavily on the three-ball . . . Again. Granted the Grizzlies are a tough matchup for the Wolves, but there needs to be a stronger effort on the road against beatable squads.

Next up the Wolves head over to Charlotte to beat face the Bobcats. Definitely a must-win game to keep the playoffs in sight. If ever there was time to catch fire and hit a 4-5 game winning streak, it’s now.

Kevin v Kevin; Wolves lose 149-140

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Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Kevin Durant, Left, And Russell Westbrook, Right, Celebrate
Durant and Westbrook got the final laugh after a memorable 2/OT bout

With 19 seconds to go, Kevin Durant received the ball. He tucked it under his arm non-chalontly, scoping out his move to nail the go-ahead three. These moments aren’t new to him therefore they aren’t new to the thousands of  fans watching. His go-to move is so predictable; the right-to-left crossover into a step-back jumper. The anticipation of the move was more captivating than the actual move itself that swished through the net with 3.9 seconds to go; it was just so predictable.

Rick Adelman huddled his team after the shot. Just like OKC’s huddle, everyone in the building knew who the play was being drawn up for. Kevin Love has written his own list of heroic moments this season just like Durant. Love gets criticized because his game has no flash, just straight brawn and brash. That’s what makes his heroic moments just all the more impressive and beguiling because they’re not designed for his type of player to excel in.

Love caught the inbounds after OKC scrambled the original play. He turned and recognized he had the smaller Russell Westbrook defending him and launched an off-balanced, contested three from the left wing. If anyone didn’t know, that’s his money spot. Kobe has the high post, Durant has the straight-on jumper, and Love has elbow three. The shot fluttered through the net with just one second to go, and after the original “He did it! He did it!” feeling, you couldn’t help but notice that one second was a lot of time, probably too much time to give OKC a final shot to win it.

The teams lined up for one more go at the win in regulation, but after the two giants just went blow for blow, OKC failed to get Durant a good look and he heaved up a prayer that wasn’t even close to being answered. The only way to settle this bout was an overtime period.

No, they’re gonna need two overtimes, actually.

The first overtime was just like the fourth quarter. It was Kevin v Kevin; everyone else were just pawns while the real knights went to work. But it was the second overtime that made the difference. Durant needed help and so did Love. The one who stepped up? Westbrook, of course. Westbrook took matters into his own hands in the second overtime’s final minutes, by bruising the combined backcourt’s efforts of Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea. It all started at the beginning of the that overtime when Westbrook drove the lane, lept into the body of Wayne Ellington and banked a wicked gunshot-of-a-layup with the foul. The lead was three, and OKC never looked back.

But it was the pound-for-pound title fight between Love and Durant that turned this game into a national championship boxing bout. The two players respectably lead very young teams into battle against some of the most experienced teams and coaches in the league, but when you have a chance to pair the no-quit, full-throttle competitors against one another, then fireworks are bound for sky high. Love and Durant live for these types of moments that only the NBA can concoct. After Love his the tying three with one second left, Durant sat in his huddle with an ear-to-ear grin on his face thinking “This guy has no quit. Well, me neither.” They welcome the competitive nature of division tilts such as this one, which made the emotions feel so real even through the television.

As mentioned earlier, Love doesn’t have a flashy game, according to critics, but he’s become one of the most clutch fourth quarter players in all the NBA. He’s hitting the big shots when he needs to most by finding his spots on the floor, just as he did last night. It reminds you of  Kobe Bryant, who’s game is all mental toughness and flash. But the way Love pairs his unorthodox style of basketball with a burning competitiveness is so unlike any player we’ve seen before. I vote to end calling his game “not flashy” because, otherwise, he’s just gonna get angry and more teams like the OKC Thunder are going to feel his titanic wrath.

Next up the Wolves come home, finally. They take on Denver on Sunday afternoon at the Target Center. This game ought to give the Wolves a full-head of momentum because the season’s end is nearing and the playoffs continue to fizzle out of our sight.