Category: 2011-2012 Game Recaps

Playing spoiler; Wolves win 97-93

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Minnesota Timberwolves'  Kevin Love (42) And Anthony Tolliver (44) Celebrate Against The Golden State Warriors
A win worth celebrating

Last night the Warriors honored Chris Mullin for his glorious tenure playing by the Bay. The Wolves, and in some sense the Golden State fans, completely upended the emotional moment for everyone by playing the best all-around game of this long road trip so far.

Thanks to Kevin Love and somewhat steady point guard play from Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, the Wolves were able to sneak out of Cali with a nice win against the Warriors on this arduous road trip.

The last time the Wolves played the spoiler card was in Dallas. On the night where the Mavs were receiving their championship rings, the Wolves came into Dallas and rode out victors. Tonight was eerily similar in such a heated situation. Mullin’s jersey retirement ceremony was hounded by boos directed at owner Joe Lacob. Warriors’ fans are known as some of the best in the world — that’s according to Jim Peterson, and as tumultuous as they’ve been the for the last 10 years — but it was classless response to an owner making moves for the future (Although as a Wolves fan, we should all have some empathy for their reaction to an extent, though).

Hidden behind all the hooplah, though, was another huge game from Love. He had 36 points on 23 shots along with 17 rebounds. The stat lines are becoming expected, so no one really understands just how great of a game that really is. Wolves fans expect the double-double on a nightly basis, and there’s no huge difference between 20-10 and 30-15. But Love’s doing things that no one else can do in the league right now.

But how much longer can the Wolves ride Love to these kinds of victories? I understand that supporting roles are being plugged with inexperienced players, even rookies, but they’ll need to step up on a consistent basis the way Kawhi Leonard has for San Antonio. They don’t need to be the first of even second option on the court but as long as they’re playing effective enough to give Love a breather on occasion, then they’ve done their job. It’s not that Love needs or even wants someone else to step up to be the hero but just someone to at least prove effective while Love takes a breather is a huge going forward. Ideally, Derrick Williams would be that guy. Last night he only went 2-9 from the field with six points in 37 minutes of burn, but it was his work on the glass that made his performance impressive. 11 rebounds one night, maybe give Adelman 12 points tomorrow in San Antonio and you’re doing your job by not doing too much but still doing a lot at the same time.

Two players that also stepped up were Ridnour and Barea. Starting with Ridnour, he finished with 11 points and 10 assists. He’s known as a shooter to Minny fans but his assist totals are rising when the Wolves need it the most. Being one of the most experieinced players on the team, it’s his duty to put players in their spots and hit ‘em with the pass, and he’s doing just that. As for Barea, he only went 3-10 from the field but also managed to dish out double-digit assists with 10. With not one, but two point guards finding players within the motion of the offense, the Wolves will only prove to be more effective on a consistent basis. Guys like Love and Michael Beasley need the ball where they’re going to shoot, or at least within that area. These two guys hit them in their spots and it paid dividends with a big win.

Next up the Wolves head to play San Antonio tomorrow night. The Spurs are hot right now, and even hotter are the Oklahoma City Thunder who are the next on the schedule. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves because the Spurs will be as tough at home as any other team in the NBA.

King size win; Wolves lose 115-99

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Minnesota Timberwolves Forward Kevin Love, Left, Drives To The Basket Around Sacramento Kings Defender DeMarcus Cousins
Nothing came easy against the scrappy Kings defense tonight

DeMarcus Cousins is a large man who Kevin Love can’t guard alone. Surprisingly enough, he’s never been the issue when playing against the Kings. It always seems to be their guards that are relentlessly hurtful. And this time it wasn’t even Tyreke Evans who did the damage.

It was the combined effort of Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton that led the Kings to a sure victory over the tiresome and emotionless-looking Wolves.

A team with quick, jolting guards like the Kings was the last thing the Wolves wanted to see tonight. The energy is obviously drained as the overdrawn road trip continues to wear down on the Wolves, and it really showed tonight. Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea were both greatly out-hustled by Thomas and Thornton all game long. Thomas, in particular, shined by mucking it up on both sides of the ball. He continually drove the middle of the lane forcing the Wolves defenders to scramble. And even when he didn’t have the drive, he was able to spot up and hit the three when needed. Thornton was the exact same way, only he utilized his strength instead of quickness to get through hand checks in the lane, and with no shot-blocking presence in the paint, was able to nail easy floaters.

The Wolves were coaxed into playing the Kings’ game. Part of it was due to the absence of Nikola Pekovic, who sat with a stubborn, sore ankle. Since the Wolves weren’t able to run their offense and establish their pace of play through Pekovic and the pick ‘n’ roll, the Kings forced the Wolves into poor decisions, which led to 21 turnovers. Then they turned those turnovers into 29 points by getting out into the open court, spacing out the Wolves porous defense and making the play at the other end.

Plain and simple, the Kings played what I thought was a perfect game. The Wolves couldn’t muster up any type of run without it being halted quickly by the Kings’ speed and athleticism.

This and tomorrow night’s games were essentially must-wins. As I noted before, the Wolves are really tired. You can see it on all of their faces, and if Pekovic isn’t able to give it a go tomorrow night and if Beasley’s not able to shake off his sore toe – A toe? Really? — then even tomorrow night will be difficult. Just because the stretch is getting hard is no reason to disappear. Other teams are starting to leapfrog the Wolves in the standings, and the chance at a playoff berth is slowly diminishing thanks to this stint.

Next up comes a tilt against the Warriors of the Bay. Take a breather and try to start fresh. This is a must win for sure.

Laker-land; Wolves lose 97-92

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  Kobe Bryant #24 Of The Los Angeles Lakers Dunks

The Lakers not only have the Wolves’ number historically — this loss makes it 18 straight losses to the Lakers, the longest losing streak to one team in the NBA — but they currently have the personnel to pummel them head-to-head on a consistent basis. And it’s nauseously sickening.

It’s not only Kobe Bryant who continually assaults the Wolves but the bruising frontcourt duo of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are just too much to handle. Simply put, they’re big three is so much better than ours on any given night. Nothing Rick Adelman can dial up will change that fact.

Having agreed that the Lakers are unquestionably better than the Wolves, you have to give Kevin Love and the Wolves credit for their effort tonight. The Lakers were just better in all facets but the Wolves never let the game get out of hand. Because of that they only lost by five, which is respectable in Laker-land, if you ask me.

The difference was in the three-point shooting tonight. The Lakers shot 45-percent from deep while the Wolves only hit 18-percent of their attempts. Both teams shot 22 threes but it was the quality of shots which helped the Lakers shoot at a better clip. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the “quality” rather the volume of shots Bryant took when he was feeling it in the third quarter. Bryant fired up at the moment when the Wolves needed to make their move. Bryant’s birage of three straight made threes was just too much for the Wolves to fully overcome in the end.

If only one of these two teams had Michael Beasley on the court tonight. The Wolves could’ve used Beasley’s scoring punch in the second unit, where the Lakers didn’t seem to miss a step against the Wolves’ reserves. And the Wolves could’ve used Beasley on the Lakers making dimwitted plays instead of allowing Bryant to heat up when they needed. All kidding aside, the Wolves’ bench has been a major letdown two games in a row now, and the absence of Beasley has actually hurt more than you’d know. JJ Barea greatly struggled to run the offense, forcing erroneous passes into tight spots and chucking up bricks from outside. Anthony Tolliver needs to ditch shooting from his game altogether, and Derrick Williams hasn’t stepped up at all in the last two games.

If the Wolves expect to make a move for that final playoff spot in the West they’ll need the bench to start stepping up consistently. The starters — and by starters I mean Love, Ridnour and Pekovic ONLY — can’t do it all on their own.

It’s not just the bench that’s letting us down, it’s the wings in general on this roster. For the second straight night, no one has stepped up on the wing. On the other side of the ball, Bryant killed us but even Matt Barnes had a huge game. Yes, Matt Barnes. It’s unfair because our wings are young, athletic and should be studs on paper, but night after night they’re the game’s buzzkill instead of the jolt of energy they’re supposed to provide.

The road trip continues Sunday night in Sacramento. A winnable game to say the least that could give them some momentum to get through this road trip unscathed. Unless the scar has already been etched. We’ll just have to wait and see.

A recap and a rant: Utah tops Minnesota 111-105

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Look at Paul Millsap work! Hes so dreamy. Hes the best power forward in the NBA. -Matt Harpring, probably
"Look at Paul Millsap work! He's so dreamy. He's the best power forward in the NBA." -Matt Harpring, probably

So the Timberwolves lost a heartbreaker to Utah Thursday night. After playing three and a half quarters of fairly unenthusiastic basketball, Minnesota responded to a 12 point deficit by knocking down several threes, tying the game on a rebound put-back by Nikola Pekovic with less than a second remaining. The game went into overtime after Paul Millsap blew an easy alley-oop that should have been a buzzer-beating game winner. (From my notes: “HAHA FU MILLSAP.” I’m the ultimate in journalistic integrity.) Instead, the Wolves were given a chance to win the game in over-time. Tonight wasn’t Minnesota’s night, however, as key misses and turnovers in crunch time doomed the Wolves.

Kevin Love suffered a sprained left thumb after landing on it awkwardly in the third quarter. According to Jerry Zgoda, he is probable tomorrow against the Lakers.

Minnesota fell two games behind Houston in the race for the Western Conference 8th seed.

There. I gave you 143 words recapping tonight’s game. Now I’m going to spend some time ranting.

I love League Pass, especially when the Wolves’ games escape Fox Sports North. I can watch on my computer, which is very convenient. I can pause, take notes, and continue at my own pleasure. I can re-watch later as well, taking screen caps, and generally studying the action a little more than when the game is on FSN. (Note: I don’t get cable, so I have to go to my school’s student activity center when the game is on FSN. Being broke is cool.)

The problem is that watching League Pass means listening to the opposing team’s announcers who, um, aren’t always unbiased.

Example A: Utah’s broadcast team, Craig Bolerjack and former Jazz player Matt Harpring.

Several ESPN writers hinted on Twitter that they were annoyed by Harpring’s biased crap-announcing, but ESPN company policy dictates that they can’t criticize a rival network’s announcers. I, however, do not work for ESPN and I can say whatever I damn well please about Utah’s announcers.

Certainly, the homerism rankles. Harpring spent most of the game hinting that he thought Paul Millsap, a fine player in his own right, is better than Kevin Love. This is, naturally, ridiculous. My favorite moment was when Harpring attempted to discredit Love as the best power forward in the game by saying (paraphrased) that Dirk Nowitzki is the best power forward in the game “until Kevin Love wins some playoff games.” *Taking a calming breath* Ok Matt. Let’s set aside the fact, for a second, that this season, Love’s Player Efficiency Rating is higher than Dirk’s by a full 3 points, or the fact that Love’s TS% is actually higher than Dirk’s, or the fact that Love averages a full 5 more rebounds than Dirk per 36 minutes. Let’s set aside statistics COMPLETELY and point this out: YOU JUST MADE A FREAKING RINGZZZ!11!!! ARGUMENT. DO YOU REALIZE THAT YOU JUST USED THE SAME LOGIC AS EVERY IDIOT LAKER/BULLS FANBOY IN THE WORLD? You are getting paid as a professional TV reporter to spew the same bogus crap that ignorant Kobe-lovers post all over the darkest corners of the internet.

Another gem from Harpring, in reference to Love re-entering the game after spraining his thumb: “I know he’s on the other team, but I like when guys play hurt. It’s very respectable.” Scientific evidence that shows aggravating an injury by coming back too soon can keep you out for longer be damned, I sure do love it when players re-enter the game at 60 percent!

If a Utah fan reads this, please feel free to correct me, but Jamaal Tinsley hasn’t honestly made Utah into a different team, has he? Like, he’s not Utah’s version of Ricky Rubio? Because one of Harpring’s funnier quotes (again, paraphrased because I can’t find it on LP): “You know guys on the bench are saying ‘Put me in coach!’ [so they can play with Tinsley].” Yeah, that’s probably how the Jazz bench is reacting. I bet everyone is thinking “Man, I just want to play with Jamaal Tinsley so bad! He’s the best. If I was in right now, I’d be having a blast!”

More Tinsley related humor: “Boy, Tinsley sure controls his speed well.” Uh, yeah he does. He controls it by being 34 years old and slow. Nikola Pekovic is GREAT at this particular characteristic too.

Am I bitter because the Wolves lost? Of course. Minnesota’s lackluster effort through three quarters would be enough to make anyone edgy. But Utah’s announcers made the entire debacle incredibly unwatchable.

So thanks for that, guys!

Love breaking records; Wolves win 127-124

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  Jose Barea #11 Of The Minnesota Timberwolves Puts Up A Shot Under Pressure From Markieff Morris #11, Steve Nash #13
Kevin Love is establishing himself as, not only the league's best power forward but the league's best big man. Period.

Kevin Love is simply a monster. It’s been fun watching Ricky Rubio set others up with dazzling passes but it’s been more enjoyable to watch Love just dominate opposing bigs in the paint, then step outside and knock down a three without a blip.

Because of Love’s valiant efforts, the Wolves were able to clip the Suns in a very close game, 127-124.

This was an important game because it’s the first of a seven game road streak. The easy-ish ones are must-haves. The Suns didn’t make this one easy by any means and Love responded to the challenge by filling the net up for 30 points. With that performance, Love broke a franchise record with 15 games of 30+ scoring games … And there’s still 23 games left in a shortened season.

No one figured Love to be the explosive scorer he’s become now; he’s fourth in the league in scoring ahead of guys like Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade and even former NBA MVP Derrick Rose. The scoring boost has helped other Timberwolves slide right into their place, though. Last night, if it weren’t for Love’s surge, odds are Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley would’ve continued to chuck up shots, which sometimes works and sometimes it really doesn’t. More often than not, it’s the latter. Nikola Pekovic hopped aboard the scorer’s express but did it in his own way, netting 24 points and also grabbing eight boards.

Pekovic and Love are forming one of the toughest frontcourts in the NBA. They’re two burly white guys with beards that seem more out-of-place than me at Manny’s Steakhouse. But the incentive to their awkward, white ways is the conducive relationship on the court. The two play beautifully off of eachother. Pekovic is owning the paint and offensive boards, which gives Love a rest in the regard and also allows him to work outside on pick ‘n’ rolls or spot-up threes.

Last night the Suns had no chance of shutting either of those two down. They scored on 22 of their combined 40 shots, and only turned the ball over three times. When the Wolves limit their turnovers, they make better use of their possessions, and have the firepower to score 120+ points on almost any given night. The limited turnovers also forced the Suns to play at the Wolves’ tempo, which sometimes seemed to get tear up Nash’s feel for the game.

The way I’m writing makes it sound like this game was a cake-walk. Not even. The Wolves let go of a small lead in the final two minutes. It actually came down to two missed floaters from Nash that helped the Wolves lock this one up. Then they hit they’re free throws in the clutch — Even Wes Johnson did — and it was enough to lock this thing up and start the road trip off right.

Next up the Wolves head to Utah to face the Jazz. The Jazz’s impressive and deep frontcourt will give Love and Pek a run for their money. But that game comes after the trade deadline! Both rosters could look pretty different by tipoff.

Be sure to visit Howlin’ T-Wolf over the next few days to catch up on all of the trade rumor fun. Tom and I will be covering everything that goes down, whether it’s the Timberwolves directly, a Western Conference rival or the Dwight sweepstakes. We’ll be here with the facts and, of course, pristine analysis.

Life without Ricky; Wolves lose 95-89

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New Orleans Hornets' Chris Kaman, Left, Eyes
Chris Kaman had it rolling tonight

Life without Ricky before he ever came was brutal. Tonight wasn’t that, but it could’ve been damn close.

Despite Kevin Love making his return from back spasms, the Wolves couldn’t get over turning the ball over consistently, while the New Orleans Hornets took advantage of those opportunities to knock off the Wolves.

Rubio’s presence was greatly missed tonight. Luke Ridnour never had control of the offense at any point in the game. He frantically dribbles around too much and only when the shot clock is running down does he make a play or take a blatantly contested shot himself. It’s not Ridnour’s own fault that the Wolves committed 17 turnovers but the ones he did make (3) turned in to easy transition buckets for the Hornets.

Because Ridnour couldn’t command the offense, the Wolves seemed scatter-brained and hoisted up 23 three-pointers, converting on just five. Even though Nikola Pekovic had it rolling in the paint for the second consecutive night, the Wolves neglected to go into the post and settled for lousy jumpers instead.

Even Love, who had 31 and 16 tonight, was a culprit of poor shot selection. He went just 2-8 from outside including an ugly attempt late in the game down by just four when they had time to go inside and go for two instead. When Rubio’s not there to pick Love’s spots for him, he tends to panic, resulting in poor runners or contested jumpers. He’ll figure it out, he’s an All-Star after all, because it’s all part of the new learning curve that everyone is a part of without Rubio.

Life without Rubio is going to be difficult. The margin of error has decreased significantly, and the need for the bench guys to step up just increased astronomically. Rick Adelman will just have to find a solid rotation and begin to dumb-down the offense so Ridnour can get a grip on things. It’s going to take a little time but hopefully not too much because they have to still make the playoffs. CRAP!

Next up is the Wolves embark on a west coast journey starting on Monday in Phoenix to take on the Suns. The road trip consists of seven games in 11 days. Okay, I’m starting to lose hope. Here’s to a speedy recovery, Ricky.

Blazing trails; Wolves win 106-94

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Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love (42) Is
Kevin Love warmly welcomes competition ... If anyone can bring it

Not many — including myself — doubted the Wolves would ever be in this position this season. I did, however, predict the Wolves to make a push for the 8th seed in my preseason post, but to actually have it in their grasp was still farfetched.

But Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and the rest of the Wolves have proved the naysayers wrong time and time again this season. Some thought the shortened season would be an advantage for the youthful Wolves, having such fresh legs and an extra gear to kick in when needed. But a shortened season in the Western Conference had proven to be just brutal, really. The West is more competitive from top-to-bottom than the East, so playing any team would prove to be a challenge.

The Wolves have taken the challenge head on so far this season, especially against the West’s elite. The Wolves are 12-2 this season against teams like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland. Those teams were preseason favorites to have good seasons and make the playoffs, if not contend for a championship — a repeat in Dallas’ case. Subtract the Clippers from that list and the Wolves posted a 2-57 record over the last four years against those other four squads. That’s astounding and really proves just how much this team has grown in just the past few months.

That growth is mostly due to Love’s consistent play through this season. Last night Love proved yet again — against a heavy counterpart in LaMarcus Aldridge — that he is the best power forward in the game. Love had 29 points and 16 rebounds in the 106-94 win over Portland. The last few games he’s kept the team in winning position with big late-game heroics, but last night it was his fiery start that helped the Wolves take control of the game. Love had 15 points, including three huge three-pointers, that helped the Wolves jump out to a 37-31 lead. Wes Johnson made his contributions by knocking down open jumpers — see, it’s not that hard, Wes — and posted 10 points himself (He finished with a season-high 19 on 8-11 shooting).

Once those two set the pace, everyone just seemed to settle into place. Derrick Williams came off the bench aggressively and hit a couple early buckets, including one of those phenomenal hang-in-the-air floaters off a spin move. JJ Barea took over the bulk of point guard responsibilities once Rubio hit foul trouble — and also hit nothing but the rim on his shots. And Luke Ridnour, the story of the game for me, hit his open shots, including big three-pointers that helped extend the lead in the fourth.

The Wolves are hitting a groove, sporting a three-game winning streak. Through that streak, the Wolves have taken on tough competition and scored 228 points in two games against the Blazers. And this is all without Rubio. Well, the Rubio that took the reigns earlier in the season. Rubio’s hit a definite rookie wall, averaging just 7.8 points per game this month compared to January, where Rubio posted 12 points a game as well as nine assists. Once Rubio can find himself in the flow of the offense and create better shots for himself, this team could skyrocket to success. After all, the Wolves are only three games out of third place in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Right now, John Hollinger puts a 60.8% chance on the Wolves making the playoffs with a 0% chance of hitting the lottery. That’s remarkable to think of knowing where this team has come from. It’ll continue to be a long road — the Wolves embark on a seven game road trip on March 12 — but at least they have two feet moving in the right direction.

Next up comes the LA Lakers tomorrow night. It could very well be the statement stamp on the rest of the league to prove the Wolves are for real. Lakers are in a rut right now, having blown a huge lead in Washington — Yes, Washington — last night. It’s one of the biggest games of the year, so tune in. And if you’re going to the game, WEAR YOUR WHITE! Whiteout, baby.

Another homecoming, another win; Wolves win 122-110

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 Kevin Love #42 Of The Minnesota Timberwolves Dunks
Kevin Love had a monster night -- and he wasn't afraid to show it off

The TrailBlazers have been a consistent, constant problem in the Wolves’ hair over the last five years. They’ve never been great enough to jump over the wall that is the top four seeds in the Western Conference playoffs, but always good enough to diminish anything that the Timberwolves have thrown at them in that timeframe.

But nothing was going to stop Kevin Love from having a monster game in his home state in front of his parents’ eyes, not even the Blazers.

Last night was Love vs. Aldridge, a matchup of two of the NBA’s best power forwards that always seems to compare to a classic clash of the titans. You can chalk a tally into Love’s column after this one. Love led the way for the hot-handed Timberwolves tonight, scoring 42 points along with 10 rebounds. The exclamation point: five three-pointers from Senor Amor. Love’s threes haven’t been falling nearly as much this season compared to last. That three-point contest trophy must be staring Love straight in the face saying, “Now it’s time to hit the big ones … During games.”

Although Love’s outside shot that was falling last night, it was his post game that was so effective. Even against the taller, more athletic LaMarcus Aldridge, Love was able to use his body strength and positioning to at least get a look off but then, more importantly, held his ground for the easy put-back. Too worried about hitting outside shots, that part of Love’s game has been straggling for the past few weeks, so hopefully he’ll begin to get a better feel for it in the upcoming weeks.

Now, the Wolves don’t often have the firepower to withstand back-and-forth blows like they did with the Blazers. Usually going toe-to-toe like that on the offensive end doesn’t bode well. But last night Love kept his foot on the gas, while supporting roles filled in their spots. Coming up big behind Love was Martell Webster. The last two weeks, Webster has started to come into form with the extra playing time. Perhaps the dunk oops in Denver cleared his mind? Regardless, Webster has found his shooting stroke to pair with his on-court leadership and i.q. Being back in Portland sparked Webster to play to his potential — one that was so high since being drafted out of high school to Portland with the sixth pick in 2005. His offensive burst gave the Wolves a two-dimensional offense — inside and out — to pair nicely with Love’s huge night. More of that is wanted, not only from the Wolves, but also Webster himself; it’s all about the confidence.

We’re starting to see a pattern from the Wolves in the last two big wins in LA and last night. Whenever the bench outperforms the opposition’s, the Wolves’ chances of winning increase exponentially. In LA, it was Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley, combining for 54 points in quite the efficient manner — believe it or not. Last night, it was Webster and Williams who jolted the Wolves offense with calculated shots and big points. Ricky Rubio, although he couldn’t find a way to get his shot down — again — still contributed with 12 assists — which actually led to a ridiculous amount of points for Love — as well as two steals, showing he wasn’t completely withdrawn from the game.

For the Wolves, because they’ve already exhausted their star players for minutes, are going to need more collective efforts from the entire team. 40-point scoring nights from Love won’t hurt but they’re not very likely to happen on a regular basis. It still goes to prove that Love is this team’s leader, no matter what anyone says about Rubio and what he brings to the table, and he’ll go as far as the earth to prove he is.

Next up are the Clippers again at home on Monday. So the West coast trip continues — as does Love’s battle with the NBA’s best at power forward — only this time with a much-needed home court advantage.

Chalk one up for the old guys; Wolves lose 104-95

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Minnesota Timberwolves Guard Ricky Rubio, Of Spain, Reacts
Steve Nash, 1; Ricky Rubio, 0

Sometimes the old guys just have the upper-hand. With years of experience and some chemistry left amongst the remnants of a Western Conference challenger, the Suns had the advantage on the Wolves, especially when it came down to the important runs in the tail ends of the second half.

The Wolves actually held a lead for most of the first half. They were getting shots to fall and making stops here and there but they never fully had control of the game. In watching, you could just sense that one false slip up would cost them dearly. Whether that be consecutive missed shots or allowing the Suns to hit a small run, the game could go awry in the matter of no time.

That’s pretty much what happened in the second half. The Wolves couldn’t hit their shots, got no calls underneath the basket and the Suns did quite the opposite. The strength that is the Wolves’ frontcourt became the ultimate disappointment behind Kevin Love’s lead, who was returning after missing last night’s game in LA to flu-like symptoms. And he sure played like he was sick the night before.

Love shot an exhausting 8-25 from the field, yeah, Beasley-like numbers. Although the line should be marked with an asterisk due to the sheer lack of calls Love fought for in the paint, Love failed to hit the open shots drawn up for him like any team needs their superstar to make in the clutch moments of any game. Derrick Williams was a culprit for poor shooting, as well, but there’s no denying the Wolves’ need for Love to be more, well, clutch in Phoenix tonight.

Steve Nash and Grant Hill simply led the Suns to storm in for the win in the fourth. They played both ends of the ball with extreme discipline and hustle, which sparked the rest of the Suns’ squad to play inspiring ball and steal the win away out of the Wolves’ hands. That inspired ball didn’t inspire the Wolves to play any harder in the third and went 1-10 from the field to end the quarter. They Suns never took their foot off the gas and that’s all (s)he wrote.

Really not too interested in this game, so I’ll end it there. Next up the Wolves get  a night’s rest and then had to Portland as the West coast tour continues. A night’s rest is exactly what they need, as do I. Goodnight.

Growing pains: Lakers trounce the Wolves 104-85

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Nah, its cool Kobe, go ahead and play. Its just your brain, is all.
Nah, it's cool Kobe, go ahead and play. It's just your brain, is all.

Even good teams play bad games, and sometimes those games come against good teams. Minnesota, unfortunately, played one of their worst games of the season tonight against the Lakers.

Honestly, there isn’t that much to say about tonight. Minnesota was without their best player. Los Angeles wasn’t. Minnesota was on the second night of a tough back to back. This was LA’s first game since the All-Star break. Minnesota was on the road. The Lakers were at home, in that poorly lit arena that seems to throw off even some of the best shooters.

The Wolves hung with LA till half-time, down just six at the break. But while Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley were able to push the Wolves over the Clippers last night, Kobe, Bynum, and Gasol kept pouring it on, making big shots and stopping even the threat of a run multiple times. The Lakers outscored Minnesota 33-15 in the third quarter. The game was never close after that.

Some brief bullet points:

  • Kobe torched Minnesota, creepy Jason-murderer mask and all. He flirted with a triple double, pouring in 31 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out eight assists. He played through a broken nose and a concussion. Say what you want about the man (and if it’s unkind, I probably have), but he is tough as nails. Ugh.
  • Much has been made about  Rubio’s current slump, but really he is just performing to our original expectations. We expected him to dish out a lot of assists (nine tonight), struggle shooting (1-8 from the field), and make a couple of spectacular plays per game (tossing the ball between Derek Fisher’s legs to Pekovic for an easy layup). His shooting will regress back to the mean eventually, but until then, he continues to set up his teammates well.
  • Much may be made of Beasley taking 13 shots, and he did seem to dominate the ball whenever he got it. But, especially in the fourth, Beasley was easily the best offensive weapon Minnesota had on the court. Would you rather have Beasley taking a variety of shots, or watch Darko fumble the ball all over the court and get his shot swatted by Bynum? Thought so.
  • Barea is hurt. Again. His availability against Phoenix is questionable, and pushing him to come back on the third night of a back to back to back doesn’t seem wise.
  • More bench production: Anthony Randolph did that annoying thing where he showed tantalizing potential that he probably won’t ever fulfill again. In 19 minutes, Randolph scored 12 points and ripped down 9 rebounds.
  • Seventeen straight losses to the Lakers. It’s starting to feel like a big brother/little brother dynamic. Beating LA will probably feel like a rite of passage. But we will have to wait at least one more match-up to find out.
  • Denver beat Portland tonight, so Denver moved into the eighth place in the West, while Minnesota trails Portland by half a game and Denver by one. Basically, Denver and Portland just swapped spots while the Wolves stayed in the same position.

All in all, a bad game for Minnesota, but an understandable one. They will have a chance to get back on track tomorrow in Phoenix. Until then…