Category: 2011-2012 Game Recaps

West Coast Homecoming; Wolves win 109-97


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Los Angeles Clippers Forward Blake Griffin, Top Right, Drives
No thanks to Love, the Wolves' other Golden Coast native lit the lamp with the help of B-Eazy, as the Wolves found a way to win another against the Clips on the road

Who’da thunk that it’d be Derrick Williams leading the Wolves to a win in L.A. tonight and not the former UCLA Bruin, Kevin Love?

And with the help of his sidekick Michael Beasley, the Wolves’ bench thrashed the Clippers in the fourth quarter tonight, cruising to yet another big win in L.A.

Just basing this off of the body language at Staples Center tonight, these two teams are certainly rivals to be, if not already. Sure, Blake Griffin and Love share a close friendship but the on-court action doesn’t minimize their competitive nature. Griffin had the upper-hand over Love all night long, starting early and attacking him often. Griffin had his post game, albeit ugly and scrappy as can be, working against both Nikola Pekovic and Love throughout the first half. The dunks weren’t there — Griffin missed converting two early alley-oops — but he was finding his way to the rim and getting the ball to fall.

Despite Griffin’s big first half, the Wolves somehow stuck in it, staying within 10 the entire half and into the third. The third quarter is where they started to make their move behind Derrick Williams’ scoring punch. Love’s putrid night was Williams’ treasure. Williams started hitting big shots in all sorts of spots on the floor, and in all sorts of different ways; top of key spot-up jumpers, dribble drives down the center of the lane, drawing fouls on the lower block; it was Griffin who couldn’t be stopped in the first half but it was Williams, when it mattered most in the clutch, who the Clippers failed to cease.

It wasn’t all Williams, though. You can’t take credit away from Beasley, who again showed us the player he could be. After Williams took over the game as well as the lead in the fourth, Beasley cleaned everything up and swept the Clippers right on home. Beasley was fearless tonight, taking all sorts of different shots just as Williams did. He and Williams combined for 54 points on 20-25 shooting, including 7-7 from deep. I mean, just, wow. And because of these two, the Wolves’ bench outscored the Clippers’ 72-11, with the majority of that coming in the fourth quarter against the Clippers’ starters. They literally had no answers on either end of the court, and there’s your ballgame.

But it wasn’t all Beasley and Williams. They were hitting the shots but give JJ Barea credit for finding them in their spots and letting them take the reigns from there. Because of that, the Wolves had 27 assists to their nine turnovers. The assist/TO ratio has been the Wolves’ achilles heel all year long but tonight, with it in their favor, they were able to make the plays and, most importantly, hit their shots.

These performances become desperate when both Ricky Rubio and Love are all but incompetent. The scoring punch needs to come from Williams and Beasley to give Love and Pek some time on the bench, but everyone pitches in with their contribution. Barea needs to direct traffic and stay within the flow of the offense instead of forcing drives and contested outside shots. Webster needs to step up his defense on the perimeter and convert the shots he’s given. It’s all a team effort and that’s the biggest takeaway from tonight. The Wolves don’t need Love and Rubio to win every game; the bench is certainly deep enough to extend the game at the very least. Obviously, when on, those two only improve our chances, but when the Wolves can locate another scoring threat — Or in tonight’s case, two scoring threats, — especially off the bench, well, you know the result it can produce.

Next up the Wolves bunker down in L.A. for one more night as they face-off with the L.A. Lakers tomorrow night. The Lakers may be without Kobe Bryant, who suffered a broken nose and concussion in the All-Star game, no thanks to Dwyane Wade. Without Kobe, the Wolves have an enormous advantage with their starting backcourt, if Rubio regains his form, that is. With Kobe in, Luke Ridnour will struggle to guard the Matt Barnes/Metta World Peace combo the Lakers will throw at him. Let’s just hope for the former and that the momentum collected from tonight’s win transfers over to tomorrow, while Love and Rubio look to harness their true talent and produce accordingly.

Cardiac arrest: Wolves win at the buzzer…again


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Last night, I was planning on watching Fox Sports North’s midnight replay of the game. I had too much going on to watch the live game, so I told myself not to check Twitter or ESPN’s mobile site for a score, because watching the game without knowing what is going to happen can be fun.

Then Jonah texted me. “Have fun with this one.” Uh oh. What was I supposed to do? I checked the score.

Minnesotas guard play ended up being the difference.
Minnesota's guard play ended up being the difference.

83-67 Utah in the fourth. Ugh. What happened? I put my phone away, wondering how snarky I could be to try to keep myself entertained watching this stinker. I, of course, had no way of knowing that Minnesota had been threatening to get back into this game throughout the previous three quarters. I had no way of knowing I had managed to catch the apex of Utah’s run.

Then, 15 minutes later from Jonah again: “The NBA…wow.”

WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?! I checked again. 91-90, Utah with a little over two minutes remaining.

I figured that at least the game would be entertaining. I had no way of knowing that Derrick Williams would make the second biggest play of the game shortly after this, grabbing a huge offensive rebounding and getting an and-one opportunity to tie the game. I had no way of knowing that Al Jefferson would hit a tough, tough shot to tie the game with seconds left to play. I had no way of knowing that hours later, watching the game on replay, I would feel a powerful Clippers game deja vu. I had no way of knowing that Luke Ridnour completely demolish Gordon Hayward off the dribble, drive into the lane, put up what appeared to be a wild floater, and swish it through as the buzzer sounded.

I had no way of knowing. And I’m kind of glad I didn’t.

There is something galvanizing about come-from-behind wins. I don’t necessarily mean for the team, more for fans. It’s impossible for some fans to completely give up on a game, thanks mostly to Tracy McGrady’s 13 point explosion in the final 35 seconds of a Houston game several years ago. We can’t ever stop thinking “What if something impossible happens?”

So when it DOES happen, when we are vindicated in our hopes and beliefs, well. The feeling is a little extra special. It should go without saying (but it won’t thanks to me) that last night was a little extra special.

Some bullet points:

  • Wes Johnson had one of his teaser games tonight. A three pointer led to a beautiful drive to the hoop led to an athletic dunk led to a mid-range jumper. His athleticism is so far off the charts, the doctor is writing on the table, which makes it all the more frustrating when he goes 0-3 with no points in other games. Sigh.
  • At 0:38 in the video above, FSN shows a heartbroken Utah fan, standing with his arms crossed. Ordinarily when I attend a game I (being an undeniable ass) love seeing opposing teams fans get heartbroken. But this guy…he’s a Utah fan, for crying out loud. Clearly he’s not a bandwagon jumper because see the previous sentence. He gets to see his favorite team once a year when they come to Minneapolis…and they do this to him? Ouch. (Great game analysis, Tom. I’ll stop.)
  • You’ve probably seen this already, but if you haven’t, go watch the funniest NBA celebration of the year thus far, brought to you by Ricky Rubio.
  • Man, it’s weird to think of Minnesota as a fourth quarter team, but they are the Cardiac Boys at this point. Tonight they capped off the game with a 30-13 run to put things away.
  • Hey, good preview Tom. You were only wrong about, well, everything. That Josh Howard guy you said you weren’t worried about? Yeah. He killed Minnesota, especially in the first half. Oh, and needing to beat Utah’s bigs to win the game? Well. Utah’s starting bigs out-scored Minnesota’s 42-25, and out-shot Minnesota 48%-24%. Minnesota’s guards won them this game, especially Barea. This kind of game at least makes a stab at justifying his contract over the summer: championship experience is difficult to overrate.

One final point that feels a little too big to be a bullet: with the win, Minnesota moved into 4th place in the division by themselves at .500. They enter the All-Star break just a game out of the playoff race, and presumably they have tightened together as a team over the first half. In a shortened season, they have matched last year’s win total for the entire season by the All-Star break. You don’t need to be an expert to see that the Wolves have drastically improved, but sometimes the numbers can feel pretty good. Or bad, if your name rhymes with Shmurt Kambus.

Caught dumbfounded; Wolves lose 103-101


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Denver Nuggets Guard Andre Miller (24) Is Called For An Offensive Foul Against Minnesota Timberwolves' Martell Webster (
This is where the game got out of control

The steal had to have thrown off Martell Webster’s logic. All of the scenarios probably ran through his head and he strategically plotted what to do in any given situation before the ball was ever inbounded. Well, except for getting the steal himself.

But maybe Webster’s logic wasn’t wrong, rather just misinformed. Maybe Wesbter thought we had another timeout, where going for the quick dunk would make some sense, not a lot but at least some. In that situation, the quick two forces the Wolves to foul, hope for the missed free throw — which happened — and then they could utilize that final timeout to doodle up the game-winning attempt in the halfcourt.

That wasn’t the situation to Webster’s misfortune. The Wolves didn’t lose because of that miscue, though. If Nikola Pekovic wasn’t sidelined the rest of the contest with a sprained ankle, the Wolves come out on top. If the Wolves had gotten some foul calls once the tilt turned into a rumble in the Octagon as both sides became chippy and aggressive, they would’ve won. If Ridnour had gotten that layup to just slide through the net in overtime, the momentum could’ve drastically changed and the Wolves wouldn’t have had to extend the game with fouls. (Ridnour was right to use the right hand on the lefty layup, by the way; he used it to shield off the defender and prevent an easy block.)

This game was riddled with miscues and opportunities all game long. The Wolves went 6-27 from downtown. The Nuggets out rebounded the Wolves 57-50, including 17 solid offensive rebounds, five of which came by way of Kenneth Faried’s frantic ways. Ricky Rubio shot too much, again, instead of setting up teammates with assists.

There are so many reasons that the Wolves should be leaving the Pepsi Center with another win in their pocket that it’s not possibly fair enough to place the blame on one player’s shoulders. Not Webster’s, not Ridnour’s, not anyone, really.

You can still be optimistic after this one. The Wolves played one of the toughest games of the year coming off an emotional win at home on back-to-back nights. Denver is a division rival that plays as hard and scrappy as I’ve seen any team play in the NBA. The Wolves were able to match that intensity most of the way through. It simply came down to logistics and making the play when you needed it. The Wolves didn’t, the Nuggets hit their free throws; eliminate all of the drama that happened in between and there’s your result: a tough Wolves’ loss.

Not much left to say about that one without letting emotions getting too out of whack and having the piece go awry. Next up is Utah at the Target Center. Another division foe that will give the Wolves a run at their money.

MVP bid; Wolves win 92-91


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Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love, Left, And Luke Ridnour Celebrate Love's Go-ahead Free Throw With Less
This victory just tastes so sweet

The chants get to be awfully annoying. Naive Timberwolves fans think it’s cute to chant “MVP” regardless of the situation, regardless of which player is even in that position. The chants are just straight silly, and they’re engaged by the crowd because of a sheer lack of anything better to say.

The Timberwolves are gratefully lucky to have one league MVP in the past, so the chant ought to be respected, especially in Minnesota. The continued chants night after night are just overboard and plain obnoxious when they have no relation to the situation on the court. But when a player as prominent to a losing franchise as Kevin Love is to the Wolves, those chants become increasingly more deserving and you can’t help but join in the beautiful chorus. That was Target Center. That was tonight.

Love was stuck in a shooting rut all night long. It was one of his worst games offensively all year long, starting the game a mere 2-15 from the field. But when the Wolves needed help the most, Love came through in the clutch, scoring 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including two calmly stroked free throws to tie and win the game with just 0.1 seconds left in the contest.

Because of Love’s inadequate shooting performance, the Wolves demanded that someone step up, anyone really. That person was actually a collective effort from the point guard trio, led especially by Ricky Rubio. With Love starting the first quarter 0-5, Rubio took the bulk of scoring into his own hands. He managed to put up 14 points in the first, utilizing shots from all over the court. He nailed two threes to help close the 11-point gap the Sixers had created in the early going. Then it was his free throws that kept things close all the way through. When Rubio saw bench time, JJ Barea was able to fill the void of any scoring deficit.  Although Barea takes risks, his gamble usually proves successful and tonight was one of those nights. And alongside both Rubio and Barea, Ridnour was able to knock some important shots down, while playing stiff defense on Lou Williams, at least in the first half. The trio combined for 46 points, and, perhaps the most important number of them all, committed just two turnovers.

Nikola Pekovic was another deciding factor, as inserting him into the starting lineup alongside Love has helped create a deadly duo under the hoop. Pek recorded 17 and nine along with five big offensive rebounds; it marks the fifth time this year that Pek has ripped down five or more offensive boards. More than half of Pek’s points were generated from the charity stripe. The sweetness of having a 6’11″ center that can nail his free throws is nearly unmatched. His brute force under the hoop can’t even be punished with the old “Hack a Shaq” technique because from there he’ll just hurt you even more. 9-10 from the line? C’mon now.

It was clearly a group effort from Adelman’s shortened rotation of just eight players, accentuated by those mentioned above. In a game with two equally matched, highly talented teams, there was a sense that this one would come down to the wire, and without big moments and plays from those guys, this wouldn’t have ended the same. In such a close game, there was never a game-clinching run that all but sealed it, spelling out that these two teams were ready to battle to the last 0.1 second, and that they did. Both teams hit big shots when they needed it most. Both teams stiffened their defenses when they needed a stop. But it came down to the end when both teams were waiting for the game to bend and finally break. The Wolves were graced by the presence of a possible MVP. The Sixers were not. That was the ultimate difference.

No matter how excruciatingly painstaking his shooting performance could’ve been, Love single-handedly accomplished the team’s goal of obtaining a victory. Before this game, it was fair to consider him a longshot MVP candidate. After this game, his name demands to be in the running as a serious contender. The chants are now necessary and warmly welcomed. Seriously, that drive was breathtaking; it literally sucked the air right out of the Target Center. The two free throws? The floors were practically rumbling due to everyone’s shaky knees. But the way Love stepped up and knocked them both down with tranquility was blissful, and just so MVP-like.

This win puts the Wolves at .500 again for the season at 16-16. Now the Wolves are just one win away from tying their win total of all of last season. If that’s not a complete 180, then I don’t know what is. Some of it has to do with Adelman, some of it has to do with Rubio. But most of it has to do with the maturity and clutch ways of Kevin Love.

Next up the Wolves travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets squad, who was upset in a thriller against the OKC Thunder tonight. Maybe, just maybe, it was enough to knock ‘em off their high horse just enough for the Wolves to take advantage of their momentum and push their record above .500 yet again.

Love in the state of Peksas: Wolves hold off Rockets 111-98


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This play was called clean. Lowry complained. Perhaps he had a case.
This play was called clean. Lowry complained. Perhaps he had a case.

It’s hard to overstate what Kevin Love means to this team.

Minnesota was on the verge of blowing a respectably large lead and losing to Houston Friday night. They had allowed Courtney Lee to burn them from deep. They were completely falling apart offensively after playing three excellent quarters of basketball, and had left themselves with a tenuous one point lead.

Then Kevin Love took over. Quietly amassing rebounds all game, Love chose exactly the right time to pour in some very loud baskets. Two threes and an easy put-back later, the Wolves were up nine. They didn’t look back.

Kevin Love is arguably the best power forward in the game right now, but it’s becoming less and less arguable with every game he plays. Against Houston, he put up 33 points and 17 rebounds and you, the reader, didn’t even blink reading those stats. He was efficient, shooting 11-16 from the field, and he played excellent defense on Luis Scola all night. Love has now scored at least 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in five different games this year. Five different games! That is statistical insanity.

But he was so much more than just a statistical monster. Love came up big EXACTLY when the Wolves needed him. He was relatively quiet for much of the game, but as the Wolves offense froze up late after flowing for 40 minutes previously, Love came alive, put the team on his shoulders, and carried them to a big victory.

The term “Superstar” gets thrown around too much in the NBA, but what Love played like a superstar last night. He got his stats, helped his teammates stay in the game, and when he recognized the moment that his teammates need him, he performed. I don’t know if I’d call Love a superstar yet, but ask me again at the end of the season.

Of course, Pekovic’s performance was also too good to be relegated to the bullet points. 30 points on 12 rebounds including NINE offensive? He is frighteningly unstoppable.

It’s becoming a basketball hipster trend to bang on Jeremy Lin via Pek, and honestly, that isn’t my intent. I’m actually enjoying Linsanity (when he isn’t playing Minnesota). But eventually, teams are going to figure out how to limit him. His skill-set doesn’t really lend itself to extended periods of dominance.

How do you stop a player like Pek? On paper, Samuel Dalembert is the kind of center who seems up to the task, both long and athletic. But Pek is so strong, and he decimated every big man Houston threw at him. This sounds crazy, but teams honestly are going to have to start planning their defenses around Nikola Pekovic. You can’t keep him out of the paint, and you can’t defend a shot that is three feet from the basket. Teams may to have to bring double teams, which means BOTH of Minnesota’s post players are going to require special defensive attention. That will be a nightmare for opposing coaches.

Team #Linsanity vs Team #Pektacular? I’ll take Pekovic’s Peksellent play (and the Peksecutioner’s nicknames). The ride may not be as dramatic (write this down: Pekovic will never make a game-winning three), but it feels more permanent to me.

On to the bullets!

  • Here’s something weird for you: guess who led the Wolves in +/-? If your guess made any sense at all, you were wrong: it was Wes Johnson at +23 (!!!). Jonah outlined some things Wes needs to do to be effective a few days ago, and he has actually performed pretty well over the past couple games. He shot 4-6 on Friday (both misses were three point attempts), and pulled down some rebounds. But his best play was defensive: a chase-down block on Courtney Lee. Just great energy and awareness.
  • One thing Pek needs to improve (and there’s no reason to believe he won’t): rolling to the hoop off a pick and roll. Too often he gets caught on the defender he screened off the ball handler and ends up committing a moving pick. As the Wolves continue to run the play for him, he should get better and better at it.
  • Hang on, I’m still not done with Pek. How about that fast break where he dribbled with his head straight down then rose up for the slam?! That was awesome.
  • Minnesota was really impressive in the open court, as this game had a frantic pace for most of the night. As the Wolves’ post players continue to get more comfortable in the half court, Minnesota will become even more dangerous: opposing teams won’t want them to run with the ball OR slow it down.
  • I’ve seen some empty arenas attending Wolves games, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an arena as empty as Houston’s at tip-off. There were probably twice as many empty seats as human beings.
  • I don’t understand why Minnesota is playing with such a short bench right now. Last night, with a really tough game against Philadelphia looming on Sunday, Adelman played just eight players, despite only missing JJ Barea. Tolliver, Ellington, and Randolph are all got the DNP-CD. My best guess is that Adelman, after tinkering with lineups for the first part of the season, has settled on his favorite and wants them to develop chemistry, but it really bums me out to see good role players like Tolliver not getting any minutes.
  • Love got some boos, but nothing on the court really indicated Houston players were bent out of shape over Stomp-gate. Was this bullet mostly an excuse to post a link to the picture I made? Well…maybe.
  • After the Rockets exploited the Chandler Parsons/Luke Ridnour matchup on the very first possession, I was worried Parsons would continue to attack Ridnour in the post consistently. But Ridnour responded with a floater on the other end, and though Parsons had a good game (18 points, 6 rebounds), he never really took over.

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, I present my favorite Rubio assist of the year. In the game, I thought Rubio was going to throw it out of bounds. Nope.

Just…wow.

Kick 'em while they're down; Wolves pounce 102-90


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Charlotte Bobcats Guard Kemba Walker, Left, Goes
Kemba vs. Pek

This is how you win. Sure, this one came against a dismal franchise in the Charlotte Bobcats but the Wolves put together a complete game from shooting to rebounding to defense. And it really only took one half.

Disregard whatever that was that showed up and laid that egg in the first two quarters. The Wolves fought through the deficiencies in the first half and came with a vengeance in quarters three and four.

This was a must-have win for the Wolves. Too often do bad teams step into Target Center visualizing an upset and actually seem pull it off. The Wolves have played good teams tough this season but it’s the bad ones that seem to squeak out victories when the Wolves are at their lowest. A sliding four-game losing streak with a lack of offensive confidence had the Wolves in a bad place, right where the Bobcats, who have lost now 16 in a row, wanted them.

Adelman wasn’t going to let that happen. He stuck with what was working and that was Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. Love hit two big threes in the third quarter that sparked that go-ahead run. Then once Love started to cool down a bit, it was Pek’s turn to rev things up inside; he straight mucked it up inside. A lot of it was due to JJ Barea’s vision off of the Pek ‘n’ Roll, who found Pek countless times rolling off of screens to the hoop. The Target Center saw a good 3-4 rim-rattling slams from Pek as a direct result to Barea’s aggressiveness and timing.

Adelman was so hung up on what was actually working for once, he actually left in the lineup that was clicking — Barea, Ridnour, Webster, Love and Pek — for a majority of the entire fourth — with a 16+ point lead — until about a minute hit the clock. It was a big win to get, why jack around and risk a mini-comeback? No, the Wolves needed to kick a bad team in the teeth tonight and they did just that.

And bullets to finish up:

  • Hello, Wes. Johnson was able to see some shots go through the net tonight. He started off 3-4 from the field, and it had to feel good. I wrote about Wes needing to find his niche until his shot starts to fall just yesterday. He did some things right tonight, namely his defense, which seemed to help in get into the groove of the game. If he can continue to find his way in the flow of the game from the tip, he’ll be able to piece together good games like this tonight. I don’t care if he went 0-4 form the perimeter tonight, at least he tried and was able to sustain himself in the flow of the game for the most part tonight.
  • The Boris Diaw tweets will never get old. “Boris Diaw is just one cup size away from DD.” You can’t help but crack a smile.
  • Michael Beasley played nine minutes. Derrick Williams played nine minutes. Both guys only had four points each. Odds are it’s just a result of not being in the lineup that found a groove in the third. It’s still something I personally don’t like to see.
  • After missing the last game due to personal reasons, — praying that all is well with Luke and his family — Ridnour was able to find his shooting stroke tonight. Adelman and the Wolves really need Ridnour to do one thing and that’s make shots. When he’s not doing that, he’s practically worthless, especially playing at the 2-guard. Good for Ridnour tonight.
  • I never mentioned it above, so here: Love’s line: 30-18-3. Yowza.
  • And, finally, that Kemba Walker dude, he’s gooood. I thought he was a spitting image of the man that could’ve been, Jonny Flynn. No, sir. Kemba is a strong option to lead this Bobcats team moving forward. Could/should morph into a highly competitive Brandon Jennings.

That’s all for tonight. Next up the Wolves take the road to Houston to play the Rockets yet again. They’ve been hot, including a win over OKC tonight. But these two have history and match up well up and down the roster, for the most part. Should turn out to be a great game Friday night.

Flashbacks: Orlando drops Minnesota 102-89


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Nikola Pekovic bothered Dwight Howard into a bad shooting night, but the Magic won easily anyway.
Nikola Pekovic bothered Dwight Howard into a bad shooting night, but the Magic won easily anyway.

I wanted to do the recap for this game because I honestly thought that Minnesota was going to limit Dwight Howard. I had watched how much Kendrick Perkins used to bother Howard simply by being strong enough to keep him away from the hoop, and I had high hopes for Minnesota’s chances.

“If Dwight Howard is limited,” I reasoned, “who is going to kill the Wolves? This could be a really big win!”

Whoops.

I was right about one thing: the Wolves really limited Howard. 11 points on 4-11 shooting is extremely subpar for him. Unfortunately, when Howard is limited, the rest of the team starts hoisting three pointers. I suppose the silver lining of this game is that if it had been last year, the Wolves would have lost by way more than 13. But when Orlando shoots the ball the way they did last night, well, Minnesota just isn’t going to win.

That’s what I mean by flashbacks. When I watched the Magic fling the ball around the perimeter and witnessed Minnesota’s defense collapse like a Jenga game, it felt disturbingly like last year.

It wasn’t last year, of course. The Wolves are vastly improved. Pekovic did an excellent job of bodying Dwight Howard out of the lane and drawing fouls to keep Howard off the floor. Even the perimeter defense was better…often the Magic would rise for a three to find a hand in their face. That hand would have been absent last year.

But there was just too much shooting. Every time the Wolves made a run, Orlando would answer with a big three. There is something so crushing about a three. When a lead balloons from 11 to 14 with just one defensive mistake, it’s very demoralizing for a team.

Of course, it’s even more demoralizing when JJ Reddick shoves Barea to the ground with his off arm and gets an open three as as result. *Takes a deep breath* Moving on to the bullet points.

  • Not Beasley’s best game. He hit a few big baskets that (sort of) kept Minnesota in the game, and there was a spot on the floor from which he was untouchable. But WHY IN GOD’S NAME IS HE HOISTING 8 THREE POINTERS?! Just…ugh.
  • More quasi-silver linings: Howard finished with 7 rebounds while Love finished with 15. Love gains ground in the rebounding race!
  • Pekovic was great tonight, again. 16 points and 13 rebounds for the big man. He even tried a turnaround jumper tonight…which clanked badly. I like him better when he’s overpowering people two feet from the basket.
  • Glen Davis looks so uncomfortable in Orlando’s offense. Davis was 1-10 from the field, almost all of his shots coming from mid-range, which any Boston fan will tell you is NOT a good spot for him. Still glad Brandon Bass is gone, Orlando?
  • Inane things you notice when your team is down by 20 in the second half against a superior opponent: Dwight Howard has tiny ears. Check it next time you are watching him. You’ll never be able to stop noticing. YOU’RE WELCOME AMERICA.
  • It seems superfluous at this point to even mention but the Wolves turned the ball over entirely too much.
  • Hedo Turkoglu was 2-7, Jason Richardson was 2-6, and Ryan Anderson was 3-8 from three point range. But didn’t it kind of feel like they were all roughly 9-9? It’s a little frightening to imagine what Milwaukee’s fans had to go through seeing Richardson explode the way he did on Sunday.

It’s not time to panic yet for Timberwolves fans. Minnesota lost four tough games to four tough teams. Unfortunately, it was four games in a row. If the Wolves lose to hapless Charlotte on Wednesday? Panic away.

Growing pains; Wolves lose 100-98


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New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin, Front, Races
Jeremy Lin is good, not unbelievable

No, I do no want to add an “L” to a word’s prefix that begins with “in” for dramatic effect. No, I don’t want to fall into the swirling affection that has bloomed for the NBA’s new Golden Child.

I’m all a little over it.

I’m not jealous; Ricky Rubio is still the league’s best point guard prospect, hands down, end of discussion. I’m indifferent over the entire phenomenon that is “Linsanity.” It’s just all a little overblown.

Jeremy Lin is a talent. Speaking strictly of his basketball skills, — because that’s the only thing that matters, right? — his ball-handling is extraordinary. His jump shot could use a little fine-tuning — He hits more contested shots than wide open ones. Next to Dwyane Wade, he’s probably second-best at utilizing the reverse layup not just for show but as a means to achieve the best shot possible at making his layup that he worked so hard for.

Behind Lin, not because of him, the Knicks are prowling their way on an impressive little winning streak; they’re playing beautiful team ball with all of their pieces making contributions. You see Lin running everything and making big drives. You see Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert step up the scoring punch. You see Tyson Chandler filling his own in the paint and still chip in offensively. You even see Steve Novak get into a groove; given playing time, he could be the NBA’s best three-point shooter.

The Knicks are a classic example of the clogging superstars. With two on your team, who demand the ball and all the shots, it stops the flow of the offense, which flexes the defense because you’re likely playing a man down; and that halts any chance momentum has to build. Right now, playing without those two guys, all phases of the game are affected positively and they’re winning, in terms of the Knicks.

As for the Wolves, they lost this game on their own. They stiffened their defense in the second half, just enough to sustain a minimal lead the entire game. Is it their fault for not pushing that lead at any point? Perhaps. They did have the opportunity. But a team only running through their best two players, they ended up “dropping the ball” in the final seconds.

There are team differences between the Knicks and Wolves and they’re big enough to justify five game winning streaks or three game losing streaks. Those “differences” — Turnovers, poor shot selection, limited defensive effort — are revealing glaring team weaknesses that are hindering any stretch of growth. The Knicks, on the other hand, well, you get it.

There will be growing pains, there will be insurmountable mistakes. Ask any OKC Thunder fan and they’ll tell you that the playoffs don’t just come overnight. This one will hurt for a while but there’s a lot to learn if they’re willing to study.

Next up the Wolves travel to Orlando to play Dwight Howard and the Magic. Game is Monday night.

Death by turnover; Wolves fall 104-97


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Dallas Mavericks' Ian Mahinmi, Right, Of France, Watches
Kevin Love and Michael Beasley were the Muskies tonight. That's it.

I ought to forfeit this recap, just as the Wolves nearly did in the first quarter tonight, due to complete negligence.

The Wolves, honestly, wasted my night of NBA watching tonight (Yes, I spend my Friday nights at home sipping on Irish coffees, squandering League Pass.) The team that usually is, on a nightly basis, the single most entertaining team in the NBA — when healthy — laid straight duds in their last two games, and it really couldn’t have come at a worst time.

When I see two tough conference matchups on the schedule, I own it; I psych myself up to just watch some elite basketball that may alter the playoff race down the line. The Wolves, somehow, managed to inexcusably spoil both viewing parties, though.

Tonight was especially awful. It starts and ends with the turnovers, all 28 of them. 28, yes, you guessed right, is the league high for turnovers this season. Every player that saw more than 10 minutes of playing time committed at least one turnover. Ball security starts with the point guard, and although Rubio forced his fair share of turnovers (4), it was the big guys underneath that couldn’t handle the rock.

  • Nikola Pekovic, 3
  • Derrick Williams, 3
  • Michael Beasley, 3

These things add up, ya know. The worst offender of ‘em all was Kevin Love. Coming off his two-game suspension and the high of being selected to his second All-Star team, you had to expect a mix of shaky but aggressive behaviors from Love. Most of his five turnovers came from simply trying just too hard, not just mental mistakes. He bangs so hard inside, begging for calls but almost never gets them to the point where he’s left simply fighting with just his two pinkies clasping the ball. How can you criticize that? You can’t. The thing you can criticize is the complaining he does after he loses the fight, but I digress because that topic is much to pressing for me to address here and now. Regardless, Love had a monster game — his 23rd double-double of the season and his eighth 30-10 game — and his effort and drive was incomparable.

Aside from Love’s return/huge game, the silver lining: Michael Beasley. He limited his own minutes by picking up some boneheaded fouls but I can almost say this was one of his best complete games in a Timberwolves uniform. He ended with 20 points on 8-11 shooting — two of his four 3-pointers came  at the end when Dallas’ defense decided this game was over. But it was what Beaz did on the other end of the court that I was impressed with. He was contesting shots, hustling after balls and rebounds. He was more of an all-around force than I’ve seen in a long, long time, and not just a savvy scoring option as well as a liability on defense.

The Wolves will need more games like this from Love and Beaz minus the turnovers. Perhaps the biggest need overall, though, is another scoring option. No, not perhaps, definitely; the Wolves definitely need another scoring option. Luke Ridnour was the guy in the first half of the season but seems near incompetent as of late. Wes Johns… Ha, that’s a good one. Nikola Pekovic can only do so much, not to mention only so many centers in the league can be relied upon for night-in and night-out scoring.

Someone needs to step up and start hitting big shots. It doesn’t matter who it is outside of Love and Beaz. Who knows, maybe Jeremy Lin will genie his way to the edge of our bench too. Side note: Malcolm Lee has been playing well for the D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce in his rehabilitation trip so far. Given a spot and time on the court (Move over, Luke), I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds his way into this lineup next to Rubio at times; he provides great size, outstanding defense with scoring point guard instincts. Really love him as a prospect.

Anyways, speaking of Jeremy Lin, next up Lin leads the hot New York Knicks to town, and after seeing what Lin did to the Lakers last night, things could get out of hand; the Wolves defense hasn’t been special the last couple of nights. Could the Linsanity continue? Against our defense? Oh, yeah.

Exhausted Timberwolves fall 85-80


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Lots of dunks, lots of smiles from Rudy Gay and the Grizz last night.
Lots of dunks, lots of smiles from Rudy Gay and the Grizz last night.

Welp, that was ugly.

I’m reminding myself not to complain. After all, the Wolves have been playing very well lately. They had won three games in a row for the second time this season before Wednesday night. They had moved to just over .500 for the first time since what feels like the Eisenhower Administration.

And honestly, one really can’t fault Minnesota’s effort. Sure, there were lapses, but as a whole, the Wolves played with what little energy they had left. Clearly, the team was exhausted, which is why Adelman went with a slightly unorthodox lineup at the end.

But since I don’t really have anything to complain about (most of Minnesota’s miscues were due to exhaustion rather than a lack of effort) and I don’t really have anything nice to say (there were still a TON of miscues), I think I’ll stick to mostly bullet points for this recap.

  • Don’t be fooled by the final score, the Wolves lost this game by 10-15 points. Some inspired play in the final quarter by JJ Barea made the game closer, but without the Kevin Love and on the second night of a back to back, Memphis simply out-manned and out-ran Minnesota.
  • Rudy Gay was a highlight reel all night. Got dayum, Rudy.
  • You too, Jeremy Pargo.
  • Ask any Celtics fan who has been following Rajon Rondo for the past few years, and they will tell you: Rubio is going to have games like this. There are going to be games in which the opposing team resolutely gives him whatever jumpshot he wants and focuses on stopping passing lanes. That’s what happened last night, and sure enough, Rubio struggled. Also, Mike Conley completely has his number. Not sure what that’s about.
  • Here’s something weird: Wes Johnson has been missing all of his jumpers, and getting all of his points from aggressively driving to the basket. Not something you would have expected to hear a few weeks ago.
  • You know your team is having an off night when Quincy Pondexter is one of the players responsible for beating you.
  • Another solid box score for Pekovic with 10 points and 9 rebounds, but he really struggled against Gasol’s length when Gasol was in. On a night when other players are performing better, that kind of a mismatch won’t kill the Timberwolves. On a night when the rest of the starting lineup shoots 11-32 from the field, it’s just another nail in the proverbial coffin.
  • Barea really was encouraging tonight. He probed the lane looking for easy baskets, but his range was really on display, as he shot 50% from behind the arc. Having Barea and Beasley back to create shots on their own should really help Minnesota’s offense going forward.

Ordinarily, I’d keep going, but last night was just such an uninspiring game. Minnesota will have a chance to get back over the .500 mark on Friday against a team they are surprisingly 2-0 against so far this season, the Dallas Mavericks. More important: Kevin Love will be back (thank you, sweet lord).

For today? GET SOME REST, GUYS. You need it.