Category: Game Previews

Bombs Over Miami: Timberwolves at Heat Preview

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(Photo: Robert Mayer, US Presswire)
“LOL Kevin Durant For MVP? Do they give those awards out by conference now?”- LeBron, probably, who is somehow still getting better.

Where: Miami, FL

When: 6:30pm

See It: FSN

Hear It: WCCO AM 830

Alright, so things didn’t go as planned last night in Orlando. Things started out promising, but slowly came undone, and the Wolves watched their four game winning streak disappear at the hands of…Glen Davis? Er, at the hands of Glen Davis. Whoops, wrong punctuation. However, the Wolves look to get back on track against the Miami Heat! Dang it, there goes my punctuation again.

Where we stand now, the defending champs are second in the East and have won three of their last four, with their lone defeat being a two point loss to the Warriors. And as I mentioned above, the Timberwolves four out of five, yada, yada, yada…

The LeBron Heat have been trouble for the Wolves, up until the formation of the Love-Rubio tandem. In their lone meeting at the Target Center last season, the Timberwolves lost a nail-biter in regulation, 103-101. If the Wolves are able to win the key statistical battles they did last night, and hit a few more shots, they could prevail here.

The Heat’s defense may not be near where it was last and they’ve struggled on the glass, too, but that doesn’t matter when they shoot the ball as well as they do. Obviously, LeBron is athletic Freakzilla and has a grab bag of skills from many of the various greats in NBA history, but it’s really un-freaking-fair when he’s able to shoot .541 from the floor and .424 from deep, too. In short, he’ll beat you inside and he’ll beat you outside, which is something that he hasn’t been able to do in the past, and certainly not to this extent.

It’s not just LeBron, though. Check this out:

- Ray Allen: .494/.474

- James Jones: .455/.455

- Rashard Lewis: .486/.474

- Shane Battier: .433/.443

- Mike Miller: .426/.391

This list doesn’t even include Dwyane Wade’s .508% from the floor, either. Look at this; their “worst” shooting shooter is shooting just under .400! Guess how many .400% three point shooters the Timberwolves currently have? Zero. Their best shooter from deep has been Luke Ridnour with a .365% mark. When you look at it, it’s an incredible contrast.

Some of this may be attributable to LeBron’s 32.9% assist percentage, which combined with his other numbers/abilities more than justifies a 29.8% Usage Rate, but also the fact that Wade and Chalmers each have an assist percentage in the twenties, too. When you combine good ball movement, with good shooters, the Heat have just so many shooters you have to respect. When you combine all of this, it has increased the Heat’s offensive efficiency from a year ago, and off-set some of their defensive shortcomings thus far.

Fortunately for the Timberwolves, they are the NBA’s sixth-best defensive bunch. However, the Heat are the second-best team in the league protecting the ball, so they’ll have to look to exploit them on the boards to control the game and get second chance points.

This is going to be a fun one.

Projected Starting Fives: 

Mario Chalmers — PG — Luke Ridnour

Dwyane Wade — SG — Alexey Shved

LeBron James — SF — Andrei Kirilenko

Udonis Haslem — PF — Kevin Love

Chris Bosh — C — Nikola Pekovic

Return of the Unicorn: Mavs at Timberwolves Preview

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The Maiden And The Unicorn, fresco by Dominico Zampieri
Ricky! Knock it off. I see what you’re doing…

Where: Target Center (Get your tickets!)

When: 7pm

See It: My29

Hear It: WCCO-AM 830

In European folklore, the unicorn is a mythical creature that was seen as a creature of purity and grace, and could only be captured by a virgin. Well, the Timberwolves may not be pure, per se — we’ve made that walk of shame a few more times than we care to admit — but we proved that to be false and managed to capture our own, and he returns tonight. No, this isn’t about me attending my first Timberwolves game of the season; this is about Ricky Rubio making his return to the court tonight!

The unicorn’s horn was also believed to be able to cure the ill, and make undrinkable water drinkable. Well, from 2011 to 2012 our unicorn turned the league’s sixth best offense to the eighteenth, and the league’s twenty-seventh best to the twenty-fifth. This team currently sits fifth in opponents points per game, and that’s without a key part of their defense– Rubio.

You know what else Ricky and unicorns have in common? They’re both beloved by the ladies. Seriously, Leonardo DaVinci once wrote this about unicorns:

The unicorn, through its intemperance and not knowing how to control itself, for the love it bears to fair maidens forgets its ferocity and wildness; and laying aside all fear it will go up to a seated damsel and go to sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it.

Young woman seated in a landscape with a unicorn” -

Your wife/girlfriend/mother/sister may not like basketball, but I promise she likes Ricky Rubio, in a surely innocent way. More importantly, the Timberwolves managed to get to 11-9 and sixth in the West despite his absence, which is all we could’ve asked for.

(I’m still watching you, Ricky.)

And Rubio returns tonight against the Dallas Mavericks, who have played three games in four nights, on the second night of a back-to-back, and suffered a humiliating 95-74 defeat last night against the Raptors.

I wanted to see Dirk Nowitzki for the first time tonight, but he’s out and I get Derek Fisher instead, because life isn’t fair. Ever.

Then there’s OJ Mayo, who’s having a ridiculously good season, averaging 20-4-3 on .484 and .508 shooting. Maybe not ridiculously good, but very efficient, especially for a guard. Which is what they’ve from players like Mayo and supporting players like Shawn Marion and *gulp* Chris Kaman. Oh, good; I get to watch Chris Kaman, too.

Perhaps their biggest factor off of the bench has been Vince Carter, much to the delight of a 10-year old Derek in a purple #15 Raptors jersey. Whether he’s been accused of coasting during games, earning the nickname “Wince” for faking injuries (He’s been remarkably healthy for most of his career), or forcing his way out of Toronto, Vince has endured his share of scrutiny despite being continually productive.

With all of that being said, after Vince’s second season with the Orlando Magic, it seemed as if he was on his way out and was dealt to the Phoenix Suns, who chose not to re-sign him at the end of the 2011 season. Fast forward to this season and Vince is shooting threes like he’s back in New Jersey, has the highest PER in three years, and has even evolved into a solid man-to-man defender in the post.

Hold on. I need a moment to process this…

…ok, I’m good now.

You want to feel old? Vince turns 36 in February and is in his 14th season in the league. Seriously, wasn’t 1999 like a few weeks ago? It was about that long ago I attended a Timberwolves-Raptors game in a Vince Carter jersey, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Unreal.

Anyway, good game tonight, and may help the Wolves’ playoff odds to win this game since the Mavs figure to be in the picture for much of the rest of the season. And if you’re near section 210, stop by and say ‘hi’.

Projected Starting Fives: 

Derek Fisher — PG — Unicorn

OJ Mayo — SG — Luke Ridnour

Dahntay Jones — SF — Andrei Kirilenko

Shawn Marion — PF — Kevin Love (Hopefully)

Chris Kaman — C — Nikola Pekovic

Times Like These: Timberwolves at Hornets Preview

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AP Photo/Eric Gay, File
Kevin Love and Anthony Davis chum it up with Team USA last summer, but face each other as opponents for the first time tonight.

Where: New Orleans

When: 7pm

See It: FSN

Hear It: WCCO-AM 830

I won’t lie, I really don’t feel like writing about basketball right now. Something about talking about something like sports just doesn’t seem right at this point. Maybe it’s because I spend too much time on Twitter where you can get news in an instant, for better or worse. Today, it’s probably for the worse. I don’t even have to mention what I’m talking about, and you know what I’m referring to. I don’t even have kids, or family in Connecticut, and yet, I’m affected by this, if only as a human being.

Again, I really don’t feel like talking about basketball, and the thought of linking this piece seems almost insensitive, although that is far from my intention.

But then I remember why sports can be helpful in times like these. Going to a game or watching a game serves as a good distraction for a couple hours. I think back to the first Wolves game I went to with my Dad, and think back to the great time we had about the game, and I’m reminded that sports help bring us together, even if the interest isn’t necessarily a shared one. Ultimately, it’s the same thing if you’re at home on the couch, catching up with your friends.

For a few hours, the only things that really matter are the score, who on God’s green earth is going to play shooting guard and when the next time the peanut vendor is going to pass by your section again.

No, sports don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but there are times when you need something else but the “real world” to get lost in for just a little bit. After this, I think I’m going to disconnect from things like Twitter. Or at least try to. I’m looking forward to watching Kevin Love against Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon looking like a bargain and marveling at how bad Austin Rivers has been so far. I’m really looking forward to what it’ll look like when the league’s 28th best offense (New Orleans) looks like when it faces the NBA’s 4th best defense (Minnesota).

It may not truly matter, but things like a basketball game on a Friday night are one of the little things that make getting out of bed worth it. It doesn’t do you any good to dwell on something so saddening and heartbreaking, anyway. That’s not to say to forget about it, or that it’s insensitive or indecent to think about other things right now, either. Tonight, I’m saying thank God for sports, and maybe we can get back to talking about Ricky Rubio’s return and a hopeful playoff run soon.

Projected Starting Fives: 

Luke Ridnour — PG — Grievis Vasquez

Anthony Peeler — SG — Austin Rivers (Seriously?)

Andrei Kirilenko — SF — Al-Faroq Aminu

Kevin Lopez — PF — Anthony Davis

Nikola Pekovic — C — Robin Lopez (Ok, seriously, Monty?!)

Injury Note: No Malcolm Lee tonight (knee) and Josh Howard is questionable (Illness).

Patterns and Things: Nuggets at Timberwolves Preview

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Ricky Rubio will suit up, but in more of a Barney Stinson kind of way, as opposed to an, “I’M BACK!!” sort of way.

Where: Target Center

When: 7pm CST

See It: FSN

Hear It: WCCO AM 830

Remember the last Nuggets preview I did when I pointed out they were a streaky team, because they lost three in a row, then won four in a row, and then lost three? They came into Target Center having won two straight that night and I mentioned that if you believe in trends and patterns the Wolves would be a part of another winning streak, and sure enough Denver came out the winners. What’s more is that they would win two more after that to make another four game winning streak. Crazy, huh?

Well, tonight they come in having lost every other game since last Monday, and they won their last game, so you know what that means: yes, a sure-fire victory! After all, the pattern didn’t let us down before…

We thought we might have Ricky Rubio return against this Nuggets team, as Kevin Love did last time, but he’s been ruled out for tonight’s game. Or so we think; we didn’t think Love would play that night either.

Not much has changed with these Nuggets; they still rebound and score among the league’s best. But they their Defensive Rating matches their Offensive Rating (Not a good thing), and they still can’t shoot things like three pointers and free throws. Oh, and Ty Lawson! Andre Iguodala! Basketball!

The Wolves are still adjusting to life with Love again, and will have their full roster minus Brandon Roy, Rubio, and Derrick Williams should he earn another DNP-CD. (That was unnecessary…)

I could throw a bunch of Timberwolves stats at you, but it won’t matter since the Nuggets have gone W-L-W-L-W in their last five games, and therefore ensuring a Timberwolves win tonight. The pattern wouldn’t lie to us, would it?

Projected Starting Fives: 

Ty Lawson — PG — Ricky- woops, Luke Ridnour

Andre Iguodala — SG — Malcolm Lee

Danilo Gallinari — SF — Andrei Kirilenko

Kenneth Faried — PF — Kevin Love

Kosta Koufos — C — Nikola Pekovic

Take Two: Cavs at Timberwolves Preview

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Getty Images
Anderson Varejao showing off his “I play for Cleveland” face.

Where: Target Center

When: 7pm CST

See It: FSN/In-Person

Hear It: WCCO-AM 830/ In-person (As long as you turn around in your seat, but you may weird out the people behind you if you do that.)

Sorry, Cleveland. The blows just never stop coming, do they? Oh, you didn’t know that I overlooked your name on tonight’s schedule, and wrote an entire preview on next Friday’s game? Well, I did. It’s not personal, it’s just that you’re 4-12, and missing two of your top three players. I mean, Anderson Varejao is nice, but I’m probably not tuning in just for him. Watching Tristan Thompson get his shot blocked might be fun, but may get sad by halftime.

With the 21st and 24th best offense and defense in the NBA, you really don’t scare anyone. If it weren’t for Varejao and his rebounding, the Wizards would probably be making, “At least we’re not Cleveland!” jokes since you really don’t have anything you’re even just average at other than three point shooting.

I suppose it’s just as well Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are out, because whenever I have watched this Cavs team, they’ve somehow forgot they have one of the league’s best ballhandlers and played him as the off-guard.

And then, that bench, which could only be described as diseased when you glance up and down the roster. If the Wolves are fair, maybe they should sit Andrei Kirilenko another game, or go four on five to even the playing field. Kevin Love may literally be able to beat this team with one hand; that’s not a joke. But, hey, at least Pekovic versus Varejao will be a fun matchup to watch!

The fact that Cavs fans can even get out of bed in the morning is  a true testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. Although, if you’re from Cleveland, you can probably get through anything by now.  I mean, your starting shooting guard’s name is “Boobie” for Pete’s sake! At least show some self respect.

(Kidding, Cleveland. Love you.)

Projected Starting Fives: 

Jeremy Pargo — PG — Luke Ridnour

Daniel “Boobie” Gibson — SG — Malcolm Lee

Alonzo Gee — SF — Andrei Kirilenko

Tristan Thompson — PF — Kevin Love

Anderson Varejao — C — Nikola Pekovic

All in the ‘do: Wolves-76ers Preview

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Andrew Bynum lookin’ fly as ever

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Phildelphia

When: 6:00 pm

See it: FSN

Hear it: WCCO 830 AM

The story out of Philly this season? Andrew Bynum’s hair is just dominating headlines. It’s growing out of proportion and critics are wondering if he’ll ever get it back into game shape.

It’s a fair question. The Timberwolves themselves have had some hair issues in their past. Think back to the Michael Beasley days. He himself had some hairdo issues as well. He tried out the Samurai Bun. No go. He tried out the Corn Rows. No go. He even dared attempt the afro.

No go.

Even this season, Wolves’ own Alexey Shved, the new, hip Euro-style swaggered-out guard came in with a ‘do dilemma. He came in with the idea that letting his long locks flow in the wind as he whipped up and down the floor would give the best results of both production and flair. What happened? His locks turned to sweaty dreads and drastically affected his shooting stroke and never supported his facial features in the right way. Not good.

A haircut brings up anyone’s day. You walk out of it feeling like a new you. People compliment you. You have confidence you’ve never had before. There’s just more pep in your step and people notice. Shved went through the shaggy-haired phase and decided it just wasn’t for him, so he cut it. And cut it short. And cut it good.

Now, Shved has turned into a leader in crunch time for the Wolves. Is it his playmaking ability? Is it his improved shooting? How about his secretly good defense?

Nope. It’s all in the ‘do.

Shved learned his lesson the hard way, which makes me think that Bynum will too. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling to sit in the barber’s chair and see chunks of your beautifully tamed mane fall off your shoulders to the floor but as the barber buzzes away, your newly clean scalp begins to gleam in confidence. It’s a proven fact.

As for on-the-court headlines, the Wolves are coming off a stout win at home against the Bucks. They’ve also had three days rest with a mental boost knowing that Rubio’s return is literally around the corner. The 76ers have underwhelmed this season — mostly because of Bynum’s obscure absence. Built around some awfully young pieces such as Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, the 76ers are certainly missing some much-needed experience in their starting lineup. They have Jason Richardson to help that cause but they also have Nick Young to hurt. It’s a lot of give-and-take in Philly but they’re lucky to have Doug Collins steering this ship.

Projected Starting Five:

Luke Ridnour — PG — Jrue Holiday

Malcolm Lee — SG — Jason Richardson

Josh Howard — SF — Evan Turner

Kevin Love — PF — Thad Young

Nikola Pekovic — C — Lavoy Allen (Yikes)

Bucking Around: Bucks-Timberwolves Preview

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(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Mercifully, the dreaded West Coast road trip is over, and our heroes are back at Target Center for one game before heading out to Philadelphia on Tuesday. Tonight, the Timberwolves host the Bucks, and decided to incorporate more of a Bucks fan’s perspective. Fortunately, I was able to recruit Dakota Schmidt of Behind the Buck Pass, and D-League Digest to assist me in this endeavor.

Derek James: Locally, here in Minneapolis, tonight’s game is broadcast on network TV. Usually, when that’s the case, it’s because the Timberwolves are playing one of the NBA’s elite teams. Now, the Bucks may not be elite, but they are still 7-6 and atop the Central division. What about this Bucks team in particular should make fans tune into this game on a Friday night?

Dakota Schmidt: The thing that this Bucks team that could be of interest is that we’re just an extremely confusing but entertaining team. I really have no clue what this Bucks team will do game in and game out, but I know that I’m going to watch an entertaining game either from the antics of Jennings and Ellis or the Bucks bench, which is currently the best bench in all of basketball.

DJ: What concerns you the most about playing this Timberwolves team, and why?

DS: This Timberwolves team may be 6-8 but they’re still a team that scares the living hell out of me now when I see them on the Bucks’ schedule. Kevin Love is an animal and arguably the best PF in all of the NBA, so he’s a player you have to keep your eyes on every second he’s on the court. Henson will likely be guarding him and he’s been a solid player in the short time he’s been the starting PF but I really don’t know how he’ll be able to guard Kevin Love.

If Alexey Shved and Monta Ellis try to guard each other, will the universe collapse into itself?

DJ: Conversely, what will be the biggest obstacle the Timberwolves will face against Milwaukee?

DS: The biggest obstacle that the Timberwolves will have against this Bucks team will be the Bucks’ bench. Minnesota has some good bench players like Cunningham and Shved but this Bucks bench has taken over games (i.e comeback vs. Chicago) and will be a huge challenge for this Wolves team that is currently somewhat banged up. The two main pieces of the Bucks bench have to be Beno Udrih and Mike Dunleavy who are both top 5 in PER on the Bucks so far this year (18.4 and 17.0 respectively).

DJ: The Bucks and Timberwolves rank 29th and 30th in three point percentage so far this season. Aside from the potential to witness some ugly basketball, could you see second chance points, and rebounding in general, playing a key role in the outcome of this game?

DS: I could see a whole lot of second-chance opportunities in this game but I really have a feeling it will be against the Bucks especially when they have a top rebounder in Kevin Love. The Bucks tried to load up the front-court in the off-season after trading Bogut for Ellis but they’re still allowing offensive rebounds. The way the Bucks are able to try to contain Kevin Love and, to a lesser extent Nikola Pekovic, on the glass will be a huge factor in this game.

I love Twitter, sometimes.
Of course, I couldn’t resist the urge to join in after I read that tweet.

DJ: One last thing. We have Packers-Vikings, anything Badgers-Gophers, and even Brewers-Twins, as area rivalries to some degree. Isn’t it funny how Bucks-Wolves isn’t regarded on that level? I mean, this isn’t even being billed as a border battle, so neither team is pretending this is one. Yet, it would seem if the Wolves would have one, it would be the Bucks. Why do you think this is? The quality of the teams over the years? Or the fact that they’re in different conferences, and only play each other twice per year?

This matchup has had no defining moments, ever, that I can think of. Maybe some of that would be helped if they saw each other more and even have the chance of a hard-fought playoff series. As it stands now, the two would have to meet in the Finals, if they were to meet in the playoffs. What do you think is keeping Bucks-Timberwolves from reaching the status of the other area rivalries?

DS: I really don’t know if I consider this exactly a border battle. Wisconsin and Minnesota are of course neighboring states but Milwaukee is on the eastern part of Wisconsin while Minneapolis is near that Minnesota/Wisconsin border. I really don’t consider this a rivalry because of the facts you stated which would be them being in separate conferences and they’ve both been mediocre teams in the past five seasons. Now I could really see something brewing with these two teams if they are both consistently in the playoff picture.

 Thanks to Dakota for contributing to this piece. Be sure to read him regularly on,, and on Twitter: @Dakota_Schmidt.


Projected Starting Fives: 

Brandon Jennings — PG — Luke Ridnour

Monta Ellis — SG — Malcolm Lee

Tobias Harris — SF — Josh Howard (Kirilenko; out with back spasms.)

John Henson — PF — Kevin Love (Questionable; food poisoning.)

Samuel Dalembert — C — Nikola Pekovic

Kick ‘Em While They’re Down: Timberwolves at Clippers Preview

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Real mature, Blake, finger pointing

Where: Staples Center

When: 9:30, tonight.

See It: FSN

Hear It: WCCO 830 AM

After a one game absence, the game preview is back! Usually I’m pretty good about getting them up, but sometimes I do have a life that interferes with doing so, unfortunately. What? Why are you looking at me like that? I do have a life! Now that life is calmer today, I give you your Timberwolves at Clippers preview.

The Timberwolves managed to mercifully snap a five game losing streak in Sacramento last night to bring themselves within one game of .500, again. However, tonight is the second game in a three game homestand for the Clippers, who have been off since Monday, so they will be rested, but are also on a four game losing streak, themselves. And the Wolves are on the second night of a back-to-back playing a Chris Paul led team.

This will be interesting.

As far as injuries go, the Wolves will be missing the usual suspects, while the Clippers will be without Grant Hill, and Chauncey Billups, whose return is close, but not quite here yet.

I’ll be interested in see how Adelman works his rotation tonight, and see if he continues to roll with the smaller, nine man bench. I’d imagine that Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko wouldn’t see so many minutes, and that those minutes would be divvied up between the bench players in the frontcourt.

The Clippers are already one of the top teams in the Western Conference. However, they can be beat on the glass, and have the second highest Team Turnover Percentage in the league, meaning the Timberwolves could earn some extra possessions tonight.

Surprisingly, the Clippers have been a pretty good defensive team up to this point. Check these figures out:

Defensive Rating: 102.9 (11th)

Opponent Points Per Game: 95.6 (12th)

Opp. FG% Allowed: .436 (9th)

Opp. 3FG% Allowed: .384% (27th)

Opp. Turnover%: 16.4% (2nd)

Nothing really stands out there until you get down to opponents turnovers, where they have been excellent so far, but as I’ve noted above, they end up giving back quite a few of those, too.

Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, the one area on defense they could really exploit the Clippers in is with the three ball. Not that you’ll be shocked to learn this, but the Timberwolves are dead last in the NBA in three point percentage, making .277%. You don’t have to be a total stat head to figure out that’s bad. Like, really bad. The Wolves have been so bad shooting threes that John Wall and DeMar DeRozan make jokes about it. Ok, maybe not that bad, but they’ve struggled shooting from deep so far. Outside of Love, they may not have the means to exploit that weakness in the Clippers defense, either.

If they’d like to torch the Clippers tonight, they will also need better ball movement than they got last night in Sacramento. If the ability to torch the Clippers is there, the Timberwolves will have to scheme to get the best possible looks. Whether those passes come out of double teams from the post, or simply crisp perimeter ball movement, I don’t know– nor would I particularly care how they do it, as long as they do it.

Hey, maybe the Clippers are the cure for what ails them.

Starting Fives:

Luke Ridnour — PG — Chris Paul

Malcolm Lee — SG — Willie Green (I had to double check, but this is actually correct.)

Andrei Kirilenko — SF — Caron Butler

Kevin Love — PF — Blake Griffin

Nikola Pekovic — C — DeAndre Jordan

Because Some Things Are and Some Things Are Not: Timberwolves-Warriors Preview

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Where: Oracle Arena

When: 9:30pm

See It: FSN

Hear It: WCCO AM 830

One of my favorite Louis C.K. bits is an older one in which he’s talking to his daughter, and she asks him one simple question. However, in the sketch, Louis’ daughter is never content with the answer she’s given and asks “Why?” to each response. As C.K. mentions, she’s not content with just hearing that she can’t go outside because it’s raining, she has to ask why. Louis continues to attempt to placate her with each passing “why” by sputtering out sentence fragments about how the water cycle works before saying, “I don’t know.” To which he’s met with another “why”.

As the sketch winds down, C.K gets more and more frustrated, with the end playing out like this:

(Click “Read More”)

Continue reading

The Funny Thing About Plans: Timberwolves-Blazers Preview

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No matter what happens, I’m glad I got the chance to meet Brandon Roy a few weeks ago.


Tonight was supposed to be a celebratory night, as the Brandon Roy Comeback Tour was scheduled to stop in Portland. That’s the funny thing about plans: they don’t always go how they’re supposed to. We knew that Brandon would likely have a flare up, and that his decline might be more gradual, not so quickly. Didn’t you think that we’d get more than five games of Brandon Roy shooting 31% from the floor? Instead, we get the worst case scenario of having to watch a very likable human being’s career as his knees give out on him again. I mean, five games and an arthroscopic surgery, already? It’s such an unhappy occurrence (although not entirely unforeseen)to have happen, I don’t think any of us here at Howlin’ T-Wolf really felt like writing about it.

I will say that I’m glad that I did get to meet Brandon, and get the photo taken above before the season.

In the spirit of yesterday’s holiday, I’m going to focus on some of the cheerier aspects of tonight’s game, and list things about tonight’s game that I’m thankful for:

-          Kevin Love surprise returns.

-          Blazers rookie Damian Lillard making me want to watch all of his games. If you haven’t seen Lillard yet, watch tonight and you’ll understand why. His numbers are impressive, but he’s also an incredibly fun player to watch.

-          Abundant, or even adequate, health. It always helps to get a player like Love back, but getting back more of the supporting cast in JJ Barea and Nikola Pekovic helps a ton. Now, we’ll just wait for Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger, and Brandon (hopefully) to get healthy.

-          Andrei Kirilenko for keeping this team afloat. He’s on pace to have his best season since ’05-’06, logged heavy minutes, and been incredibly productive. Sure, he won’t average 8 rebounds per game next to Pekovic and Love, but he’s still outperformed expectations so far.

-          The Blazers’ dead-last rankings in eFG% allowed, opponent points per game, and defensive rating.

-          Kevin Love versus LaMarcus Aldridge, because…awesome!

The Timberwolves of course also come in on a three game losing streak having also dropped four out of their last five. Beginning a long west coast road trip, it would be great to start things off on the right foot and get a win. It won’t necessarily be easy since the Blazers can be pesky with Lillard, Batum and Aldridge, but if they can limit their impact and try to force the Blazers’ bench to pick up some slack, the Wolves’ odds of victory improves dramatically.

Starting Fives:

Luke Ridnour – PG – Damian Lillard

Malcolm Lee – SG – Wes Matthews

Andrei Kirilenko – SF – Nicolas Batum

Kevin Love – PF – LaMarcus Aldridge

Nikola Pekovic – C – Meyers Leonard