Category: 2012-2013 Game Recaps

Things got heated; Wolves lose 97-81

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Heat Timberwolves Basketball
Open shots have to fall to beat the champs. It didn’t happen against the Heat

Three Positives:

Jonah: Some will absolutely disagree with me on this, but a team with as little offensive firepower as they do now, someone needs to push the envelope and make something happen. Derrick Williams has been doing that as of late and certainly tried tonight. His 9-22 shooting is by no means sexy nor efficient but it’s aggressive. Other than Williams and perhaps JJ Barea, no one is looking to make their own shot on this team right now and it’s resulted in some really poor offensive outings lately. But if Williams stay determined and aggressive to get his points, well, at least you can make things interesting as they did in this one at multiple points in the game.

Tom: Jonah will certainly get no argument from me that Derrick Williams has been doing much better of late, despite somewhat inefficient shooting lines. One of the most positive things we’ve seen from him has been his frequent forays into the paint. An aggressive Williams doesn’t necessarily score more on his off-nights (we’ve covered Williams’ struggles at the rim before in these recaps), but it WILL send him to the free throw line more as officials adjust to his newfound aggressiveness. Williams shot chart for the evening was still a little bit more spread out than we would like to see, but he is gradually moving his game in closer to the basket, and the more he does that, the less I will mind seeing him firing up mid-range jumpers.

Derek: We’ve seen it at times this season where Ricky Rubio’s shooting form looks much improved, but the shot just doesn’t fall. Well, tonight it did, and while it may not be wise to say that 6-11 is sustainable, we can hope that it’s indicative of progress in the least.

Three Negatives:

Jonah: Referees don’t win or lose games for you but they can certainly swing momentum, which then affects the final result. The flagrant two foul called on Barea for sumo-chesting Ray Allen to the floor was pretty ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was that the refs offered Rick Adelman little-to-no explanation for the switch in foul call and his subsequent ejection. It’s irritating to see how refs can drastically influence a game like that, and certainly in such a negative way. There’s no denying that the Wolves’ offense and poor shooting is why they officially lost but you just never hope to see officiating like that ever again.

Tom: The Timberwolves were 5-20 from 3-point range tonight. Ricky Rubio was hands down the best 3-point shooter on the floor. I leave you to draw your own conclusions about the way this game ended up.

Derek: The Heat did their best Timberwolves impression shooting 23.8% from three and still won by 16. Of course, they made their free throws at a better rate than the Wolves, so that helped.

Three Observations:

Jonah: Luke Ridnour was -23 on the court tonight. He couldn’t shoot and he certainly couldn’t defend. If the team ever wants contend, Adelman will need to be much more creative against bigger, stronger teams like the Heat. With nine players healthy, he doesn’t have much of a choice but for future reference, Ridnour should never be covering Dwyane Wade in crunch time.

Tom: LeBron, by his standards, had an off night, shooting 9-16 from the floor for 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. More importantly: He was 1-4 from 3-point range and dished out just four assists. MORE LIKE LEBUM JAMES, AMIRITE GUYS?!

Derek: I can only imagine how loud the “FREE CHRIS JOHNSON” chants were as he entered the game tonight. However, six minutes later those same fans were probably thinking “HERE’S CHRIS JOHNSON…FOR FREE!” after watching him commit two fouls, and go 1-3 from the floor in such a short amount of court time.

Next up: The Washington Wizards come to town on Wednesday night, 7 pm.

21 straight; Wolves lose 116-94

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Kobe gets 33 in Lakers' latest win over Wolves
JJ Barea was about the only silver lining in this game

Two Positives:

Jonah: I tweeted the other day the amount of possessions Ricky Rubio has stolen away from the opposition in the matter of six games. He only managed one last night but his stat stuffing ways never declined. And despite another poor-to-mediocre shooting night, he still managed to fall just short of a 13/13/8 triple double. It would’ve been the first of his career. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll get it soon but I guess it was the only mini victory worth cheering for in the wake of that travesty.

Tom: Of all of the streaky, undersized potential game-changers in the NBA, JJ Barea is perhaps the least predictable. There is absolutely no way to know whether good Barea (8-14 from the field, 20 points) or bad Barea (7-17 for 16 points against Phoenix) is going to show up on any given night. Sometimes when good Barea shows up, it’s enough of a spark to push Minnesota passed a better team. That wasn’t the case against the Lakers in part because Barea, along with the rest of Minnesota’s perimeter defenders, allowed the Lakers to drop in 16 3-pointers. But…he scored a bunch, I guess? So yay?

Two Negatives:

Jonah: Before and after Nikola Pekovic left the game, the Lakers attacked the paint. The Wolves have never been a great interior defending team due to sloth-like slow rotations. There was one play where Derrick Williams got beat off the dribble baseline by Kobe Bryant and Pekovic suffered the wrath of a poor, mistimed bailout with a tremendous dunk. It was a simple play that made Kobe look like God — as he did most of the game — that never should’ve happened if the Wolves’ interior help defense was just one step ahead like it usually should be. A great coach once told me, “Defense is not about reaction. It’s about anticipation.”

Tom: Watching the game with some friends, I pointed out as the game was coming to a merciful end that Minnesota couldn’t even put in their scrubs because all of their scrubs are starters at this point. The injury train has gone completely off the rails for the Wolves, as Nikola Pekovic left the game after nine minutes with an abdominal strain. There doesn’t seem to be an update just yet as to whether or not Pek will play in Portland on Saturday.

Two Observations:

Jonah: Due to Andrei Kirilenko’s injury, the starting lineup was all out of sorts the entire game. The Lakers made that message clear in the first half with 57 points, and the Wolves never really had a chance to get back in it with such wide margins. The matchup the I chuckled at was seeing Williams try to stick with Kobe all game. Again, it’s not his fault he was stuck with the improbable task of guarding one of the league’s best offensive weapons but it happened. Williams only managed to get hands in Kobe’s face when he was being “lazy” and settling for step-backs. But when Kobe would attack Williams, slow feet, lumbering body and all, it was no contest.

As the title suggests, this is the 21st straight loss to the hands of the dreaded Lakers. Let history be our judge, but do the Wolves really deserve this kind of streak? It’s bad enough that the team that started professional basketball in the Twin Cities, that saw great success, moved to L.A. in the first place, but now we suffer through painful defeats on the reg. The Lakers will always be the enemy, folks. Never forget that.

Tom: The Lakers scored 48 points from 3-point range and 42 points in the lane. That adds up to a total of 90 points. When you add LA’s 12 made free throws, you get 102. What does this mean? The Lakers didn’t need to take a single shot deemed “inefficient” to beat Minnesota.

Next up: The Wolves end their road trip with a game against Portland, Saturday night at 9 pm.

(Facepalm); Wolves lose 84-83

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Suns survive OT for 84-83 win over Wolves
This game didn’t actually happen, did it? Pinch me.

Three Positives:

Jonah: You can take this game two ways, 1) You’re lucky to miss out on what may have been the worst NBA game all season; and 2) You missed one of the most gut-wrenching yet wildly entertaining games the Wolves have played all season. Comcast did us all a favor and failed to telecast the game to the public in Minneapolis. And the Wolves did one hell of a job coming back in a game they had no business remaining in. How this is a positive, don’t ask me. I guess I just have nothing better to go with after witnessing my Gophers knock off #1 Indiana tonight as well. Talk about a roller coaster of basketball emotions.

Tom: Derrick Williams was solid once again, despite missing an absurd amount of free throws and a few layups that he really needed to be able to finish. Williams really seems to struggle when he tries to finish near the basket, which is unfortunate because he has surprisingly good handles and a ton of athleticism. Once he gets to the hoop, he often seems off-balance.

That may have sounded a little bit too negative for a “positive” post, but frankly, that game sucked.

Derek: This isn’t hyperbole when I say this, but coming away from this game with one positive is pretty tough to do. I can’t even say, “At least nobody got hurt!” because Andrei Kirilenko strained his calf ten minutes into this atrocity, and never returned. What am I supposed to say– at least they didn’t quit? Not saying that they should have packed it in when they were down by eighteen, but this Suns team is terrible, and attempting to play up the moral victory angle just feels like I would be commending an AAU team for playing hard and having fun. The Timberwolves are a better team top-to-bottom, but clearly they did not play like it tonight. As a team they’re mostly healthy aside from Kevin Love and Chase Budinger, both of whom they were without (in addition to Ricky Rubio) early in the season when they were able to scrap to a .500 record.

Believe me, I’ve understood the injury situation all season long and tempered my expectations accordingly, and have continued to do so. Regardless of the circumstances, we’ve seen better, so we should expect better.  That’s a fair way to view their situation since we’re basing that off of what we’ve already seen in nearly identical circumstances (Well, nearly except for Rubio is back, which almost makes last night more aggravating.) That is unless you mean to tell me that the absences of minimal impact players like Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee have negated the return of a player of Rubio’s caliber. Remember how the Timberwolves came out against the Warriors — a much better team —  on Sunday three days ago? They scored 32 points en route to a fourteen point lead after the first before letting it slip away, so we know they can come out with energy, and while that’s not always easy to do on the road, not scoring over twenty points in a quarter until the 4th is unacceptable. Heck, they scored just one more point tonight in entire the first half (33) than they did in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.

I guess it’s a positive that they only lost by one instead of eighteen. This may be just one game, but slightly concerning after how they gave Sunday’s game away, and hope they put this one behind them and move past this in time for, ugh, the Lakers on Thursday night.

Three Negatives:

Jonah: As per the post title:

Tom: This really shouldn’t be something that needs to be said: Minnesota absolutely cannot force Ricky Rubio to try to create his own shot at the end of the fourth quarter with the game tied. Even a JJ Barea iso would be preferable (at least Barea has irrational amounts of confidence). If you want the ball in Rubio’s hands to begin the play, that’s fine, but the Wolves need to run a set so that he isn’t utterly handcuffed and forced into a shot that every single person (including his defender) knows isn’t going in. To recap: Rubio dribbled the ball up the floor slowly, and his teammates spread the floor (WHY DEAR GOD WHY?!!) besides Pek, who came up to set a screen for a pick-and-roll. Rubio dribbled to his right and hoisted up a jumper. In his SLIGHT defense, he may have thought that Pek would be able to get a rebound/tip-in to win the game if the ball came off the rim right, which is plausible…except the ball missed the rim entirely. Just awful late-game playcalling.

Derek: With so many worthy candidates of mention here, I’m going to go with the turnover battle. The Timberwolves may have committed just 16 turnovers to the Suns’ 20, but Phoenix was able to negate the disparity by outscoring Minnesota 25-11 in points off of turnovers. Yeah, they shot poorly from the field, beyond the arc, and the foul line, but they could have still gotten away with all of that if they managed to not allow the Suns to maximize their extra possessions (turnovers). Trust me, I’m no math major but even I know that having less than a fourteen point difference in PoTO could have made a difference in a one point game.

Three Observations:

Jonah: This is my next visual simulation of how this game can be summed up; Shved’s attempt gets caught in the rim at the most inopportune moment:

Tom: The Suns shot 5-13 from the free throw line and still managed to beat the Wolves. I have nothing more to say on the matter.

Derek: Wes Johnson’s 14-9-3-2 in 36 minutes tonight against the team that drafted him was such a troll move, even on 6-16 shooting. This is even more Trolltastic than Mike Beasley having 4 points and 4 assists in 13 minutes.

Also: let us never speak of this game again.

Next up: The Timberwolves travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers Thursday night on TNT.

Matinee heartbreak; Wolves lose 100-99

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Warriors Timberwolves Basketball
Fourth quarter turned into a Rubio vs. Jack battle

Two Positives:

Jonah: Great players command great attention and also deliver when it means the most. Ricky Rubio did just that by utilizing his leadership to take this game over and create those magical runs that kept the Wolves in this one. The fourth quarter was essentially Rubio vs Jarret Jack, and Ricky certainly held his own. He doesn’t do it by outscoring you, rather out-hustling and forcing your hand on defense. There were moments he screwed up — he missed his only free throw in a close game late in the fourth and gambled by going for a steal instead of fighting through a screen to cover an open Stephen Curry, who hits a long two that took the lead. But there’s no denying his heart and passion to help this team win a game.

Derek: Who else would I talk about here but Derrick “The Mailman 2.0″ Williams? Ok, I think I may be jumping the biggest of sharks, but it was great to see him rebound from the OKC game with a 23-13 game. Don’t look at the 15 shots to zero assists ratio, though.

Two Negatives:

Jonah: The Timberwolves aren’t used to leading ballgames, especially late in the fourth quarter. So when a talented team like the Warriors make their push, the Wolves just don’t understand how to hold them off. Their halfcourt offense becomes jumbled and mindless — we saw this as the final minute ticked away when Nikola Pekovic panicked in the post, saw no shot and passed out to Andrei Kirilenko, who subsequently airballs a go-ahead three point attempt. Turnovers start piling up and the score starts to even out when they start playing like this, and it never bodes well in the final result.

Derek: You see a stat like points in the paint and see a team edged another by 26 in a category that’s indicative of being able to score easy points. That was the Timberwolves today. Yet, this was also the Timberwolves today: lost the rebounding advantage, had fewer points off of turnovers, took seven more free throws– do I need to go on? Between the points and the paint and the free throws, they should’ve been able to wear out the Warriors, but the Warriors wound up outpacing the Timberwolves.

Two Observations:

Jonah: After some nice positioning and defense from Luke Ridnour, Jarret Jack forced up a long, step-back two with a one point lead. It rattles out, Wolves secure the ball and pass it off to Ridnour. Now, stop. There’s two options here, A) Allow Ridnour to push the ball and force the transition defense to beat him, or; B) Take a timeout to set up a better look, even with just seven seconds left on the clock. Not to say either option is wrong because they’re not. But I sorta cringe at the thought of allowing Ridnour to be the one to zoom up the court in a desperate fleet to decide the game. I feel like a better option is to set up Rubio for a controlled drive that could at least draw a foul. There will be differing opinions on this but that’s the way I feel.

Derek:  This game was weird. The only kind of weird that can come from Sunday afternoon basketball. If we insist on playing on Sunday, can we have games start after 5pm?

Next up: Wolves head south to take on Phoenix on Tuesday at 8 pm.

Thunderstruck; Wolves lose 127-111

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The Thunder were, once again, better than Minnesota.

Two Positives 

Jonah: Lacking offensive firepower, it’s good to see the Wolves net well over 100 points in a game. And against a fairly stout Oklahoma City defense (Eighth in the league in defensive efficiency). The bench was huge, scoring a combined 59 points on 24-39 shooting. Not too shabby. Any chance at a win runs through solid bench production because the Wolves can’t afford to let any one player shoulder the load, especially when it comes to scoring. So the strong bench play was a positive sign, no doubt.

Tom: Ricky Rubio’s nine assists were good to see. But perhaps more encouraging was his confidence. It’s been a gradual journey back to health for Ricky, and he clearly isn’t quite there yet, but we are starting to see him truly accelerate up the court and show some confidence on his surgically-repaired knee. Getting that confidence back is going to be Rubio’s first step in recapturing last year’s magic, and he seems to be moving in that direction.

Two Negatives

Jonah: I understand that Greg Stiemsma had one hell of a game (13 points on 4-5 shooting, 5-6 from the free throw line and four blocks) but I’m sick of seeing Chris Johnson parked on the bench, especially in blowout games like these that are just an excuse for tryouts.

Tom: After several solid games in a row, Derrick Williams showed a pretty serious regression to the mean. To his credit, after missing both of his early 3-point attempts, he stopped chucking, but he struggled to finish at the rim when he took the ball inside. His final shooting line, 3-14, was less than inspirational. He may have been taken out of the game a little bit by a couple of bad early no-calls by officials, including one on which he was very nearly undercut while in mid-air.

Two Observations

Jonah: There’s a certain drinking game called, “Thunderstruck”. Here’s just a quick preview:

The harshest part is when you get stuck on a “Thunder” in the middle of a verse or the bridge. You’re talking sometimes 20 seconds or more of chugging! The Wolves seemed to be that guy who gets stuck on the longer parts, and it totally sucks. That is my interpretation of last night’s game.

Tom: Kendrick Perkins is the kind of big body that can give Nikola Pekovic an off night. If Pek can’t bull his way to the basket, he struggles in the post. On the other hand, it seems like the best way to get Pekovic on track against a slow-footed opponent like Perkins would be to run some high pick-and-rolls and allow him to take advantage of Pek’s slowness. That didn’t happen much last night.

Next up: 

New half, new Wolves? Wolves win 94-87

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76ers Timberwolves Basketball
AK47 gave the Wolves a huge lift in his return from injury

Three Positives:

Jonah: In the five games before the All-Star break, Derrick Williams was averaging 16 and 9. He kept that streak of high-octane offense going tonight by posting 17 and 8 on 7-12 shooting. Actually, he began 7-9 before missing his next three shots. With the trade deadline looming, I firmly believe that trading him at this point in his development would be a major mistake because he’s starting to come into form and will prove to be a viable asset — For a major trade or strong role player — down the line once the team is healthy.

Tom: I glanced at Nikola Pekovic’s box score after the game and saw 7 and 18. I initially thought that was his shooting percentage and thought “Hmm, that seems low.” It was. Turns out those numbers were his offensive and total rebounds. Pek’s ACTUAL shooting percentage was 56.3%, on 9-16 shooting.

Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to abuse Philadelphia inside. But it’s great to see Pekovic scoring so easily, especially in the post on a series of turnarounds.

Derek: Oh you know…Andrei Kirilenko’s line of 15-5-5-3-2 on 4-8 shooting returning from extended time off…no big deal for the guy who has probably kept this team in the more games this season. I hope he doesn’t opt out, because I could watch him play for a long time.

Three Negatives:

Jonah: The Wolves’ bench, as depleted and exhausted as it is, was pretty awful tonight. Cunningham, Shved and Barea combined for 58 minutes and went just 5-22 from the field. Cunningham shoots too many mid-range jumpers, from where he’s desperately funking. Shved’s shot selection is also too sporadic and come from waiting too long in the offense to make his move. And Barea, well, is Barea; he’ll go through these kinds of nights at least once a week but might give you 20 points next time out. If there is any serious run left in this team, they’ll need the bench to become much more consistent.

Tom: Ricky Rubio turned the ball over six times, and several of them were in transition, which was a bummer. Even more of a bummer: his fourth turnover was a between-the-legs pass to Pek that the 76ers totally closed off. On a selfish level, I really really hope teams aren’t adjusting to Rubio’s flash. I JUST WANT HIM TO BE ABLE TO FLASH. That came out wrong.

Derek: You know what the Sixers did in the second half on offense while the Wolves’ was stalling? With Evan Turner running the offense, the Sixers tried and successfully managed to get the Wolves to switch D-Will on Turner from the longer, more athletic Kirilenko and Turner got pretty much whatever he wanted against him. Turner was even able to successfully assist on made baskets by players Derrick was guarding. Williams has improved, but we just need to see that consistency, although this could be attributable to returning to play after a week off.

Three Observations:

Jonah: Two mind-blowing statistics here: nine out of the 10 starters in this game had three or more fouls. The only one not to register a single foul all night was Derrick Williams. Hold your brains in. As result from all those fouls, both teams combined for 76 free throws, 44 for the Wolves.

Tom: I also cover the Boston Celtics, so I can say this with all sincerity: Treasure the fact that the Wolves aren’t completely tied up in the trade deadline rumors. It’s nice to be able to watch a game without wondering “Is this the last time I’m going to see Ricky Rubio in a Timberwolves uniform? How about Pekovic?”

Derek: I don’t know why, but I’ve never noticed that Pek does not have much in the way of shot blocking ability. He only averages 0.8 on the season, 0.7 on his career, and 0.9 Per 36 Minutes for his career, so I knew he wasn’t going to be accused of being elite in this area. I realized this tonight when a smaller player drove the lane against Pek and Pek managed to move his feet to stay in front of the 76er. When the player rose up for the shot, Pek just put his hand up to hope to alter it, instead of timing it to leave his feet.

It’s a skill that you either have or you don’t, but being a poor defensive playmaker while being a good defender is better than the other way around.

Next up: Wolves head to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Friday night, 7 pm.

The little engine that couldn’t; Wolves lose

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Jazz Timberwolves Basketball
Jazz bigs are quite the formidable force, especially against a handicapped frontcourt

Three Positives:

Jonah: Derrick Williams’ career has been far from satisfying like that feeling of eating a salad for dinner. And ever since he’s been granted the truest opportunity to start and make a difference, he’s struggled to become the NBA-ready, go-to guy. Until this one. Williams was huge, putting up 24 points on 17 shots and grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds. He and Rubio led the miraculous comeback late in the fourth quarter and extended the game as long as they possibly could. They fell short in the end but the Wolves wouldn’t have been anywhere near close if it weren’t for Williams enormous and dominating performance (Finally.)

Tom: I’m writing after Derek and Jonah, so I’ll just encapsulate both their positives within my own. It’s interesting watching Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams develop chemistry. Kevin Love is clearly the best player on the Wolves, and Ricky Rubio is clearly the other player Minnesota plans to build around, and rightly so. His abilities are flashy, fun, useful and somewhat unprecedented.

But Williams’ skill-set almost seems better suited for Rubio’s. Love thrives on isolation plays and pick-and-pops. Williams thrives on soaring through the air and getting to the rim. While Rubio is certainly capable of running pick-and-pop plays with Love, it almost seems like a waste of his talent…like putting Heinz Ketchup on a $50 steak. What doesn’t seem like a waste: Rubio floating a perfectly-timed alley-oop over the rim so that Derrick Williams can slam it down.

Derek: Yes, he shot just 3-13, but Rubio played 40 minutes tonight, and flirted with a triple-double with his 18-9-10 statline. It’s great to see Rubio able to log heavy minutes once again and play well (shooting efficiency aside).

Three Negatives:

Jonah: Keeping the Jazz bigs out of the paint is no easy task, especially for the limp depth in the Wolves’ frontcourt. But getting outscored 54-30 in the paint is pretty embarrassing. The success at getting to the free throw line might make up for the large margin in some minds but not mine. Nikola Pekovic and Williams have to do a better job of holding down the paint on their own offensive end.

Tom: If you told me before the season that Minnesota’s starting shooting guard in the final game before the All-Star break would be averaging 11 points with a season eFG% of .648, I would have thought that Alexey Shved was playing up to and surpassing our wildest expectations. But he isn’t. Mickael Gelabale is (in an admittedly limited sample size).

Shved, for his part, has been struggling immensely. He doesn’t look comfortable handling the ball within the offense, nor does he look comfortable firing up jumper after jumper (he’s 24% from 3-point range in his last 13 games). After his initial success, it’s hard to watch him slip down the depth chart.

Derek: 12: Number of points the Timberwolves bench managed to muster up tonight.

43: Number of points the Jazz bench managed to put up tonight.

To be fair, the Timberwolves’ bench isn’t exactly loaded with scorers to begin with, but the guys that can contribute in that aspect — Alexey Shved and JJ Barea — were a combined 2-14 shooting. Off night, but certainly the bench’s performance tonight did little to off-set the Jazz’s dominance in the paint.

Two Observations:

Jonah: Chris Johnson got some burn, albeit just one minute at the end of the game. #FreeCJ

Tom: Minnesota’s transition defense was really bad, especially late. The Jazz shot 9-11 in transition, according to Synergy Sports, but two of the plays came late in the fourth quarter. On both of them, four of Minnesota’s defenders were running up the floor in a slow pack, leaving the point guard (Rubio once and Ridnour once) on an island against three on-coming Jazz players. In both cases, the Jazz acted too quickly for Minnesota to foul, and in both cases, Utah ended up with an easy dunk.

Next up: The All-Star Break puts a wrinkle in the NBA action, so the Wolves won’t be back on the court until next Wednesday, when they play the 76ers at 7 pm.

A win! Wolves win 100-92

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Rubio dished out 10 assists as the Wolves tallied a much-needed win over the Cavaliers.

Two Positives

Jonah: Luke Ridnour posts his second 20-plus point performance in the last three games. He’s been the most sound, consistent scoring option nearly all season long. Whether that’s a good thing or not, it’s been working for the Wolves because they lead to rare wins like this.

Tom: Guys who were struggling to make it in the NBA make for fun stories when they start to find a niche, and Mickael Gelabale is finding a serious niche with the Wolves. Starting in his second consecutive game, Gelabale scored 11 points on just four field goal attempts and posted the team’s highest +/- of +16. Extremely efficient numbers for the T-Wolves newest guard.

Two Negatives

Jonah: Derrick Williams got himself into foul trouble in this one but does that really warrant just 16 minutes for the newly-starting power forward? He made the most of his time on the court with 12 points and a +/- score in the black. But he needs to find a way to keep himself on the court, keep engaged in the game and impress Adelman just enough to keep him there. Not an easy feat.

Tom: Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing Ricky Rubio climb over double digits in his assist count tonight as much as the next guy. But Rubio turned the ball over quite a bit down the stretch and finished with seven turnovers overall. 10 assists or not, seven turnovers is entirely too many.

Two Observations

Jonah: JJ Barea came back tonight after missing last night’s game with a tweaked foot. He didn’t contribute much (five points, 2-4 shooting in just 15 minutes) but Barea is and will continue to be an offensive focal point for the duration of the season. Face it, do we really have a better option?

Tom: I mentioned above that it’s fun to see Mickael Gelabale finding a niche. Less fun is seeing Gelabale’s fellow niche-finder Chris Johnson get yet another DNP-CD tonight for reasons that continue to escape me. Terry Porter’s rotations in Rick Adelman’s absence were an utter nightmare in a lot of ways, but at least he found minutes for Johnson, and Johnson rewarded him by playing shockingly good basketball. I’m not saying that Chris Johnson’s PER of 24.8 isn’t a product of a small sample size (because it is), I’m just saying that until Johnson STOPS producing at that level, wouldn’t it make sense to, you know, let him produce?

Next up: The Wolves face the Utah Jazz at the Target Center on Wednesday. Game starts at 8.

Back to old ways; Wolves lose 105-88

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Grizzlies had the Wolves’ number in this one

Two Positives:

Jonah: For the fourth straight contest Luke Ridnour posted a shooting percentage better than 50%. Last night, Ridnour shot 7-13 from the field going for 17 points, making his two-game total a combined 37 points. Ridnour’s been hot on the rumor mill and it’s certainly a shame but I guess there’s no better time for him to start warming up and allow the other end sweeten the deal in order to obtain the veteran point guard.

Tom: Aside from Luke Ridnour, I have very little positive to say. Mickael Gelabale played well. Chris Johnson deserves more minutes. You guys know the drill.

Two Negatives:

Jonah: Timberwolves shot 15 free throws in the first quarter and only managed to finish the game with 25 total attempts (Not to mention they only converted on 16 of them). The first quarter was closely competitive with the Wolves only behind one but similar trends and feelings set in as the Wolves lost grasp of any chance at coming back. Failing to stay aggressive and force their way back to the free throw line was a large part of that.

Tom: Every time the Wolves take a step forward, they seem to take a much larger step backward. For example: A moral(ish) victory against New York on Friday vs. a total and utter loss against Memphis. We can talk about losing the turnover battle (19-13), the rebound battle (36-33), the assists (30-24) and the 3-pointers (just like every other night). But individually, none of these things are the issue. The problem is that when a team loses every single one of those categories, even if it’s by a little bit, all of them add up. And when all of them add up, you get a final score like 105-88.

Two Observations:

Jonah: Mickael Gelabale in Andrei Kirilenko’s presence, although not quite the stat-stuffing, court surfing monster that AK is, has had a solid 10 game stretch, especially in terms of shooting. He’s now shooting 54% from the field in the last 10 contests, chipping in 14 points on 7-10 shooting in this one. The story goes on and on for the Wolves in terms of injuries and lost opportunities but at least able-bodied role players such as Gelabale are doing their part to keep things interesting and, perhaps most importantly, fight for the right to stay in the NBA.

Tom: Nikola Pekovic played 30 minutes and took just five field goal attempts. Only one of those field goal attempts happened in the second half. Worse: He accounted for just one of the P&R Roll Man opportunities for Minnesota. If you aren’t using Pek’s massive pick-setting body and solid footwork on offense, there’s really no reason to have him out there. He’s a very good offensive player, but if the team doesn’t utilize him correctly, he’s not going to do much.

Next up: Wolves stay on the road to take on Cleveland tonight at 6 pm.

Better ball, same old result; Wolves lose 100-94

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Melo's 36 lift Knicks over Wolves, 100-94
Melo dropped 36 over Derrick Williams and the Wolves

Two Positives:

Jonah: What I’ve observed since Ricky Rubio’s minute limit was lifted is how slow he is out of the gates. He misses a lot of shots and never seems completely comfortable within the flow of the offense, yet he still commands. Tonight was no different, in that he began 0-for-3 from the field but then started to calm the jitters and find himself within the flow. He put up one hell of a line of 18-11 and it could’ve been so much better, going just 6-14 from the floor and an ugly 5-9 from the free throw line. What sprung his numbers was his ability to sprint off an inbounds pass and blow past everyone on the court on his way to the hoop. It led to free throw galore and really threw the Knicks off-kilter. That speed is what he’s been lacking since returning from his ACL injury, which only signifies the knee is getting better and better each and every day.

Tom: Dear Rubio-Williams alley-oops: I missed you terribly.

Incidentally, this is a gorgeous play. The Wolves used to run these little fake-screen slips last year, but I can’t recall another occasion in which Williams moved so confidently without the ball. And WHAT a pass from Rubio. He floats it at exactly the right height for exactly as long as it needs to float. Wonderful to see those two working together again.

Two Negatives:

Jonah: It’s hard to fault Derrick Williams directly for Carmelo Anthony’s big night but his defense didn’t exactly hinder the cause either. He was tough in the post — for the most part — and seemed to get a hand in Melo’s face on the perimeter. But if you really break it down, it didn’t matter who was covering Melo; it was just another one of those nights.

Tom: I would second Jonah’s comments that Williams couldn’t have done much against Melo, since nobody can do much about Melo on a night like tonight. I would also add that, once again in this broken record of a season, the Wolves were 1-13 from 3-point range. More on this in my observation.

Two Observations:

Jonah: Greg Stiemsma is the new bad boy in the NBA. It began with subtle chips and tons of jawing and slowly progressed to the point where Matt Barnes and company couldn’t stand Stiemer’s ways. Amare Stoudemire was Stiemer’s next victim, who got T’d up after schooling Stiemer in the post — multiple times, might I add — and then showed off by backing into him in an attempt to show him up.

Tom: If the Wolves keep up this level of 3-point shooting (they are currently averaging .302 on 3-point attempts), it would be the 16th worst 3-point shooting season since the 3-point line was added. The Wolves would also be the only team in the bottom 20 that wasn’t from 1990 or earlier, when teams were still adjusting to the fact that a 3-point line existed.

Except for the Wolves, the lowest team from 2000 on is, somewhat ironically, the 2009-10 Lakers, who also won the championship. They are ranked 32nd at .341.

Next up: Wolves soiled their chance at winning some on this homestand and now head on the road beginning Sunday in Memphis at 5 pm.