Category: 2012-2013 Game Recaps

Rubio’s frustrations


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After last night’s game, the locker room saw a side of Ricky Rubio that many haven’t witnessed before. He stood up to the sulking and called the team out for its excuse-laden losing streak, claiming there are two ways to deal with the barrage of injuries, “We have two ways to do it. One (is) complaining. … I don’t think that’s the way. The way, it’s (to) be a man.”

Rubio’s right. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and all that crap. The problem is that the injuries are so bad that even the ones that Rubio is challenging — guys like Dante Cunningham, Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour — are doing all they can but sooner or later, over the course of a long, trying season, those immune to the injury bug grow weak in both flight and pluck.

Rubio’s comments are stirring and hopefully bring out the fight from the players that we’ve seen already this year against good teams like Brooklyn and Oklahoma City, but, more importantly, hopefully they ignite some inspiring and consistent play from the wounded point guard himself.

In the absence of coach Rick Adelman, assistant coach Terry Porter made the decision to start Rubio last night, in an effort to get him more comfortable with the starters and increase his minutes just ever-so-slightly. What we saw from the tattered returnee was yet another disappointing night, especially shooting-wise, going just 2-9 from the field.

Since Rubio’s returned to the court from major knee surgery he’s really struggled to put the ball in the hoop. He’s shooting just 22% from the field and has yet to make a three-pointer this season. His endearing court vision and ability to convert the flashiest of passes hasn’t been on display since his first game on December 15th against the Dallas Mavericks.

Obviously the most frustrating and visible part of his game is his poor shooting. He’s short on nearly all of his shots, which goes to tell you his knee, which is well documented, still isn’t 100%. Some might point to his three-point shooting as the reason for his shooting woes, which is fair considering he has yet to make one this year and he only converted on 34% of them last year. He still just looks incredibly uncomfortable shooting threes from the viewpoint of a naked eye (His form isn’t bad, but it lacks quickness and leverage).

But it might be fair to point out how poor Rubio’s finishing ability is, considering just under 25% of his attempts come at the rim, according to Hoopdata. And being the pick ‘n’ roll mastermind that he is, his attempts should continue to increase both from three-point range and at the rim.

Compare Rubio’s career numbers at the rim to that of Steve Nash last season (Which is my current guess as to Rubio’s ceiling). Last season, Rubio converted on 47% of his attempts at the rim, while Nash converted 74% of his 1.7 attempts per game. This season, Rubio’s reaching the rim 0.8 times per game and converting 50% of the time. It’s an improvement, certainly, but can you imagine only half of your essential layups going through? I mean, for me in an NBA game, sure, 50% would be outstanding. But when you’re 6’4″, shifty and possess outstanding court vision like him, getting to the hoop off of pick ‘n’ rolls, in particular, shouldn’t be all the difficult. So, compared to a two-time MVP that hits 70% of his layups over the last seven years, Rubio’s career 48.5% is extremely alarming.

This is just an example of what I’m referring to:

Okay, perhaps that was too cruel. But if you’re willing to call out everyone else and force them to step their game up, perhaps you might start with your own.

Rubio’s struggles in the paint are well-documented but it’s just so painful to watch along with the rest of this team’s effort. Rubio is right to call everyone out in an effort to spark some interest but he might be a little more credible if he worked on his own effectiveness as well. Injuries are no longer an excuse, according to Rubio, and if he’s willing to step up and be the leader, his game needs to start talking for itself.

More gouged than clipped: Minnesota Timberwolves lose to Los Angeles Clippers 90-77


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This game sucked.

Two…Less Than Negatives?

Tom: I’m feeling less than negative about Luke Ridnour. Sure, he’ll never dominate a game that the Timberwolves actually win, but at least he scored! Plus he dished out five assists which isn’t really normal for him when he scores a bunch of points. PLUS HE HIT 50% OF HIS 3-POINTERS. Game ball, for sure.

Derek: Hey, Tom. Is that game ball partially deflated? Andrei Kirilenko had another well-rounded game with 12 points on 5-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 assists. Seriously, if it weren’t for Kirilenko I’d be crying myself to sleep like it was year two-thousand and Rambis all over again.

Two Negatives: 

Tom: I don’t even know where to begin. The missed shots were atrocious. Blake Griffin had four and a half dunks (I counted). The 4-19 shooting from 3-point range. The 35.7% overall field goal percentage. Just an ugly, awful night all around.

Here’s the thing: I have to leave Derek a negative to write about and I don’t even feel bad having mentioned those four. This will still be easy for him.

Derek: Oh, you forgot the 65% on those pesky, uncontested free throws. You’re right about this still being easy for me, and since we don’t have Jonah tonight I can mention a few myself.  They got beat inside, 50-30. They forced 18 turnovers, but committed 14 turnovers that negated much of the positives of the former. And they gave the Clippers to play their human victory cigar, Ryan “My Height Gives Me An NBA Job Every Year” Hollins, if even for a minute.

Two Observations:

Tom: I’m not really worried about Nikola Pekovic’s bad night. Long, athletic centers have always bothered him somewhat, and DeAndre Jordan might be the pinnacle of long and athletic in the NBA. But given how close the Timberwolves were in the third quarter before the Clippers started really going to work and putting the game away, it’s not really a very fun thought experiment to wonder what would have happened if Pek had had one of the games we’ve been more accustomed to seeing from him as of late.

Derek: Ok, now that we got all of this out of the way, let’s put some perspective on this thing. This team is ridiculously shorthanded, and now even the guys who aren’t hurt are dealing with illness. Combine that with a team like the Clippers and this is what you get, even though they were missing Chris Paul.

Notes: Ricky Rubio was frustrated post game. On dealing with injuries: “We have two ways to do it. One (is) complaining. … I don’t think that’s the way. The way, it’s (to) be a man.” Aside from Pekovic leaving the game early, Alexey Shved suffered an ankle sprain, collapsed in the hallway, but was apparently able to leave the arena on their own power…Before the game Lazar Hayward and Andrei Kirilenko were listed “probable” due to illness…Apparently help is on the way in the form of of big man Mickael Gelbale, who will wear number fifteen, but will hopefully not aggravate Derek to no end like the last Wolf to wear that number did.

Murder row; Wolves lose 113-98


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Collison leads balanced Mavs over Wolves 113-98
Dante Cunningham had himself a forgetful night

Two Positives:

Jonah: Ever since Terry Porter has taken over for Rick Adelman in his absence, we’ve seen some puzzling rotations, in particular his approach to Nikola Pekovic’s minutes. Before tonight, he hasn’t played more than 30 minutes, and tonight he barely cracked that limit with just 32 minutes. In that time, he amounted for 20 points on the most efficient shooting percentage on the team. Throw in the 12 rebounds and he proved himself to be tonight’s most valuable player. It’s just a shame he’s not on the floor more often, instead conceding minutes to Greg Stiemsma, who can’t even set a pick without warranting a whistle. In other words, play Pek more, please.

Tom: Rubio did look a little more comfortable on the floor. He still doesn’t look incredibly comfortable or confident reversing direction or moving in ways that were clearly affected by his injury, but at least the two shots he hit looked confident, including a 2-pointer that was originally a three. And after a couple of games with minimal amounts of assists, it was good to see him dish out six in 26 minutes. Three of them were pretty flashy. One was a lob to Dante Cunningham that utilized every bit of bounce in Cunningham’s bouncy legs. Another was a gorgeous pass along the baseline to Pekovic that brought Dallas’ lead down to 10.

Welcome back Ricky. Hopefully.

Two Negatives:

Jonah: Alexey, oh Alexey, why must you shoot? Why not just pass and defend well to boot?

A poem by: Jonah Steinmeyer

Tom: It’s still early…but it’s a lot less early now. The Wolves are 3 games behind the Blazers for the 8th seed in the Western Conference. That’s far from insurmountable, but they will have to leapfrog the Jazz as well to do so. The Jazz, for what it’s worth, beat Miami last night. Between Portland, Houston, Minnesota, Utah and (if you want to count them at this point) the Lakers, only two teams will go to the playoffs. Those are four and a half dangerous teams (couldn’t resist a Lakers dig), and you really don’t want to spot any of them a big lead in the standings.

The Wolves are far from finished. But they are teetering on a dangerous edge right now, and it doesn’t get any easier as the Clippers visit the Target Center on Thursday and the Rockets visit Saturday. Things might get worse before they get any better.

Sorry. That was a pretty negative negative.

Two Observations:

Jonah: Nikola Pekovic is actually a very good free throw shooter for a center. For all the heat that Dwight Howard gets for missing free throws, Pek doesn’t get enough credit for his effectiveness at the line. But tonight was completely opposite as Pek went just 4-10 from the line.

Tom: The loss against Dallas marked the second consecutive decent game by JJ Barea. I don’t trust this trend one bit, but it’s good to see Barea having some real impact.

Next up: Welp, the murderous road trip concludes and the Wolves get to come home to meet the Clippers Thursday night.

More woes; Wolves lose 106-88


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Parker leads Spurs past Timberwolves, 106-88
Manu Ginobili, who got hurt, demonstrates how easy it is to get into the lane against the Wolves

Two Positives:

Jonah: For starters, JJ Barea got himself back on the court after sitting the last two games with a bad back. He’s the only spark off the bench with any sense of consistent scoring. You can argue on his efficiency — just 4-11 from the field tonight — but there’s no denying that he’s one of, if not the only reliable perimeter scoring option on the floor.

Also, take a look at this:

Derrick Williams ain’t no joke. Early last month he started to find his shot from distance; last week he showed the ability to attack the hoop with a stronghold and vengeance and that dunk tonight proved that he hasn’t lost any step when it comes to his explosiveness. By no means is his development complete but I can safely say we’re starting to at least scratch the surface, and at a great time, I might add.

Derek: The Timberwolves are still short-handed, and in the midst of a five games in seven nights stretch that includes some good teams. For three quarters the Timberwolves managed to still keep this one interesting. In no way do I mean that as a moral victory, either.

Two Negatives:

Jonah: Rick Adelman’s absence from the sideline has, oddly enough, hurt the defense significantly. The Spurs took advantage of that by utilizing a series of curling dribble handoffs, usually from the high post, that left the Wolves utterly scrambled. Tony Parker took advantage of the slower Luke Ridnour, racing to the hoop at will, and they allowed the streaky Gary Neal to get the best of his looks from outside, nailing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc. The perimeter defense has never been up-to-par but it’s fallen off even worse in the last couple weeks. Adelman’s presence and intensity is greatly missed.

Derek: Getting beat by 20 points in the paint, and 20 points in transition against the Spurs is a sure way to lose, but it’s not surprising given the circumstances. See also: San Antonio’s jerseys.

Two Observations:

Jonah: It’s hard to nitpick performances of someone returning from a major injury that blew out both the knee itself as well as the psyche of the recipient. But every time Ricky Rubio steps out on to the court, I cringe not only at the memory of his horrific injury but also the way he conducts himself, and the results that ensue, on the offensive end. We’re not seeing flashy Ricky, who could throw a bounce pass between three sets of legs and make it seem like it’s no big deal. Instead, it’s a very timid Ricky, whose confidence has all but left him (It’s actually entirely absent from his jump shot). After tonight’s 0-6 performance, he’s now just 6-33 from the field on the season and still passes up open shots more often than he misses them. The reason his troubling play is striking my nerve in particular is because of the greatness that the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson exuded this year after suffering from a similar injury (Both tore the ACL, while Rubio also tore the LCL) as Rubio and also playing in a more violent and physically demanding sport. It’s not fair to compare the two but the taste of Peterson’s sweet season is so addictive, it’s hard to forget. Meanwhile, Rubio’s sour start leaves me puckering and wanting so much more. Every road to recovery from a major setback is different, which is exactly why it’s not fair to compare the two, but I, just like all of you, can’t help but fiend for that taste of success yet again. Just remember that Rubio feels the same as all of us, and he’s looking forward to tasting sweetness again.

Derek: Lazar Hayward played nine minutes tonight…NINE. Nine, as in one less than ten, and one more than eight. Oh, and this is in the NBA.

Next up: Another back-to-back has the Wolves playing in Dallas tomorrow night, 7:30 pm.

Short-handed; Wolves lose 104-94


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Vasquez's double-double leads Hornets past Wolves
AK47 was aggressive on the offensive end last night

Two Positives:

Jonah: The Timberwolves have proven time and time again that when they go to Nikola Pekovic early in the first they establish a pace their game and offensive pace. He jumpstarted the Wolves to a 29-14 lead in the first with his dominating post presence. After that, Pek sat down a while, the Wolves lost their mojo in the paint and the rest is history.

Tom: I asked Jonah if I could watch an entire season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and recap that instead of re-watching the Wolves game, and he said yes. I don’t know if he MEANT yes or not, but frankly, I don’t care.

In this episode: Mac and Dennis ride around in wheelchairs in an attempt to get girls to sleep with them out of sympathy. Hilarity ensues.

In the NEXT episode: Luke Ridnour hit a bunch of shots and scored 20 points!

Two Negatives:

Jonah: Despite the shortcomings of the Timberwolves’ bench — players and Adelman alike — it’s going to be very hard moving forward when winnable games (such as last night’s against the Hornets) fall out of your reach. If the Wolves have any lick of hope to make the playoffs with the barrage of injuries they’ve endured, these are the games that become must wins. Last night they failed to play all four quarters and paid the ultimate price: an ugly loss on the schedule.

Tom: In this episode: Charlie pretends to have cancer to try to hook up with the coffee barista he has had a crush on for a very long time. Mac and Dennis pay her a bunch of money to convince her to sleep with Charlie. Hilarity ensues.

In the NEXT episode: Pick a number between 1-4. Got it? Cool, now pick a number between 16-22. Got that one? Alright. Now take your first number, put a dash after it, and insert the second number at the end. Your number should now look something like this: 4-18. This random number generator is designed to imitate the projected number of 3-pointers Minnesota will hit and attempt in any given game. We hope you enjoyed your simulation.

Two Observations:

Jonah: Andrei Kirilenko did a very good job of moving without the ball and staying aggressive. That’s what helped him see 10 FT attempts.

Tom: In this episode: The gang tries to reclaim their bar from an Israeli man who owns half of their bar due to a zoning mistake. Also Frank and Charlie. Hilarity ensues.

In the NEXT episode: In a very strange turn of events, Derrick Williams scored  three tough field goals and missed all four of his jumpers. He also drew two fouls when he went to the hoop. It’s weird, it’s almost like he should stop shooting and try to get to the hoop more.

Next up: The Wolves continue their road streak on Sunday at San Antonio.

Thunderized; Wolves lose 106-84


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Thunder avoid another letdown, pound Wolves 106-84Three Positives:

Jonah: After starting the game 1-6 in the first half, Derrick Williams made a better effort in the second, going 6-9 from the field. Still no made three pointers but not a bad effort to get himself back into the game.

Tom: Nikola Pekovic played well once again, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. I don’t really have a whole lot more positive to say about that. There’s only so much a player like Pek can do against an explosive, fast-paced team like Oklahoma City. But Pek did his job for the evening.

Derek: (Let’s see…I can talk about…no, not Kirilenko. Oh, Shved shot alright, and had OMG SEVEN turnovers?! How about Dante Cunning– not tonight.) Did anybody get hurt tonight? No? Hell yeah!

Three Negatives:

Jonah: Did you know Kevin Love is going to be out 8-10 weeks now? Yeah, that’s a negative.

Tom: So much to choose from! I’ll go with the 19 turnovers. Frankly, if you turn the ball over 19 times against Oklahoma City, there is no chance in any hell that you are winning a game. The Thunder are too dangerous individually and too good in transition.

You also probably aren’t winning against OKC when your best player is out with a broken hand, but Jonah has that covered.

Derek: Hey, Tom! What’s a consequence of 19 turnovers? Yes, giving up fastbreak opportunities, which the Thunder took advantage of to the tune of 23 points to 8. Even with a relatively even rebounding battle the Timberwolves managed to get killed in the open court.

Three Observations:

Jonah: As hard as it is for many to admit, the Wolves desperately missed JJ Barea’s presence on the court tonight. With the news of Love, it’s going to be imperative that someone step up in the scoring department. Typically we turn to Barea to fill that void. Oh, jeez, I really just said that. Tonight was baaad.

Tom: I’ve come to grips with the fact that the Wolves are hands down the worst 3-point shooting team in the league. That doesn’t bother me anymore. 3-13 from 3-point range? Fine. At least they only took 13 3-point FGAs. What DOES bother me is the fact that Minnesota allowed OKC to score a higher percentage of 3-pointers than total field goals. The Thunder were 11-20 from 3-point range for 55%. Once again, OKC is too talented to miss many 3-pointers, but when the opponent is over 50% from behind the arc, it’s a good indicator that there is bad defense helping out the good offense.

If the Wolves are going to miss a metric truckload of 3-pointers, the least they could do is force their opponents to miss a few as well.

Derek: The Timberwolves, who have been notoriously bad from long this season took just 13 threes. They average 19 per game. I’m not sure if this was a combo of the Thunder’s scheme, dearth of guards, or both, but is interesting to note. There’s a chance that the Wolves’, um, shooters didn’t have much left in their legs after being so shorted handed, though.

Notes: It was the second consecutive game that head coach Rick Adelman has missed due to “personal reasons.” Also, JJ Barea sat this one out with an injured back.

(Derek’s note: The Wolves have now lost TWICE this season 106-84. The first time being to the Jazz.)

Next up: Wolves get a day’s rest then head to New Orleans for a game Friday night.

Shot down: Timberwolves outlast Hawks 108-103


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In case you missed it, Nikola Pekovic is REALLY good at basketball.

Two Positives:

Tom: What more can you say about Nikola Pekovic? He posted a 2011-12 Kevin Love box score line tonight, dropping 25 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. But the best part about good Pekovic nights is his efficiency. Since so many of Pek’s baskets come right at the rim from P&R plays, he ends up shooting 50-60% quite frequently, and tonight was no exception.

But what interests me most about Pek is the way the Timberwolves still feel comfortable going to him late in the game. Leading by just a point, the Wolves tossed him the ball in the post and allowed him to go to work. Often it seems like defenses collapse too much to allow post plays to be very effective, but Pek turned and fired up a baby hook of sorts. Josh Smith swatted it away much too late and was correctly called for goal-tending. The Wolves will need more games like tonight from Pekovic if they want to stay in playoff contention without Kevin Love.

Derek: There was one big reason for the Wolves’ hot start, and that was Derrick Williams’ ability to make jumpers. Sure, he got Rubio four assists, but it wasn’t always a certainty he’d make those shots in the past. You know the Timberwolves’ all-time record when Derrick makes three or more three-pointers in a game? 5-1

Even on the other end, Derrick continued to show some quality defense. I wouldn’t call it elite, but you can see the difference in the eye test and with just about every defensive metric known to man. Surprisingly, defense has been Derrick’s redeeming quality thus far. In fact, per 48 minutes (Sorry, Jim Pete.), Derrick is holding opposing fours to a PER of 9.4 while posting an ok PER of 14.4. He’s also holding the other team’s power forwards to 0.7 fewer points per 100 possessions, 94.1-93.4. Now, if he gets the offense down consistently, Williams could develop into a nice player.

Williams finished 7/13 with 17-1-1 on the night, including 13 first half points.

Two Negatives:

Tom: The only reason the Hawks were as close as they were at the end of the game was because Kyle Korver knocked down a pair of threes that brought them within striking distance. Korver hits threes, certainly; it’s kind of his thing. And the second three was a pretty nice play, as Korver got a well-timed pass coming off a nice screen. But on the first one, Andrei Kirilenko lost track of Korver which just SHOULD NOT happen late in a game.

Derek: Lou Williams had 21-8-4 tonight and nearly stole the game single-handedly. LOU WILLIAMS!!!1!

Two Observations:

Tom: Dante Cunningham came through when it mattered, if there is a time when “it” matters “more.” His final minute made up for an inefficient shooting night (3-9, six points), knocking down a huge mid-range jumper and coming up with a steal on an inbound pass. All’s well as ends well, Dante.

Derek: We had seen some inexplicable slow starts from this team off of rest before, and they would be without Kevin Love, so it was going to be interesting to see how they came out at home. But they came right out of the gate against the Hawks looking refreshed, and focused. They led by double digits for most of the game before making this one close late, but they played some really good basketball for about 42 minutes tonight, including the final minute.

Notes: After the game, Larry Drew called the Hawks “soft” to reporters…Rick Adelman was excused from tonight’s game for family reasons, and Terry Porter handled coaching duties…Tonight was the first game in a five game/seven night stretch that leaves them with a quick turnaround in Oklahoma City tomorrow…Lazar Hayward was re-signed to another 10-day contract before tonight’s game.

A valiant effort; Wolves lose 102-97


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Batum, Matthews lead Blazers over Wolves
Nic Batum made Wolves fans cringe tonight since botching their RFA quest for him this summer

Two Positives:

Jonah: The news of Kevin Love’s injury is a crushing blow for this entire team but it also bears a silver lining. There’s an opportunity for someone, anyone, to step up the way Chase Budinger did in the earlier part of the season. Now, based off of consistency issues throughout his career thus far, Derrick Williams is going to have to do a lot to make that special impact, and one that fans have been expecting ever since he was drafted, really. His fourth quarter tonight was just inspiring and what I think supercharged the Wolves into their miraculous comeback. Down 19 with 10:42 left in the quarter, Williams started a run, scoring nine straight points on his own. He didn’t stop there as he finished with 18 in the fourth. Like I said, who knows if he’ll be able to repeat these kinds of games because we’ve never really seen it from him before. But with the extra minutes up for the taking, it’s hard not to think that he won’t see the bulk of those ticks and try to make something of it as he did tonight.

Derek: If there’s one positive of the Love injury, it’s that we get to see more Andrei Kirilenko in the box score. 15-7-2 last night, and on most nights he’s able to be a factor. I don’t want to say I’m looking forward to Love’s absence, but I hate it less knowing Kirilenko is still there. Now, if they have to play him 40+ minutes to get by, that’s a different issue.

Two Negatives:

Jonah: Before the Wolves made their fourth quarter comeback, I was ready to pack it in and hit the sheets. I spent the bulk of my evening hyping myself up for the Minnesota Vikings Wild Card bout with the Green Bay Packers and this matchup with the Blazers. But then the Love news landed; the whiskey started flowing; the Vikings started choking; and the Blazers started raining threes and that was my night. The run at the end there still gives me hope that this team isn’t ready to throw in the white flag yet but, regardless, the feelings are still stuck in my gut. It’s Minnesota sports, and anyone who’s been a long-time fan understands how things work around here; we expect the worst and hope for the best, and things may never change around these parts.

Derek: It’s understandably deflating to lose your best player for an extended period of time just hours before the game, but I can’t bring myself to let the first three quarters slide. Especially since they rallied together as a team in Denver on Thursday to put the game away after Love left the game. You can’t expect to win too often in the NBA when you only come to play twenty-five percent of a game.

Two Observations:

Jonah: Wesley Matthews is a bonafide Wolf killer, especially at the Target Center. Twice there he’s scored over 30 points including a cool 26 last night. His weapon of choice? The three ball, of course. Last night he converted on 5-6 attempts from beyond, and back on Jan. 7th, just a year ago, he hit 7-10 from three-point land to go on his way to 36 points, his career high, in that one. The Wolves don’t have and never have had anyone strong enough to cover Matthews one-on-one. It showed last night.

Derek: Nikola Pekovic hip strain? Because who else could get hurt this season.

Next up: The Wolves get a little rest — hopefully allowing Ricky Rubio to return — and then take on the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night at the Target Center.

Rocky Mountain Redemption: Timberwolves defeat Nuggets, 101-97


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Oh, how I love good JJ Barea games. (Photo: Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY sports)

Two Positives

Derek: Per the voice of the Timberwolves, Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea combined for 19 points on 9/11 shooting in the 4th quarter. It was the type of thing that the Wolves needed following Love’s exit from the game, and exhibited something that good teams get: role players stepping up. We saw the Timberwolves taking smarter shots, and they wound up outscoring the Nuggets 45-31 after Love’s absence.

Tom: It makes a lot of sense to allow Alexey Shved to continue starting. 17 points on 7-13 shooting is solid, but his five assists also led the Wolves. Not only that, but Shved played pretty good defense as well as a part of the first unit and his size makes more sense than Ridnour’s as the starting 2-guard.  He turned the ball over five time, and his 3-point shooting could use some work (or perhaps just some moderation), but that’s a fairly prevalent problem.

Two Negatives

Derek: Here’s a negative for you: Kosta Koufos had 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks with no fouls or turnovers. Or, as Webster’s calls it, “unacceptable.

Tom: Transition opportunities are usually an easy way to get baskets because they so often end in layups. But the Wolves averaged just 0.59 points per possession in transition tonight, shooting just 3-13 from the field. The good news: only three of the transition shot attempts were 3-pointers. Most of the rest were dunks and layups. So do you consider missed dunks and layups good news, since they will probably fall in the future? Or are you discouraged that Minnesota couldn’t finish easy opportunities?

Two Observations 

Derek: As ugly as the first half was with both teams shooting under forty percent, the Timberwolves were able to build their lead by getting to the line twelve more times than the Nuggets. Early on they forced starters Danillo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried into foul trouble while converting on seventy percent of their attempts. It was a simple philosophy to make them play defense to stop them inside, or be forced to go to their bench earlier than expected.

Tom: So happy that JJ Barea had a great game. Nice to see him hit some shots. Good to see him dish out some assists. But I won’t come around on him until I see it happen much much MUCH more consistently.

Notes: Kevin Love left the game early after putting 17 rebounds in 24 minutes (against the league’s best rebounding team) for what was later revealed as a sprained finger on the same hand he previously broke…We saw Anthony Randolph again, and it took all of a minute for Dante Cunningham to get AR to leave his feet with a simple ball fake. I do not miss those days.

Up Next: Saturday Damian freaking Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers going into town. You should go. I want to go, but I have to work, unless one of you wants to work for me. – Derek

New year, same Wolves; Wolves lose 106-84


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Rick can’t be pleased with this one

Three Positives:

Jonah: The Timberwolves hung with the Jazz in terms of rebounding and turnovers and actually beat them at drawing personal fouls and getting to the free throw line. That’s really about it, unfortunately.

Tom: Nikola Pekovic is big and strong. He blocked some shots, scored some points, got some rebounds. Like Jonah above me, I have nothing else positive to say.

Derek: Aside from the things the guys above me said and Andrei Kirilenko, I guess I could say that no one else got hurt. That’s a positive.

Three Negatives:

Jonah: Well, the whole game was pretty awful. But you’re just not going to win a game shooting less than 35% from the field. It’s pretty typical, though. Sure, there hasn’t been a poorer shooting night than this but it’s gotta be mentioned that the Wolves, coming into this game, were the fifth worst in field goal percentage in the league. So even with the new year — a time to declare a new you — the Wolves were unable to turn a new leaf. Shooting will always be a problem when Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love can barely crack 33% from the field combined. Those kinds of performances are never going to bode well for the team, and that was exactly the story tonight.

Tom: 2-17. 2-17!! 2-17 from 3-point range. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I get it if you can’t hit 3-pointers. I play with a ton of basketball players who can’t hit 3-pointers and I’m not mad about it. But if they jacked up 17 3-pointers I WOULD BE REALLY REALLY MAD ABOUT IT.

At some point, you just have to stop taking 3-pointers, no? The Wolves shot 40% on 2-pointers, which really isn’t very good either, but the 3s need to go.

Derek: 

I read a book tonight called, “How to Let a Winnable Game Slip Further Away With Each Passing Quarter” by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Chapter One: Make it as easy as possible for your opponent to score.

Summary: Getting killed in the paint (56-36) and in transition (25-8) has a way of negating low turnover totals and good rebounding, especially when you can’t shoot.

Three Observations:

Jonah: Now obviously I wasn’t there but word has it that the home crowd’s welcoming of former Jazz man, Andrei Kirilenko, was not nearly as enthusiastic as some may have thought it could’ve been. Why? Take a gander at this piece and you’ll understand the root of Jazz fans’ mixed emotions of the Russian vet.

Another quick note: Greg Stiemsma, in just eight minutes of work tonight, managed to foul out. Upon committing his sixth personal, Stiemer walked straight to the locker room despite time still left on the clock. Yeah, it was that kind of night.

Tom: I mentioned in the preview that the Jazz are one of the worst spot-up defenses in the NBA. Per Synergy Sports, the Wolves took 18 spot-up attempts and scored 0.89 PPP. That’s not incredibly efficient, but it’s .02 PPP better than usual (in other words, not noticeably different at all). By the way, the Wolves are 28th in the NBA at spot-up efficiency. What an ugly game.

Derek: Tonight we had off shooting nights for Alexey Shved and JJ Barea, and pretty much everyone else. Kevin Love struggled once again, but he’s still getting his hand right. Now, I’ve  got to ask: Did Luke Ridnour break his hand after the Heat game on December 18th, and not tell anyone? Seriously, here are his shooting percentages for the past four games: .250%; .385%; .300%; .286%. Probably just a hard regression to the mean since he was shooting it well before those four (.571%; .412%; .833%; .417%.), but it’s still frustrating to watch.

Hopefully he’ll snap out of it soon.

Notes: Ricky Rubio did not make the trip to Utah due to back spasms and has also been ruled out for tomorrow night’s game in Denver. Adelman claims that he’s overcompensating for his injured knee, shifting the bulk of exhausting aches to his back area.

Next up: Wolves head to Denver to take on the Nuggets tomorrow night.