Category: Game Recaps

Old School whips New School; Wolves lose 105-93


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Big Al put on a show tonight in Charlotte
Big Al put on a show tonight in Charlotte

Remember back, like, a really long time ago, when Al Jefferson was the mainstay of the Kevin Garnett-to-Celtics deal? At the time, he was a highly skilled big man that brought a glimmer of hope that the NBA’s fruitful big men weren’t officially retired, and what was a somber move for the Timberwolves organization actually had some life and excitement to it.

The most unfortunate part of the deal was that the rest of Gang Green was sent packing alongside Big Al and the dooming spiral of depression that was the mid late 2000′s covered the Twin Cities like Hurricane Katrina.

Jefferson, now older, wiser but perhaps a tad slower, gave the Wolves a healthy dose of what could’ve been tonight by putting the Bobcats on his shoulders and sprinting them through to the finish line and a big win for Charlotte over the Wolves tonight. He finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, helping Charlotte win that battle by a tally of 54-35. Ouch. They actually held all Wolves players, including Love and Pekovic, from reaching double-digits in rebounds tonight. A very rare feat indeed.

Meanwhile, the Wolves’ bench played crappy and, conversely, the Bobcats’ bench didn’t. Gary Neal had 19 points and Chris Douglas-Roberts and Cody Zeller both pitched in 10 themselves.

At a time the Wolves oughta be desperate for the wins, losing to the Bobcats is a tough one to swallow. And despite how well they’ve been playing since the All-Star Break, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that a chance at the playoffs are moving further and further away each and every night. I’m not giving up hope, but these are the facts, people.

Think about it: 13 of the Wolves’ next 18 games are against the dreaded Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Suns take on seven Eastern Conference teams and the Grizzlies remaining schedule includes two games each against the Jazz and the 76ers. Based on what lies ahead, not just for the Wolves, but the others fighting for that final playoff spot, it doesn’t add up well for Minnesota.

That’s still no reason to quit. In fact, the final 18 games of the season could be the most important, regardless of the playoff race. Look up and down this roster and tell me that there will be major changes. Aside from the long shot odds that Flip Saunders moves Kevin Love, every key piece will return next season. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin are here on long term deals, Ricky Rubio will return on his rookie salary, and Corey Brewer will stay even if his role may be reduced to a reserve if they can find another small forward with a more well-rounded game. The Shved’s, Barea’s and even perhaps the Budinger’s of the squad could be in doubt, which could benefit next season greatly, given how drastically underwhelming the bench has been just about all season. But now you also have a chance to develop guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, who didn’t get much burn to start the season off (Figures). Rick Adelman could have a difficult time inserting those guys and developing them at this juncture, especially when someone like Muhammad magically posts a minus-18 in just 10 minutes of burn but you just have to do it. End of story.

Games like this are going to litter the end of the season and potentially spoil it, but as long as we don’t give up playoff hopes — because literally anything can happen — we’ll be just fine. As Minnesota sports fans, we’ve all learned to expect the worst but still desperately hope for the best. We can do it for the Wolves for just one more season, right?

The Delicate Line: Timberwolves 112, Bucks 101


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There comes a point in every Timberwolves season when the playoffs fade into the distance and a decision must be made as to whether the team wants to continue gunning for wins or accept the unpleasant reality that its season ends after the 82nd game.

Minnesota, quite frankly, passed that point quite some time ago, but Wolves fans have understandably been hesitant to give up the ghost of this season. Now, five games out of the playoffs and trailing the Phoenix Suns for even the 9th seed, the Wolves need to figure out whether wins are worthwhile or whether taking a small dive off the rest of the year to minimally improve draft lottery odds is the right decision to make. It’s a tough call — both directions offer limited rewards. Wins won’t get Minnesota into the playoffs, but even a 19-game losing streak would likely leave the Wolves well out of contention for a top-five pick (and frankly, I’m not sure this fanbase could survive a 19-game losing streak).

But before any of that, the Wolves had to beat the Bucks on Tuesday.

They really had to. Milwaukee is so bad this year and Minnesota is so middling, a loss would have broken the backs of a heck of a lot of camels. Fortunately, Kevin Martin and JJ Barea both found their strides in time for the Wolves to knock off the worst team in basketball.

Minnesota trailed for much of the first half, as Milwaukee came out blazing hot. But gradually, the Wolves chipped away until a nice run in the third quarter pushed them into the lead.

We haven’t done bullet points in a while, so let’s go through a few of them:

  • Don’t look now, but Rubio is shooting 45 percent in his last 13 games, as was pointed out on last night’s broadcast. What’s more, he is 10-for-22 from 3-point range in those games, and his trey last night lent some credence to this theory (shamless self-promo alert).
  • Speaking of the broadcast, the best moment of the night may have been Jim Peterson wondering who would win a head-butting contest between Nikola Pekovic and Zaza Pachulia. “I’m not betting against Pekovic in any kind of physical contest,” Dave Benz responded.

    Pek, your thoughts?

    Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 1.25.52 PM
    Yep. I also choose Pek.

  • It felt like Kevin Love spent much of the game hanging back away from the ball, which is why it was such a surprise to check the box score post-game and see “27 points on 22 shots with 10 rebounds and six assists.”
  • ESPN pointed this out: Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute hosted a bunch of kids from the south of France who had bought tickets to come see him in Sacramento. When he was traded, he picked up the tab for them to come see him in Minnesota. This story has a depressing ending though: LRMAM got a DNP-CD.
  • Steve McPherson of AWAW pointed this out on Twitter and he’s absolutely right: There would likely be a lot less animosity toward JJ Barea if he played in more lineups with Ricky Rubio and fewer lineups where he’s the primary ball-handler. Largely playing off the ball last night, Barea was 7-for-10 with 19 points.

That should cover things. Quick note: Be on the lookout for a couple new contributors at Howlin T-Wolf. One of them, Zach Bennett, already got the ball rolling yesterday.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Novak Nightmare; Wolves lose 111-104


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Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 11.59.02 PM

So back to .500 they go.

Thanks to Steve Novak and a huge night from behind the arc, the Raptors were able to bury the Wolves, keeping them from jumping two games above that dreaded .500 mark, and even shut Kevin Love down from grabbing his second triple-double of his career. The Raptors shot 14-24 from deep, including a 5-6 mark from Novak in his 20 minutes of burn off the bench. Compare that to the Wolves’ respectable 7-19 from that territory, you can see why this one was a little bit out of their reach for most of the game.

The Big Three came to play once again. The Love-Pek-Martin combo combined for 63 points, while Corey Brewer contributed 17 of his own. But it was the difference in the benches that swung this one’s result. Raptors got a lift of 15 from Novak and 12 from Greivis Vazquez to completely open up the game. By that point, the starters from Toronto just had to play marginally to score the win, which is exactly what they did. In fact, Novak and Vazquez combined netted a plus-28 while on the court. The rest of the Toronto starters combined for a plus-2, so it should’ve been much closer if it weren’t for that meddling white guy.

This was kind of hurts for a few different reasons. For one, the Wolves were playing some excellent basketball, in particular some stout defense, for the past couple weeks. But the Raptors all but blew that open by shooting red-hot from the perimeter. Sometimes it’s just a hot night, sometimes it’s poor rotation and not closing out on guys properly. I think it was a little bit of both in this one. Secondly, the Wolves are fatefully bound to this .500 mark. No matter how good this team can be, they’ll always seem to hover right around that record it seems like. They’re the classic case of, “Well, we’re pretty good but we’re still gonna make bad mistakes and let a three-point shooter off the bench take us down.” Classic.

And finally, I’m finally starting to keep my eyes on the playoff race. So, as I took a gander at the West’s standings this morning, I realized quickly that the Wolves are; A) a long shot to make that final spot; and B) are totally screwed by being in the Western Conference period. Under new commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA will undergo some changes. They’ve already looked at a European division. There’s talk of expanding the court and making a 4-point shot, or at least increasing the distance of a three-pointer. All good ideas. But if you really want to fix this league and the parity that runs through it, the divisions must be eliminated and the conferences of East and West completely scraped clean. I get that teams change and new ones get better, old ones get worse but it’s been this way for quite a while that the West is just straight-up more dominant from top to bottom than the East. And it’s sickening. The Wolves would actually be in the 7th seed right now in the East. And although that doesn’t bode well for a first-round matchup with the Heat or the Pacers, at least it’s a taste of the playoffs that could jumpstart the fan base a little more and perhaps give Kevin Love a little convincing to stay.

The Raptors are a good squad, and there’s no denying the fact that this could’ve been a statement game for the Wolves had they won it. But the frustrating thing is that even the Raptors would struggle to compete in the West, just like the Wolves, but instead they get to reap the benefits of playing in the East and now they’re fighting for home-court advantage in the first-round despite having a good enough record to even make a spot in the West. I didn’t intend to make this recap a rant on what I believe should happen in the NBA soon but this game was a perfect example of how the league can better its teams by ridding itself of divisions and stirring up the pot that is the East/West divider.

Damn Thing Done: Timberwolves 114-101 over the Pistons


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Following an embarrassing home loss to a team they should have beat, the Knicks, the Timberwolves were faced with an opportunity to get back on the right track against the Pistons. In order to do this, the team had to put that loss behind them and take care of business. It was a loss that everyone seemed to agree on: that is was bad but they couldn’t dwell on it. What’s funny is that implies a focus that they didn’t show coming into that game, but would need in order to avoid repeating history. The good news is that they did.

It showed on the court and the way they ripped out to an early lead, aided by some terrible missed baskets by the Pistons that washed away a few of their own that were gimmes. It seemed like the Timberwolves’ mediocre was still going to be better than the Pistons’ and they wound up with a 39-21 lead after one. They continued to roll in the second quarter, too. Looking ahead to the second half of the game felt like those quarters would be a mere formality considering they held a sizeable lead of 66-45.

More of the same happened in the third quarter: the Timberwolves’ starters rolled as the Pistons were still trying to figure out how to stop open layups in the halfcourt. It was a perplexing defensive year, I mean, night for the Pistons as they once sent a double team to Ricky Rubio as he prepared to launch a three, which he ultimately didn’t, but really? I could understand defending the pass, but he was clearly going to be shooting. 28 point lead and I thought of heading home early.

But I forgot that you can’t do that with this team. Adelman said after the game that he wasn’t going to tear down the entire game over the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, but it was enough for him to have to send the starters back in to clean up the bench’s mess after they lost half of a 31-point lead. Talk about brutal. It may have been more beneficial to rest the starters in the last few minutes of the third and have them come in the fourth to put the game away for good and make it so the reserves couldn’t do any damage. Yet, it all still worked out in the end anyway and the Timberwolves still won by 13.

Adelman addressed the concern after the game about the Timberwolves needing the discipline and in-game awareness when they’re up by 20+ points and not trying to be heroes and do too much. There was one play in particular that he felt Rubio rushed and wound up flinging a pass out of bounds instead of using the clock. This completely escaped me and Adelman’s abilities to pick up on these things usually cause me to give him the benefit of the doubt, in case you were wondering.

Kevin Love was still brilliant with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five rebounds. Kevin Martin added 22 points of his own and Nikola Pekovic just missed the double-double (17 points, nine rebounds.) Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Josh Smith, whose shot selection is even more glorious in person, finished with 13 points, but it took him 14 shots to get there. Brandon Jennings put up 17-5-5 and was less of the problem than some others. In  fact, Pistons starters shot a combined 40.6 percent.

Anyway, good, easy win for the Timberwolves, which is just what they needed after Wednesday. Timberwolves host the Raptors on Sunday.

How the Nuggets nearly came back on Monday


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Monday night’s game between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves was not for the defense lover in your life. Each team scored 40 points in a quarter once and neither team scored less than 24 in any given quarter while the Timberwolves scored less than 30 in just one. Additionally, Kevin Love notched his 50th double-double of the season as the Timberwovles topped their divisional rivals.

However, this was a game that should never have been in question for the Timberwolves after the way the first three quarters went for them. They led 40-25 after the first; 66-49 at the half; and then 98-83 after three. The fourth figured to be a good time for both teams to get some rest for their starters as the end of the season nears. Yet, the Timberwolves manage to come away with a four point, 132-128 win.

The reason for this is rather simple, yet a tad ironic. The game in which the Timberwolves set the franchise record for free throws made and attempted in a game is the same one that they nearly lost it because they couldn’t make them in the waning minutes of the contest. At the same time, you have to give the Nuggets credit. Not only did they execute their hack-a-wolf strategy to near perfection, but they also got creative in running some plays to get their four three pointers in the final minute that made this such a close game. Let’s take a look and see just how they were able to get those shots off.

Ty Lawson 0:27 Remaining

Lawson one
Judging by my header above, you can probably guess the ball is going to wind up in the hands of Ty Lawson, who is under the basket covered by Corey Brewer. In front of Randy Foye are Kenneth Faried (Who has Kevin Love defending him) stacked in front of him with Kevin Martin directly defending the inbounds pass.

Lawson two
Lawson runs in between Faried and Martin as Wilson Chandler steps to his right to prevent Brewer from running right to Lawson at the elbow and instead force him to follow Lawson’s pass. As a result, Lawson has time to get his feet set and launch a three, which he does sink. Lawson was red-hot on the night, finishing with 31 points, 11 assists and four steals. He really made himself a threat that the Timberwolves had to respect.

Wilson Chandler 0:23 seconds remaining

Chandler II 1
Virtually the same setup here as their previous inbounds play, but for the sake of this play it’s important to note that 1) Lawson is in the headband on the block, oddly covered by Love and Brewer; 2) Faried is just behind Martin; and 3) Chandler is right behind both Martin and Faried.
Chandler II 2
Here Foye gets the ball as Lawson runs towards the three point line, successfully drawing Martin to him, and Chandler simultaneously cuts towards the corner. The Timberwolves are now left scrambling as Brewer is now trying to catch up to Lawson although Martin was right there and they probably should have just switched.
Chandler II 3
Here’s why Martin and Brewer should have switched from the onset: Chandler is now wide open in the corner. It appears Brewer realizes that Martin has already picked up Lawson and that he is also too far away to do anything about Chandler. As for Love he’s trying to check Faried and can’t simply close out on Chandler. Finally, we see Cunningham, making a valiant effort to contest Chandler’s shot by way of around Faried and Love, but he is also far too late to be impactful here. And all Chandler has to do from here is make sure he’s not stepping on the line and hit the open corner three.

Wilson Chandler 0:17 seconds remaining

Chandler I 1
After JJ Barea splits a pair of free throws, the Nuggets get the ball over the halfcourt mark after a timeout. Once again, Lawson begins off of the block; Faried and Chandler are just off of the elbow; and Fournier is in the corner.
Chandler I 2
Foye receives the ball from the official and the magic begins. Lawson runs towards the free throw line but curls all the way out to the corner with Fournier in the corner on the far opposite end. What makes this play is that Faried turns to his left to pick Dante Cunningham and Chandler side steps from the screen towards the three point line.
Note Martin having his back turned to the action making it impossible for him to have any play on the pass to Chandler here. Though it is hard to fault him for thinking the play was again run for Lawson.
Chandler I 3
Foye steps inbounds towards Chandler who is now covered by Cunningham having been able to recover from the Faried screen while being chased by Martin.
Chandler I 4
However, it’s a fake handoff and the misdirection throws Cunningham off just enough to allow Chandler to rise up for the three.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evan Fournier 0:12 seconds remaining

Fournier I
I hardly feel like counting this play, but it still counts. Fortunately for the Timberwolves they started making there free throws again because the Nuggets were seemingly hitting everything. Here, the Timberwolves make a free throw and Chandler launches an outlet upcourt to Darrell Arthur.
Fournier II
Arthur (Pictured just beyond halfcourt between Brewer and Martin), quickly flips the ball to Evan Fournier as the game clock winds down.
Fournier III
Fournier then races to the corner to launch this shot over JJ Barea with under 10 seconds to play and somehow nails it. Yeah, okay. Whatever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, this is how a once-blowout became a nail-biter on the road for the Timberwolves. Denver is an especially tough place to play because of the altitude, but you still have to execute better down the stretch to avoid getting into this position in the first place. Fortunately for Minnesota they were able to gut out the win, but it sure was a lot closer than it had to be. Not that close wins count any different in the standings than blowouts, but why make things more difficult for yourself?

 

Wolves a winning; Beat Kings 108-97


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Nikola Pekovic came back tonight and in a big way
Nikola Pekovic came back tonight and in a big way

There’s a new attitude gleaming from the entire Wolves organization. Prior to the All-Star Break, hope was all but lost on making the Western Conference playoffs and looming personnel decisions like the trade deadline and Kevin Love’s status braced headlines from blogs and Twitter pages across the entire web.

But now, as winners of five out of the past six contests after the All-Star game, the Wolves’ playoff dreams are beginning to look a tad more realistic, and everything couldn’t be gelling as well as it is at a better time than now.

Tonight the Wolves got both Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back from injury, giving the Wolves an enormous boost. Those two helped lift the Wolves to a solid win in Sacramento by combining for 46 points. Martin was the hot-hand to begin with, scoring 14 in the first, while Pekovic gave Boogie Cousins a healthy dose down low as well. The two’s return couldn’t have been better planned, considering Kevin Love had a bit of an off-night. He started awfully slow but Love regained form in the second half and was a big reason why the Wolves pulled ahead in the third and sealed the game well before the clock hit zero.

The starters were lethal offensively but struggled to contain Rudy Gay at the other end. Gay came up big dropping 24 points in an efficient performance (Shocker). And then Cousins and Isaiah Thomas both had themselves terrific second halves scoring wise. But the Kings, as they normally do, committed way too many turnovers, and when the Wolves are forcing their opponent’s hand with pressure on the perimeter, mistakes will be made. The Kings had 19 turnovers, while the Wolves capitalized by scoring 27 points off turnovers thanks to the leaking Corey Brewer and company.

The Wolves have delved into a different mode we’ve never really seen before. For the first time in years, they seemed to have figured out how to link consecutive, quality games by creating and staying true to their own special brand of basketball. Winning teams have recipes for their success; Pacers play suffocating defense; Heat play a well spaced-out floor on the offensive end; Lakers play the triangle (Well, not so much); Suns run a fast-paced game to keep the opponent on their heels all night. It’s still difficult to pin exactly what the Wolves have been able to do over this winning stretch because it’s not exactly consistent with what they’ve ever done under Rick Adelman before. But as long as Love keeps playing out of his mind, Brewer and Ricky Rubio provide steady, stout perimeter defense, Martin and Pekovic continue to be role scorers putting up anywhere from 16-24 per game each and the bench keeps up their hard-played minutes, I like our chances moving forward even if it will be a constant, difficult uphill climb until the end.

It’s an exciting brand of basketball the Wolves are playing, and it was certainly on display tonight in Sacramento. Now all that’s left to do is play consistently night-to-night and keep racking up the wins. Next up: The Nuggest in Denver on Monday night.

A real J-azz whooping


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The Jazz had no answer for Love's enormous night
The Jazz had no answer for Love’s enormous night

A solid, fun game like that deserves a punny title, so there’s that. But to get down to business, tonight’s win was exactly what the Wolves were looking for coming out of the All-Star break and now sit with a two-game win streak. #Winning.

As far as I’m concerned, a heavy dose of Kevin Love on offense and an all-around team effort seems to be the winning formula thus far. So after Wednesday’s big win at home over the highly heralded Indiana Pacers, the Wolves took that idea into Utah and came out victorious. And in a big way. Speaking of winning ways, check out this site for NBA odds on the Timberwolves for game-to-game lines and to gauge expectations for them come playoff time.

Kevin Love recorded the first triple-double of his career, despite averaging a double-double over the span of his career so far. Tonight he did it scoring the rock (Typical), sucking up rebounds (Uh-duh!) and dishing out some serious dimes (Wait, whut?!). Believe it or not, Love’s actually become quite a potent option to set up teammates for open looks. It’s his comfortability both inside the paint and beyond the perimeter that gives him that newfound advantage. He gets a wide variety of looks at the basket from all over the court, so if others around him are moving well without the ball, he’ll be able to find them in a split second, passing up an open shot of his own. It’s an aspect of his game that’s really grown over the course of this season and deserves a lot of credit for the overall growth to his game. And let’s not forget that a good amount of his assists come off of Minnesota’s go-to play, The Brewer Outlet. My goodness it’s a thing of beauty.

Now, Love’s 37-12-10 line was the showstopper but it must be known that this was yet another solid team win for the Wolves. Part of that new winning formula is an all-around team effort, which was visibly apparent again tonight.

Ricky Rubio had his second straight game where he looked very comfortable on both ends of the court. He actually ended the game with 15 points on 5-7 shooting. He also had seven assists himself. The assists were a big reason that the entire starting lineup of Love-Rubio-Cunningham-Budinger-Brewer all scored in double digits. Cunningham had one of his better games of the season with 11 and five boards. Then you also have to be fond of how the bench performed, most notably Gorgui Dieng. Scoring major minutes with Ronny Turiaf sitting this one out, Dieng started the game 4-4 with eight points before missing his last shot and also had eight rebounds off the bench, which helped the Wolves dominate the glass 49-34. Dieng had his best game of the season and it’s undoubtedly a confidence builder. I think they’re still looking at Dieng/Shabazz Muhammad as long-term options off the bench, almost as go-to guys off the bench, so a game like that can do wonders toward reaching that goal.

All in all, the Jazz are not a very good team, so some could look at this win as a bit of a given. But as inconsistent as the Wolves have been all season, two straight wins in convincing fashion are a momentum builder without a doubt. Hopefully this new formula will play a part in many games to come. If so, wins are on the horizon as the Wolves battle for that final playoff spot.

Timberwolves throttle Nuggets, take place in standings


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The Timberwolves and the Nuggets met on Wednesday in a matchup of two teams clinging to the fraying ends of their playoff hopes with just a half a game separating them in the standings. To add a sense of urgency to the evening’s contest the Mavericks held a seven game advantage over the Timberwolves with the season over the halfway point. Minnesota was faced with having to do this without the services of Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic, adding to the degree of difficulty.

The Nuggets began the game eager to hand the Timberwolves easy opportunities with three turnovers in the first 1:40 of the game. With Chase Budinger starting in place of the injured Kevin Martin, Budinger dropped a quick three to put the Timberwolves up early. The Timberwolves would however build their lead behind Ricky Rubio’s strong play. Rubio not only assisted on Budinger’s three, but a Kevin Love basket while dropping four points of his own. Denver, meanwhile, remained hellbent on making everyone hate basketball. Minnesota would carry this to a 31-19 advantage after one.

If the second quarter belonged to anyone, it belonged to JJ Barea. Love may have began the quarter with a pair of threes, but it ultimately was Barea’s time on the court while Rubio rested that allowed the Timberwolves to continue to ride their momentum. The Nuggets struggled to find an answer for Barea as he scored in his typical crafty fashion, including one play in the high post where he handed it off to Turiaf, ran around the baseline and took the  hand off back for the longest two possible. Hey, I don’t condone it, but it went in. What can ya do? By the end of the second quarter, the Love-to-Brewer connection had netted them several points and the Timberwolves had led been as much as 20.

Down big on the road, the Nuggets were going to have to chip away gradually if they wanted to have a chance. Instead, they started the second half with two Randy Foye misses and a turnover, though Jordan Hamilton’s three gave them the first points of the quarter. Wilson Chandler would manage to cut the deficit to under 20, but Love and Rubio each hit a pair of free throws to bring it right back up. At 89-64 it appeared the Timberwolves were going to get some extra rest going into their all-star break.

The Timberwolves began the fourth quarter with an opportunity to put their opponent away for good. Love assisted on a pair of baskets, and Brewer scored on a pair of plays at the rim and found themselves with a 34-point lead with just under 10-minutes to play. Before long, both teams pulled their starters and the Timberwolves left it to Barea and Dante Cunningham to put the Nuggets away. Denver would score four points in the final minute to avoid a 30-point blowout and Minnesota claimed the 117-90 victory at home.

Love had another huge game with 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Barea added 18 points in 18 minutes on eight shots off of the bench. Of course, you can’t go without mentioning Rubio’s 11 points and 12 assists and seven steals in the win either.

Jordan Hamilton led the Nuggets with 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

The Timberwolves will have the week off for the All-Star break and resume against the Pacers (****) on February 19th.

Notes:

- Shabazz Muhammad, everyone’s favorite fourth string shooting guard, scored five points tonight. Do I need to mention that one was a long two or a contested floater in the lane? Probably not. Do I need to mention that he struggled catching some passes? Do I need to mention it’s good to see him doing good things? Yes.

- “Hey, Jerry! What do our playoff chances look like?”


- Corey Brewer’s 22-point performance was his fourth 20+ point game of the year and second in the last three games.

- The Timberwolves moved to 6-0 when shooting over 50 percent. More impressive to do it without two of their top players. It does help that JJ Barea had the best shooting night of his career, though. Conversely, the Timberwolves are now 8-0 when holding their opponent under 40 percent. What this really proves is that if you score more than the other team you’re probably going to win.

- Ronny Turiaf, everyone’s favorite Timberwolf of all-time, grabbed double-digit rebounds for the third straight game, but also added four blocks tonight.

- Gah. The Timberwolves finished with 29 points off of 21 Nuggets turnovers while Denver was only able to get 10 off of 10.

- Quote of the Night:

“Yeah, like I was saying after the last game if you keep pushing and doing the little things that you’ve been doing

you might not see success right away but you’ll see success. It was definitely a great win for us, for our team.”- Ronny Turiaf

To me this really reflects how the Timberwolves have done in  overcoming their own built in roster limitations (the bench and defense, mostly) and now the injuries to still have a pretty successful season. It’ll take a lot for them to climb back into the race, but they will have time to get their once the season resumes in a week.

Good vs. Bad; Wolves lose 107-89


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Love vs. D12 AND Jones is always a tough matchup
Love vs. D12 AND Jones is always a tough matchup

Every competition ends with a winner and a loser heading back to their respective locker rooms. As a fan, joy of competitive sports is not knowing before the game even starts who could win. There are always factors that could lead one to believe that one side has an advantage — albeit slight or commanding. Often times, and general Minnesota sports fans are all too familiar with this feeling, the Wolves head into games on the opposite end of having that advantage. It shouldn’t be like that given we have a top scorer in Kevin Love, a big time assist-man and stifling defender in Ricky Rubio, as well as a slew of supporting characters, all paid handsomely for their past contributions to prior teams (I’m looking at you, Chase Budinger, J.J. Barea and Corey Brewer).

But the story is becoming all too familiar from the treacherous past that has haunted the organization year in and year out. Luck is no longer on our side, rather the injury bug continues to perch on the walls of the Target Center. The future looks bleak with the looming demise of superstars hitchhiking out of town and a less-than-friendly cap situation. Bottom-line: It can’t get much worse rooting for a team trying to claw out from a seemingly bottomless pit of pure darkness and jaw-clenching damp air.

Oops, sorry. Accidentally published my season-end censure for when the Wolves miss out on the playoffs by losing the final game of the season. My bad.

Actually, tonight’s loss wasn’t that big of a deal at all. If you go back to that first depressing paragraph and think about how team’s go into games with specific factors that tip the scale in their favor, well, that was easily the Rockets tonight. Look, they’re way freaking better than the Wolves. Pure and simple.

But there are other factors that go into this matchup and its result that negatively affected the Wolves’ stock, including injuries to both Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin. The Wolves have been flat-out bad without Pek and Martin has always provided that second-scoring punch behind Love for the entire season. Without those two guys, a lot of pressure leans heavily onto the shoulders of inexperienced players (inexperienced within that role, that is) such as Budinger, Brewer, Barea and even Rubio, who’s not used to scoring as much as he can on any given night.

The Rockets’ starters kicked the pants off the Wolves entire team tonight. After all, they combined for 85 points and the highest scorer (Chandler Parsons) only posted 20 himself. Otherwise, it was a collective ass-kicking up and down the whole lineup. A barrage of three-pointers and a healthy dose of Dwight Howard and even Terrence Jones inside will give any defense the heebee-jeebies. That is why they’re built like the monster they are now to make a serious run at a title, and they undoubtedly have a shot if they’re playing their best ball towards the end of the season.

As for the Wolves, they’re just not good right now. Love is doing all he can to muster up enough production and leadership to get the cart back on track but it’s just not a one-man job. Time will help the Wolves greatly; to get Pek and Martin back healthy will boost the offense and the starting lineup will once again be whole. But until then, the grind must continue. Guys like Alexey Shved, who showed up at least in the first half with 11 points, and/or Luc Richard Mbah A Moute have to prove their minutes and fill voids. Depth has never been this team’s strong suit, and we certainly saw that tonight, but it’ll be of the utmost importance that that second unit steps up to the plate with more confidence that they can get the job done right. Because 29 points on just 37 percent shooting ain’t gonna cut it, folks.

Again, this win isn’t conducive to what I first wrote above but it very well could be if things aren’t straightened out in the next month or two. If the team of currently healthy lads can muster up some confidence, win a few games before the break and then regather once they’re second and third mates come back, I don’t see why this team, behind Love’s magic, can’t resurge back into the playoff picture. It really can happen. And, well, we sorta need it to.

Otherwise I’m copying in pasting those first couple paragraphs into a piece titled, “The Dump That Was 2013-2014.”

Next up: Wolves stay at home for a bout against the Nuggets on Wednesday. Mr. Derek James will have your coverage as well as a carefully thought-out recap following the game! Until then…

Z-Bo’s good; Wolves fall to Grizzlies 94-90


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Clash of the Titans, Love vs. Randolph

I’ll just get this out of the way. The only reason I tune in to watching the Grizzlies, even when they don’t play the Wolves, is solely because of Zach Randolph. I’m not going to say he’s my favorite player but he very well could be my favorite player. Don’t ask for reasoning, he just is.

So when I get to watch as Z-Bo and Kevin Love, another favorite of mine, battle head-to-head, I’m always more than intrigued. And I almost love nothing more when the two are pulling their teams on their backs to the finish line. What I don’t like, though, is seeing Randolph and the Grizzlies prevail. In Minnesota, albeit.

Randolph and the Grizzlies played three great quarters, including the deciding fourth, to take one from the Wolves at home. Randolph finished the game with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

It wasn’t all signed, sealed and delivered for Memphis, though. A huge third quarter from the Wolves kept them in the game. Actually, let me rephrase: A huge third quarter from Love kept the Wolves in the game. In fact, Love scored 18 points to the Grizzlies’ 16. I thought it’d be enough to pull it off against a hot Memphis team but the steam ran dry in the fourth.

Now for real talk. Love had a big night but it was almost the reg for his production. A double-double with points in the 20′s, big whoop. But the problem tonight was the lack of physicality but also finesse in the paint at both ends. Ronny Turiaf and Dante Cunningham, don’t get me wrong, are solid players and make a difference whenever they’re game is on. Tonight was surely one of those nights, as they combined for 19 points and 17 rebounds. But the Wolves are a different team without Nikola Pekovic. That’s no lie.

Pekovic is a rare breed. A 6-foot-11 behemoth, who scares the pants off of any regular guy. He’s as strong as they get in the NBA and can bully his way to the rim with very little effort. The key to Pek’s game, though, is his ability to finesse around the physicality at times to give the defense different looks. We’ve seen him push his range and shoot jump shots. We’ve seen his baby hook off the right arm become a staple. It’s not all about backing down and rolling to the rim with him.

I worry that the Wolves, without Pekovic, become too one-dimesional on offense. Sure, you have Love, and we all know what to expect on a nightly basis, as I wrote before. But Kevin Martin will surely have his unpredictable off-nights and Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer are as reliable of scorers as wiping up a spill with toilet paper. The Grizzlies revealed that harsh truth tonight.

Wolves got Hawks in ATL tomorrow night. Another chance to get back over .500!