Category: Game Recaps

Short And Sweet: Timberwolves 88, Pelicans 77

We are going to have to keep this recap short, sweet and to the point.

Here’s the short: The Timberwolves were without Nikola Pekovic, which was big, but New Orleans was without Anthony Davis which was bigger. To be clear, Pekovic was the bigger person lost, but Anthony Davis was the bigger loss, and that’s why the Pelicans lost. Everything clear? No? Tough, we are moving on.

Kevin Love dropped 30 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and despite a mostly inefficient shooting line (11-for-26 from the field, 1-for-6 from 3-point range), he was the reason Minnesota won offensively. Neither team shot efficiently, so any kind of production whatsoever was liable to put the game away.

The Pellies had an awful shooting performance, finishing 35 percent from the field and (seriously) 9.5 percent from 3-point range. You read that right: 2-for-21 from behind the arc. Pro-tip, New Orleans: When your 3-point percentage looks like a box score from the 2012-13 Timberwolves, you aren’t going to win a lot of games.

The Wolves box score also bore a somewhat frightening resemblance to the 2012-13 Timberwolves, as they finished 40 percent from the field and 4-for-20 from 3-point range. But Kevin Martin added 18 points (interestingly, he was also 1-for-6 from behind the arc, tying Kevin Love’s 3-point futility), and the Wolves held on.

Also, Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute got 23 minutes off the bench and was so surprised to be in the game, he went 0-for-2 from the field.

Here’s the sweet: Minnesota debuted the ad campaign “#PekGoesToo,” an almost certainly futile attempt to propel Minneapolis’ biggest viking into the NBA All-Star game. Pek is having a career year, averaging 18 points and nine rebounds per game on a career-high 20.7 PER, but in a loaded Western Conference, he’s incredibly unlikely to get an invite to New Orleans.

More sweet: Take a look at this picture of Pekovic (s/o to @Steventurous on Twitter):

I MEAN. LOOK AT THIS GUY. YOU DO NOT LOOK AS GOOD AS NIKOLA PEKOVIC IN A SUIT. I GUARAN-FREAKING-TEE IT. HE’S LIKE THE RUSSIAN VILLAIN IN A BOND MOVIE WHO NOBODY QUITE BELIEVES IS THE VILLAIN CAUSE HE LOOKS TOO DAMN GOOD IN A SUIT.

Anyway.

Here’s the point: The Timberwolves are now a game over .500 (woo!) and — after Houston won a tight, high-scoring game against Dallas — just two games behind the Mavs for 8th in the Western Conference.

I wouldn’t say the Wolves are in a good place, or even that I’m confident going forward. Tomorrow’s matchup with Memphis catches the Grizz at a bad time, and Saturday’s game against Atlanta promises to be a challenging SEGABABA. But that’s a bit of a tangent. It’s nice to be looking at .500 from the topside for once, and that’s the point.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

The Winny City: Timberwolves drop Bulls 95-86

The Timberwolves have never really fared well against the Bulls given the respective arcs of the two franchises. Initially, the Timberwolves were in their expansion phase and the Jordan Bulls were in full-swing. Then, Jordan retired and Garnett reigned freely, and then as he left Minnesota Rose rose to prominence in Chicago. Really, it’s made for a very uneven series in the 25 years of the matchup’s history. And coming into tonight, the Bulls had swept every series since ’09 against the Timberwolves, including three straight at United Center and seven consecutive overall. Tonight, with the Bulls short Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah (Illness), the Timberwolves were in prime position to pounce.

The Timberwolves began the game jumping out to a modest lead by getting out in transition early and racking up all the easy baskets they could get. Then, halfway through the first, Nikola Pekovic went down with a sore achilles and did not return to the game. In his wake, everyone’s favorite player, Ronny Turiaf, stepped in and gave the team a much-needed boost.

Turiaf played well with the team’s backup point guards in the pick n’ roll and getting easy lobs off of those plays. When Turiaf wasn’t scrapping for points on offense, he was bringing the swat to the defensive end, too. Turiaf finished with a season high 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks and was an absolute difference maker. Thanks to Turiaf, the Timberwolves were able to coast into the second half with the lead.

While the Timberwolves never really had their lead in question, the Bulls were not going to back down that easy. Especially not a Tom Thibodeau coached team. Chicago came out, grabbed a few points off of turnovers and made Minnesota uncomfortable enough to call a quick timeout. Still, the Bulls’ offense proved to be too anemic despite the Timberwolves own offensive struggles and still led going into the fourth quarter, 72-65.

By this point, it had become clear that the Timberwolves were going to need a bit of a push to not let the Bulls hang around. Well, that sort of worked out, thanks to more steady bench contributions from Turiaf, but also Chase Budinger who finished with 12 points. The Bulls pulled close late in the game behind a DJ Augustin three, but Kevin Love would answer it on the  other end with a layup off of a Rubio pass and that seemed to seal it. Actually, no. The true dagger was when Rubio came down with the defensive rebound and flipped it to Brewer streaking towards the basket and screamed, “FATALITY” (citation needed) as he emphatically dunked the ball.

Because Thibs, you continue fouling when it’s a 3-4 possession game and under a minute left, the Bulls gave the Timberwolves several freebies on the night, in part because they insisted on continuously sending Love to the line who finished 14-14 on the night. Love may have struggled with his three ball, but made up for it with his perfection from the line. Love also finished with just eight rebounds, begging the question: did he accidentally sip out of Noah’s Gatorade cup during pregame?

So, the Timberwolves break yet another streak, this time to the Bulls. Perhaps more importantly they take three of four on the road and head into a much easier portion of their schedule. In a way, tonight also had to be good for their finishing abilities in late game situations. The Bulls may have been shorthanded, but this was still a road game in a building they hadn’t performed well in and never let them back in the game. Even when Chicago would make a run, they would calmly push back the charge and continue to play their game.

Love finished with 31 points and eight rebounds and JJ Barea led the team with seven assists. Rubio played a nice, even game, finished with 9-6-4 on the night. Carlos Boozer led the way for Chicago with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Jimmy Butler (!) and Augustin finished with 16 and 19 points, respectively.

Shorthanded team or not, the Timberwolves needed this to carry over some positive momentum into this upcoming lighter portion of their schedule. It wasn’t necessarily a guaranteed win for them, but they certainly went out and got it even when things got tough.

The handy, dandy 2nd unit; Wolves lose 115-104

Love vs. Aldridge is always an entertaining matchup
Love vs. Aldridge is always an entertaining matchup

I have to believe that there are just about two ways to make a team great in the NBA; 1) Just sign superstars and ride their tag-teaming ways all the way to the playoffs, or; 2) Sport one of the deepest benches, full of more-than-capable players that the coach can lean on even in the waning moments of a clutch win.

After watching last night’s game against the Blazers, it’s clear to see that the Wolves don’t really have either of those above. Kevin Love is a superstar but he’s a little lonely on that front. But then again, the rest of the starting lineup can play pretty great in spurts, making them look like a playoff caliber team. But then the first quarter ends or we’re midway through the third and Adelman motions his hand for (ugh) JJ Barea to come.

The clear difference in this game was the play of the two teams’ bench players. As preface, you should know that the Wolves’ bench is 27th in scoring, 29th in field goal percentage and dead last in overall efficiency on the court. It’s as if their scoop dirt dirt back into the hole that the starters began, looking for paydirt. Last night had an eerily similar trend.

After the first quarter lead, the second unit of Barea, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf went out there. All they really had to do was do their best to keep it close while the starters rested. That’s all we really ask. But instead the Blazers took the inferior competition and ran with it to win that quarter by 10. The same thing happened in the fourth, to a lesser degree because Adelman knew it was crunch time and he’d get ripped for keeping Barea and Co. out there any longer than he should’ve.

The bench is a serious Kryptonite to the starters’ armor. And on the otherside of the court, it was completely the opposite. Barea couldn’t contain Mo Williams to save his marriage (Wouldn’t that be sad?!). And Thomas Robinson made Dante Cunningham look like he was ready to quit. Those two combined for 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. I think Adelman would kill to get that out of his entire bench on any given night.

I don’t wanna take credit away from the Blazers by blaming this loss on the Wolves’ putrid bench but it had a big part in it for sure. The Blazers are for real, though. Their early season success isn’t a fluke. LaMarcus Aldridge should be an All-Star. Robin Lopez plays the perfect sidekick to Aldridge in the paint on both ends. And I wouldn’t trade Damian Lillard for Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook or even Derrick Rose. He’s that good, folks. They’re a team built to do really well in the playoffs I think too, and play in a terrific city that loves their basketball with all their heart.

As for the Wolves, it wasn’t a good loss but they certainly learned the standard of which a playoff-like team plays at game in and game out. In order to become one themselves, they have some things to figure out and hope that the bench can finally get their heads in order and play a little more consistently each and every night. Until then, you can’t just keep hoping the starters combine for 90 to keep them close.

Wolves should actually feel okay about getting a split in the Northwest trip, holding onto that big win in Golden State. Next up are the Bulls on Monday night. See you then.

Streak Breakers: Timberwolves 121, Warriors 120

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Being 0-11 in close games requires some bad breaks, and Minnesota has been breaking worse than Walter White all season. The Wolves have had to watch unlikely shots fall, bad calls go against them and a variety of other unforeseen circumstances while compiling a close-game record that has threatened to derail their playoff hopes.

The luck may have changed last night, at least for one game. The Wolves got two big breaks in last night’s 121-120 win in Golden State that prevented them from falling to 0-12 in games decided by four points or less.

The first was a defensive mistake by Klay Thompson. With just under 15 seconds remaining in the fourth, Kevin Martin and Kevin Love played a two-man game — Martin passed to Kevin Love in the high post and ran past him, using Love as an off-ball screener. Rather than continuing to trail the locked-in Martin, Thompson stuck to Love. Whether he meant to double-team Love or expected David Lee to switch onto Martin, it was a mistake. Martin moved far enough away from Love to get a good look, which he knocked down to give the Wolves the lead.

Minnesota wasn’t quite finished getting lucky yet. The Warriors sent out a small-ball lineup to get the last shot, and Harrison Barnes ran a nice PnR with Steph Curry. Kevin Love helped try to trap Curry, who had time to get Barnes an open look at a jumper. But Barnes’ shot rimmed out, and the Wolves broke a very long, very over-emphasized streak.

Those two plays encapsulate everything we’ve learned about the Wolves in close games so far this year. Kevins Love and Martin are both quite good at scoring, as is Nikola Pekovic. On many nights, those three can carry the team’s offense. Ricky Rubio can pass the ever-living hell out of the ball, and he’s a solid defender, even if Curry lit him up (because, frankly, Curry lights everyone up).

Did last night feel like a turning point? Sure, absolutely. A close win will always feel like a turning point because of the emotional energy, and it will certainly feel like a turning point because we’ve seen a string of such losses. And in this case, it might actually be the start of things turning around, but it likely won’t be because the Wolves had an attitude adjustment or learned how to win close games, at least not entirely. It also will likely be because at some point, in close games decided in part by uncontrollable circumstances, a regression (or a progression) to the mean has to be expected.

Minnesota has lost some close games because of bad execution. Those are the kind of problems that can be fixed, and a win (with proper late-game execution) is certainly a good way to start turning things around. But given what we’ve seen so far this season, we will need a larger sample size than one game that featured plenty of luck before we can truly feel confident moving forward.

Still, one game is better than zero, and 1-11 feels quite a bit better than 0-12.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

A Brief Respite: Wolves 98, Jazz 72

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Ricky and the Wolves harassed Trey Burke into an off night.

For one night, the Wolves were spared the questions.

Is Ricky Rubio a bust? Is Kevin Love leaving town? Why is the bench so bad? Why is JJ Barea still shooting? Why pick Shabazz? Why trade Trey Burke? For one night, all of the questions were pushed underfoot by a dominant defensive performance as Minnesota held Utah to just 72 points, 23 in the first half, in a 98-72 win at the Target Center.

The turning point, ironically, was a 3-pointer by Rubio. The Wolves were flirting with a double-digit lead when Rubio found himself wide open on the left side of the arc in the second quarter. He eyed the basket and — in typical Rubio fashion — heaved the ball over his head, aimed his arms at the basket and tossed the ball through the hoop.

If that description felt long and overly laborious, it’s because Rubio’s jumper often feels the same way. But when that 3-pointer met nothing but net, the Target Center crowd seemed to cheer as much out of relief as support. Rubio’s shoulders seemed to relax, and his teammates all came over to whack his head and congratulate him. For a brief moment, the Timberwolves looked like an actual team.

Rubio finished with a typically Ricky line: 6 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, but it was his hassling defense (a trait which gets overlooked when critics are ripping apart his shooting) that stood out most. Kevin Love had a fairly quiet evening (and yes, I recognize the absurdity in calling an 18 point, 13 rebound performance “fairly quiet”). But it was Nikola Pekovic, arguably the building block of this team but we’ll get to that later this week, who had the biggest evening. He was downright disrespectful to Utah’s big frontline, putting up 27 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in the win. His hook shot is a combination of power and finesse — a few powerful bumps to knock opponents onto their heels, a swift turn and a stealthy flip shot held away from his body to keep it from being blocked.

Meanwhile, that rookie point guard the Wolves drafted and dealt? He has had better games in the NBA. Burke finished 2-for-10 from the field and was fairly ineffective as a floor general, tallying two assists and three turnovers. Burke will no doubt be a fine NBA point guard, but before we lament Minnesota’s inevitable demise due to the Trey Burke curse, we should probably be aware that the Timberwolves’ own point guard essentially stopped him cold.

The Wolves have another shot at Utah before the schedule stiffens up again. Back-to-backs against the same team are extremely hard to sweep, and the Jazz have a surprisingly good fanbase at home.

But that’s in the future. On Saturday, the Wolves played well and bought themselves a tiny bit of time and breathing room.

For one night.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Wolves Weekend Recap

It's like day and night
It’s like day and night

There’s the theme for this weekend’s games. P.S. I went with the upbeat version of it to sorta brighten your mood while reading on. Because that’s about as satisfying and happy as I can get.

We’ll start with Friday night’s bout against the Raptors. I’m not sure what it is about Toronto that the Timberwolves just don’t like but they’ve historically never played well north of the U.S. border. And that’s really saying something. The Raptors haven’t been a real competitive team since a few years with Bosh and then the McGrady/Vinsanity years. But this team has developed into a tough squad this year, and that’s saying something after trading away their “best player” in Rudy Gay earlier this season.

Kyle Lowry is legit. Demar Derozan could very well be a bonafide all-star. And Jonas Valanciunas is a pretty big hassle to handle down low on both ends of the court. Even with those three, though, the Raptors are more than beatable on any given night. But that’s just not in the cards for the Wolves. Like ever.

Dating back to the end of the KG era, the Wolves are just 1-17 against the Raptors, including some of the biggest deficits in Toronto itself. All I have to say is history saw this loss coming from a mile away and I think the Wolves themselves did too.

Before this loss, the Wolves were on a 1-3 streak and playing some of the most unenthused, depressing basketball we’ve seen them play all season long. Take that attitude into Toronto and you get what you deserved, a 94-89 loss to a team that, well plays like they actually like each other.

As for last night’s win back home over the Utah Jazz, I’m not so sure how to analyze it, honestly. Watching the game and checking the numbers afterward speak for itself; it was an old-fashioned ass-whooping in every sense of the term. But for a team that should be doing this to bad teams pretty much nine out of ten games all season long, it wasn’t all that impressive.

The Wolves rode Nikola Pekovic’s (the most stable, consistent player on the roster this entire month) hot hand to a big 98-72 win in Minneapolis. Contributing greatly was Kevin Martin, who’s greatly struggled the past few games. He added 20 points, despite still stumbling to put up point from the perimeter. He was just 1-6 from three-point land. Then there was Kevin Love, who 18-13-5 in a good night. Also worth mentioning was Alexey Shved, who added 10 points off the bench.

Other than the starters and Shved, the Wolves didn’t do anything. In fact, if you add up the minutes as well as the plus/minus numbers, the starters combined for plus-157 in 136 minutes played. As for the bench, they posted a minus-27 in 105 minutes of court time. Now I know how to explain the bench players: they just downright suck and have almost all season long. They never play as a unit, rather just rogue chickens with their heads cut off. Other than the occasional one bright spot (Last night being Shved), they continually fail to produce. As for the starters, well, this is close to what they should accomplish on any given night. I mean, they’re that good. There’s no denying Love and Pekovic’s talent, and then Martin’s ability to supplement their game with points from the perimeter. But was last night’s impressive numbers a result of that unit playing well together for once or the lack of balance and power the Jazz, without Gordon Hayward, could sustain?

Given where the Wolves are at mentally right now, these kinds of blowout wins are helpful for their psyche. But I can’t be the only one seeing how lame and limp the Wolves are playing ball as of late. It’s a contagious attitude that’s sprinkled down to all the players and most of the fans to boot. But if you really think about it, if you really think winning can cure all, is beating one of the NBA’s absolute worst teams, playing without their best player, mind you, really a part of the remedy? It shouldn’t. It’s pretty much false hope in my mind.

The only way to get off the schneid is to string together a few of these games in a row. That could be a trying task, considering the next few games include trips to Golden State, Portland and then Chicago. But taking two out of three on that road trip would certainly build a foundation for how to win — and ultimately play — like a playoff-caliber team.

Things Are Lacking: Kings 111, Timberwolves 108

iThe Sacramento Kings seem like they want to make the playoffs, which — you know — good for them and stuff, but they are 7.5 games back from Dallas for the 8th seed and 13th in the Western Conference, which is a lot of ground to make up and a lot of teams to pass at this point.

One of those teams is the Timberwolves, who actually realistically expected to make the postseason this year. But the Wolves are 18-20 now, two games under .500 and beginning to tire from how long they’ve been treading water. It showed on Wednesday, as the expectation-less Kings bounded around the court dunking and raining jumpers while the Wolves plodded from end to end, looking disheartened. They made a small push at the end of the game spurred by a pair of enormous 3-pointers by Kevin Love, but it wasn’t enough as Sacramento put them away 111-108.

“I keep saying we’re better than our record indicates but until we go out there and win games in a row and beat teams that we feel we’re supposed to beat, we won’t go anywhere,” Kevin Love said after the game. “We definitely need to start winning.”

They certainly do, because that easy month of January that was supposed to save the Wolves is slipping away rather quickly. Yesterday marked the halfway point of the month, and the Wolves could have set themselves up to move over .500. Instead, Minnesota is two games below with a trip to Toronto — where the Raptors have been rolling lately — coming on Friday. After that, they have a home-and-home with Utah, and although Utah is a bad team, it’s very difficult to win both ends of back-to-back contests with the same team. Then? Golden State, Portland, Chicago, New Orleans and Memphis to close out the month. None of that is going to be easy.

If you are sick of the constant playoff talk, I don’t really blame you, and I’ll move on now. Four Kings killed the Wolves in particular — Rudy Gay with 33 points on 19 shots, DeMarcus Cousins with 20 points and a defensive effort we wouldn’t have expected last year, Isaiah Thomas with 26 points and seven assists and (here’s the painful one) Derrick Williams with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting. For those of you keeping track, that’s 85 points between four players on 65 shots.

Everyone of those names jumps off the page. Rudy Gay’s line was supremely efficient (although, to be honest, his shot selection was pretty typically Rudy Gay). DMC has been trying on defense for much of the year, which has been refreshing until it’s against a team you follow because then it’s cause for “Where in the world did this come from and when did he start playing help defense?” discussions. Isaiah Thomas may have actually done the most damage to the Wolves — the way he split PnR defense and performed his drive-and-kicks was destructive.

And then, of course, there’s D-Will, who played angry, engaged and efficient which is just the worst thing he could have possibly done for T-Wolves morale. Meanwhile, his trade counterpart, Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute, didn’t see the court despite Gay’s offensive explosion and LRMAM’s familiarity with Gay’s game.

I haven’t even mentioned Minnesota’s offensive game, mostly because you already know what happened if you’ve been following the Wolves this year. Kevin Love put up a solid line. Pekovic bruised down low. Rubio didn’t shoot very much or very well and everyone in Minnesota blew a gasket in their haste to put tonight’s loss on his shoulders.

That’s not fair, though. Rubio didn’t play well, but he wasn’t the reason Minnesota lost — that distinction seemed to belong to the Wolves’ first-half apathy and the way they accepted that not one, not two, not three but four Sacramento scorers were going to have big games. Rubio is a point guard, not a miracle worker. He is certainly flawed, but he’s not the only flawed member of this team, and all of the flaws worked together in perfect harmony to capsize Minnesota.

If the Wolves could only work together as well as their flaws do, we might have something here. As it stands right now, it’s not panic time but you can certainly see it from here.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

Texas ass-whoopin’; Spurs rout Wolves 104-86

Just keep dribbling, just keep dribbling ... dribbling, dribbling, dribbling!
Just keep dribbling, just keep dribbling … dribbling, dribbling, dribbling!

Coming into this game, there were two things I didn’t really like.

  1. The San Antonio Spurs are really good at kicking ass.
  2. The Wolves are really good at staying at .500.

Those two facts played a big part into the final of tonight’s bout. The Spurs are just so good at making okay teams like the Wolves look pretty bad. And the Wolves, well, are really good at making themselves look pathetic in cities not named ‘Minneapolis.’

We’re gonna play a little game here. Now don’t go cheat by looking at the box score! Just take a look at these opposing numbers and guess which team is which.

  • Team A: 35.5 FG%, 5/17 3PM, 40 REB, 17 AST, 16 STL, 10 TO, 10 PTS OFF TO’s
  • Team B: 56.8 FG%, 9-13 3PM, 46 REB, 31 AST, 10 BLK, 20 TO, 16 PTS OFF TO’s

Ahh, who am I kidding? This isn’t even a game when everyone can win (Or cheat). Obviously, Team A was the Wolves. What tipped you off? The FG%? Yeah, most likely. But everything else seems up to par. They don’t typically get out-rebounded but when you shoot that bad, it can happen. The assists are awfully low but the Spurs make it look puny with their insane total. 16 steals is nice. That was mostly caused by bone-headedness from the Spurs and their surplus of turnovers. But when you can only convert 10 points out of 16 steals and 20 turnovers, you’re doing something wrong.

Or maybe you’re not doing anything wrong. There’s something funky about these Wolves. The poor shooting nights have become synonymous to almost any game they get into. Kevin Love is prone to have bad nights, as is Kevin Martin, but there’s just no help ready to step up. Nikola Pekovic has been the most consistent option all season long. Otherwise, if one of those two guys have an off night, it’s pretty much a wash for that one because no one has, or maybe even can, step up and make a difference in the scoring column. Corey Brewer’s awful December is creeping into January. JJ Barea’s too busy dribbling. Ricky Rubio, HA!

There’s not too many other options from there. It’s good to have Chase Budinger back but from a reduced bench role until he’s 100-percent, he won’t be able to get enough time or shots to reduce any void left from either Kevins’ off-night. Everything I’m laying out shouldn’t be new, and it’s definitely very much alive in the back of Rick Adelman’s mind, especially when he stares down his bench in some clutch moments during any game. The help has to come from within because I don’t see any roster movement coming soon. But it also needs to come soon. 36 games into the season means we’re almost halfway done, so a run has to come soon, otherwise we’re facing ping-pong balls yet again.

I don’t mean to get all panicky, especially after a blowout loss to one of the league’s, not just the conference’s best. But these are recurring faults game-in and out, and it’s getting more and more frustrating as the season wears on. Let’s hope that both Kevins and the Wolves as a whole can turn it around Wednesday at home vs Derrick Williams and the Sacramento Kings.

I don’t want to talk about it: Wolves lose 104-103 to the Suns

Here’s the thing about the Phoenix Suns. They’re like that person who shows up to a dinner at a restaurant that the hosts setup with a reservation ahead of the time. Because there is not enough room for this unexpected guest, the restaurant has to may have to pull up a chair or move a couple of tables around to accommodate the extra person. Of course, this is a metaphor (or something) for the Western Conference, and the Western Conference is crowded so therefore this figurative restaurant is also crowded and this makes everyone uncomfortable. Plain and simple: they don’t belong, but they are here and we have to deal with it.

Don’t get me wrong; the Suns are good. They are also exactly the team that you don’t want to run into coming off of a blowout of a bad team. In the same way you want to have a short memory with a bad loss, it’s helpful to have a short memory with a big win.

The Timberwolves roared out to an early 11-2 lead behind six Kevin Martin points. The Suns saw this and thought this was a terrific idea like that person at the restaurant who orders the same thing as you by going on an 11-2 run of their own. Thanks to Channing Frye, the Suns managed to escape with a modest four-point lead at the end of one.

In the second quarter, Chase Budinger, making his season debut, scored five points, but it was Phoenix’s 12-3 run at the end of the half that would give them the 53-47 advantage.

It was in the third quarter that the Timberwolves continued to do the two things they were successful at in the first half — getting to the line and making threes — and were able to use that to carry them to a lead at the end of the third and eventually a late game lead.

Are you wondering why I skipped over a quarter’s worth of game? Because something happened, again, and I think we need to talk about it. I talked about it on Hardwood Paroxysm over the weekend while the site was down, but I’m willing to open up the conversation again.

Over the course of the game’s final 2: 45 the Suns managed to outscore the Timberwolves 8-1 to seal the game, including a Gerald Green baseline jumper that made you go, “YEAHOKAYWHATEVERGERALDGREENIFYOU’REGOINGTOHITTHAT…” It was tough, a little hard to stomach, but this is not the end of the world. Most of the Timberwolves’ issues are fixable, and while they do have time on their side, the sooner they get fixed the better.

For example, Corey Brewer’s foul on Gerald Green’s jumper with about 2:34 to go. On this play Brewer runs up behind Green as he’s about to release and catches him on the wrist. Why commit that foul then and there? It made no sense and eventually led to two made free throws by Green.

When the Timberwolves would try and run an offense the defense would sag off of Ricky Rubio, jamming the passing lanes and making it more difficult to get into their offense. This led to a rushed Kevin Love turnaround baseline jumper, a bobbled entry pass to Nikola Pekovic and Rubio eventually throwing a pass that was interception right under the basket and eventually helped the Suns seal the game. Even Kevin Martin got a chance to win it with his 10-footer at the end of the game, but it missed and the rest is now history.

Tonight was frustrating, no doubt. However, there is still plenty of time to turn things around being just 34 games into the season. Being in the Western Conference, these games are important so there does need to be a sense of urgency, but their 0-whatever record in late-game situations could wind up not mattering at all come April. The Timberwolves are one game under .500, not 15 games under. Nobody is guaranteed a playoff spot and the Timberwolves are no exception and will have to resolve their issues before it is actually too late.

Tonight is one of those games where you will need a short memory as a team (Probably a fan, too) since the last thing you want to do is compound your problems by letting it take another game from you. It’s not like I’m going to sit here and tell you that tonight wasn’t a disaster of an ending because it was, but that doesn’t automatically make it a predictor of latter season success. The Timberwolves will turn around to do it again against the improved Bobcats on Friday and if they can’t leave this game behind then they will have bigger problems than this.

Notes:

- Love finished with 15 and 12, but on 4-20 shooting and five fouls. Pekovic added 17-12 and Rubio finished with 7-8-8.

- For the Suns, Goran Dragic led the way with 26-8-9 and Channing Frye chipped in 22 points off of five three pointers.

- Both teams finished with 12 turnovers, but the Suns scored 18 off of turnovers to the Timberwolves’ 13. Though the Timberwolves won the points in the battle (42-28) and had twelve more free throw attempts than the Suns tonight. Yeah, they should have won, but late game execution and all…

Lest the three-ball reign; Wolves rout 76ers

HTW is back and so is the Wolves' firepower (For one night, at least)
HTW is back and so is the Wolves’ firepower (For one night, at least)

Ahh, it’s good to be back! A bug in our system may prevent us from writing about our beloved Wolves but it certainly did not bring down any passion I still share for this team.

So watching them win huge, 126-95, in Philly tonight was a blessing because we can all agree that the last few games, particularly the loss to OKC, totally sucked.

The Wolves used a three-point barrage to beat the 76ers to a bloody pulp tonight on their homecourt, and boy, was it needed. Here’s the analogy I’ll use; how many of you are the middle child? Bueller? Anyways, if you are, you know what it’s like to get beat up by the eldest. I mean, they’re bigger, stronger and, of course, older and wiser. There’s usually no way out of it except to scream for mom to tell them to stop. So you’re sitting there, all pouty and bruised when you’re little sibling walks into the room. They rub you the wrong way, poking and teasing, and next thing you know, you’re wailing on them out of sheer frustration.

That’s the mentality the Wolves had coming into tonight’s contest. The big, bad older brother Oklahoma City beat us up pretty good, even if it was close. It’s still bitter and hurts deep inside. So what’s the best way to get that out? Beat up on the younger, less experienced one, who simply loves to instigate the matter. That was Philadelphia tonight. It’s nothing personal against Philly. The Wolves were looking for anyone to take their frustration out on tonight. It just happened to be the poor 76ers.

But I don’t care. They needed this blowout win to prove it to themselves that they’re not broken. The season is still very long and there’s time to figure out how to scheme out a win over the bigger brother another day.

To get into the numbers a little bit, the Wolves ended up draining 16 threes, a season-high for them. The 76ers actually nailed eight themselves, which is pretty good. But what was mostly different from tonight than most of the Wolves’ scoring outbursts was the dispersion in the scoring. Typically you see just Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic dominating the scoring column. Well, they did so again tonight (42 points combined) but Corey Brewer added 15. Kevin Martin also netted 18. But the bench really came up big, which isn’t so typical, coming up with 47 points as well, mostly from JJ Barea (13), Dante Cunningham (10) and Alexey Shved (10).

Those last three guys are going to be a big piece of the season’s story moving forward. If Adelman can find some trust in those guys to come off the bench for 15+ minutes per game and NOT screw things up too drastically, this team’s makeup will be greatly different than if they can’t. Cut down the turnovers and at the very least just turn those into field goal attempts, and I think this unit will be more reliable than the previous couple months. Barea is the starter but Shved is going to be key as well because he has the potential to fill a sixth man sort of role. It’s just all about consistency for all three of them, which they’ve struggled with all season long. So really we just have to hope and pray that these kinds of nights happen a little more often.

Twas a great win tonight, and now the Wolves are back to .500 at 17-17 (That’s nothing new). They get one day rest but then gotta come prepared for a fiery Suns team on Wednesday night. Luckily, it’s at home but it won’t be as easy as preseason predictions had it to be.