Pekovic and Martin Carry Timberwolves over Mavs, 112-106

On the first night of yet another back-to-back, the Timberwolves rolled into Dallas on Saturday night to play the Mavericks. The Timberwolves came in carrying a five-game road losing streak and would need to find someday, any day, to build some confidence on the road if they planned on being a playoff team. In fact, the Timberwolves were just 2-6 on the road and have yet to win a game away from Target Center since the Lakers game.

Things didn’t start out so well for the Timberwolves, as they began the game in a shooting slump that put them down 7-2 early in the first quarter. Yet, six straight Nikola Pekovic points and a Kevin Martin three later, they were right back in the game. The Mavericks had a tough time contending with Nikola Pekovic all night, who finished with 21 points on 10-13 shooting and nine rebounds. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Pekovic’s nine boards was the fact that five of them were offensive rebounds. Dallas really had no answer for him last night.

The other big story of the game was Kevin Martin, who eventually saw his 37 straight made free throw streak end in the final minute of the game. When Martin finally began to heat up in the second quarter, he began to hit the Mavericks from everywhere, which is what I suppose happens when you tab Monta Ellis to be your Martin-stopper. Martin managed to get out in transition for quick dunks and pull-up threes, as well as working off of screens per usual. The Timberwolves even exploited the Martin-Ellis matchup on the block with a post-up! Yet, the brunt of Martin’s damage was done at the line– shooting 10-11 as a part of a Timberwolves team that shot 19 more free throws than their opponent.

Last night, the Timberwolves were able to keep this game out of the Mavericks’ reach, dangling it tortuously just passed arm’s length. The Mavericks fared well in categories like points in the paint, points off of turnovers and turnovers. However, their inability to keep Minnesota off of the glass, the line and inability to force them to miss threes would ensure they were never really coming back in this thing.

Now, the Timberwolves come into Oklahoma City to play a Thunder team that has hit their stride with Russell Westbrook back in the fold. At least they come in with a little bit of momentum, which they’ll need since this won’t be a blowout of Biblical proportions like the last time these two teams met.


– Nikola Pekovic’s shooting over the first seven games was a common talking point at the very early stages of the season. In the team’s first seven games he shot just 31-77 from the floor or 40 percent. Yet, since November 11th against the Clippers, Pekovic has been on a bit of a tear. Since then, Pekovic has made 80 of 131 shots in 10 games, or an impressive 61 percent. Pekovic’s shooting in the last few weeks is why it was so odd that he was struggling as much as he was, but now he seems to be doing very well for himself.

– Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made his Timberwolves debut tonight. In 26 minutes Mbah a Motue posted four points and seven rebounds, but it was cool to see how he got those points. His first basket he realized he was matched up against Vince Carter on the perimeter and took him off of the dribble and was able to eventually get into the paint for the layup. Now, do you want Mbah a Moute regularly try to create like that? Probably not, but Carter is a much better defender in post-up situations, so there was an advantage there. His second was a transition basket that he was fouled on and earned an and-one opportunity. Don’t look for Mbah a Moute to stretch the floor, but look for him to play intelligently within himself and taking his spots where he can.

– The Timberwolves improved to 9-0 on the season when leading after three quarters. The Mavericks broadcast threw out a stat that the Mavs have never won a game all season when they’ve trailed by more than six, which seems off, but noteworthy if true.

– Kevin Martin has made a ridiculous 39 of his last 40 free throw attempts.

What Happened in Vegas: Game One Recap

Covering my first Timberwolves game in-person went about as much as expected in that it looked like the exhibition it was intended to be. At times, they looked great, but at others the offenses stagnated and the turnovers piled up. Either way, it was a pretty great experience despite the Timberwolves letting this one slip away to the D-League select.

Within the first few minutes of the first quarter it looked like the Timberwolves had things going as they opened up a double-digit lead. A big part of the Timberwolves’ early success was due in part to rookie Shabazz Muhammad who started off 2 for 3 from the field while converting from outside and just off of the block.

Minnesota entered the second quarter up 22-11 but their fortunes were quickly about to turn. The players that helped the Wolves build their lead in the first place — Muhammad, Kee Kee Clark and Chris Johnson — lost their rhythm, as the D-League Select’s Kyle Weaver and Other Chris Johnson gave their starter’s a lift. After only being able to score nine points in the second quarter, the Timberwolves found themselves trailing 32-31 at the half.

As the Timberwolves began the second half, they were going to need someone new to step up and ideally get some stops as well. They got one of those two as Robbie Hummel and Lorenzo Brown formed a nice two-man game, finding Hummel open for a nice three. Hummel finished the third quarter shooting 4-5 from the field after just 1-3 in the first half while adding 5 rebounds and 3 steals.

Nothing seemed certain as the teams entered the final frame with the Timberwolves down 59-55. Though Hummel had proven to be a valuable contributor and Chris Johnson nearly had a double-double at this point, the Timberwolves found themselves having a hard time not turning the ball over. No matter who your opponent is, if you front them 10 extra turnovers it’s going to be very tough to win, especially in close games. Attempting 8 free throws to your opponent’s 25 doesn’t help either.

(Derek’s Three ways to lose a close game: 1) Take bad shots; 2) Make turnovers like Arby’s; 3) Miss or don’t take many free throws. The Timberwolves did at least two of these. they could earn a pass for #1 since this is summer league and they were playing the D-League Select team.)

Halfway through the fourth quarter the Timberwolves had retaken the lead but at no point did it feel secure or like they were about to break this wide open. Which was a good instinct because they didn’t and the D-League Select walked away with the victory.


Shabazz Muhammad looked like a rookie in that he struggled with knowing when to take the jumper and when to attack. Muhammad went 3-7  from the field but the fact that he didn’t get to the line once is a bit of an issue, but that can be improved upon. However, he provided some solid post defense against other wing players, so that might be something.

And no, I don’t know what position he is yet since it’s way too early to tell. I suppose we’ll figure that out between now and the end of preseason. Hopefully.

Gorgui Dieng, the team’s other first round pick was a bit of a mixed bag, but played well as a whole considering his reputation for being raw. He showed some decent instincts defensively but will of course need to improve. Offensively, he needs some development but was able to provide them with a big body in the paint that acted as an incidental screen. Three turnovers and three fouls in his first D-League game isn’t the worst thing, though I wouldn’t expect too much from him this coming season (at this point).

– While Dieng develops it seems that the Timberwolves could have someone in Chris Johnson to bide them some time. With added size and a nice midrange game, Johnson was able to stretch the defense and drew taller defenders from the paint. A nice double-double on the night (11 points, 10 rebounds) but he committed 5 fouls in just 22 minutes, which he’ll have to improve upon if he wants to make any difference this season.

Robbie Hummel. Robbie freaking Hummel. Of course I say that with the most positive connotation. Hummel looked like a player who could one day have a role as a player on the back of a team’s rotation that can hit some shots and provide them with some energy. His two fouls and single turnover standout as much as  his 12 points on 5-9 shooting and 6 rebounds.