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Ricky Rubio Interview From Spain

Ricky Rubio recently sat down to talk basketball in his native tongue, you can watch the interview in it’s entirety below.

Someone [username: Heimdal] in the Rube Chat forums at KFAN translated/transcribed the interview. You can see the original translations by clicking this link.

I’ve elected to highlight and comment on a select number of questions.

Q: You were a clear candidate to reach the playoffs. Wasn’t that a disappointment since there haven’t been that many injuries? Where do you think was the key for the failure: the close losses? the lack of a good defense?

A: The close losses were very costly. The Sest has been insanely hard. Still, no excuses. 40 wins were not enough. I would put the blame on the inability to play well on close games.

There shouldn’t be many that disagree, Ricky. The Wolves record in games decided by four points or less is the obvious black-eye on the 2013-2014 season. Although the reporter states Minnesota was a clear candidate to reach the playoffs, I believe Rubio bites his tongue a bit, as you wind find a quote from him believing that the postseason was the goal for Timberwolves this season.

Q: You are still almost untouchable in Minnesota. Your shirt is the best-seller, over even Kevin Love, but I’ve seen how the national media, when trying to explain why you didn’t win those games, or the team couldn’t reach the playoffs, they would give three or four reasons. Your shooting woes were one of them. How has that affected you? Given, during second half of the season, your field goal percentage was 42 percent. Was that an answer for your critics or have you felt better as the season progressed? How have you adjusted things in your game?

A: No, it wasn’t an answer. I don’t have to answer to them. I like to play and I needed to confirm to myself — it was not about my shot selection — I needed to lead the team. That made me feel more comfortable, so my percentages and shot selection improved. I have to take that end to the season and take it forward to the next.

Rubio shot 38 percent from the field last season. By a small margin, his shooting percentage has improved each year Rubio has been in the league. Entering the season, Rubio’s ability to finish on attempts taken in areas around the rim was a concern. During the 2012-2013 season, he converted 78 of 180 attempts taken within five-feet of the basket [43%]. This year, after playing a full 82 games, Rubio made 143 of 297 attempts in the same area. The larger sample shows improvement in multiple areas; a good sign for Wolves fans.

2013-2014

2013-2014

2012-2013

2012-2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

[This question was asked later in the interview]

Q: This long jumper of yours, after beating the first defender, when you stop and execute a long jumper, which you practiced at the end of last season and with the national team. Have you practiced it that much? Have you not had the chance because of the team’s system?

A: I think it’s related to the team’s system. We didn’t have that option. It’s true you always have that shot, but when the ball doesn’t get it you don’t want to take it too often. I talked to Flip Saunders at the end of the season and he told me that I had taken 10 shots from 4-5 meters (14ft) in the entire season and that the number had to go up next season. It’s something I’m going to work on.

Disclaimer: Looking at this by the numbers is getting too deep into the answer. Rubio shot 19 percent [6 of 31] from that midrange area, but, took less attempts from the 10-14ft range than he did the season before. While he struggles from this region, Rubio understands that, which may be why he attempted less shots from that area than he did during the 2012-2013 season. Rubio is a distributor, and he’s right, Wolves fans should want him to distribute before looking to score from the midrange area.

Q: Have you felt your coach Rick Adelman? Being his last season, and with his personal problems, do you feel he was disconnected or “discouraged”?

A: Yes, maybe. Maybe the team lacked the proper motivation, not only from the coach, but the motivation of wanting to win from all of us. This includes the staff, coaches and assistants, and whoever else has command over that. When you know it’s your last season and you’re not 100 percent players can feel it. Still, even at 80 percent, Rick Adelman knows so much.

This answer is curious for multiple reasons. Rubio insinuates Rick Adelman wasn’t very inspirational tactics, but also, mentioned that the ‘want to win’ needs to come from everyone from the staff down to the players. Rubio’s answer here cements a notion I made back in March over at Hickory-High, where, in a column titled Lacking an Alpha, I proposed the idea that the Wolves weren’t winning close games because of leadership/performance on the court in clutch situations. Hopefully a new coach and a similar roster, next season, will be hungrier to venture somewhere the team hasn’t been for a long time — the postseason.

Q: Another problem, the bench. I think the Wolves bench was the worst in the league when compared to the starters. They offered the biggest drop off between starters and bench. Sometimes it’s because the lack of talent and sometimes it’s related to the “mixes”. Are you disappointed with the bench or some of your teammates? For instance, Gorgui Deng was great at the end, but, didn’t play much to start the season.

A: Yes, I think it was more about the team all around, not only the bench. It looked like a problem of adaptation among them and with the starters. We can’t focus on them alone but the entire roster. We’ve seen with the rotations, at the end of the season, when given minutes Gorgui Dieng responded. Maybe he could have had more chances at the beginning, but you never know. But it wasn’t just one thing. It’s rotations, mixing, getting to adapt to each other.

Let me just stop and admire this reporters ability to ask the hard questions. Admired, ok, let’s move on. Rubio’s saying all the right things by putting the lack of success on the entire team, rather than scapegoating anybody. The question regarding Dieng’s playing time, or lack there of, posed to Rubio was something many knowledgeable fans asked during the season. However, Dieng’s inability to play on the court without getting into foul trouble early in the season was ultimately what lost him more opportunities.

Q: It’s reached here, maybe because of the discouraging results, that Kevin Love would certainly leave the team for another franchise and a big market. That the situation ‘allegedly’ separates him [Love from the team a little bit. On his own, he's not being a leader inside the locker room. Was it like that with him?

A: No, Kevin Love is a special player, I mean his stats are amazing, but maybe the leader has to be someone else. He leads the team with his production, but he may not want to be the vocal leader. There are different kinds of leaders, so maybe we lacked a bit of that, a commanding leader, a commanding voice inside the locker room. Maybe he shouldn't be it, maybe Kevin Martin should have been the one, someone with more experience, or maybe I can take a step forward and be the leader once and for all. These things happen in teams so young, we missed that. If you take stats, it's clear Kevin Love is the one who must get the ball at the end. 

Again with the leadership questions, Rubio states that maybe the leader of the Wolves may not be Kevin Love despite the statistical prowess. He goes onto say that perhaps more of a commanding presence in the locker room [ex: Kevin Martin]. The encouraging quote is here is Rubio saying that maybe he can take a step forward and be the leader once and for all, but it’s great that he understands that Love must the one with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

Q: What’s your relationship with Flip Saunders? We know it was very good with David Kahn, the man who drafted you. It has to be crucial for you to stay in Minnesota.

A: Very good, he’s giving his all and he’s got the ambition of coming back to this franchise and taking it far again. Talking to him I’ve seen he trusts me a lot so I hope I can perform like he expects of me.

All is well, but what about Flip’s relationship with Love? No? Ok, moving on.

Q: Flip has work to do. Of course he has to find a new coach. He has the chance to extend your contract and decide what to do with Kevin Love, which is not easy. At this point their relationship seems to be in good shape, he wants Kevin to stay and extend his contract, but step by step, what coach would you like to have, of what kind?

A: The new coach must continue with the project. I mean, with his own wrinkles, he must be similar to Adelman in his style: offensive minded, liking the open court, because this team is made for that, it’s working and this team is progressing. Young players like me or Chase Budinger, players who are young and keep progressing, I think next year we can be much better if we have a coach similar to Adelman.

Agreeing with Ricky, the new Wolves coach shouldn’t try to implement a completely new scheme. Someone who will inspire, motivate, and challenge the roster would be an ideal fit. It’s fair to assume Rubio doesn’t seem to like the idea of someone else coming aboard and changing too many things.

Howlin’ T-Wolf took a closer look at who the Wolves next head coach might be. Click the link.

Q: So, you think this team doesn’t need to play better defense, so instead of finding a coach who offers that first and foremost, let’s bring a coach who gets the best of this team and adjusts certain aspects. With this profile I see two names who have been heard lately: George Karl and college coach Billy Donovan from Florida, the prestigious college coach known by his offense, who develops the “screen and continuation,” offence. I don’t know whether you have references or not from any of the two.

A: Well, yes, Corey Brewer talked a lot about George Karl this season, he loves him (laughs). He was COY 2 seasons ago and Denver played beautifully up and down. About the college coach, it’s true they are thinking about 3 or 4 college coaches, the one from Michigan and some others, but we’ll see. The problem with this is the coach who comes will have his doubts about accepting the job, because the star doesn’t know whether he is staying or leaving.They don’t want to gamble on taking the job and having to start from scratch. 

Won’t touch on too much of this one. Rubio referring to Love as the ‘star who doesn’t know whether he’s leaving or not’ is troublesome, for me.

Q: I wanted to ask you about Shabazz Muhammad, who is a strange player. His career, those cases when he was in college.. he’s known as a big time scorer, but the season was weird. At first, he got no chances, then he gets a few minutes, he seems to take the opportunity and does help, then he disappears again… how is he, as a basketball player and as a person.

A: As a basketball player he’s a little inconsistent. He’s a scorer but he’s a little raw (green), he lacks understanding of the game. He’s got many good things: a leftie with a very good hook shot, he posts very well and takes advantage of his size and strength and as an offensive rebounder I think he’s the best I’ve ever seen. He lacks a bit of knowledge of the systems, but I think that is normal in a college player who comes to the NBA, who needs to learn and adapt to the systems to understand basketball. On a personal level, he’s a young player with ambition, hard-worker. If he controls himself he’s going to make a name for himself in this league. 

Pretty accurate description of Shabazz Muhammad, I’ll call it a statement full of respectful feedback.

Q: What about Barea? He’s suffered a huge drop off in performance, a drop off that affected the team. Maybe regarding stats, there are stats where he’s probably regressed, but it’s obvious it’s the worse JJ of the last 3 or 4 years, right?

A: Well, yes, he arrived from Dallas, playing with huge confidence and these last years he came out of the bench and he was the spark (revolutionist). This year we missed that, the scorer from the bench was supposed to be Barea and because of the rotations, or for some other reason I don’t know why, he couldn’t provide that extra scoring when we needed it.

Even overseas there were those who noticed ‘Bad Barea.’

Q: I see, in my humble opinion, that Pekovic and Kevin Love, who I find both to be excellent players… are not very compatible. I see the team lacks intimidation. On defense, when they play together, defensive scoring efficiency isn’t very good. I don’t know, both players score a lot, but they lack some height. Do the media talk about this? What about the franchise?

 A: No, it wasn’t commented too much, but it’s true we lack some intimidation because we don’t have a blocker, something we got with Gorgui Deng. But on defense, for instance with Pek in the post… for instance, I remember after playing the Sacramento Kings I talked to DeMarcus Cousins and he was a little scared of how strong Pekovic was, how difficult it was to play in the low post against him, so maybe he didn’t offer the intimidation a blocker does, but he’s got the resistance. It’s true the defensive level…specially because we didn’t play… we played a game oriented on attacking and our game wasn’t centered on defense that much, but we lack something on defense and maybe with Gorgui Dieng we can add him to this couple and it can be very positive.

The reporter seems careful to ask this question by stating it is merely his opinion, going on to claim that Love and Nikola Pekovic aren’t very compatible on the defensive end. Rubio must not pay much attention to the media, because there were many that gripped to the fact the Wolves weren’t very good at defending the rim during the season. This issue was overblown, somewhat, but is also a concern — however — Dieng’s emergence as a shot-blocker is certainly going to help the rim protection next season.

Rubio on the postseason thus far:

I’ve enjoyed the first round, no surprises. Five series needed seven games but the best was the one that ended before; Portland-Houston. It didn’t get to seven games and it was great it didn’t after what Damian Lillard did.I expected more from Houston, with great players such as [Dwight] Howard, [James] Harden and Chandler Parsons. Players I expected to go further in the competition.

No big surprises, well, maybe Indiana and their drop off in performance — specially Roy Hibbert. But it’s not only him, it’s the whole team. You watch one of their games at the beginning of the season and one now and it’s like night and day. They are the ones who can give Miami trouble. I hope a team can stand tall against them [Heat] in the East, but I see Miami reaching the finals easily.

In the West, things are more complicated. The [Los Angeles] Clippers are playing well, but I’m still a fan of how the Spurs play, how they blend. One game against them, Kevin Love and I talked about it. We were losing bad. We were sitting on the bench with the game out of reach and we commented how well their bench was playing. They play a different basketball and it’s really beautiful.

-zb

 

 

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Ricky Rubio goes from setting defensive traps on the court to setting thirst traps on Instagram

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 9.17.39 PMOn Sunday night, Ricky Rubio posted a photo to his Instagram that got the female faction of Timberwolves Twitter all flustered. It was a shirtless photo of himself in front of a mirror with a caption that simply read “summer.” Everything about this photo was hilarious and the reactions ranged from “This isn’t your adorable Ricky anymore” to “Oh my…” For me, it was hilarious, and Rubio proved that he was just like the rest of us out there in the struggle.

First off, the shirtless mirror pic is a bit of a faux pas for any guy. Yet, I’d say 80 percent of us have probably done it at one point or the other, with the main idea being attention. There is literally no other reason to take an indoor shirtless mirror pic other than this. You can try to hide your motives behind the guise of a caption like “summer” but obviously it has nothing to do with summer. I mean, you’re inside and it’s May 5th, so this has nothing to do with summer! When you do post them, you certainly have to be ready take any amount of shit you get for being ‘that guy.’ Personally, I wouldn’t have even tried to hide my motives and own it, but to each their own.

I can see where Ricky is coming from. If I were a single millionaire in my 20s (I am two of those three things) I would do the same thing. And posting a pic showing off my hard work in the gym is a hell of a lot easier than trying to slide into the DM’s of attractive followers; why do the work when they can come to you, right? In some ways, it’s also encouraging to see that professional athletes have to go through the same things the rest of us have to go through.

My stance on this is the same with Shabazz Muhammad when he was caught with a girl in his room at the symposium: he’s just another 20 year old, big deal. Hell, I’d probably do the same thing and so would a lot of people, so I’m not trying to beat him up over this. When it comes right down to it, we’re all just human beings. But, before I go, let’s re-visit some rules for shirtless selfies:

1) Make sure you haven’t posted one in recently. You don’t want to come off as an obvious or desperate attention whore. Rubio got this one right since I can’t recall him doing this before.

2) You’re obviously trying to make a statement here, so don’t be coy. Get an “A” or get an “F.” Rubio got an “F” here for trying to cover up his intentions here with his caption. Make sure the lighting is good, and whatever you do, don’t pullback with a flimsy cover-up as the caption. You’re showing off, so show off! You threw modesty out the window when you took your shirt off in front of the mirror.

3) You don’t need to pull your pants as far down as Rubio did in his shot. If you have that elusive v-cut, you don’t need to go past your waist; people should be able to tell.

4) Be ready to accept the good with the bad. Your goal may be to get the attention of the one you’ve been crushing on for awhile, but more likely than not, you’re going to bring out the creep in the one person whose attention you weren’t seeking. Your actions will have consequences both good and bad.

The White Flag Still Waves; Wolves fall to Nets, 99-114

Who wants to play "Caption this!"?

Who wants to play “Caption this”?

If the snow is melting all around you and the sun is shining on your skin for the first time during 2014; the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t going to make the playoffs. It’s an awkward point of the season and there are many questions regarding Kevin Love and Rick Adelman’s future with the Wolves, but there’s a micro and macro approach to how fans can go about perceiving each performance throughout the remainder of the season.

There are still games to be played, and valuable information can be collected from each instance.

The Wolves and the Brooklyn Nets are both quite polarizing teams. The Nets, constructed of proven veterans playing under the instruction of rookie head coach, Jason Kidd, are flourishing late in the season. Brooklyn was 28-12 since the beginning of 2014, entering Sunday. Conversely, the Wolves are a congregation of young, mediocre, but appropriate components meant to appease Rick Adelman’s expiring, yet not quite outdated, offensive vision. For comparison’s sake; the Wolves record since the start of the new year entering Sunday’s game against the Nets was 21-19.

Kidd, who inexplicably received the head coaching job without previous experience, spoke highly of former T-Wolf Andrei Kirilenko during morning shootaround, as he should have. AK47 is a versatile defender with an unselfish, offensive mindset that make the Nets better — Brooklyn is 26-11 in games that Kirilenko plays. As for the other former Wolf, Kevin Garnett did not play on Sunday and will likely miss the remainder of the season due to back spasm.

Adelman, on the other hand, is nursing a roster with many players in different stages of recovery. Nikola Pekovic returned to the starting lineup in Brooklyn, after playing 21 minutes in the Wolves blowout win over the Lakers last Friday. Chase Budinger’s legs, or lack there of, have been in question since his return and it’s unsure whether or not he’ll return to a fraction of his former self. Let’s also not forget that Ricky Rubio is on pace to appear in all 81 games this season, and he’s not yet two years removed from having reconstructive surgery that repaired two, torn ligaments in his left knee.

While the starting lineup of Love, Rubio, Corey Brewer, Pekovic and Kevin Martin began the game, how Adelman was going to integrate Gorgui Dieng into the rotation was an illuminated question entering Sunday’s game. Because of his recent outbursts — both scoring and on the boards — Dieng’s presence among the Wolves’ core has grown immensely, depending on the perspective. Some believe it would be best to trade Pekovic, because a small sample size states that Dieng has the potential to be a prominent NBA center, which (in my opinion) is lunacy. Pekovic played eight-and-a-half minutes in the opening quarter and scored four points, in addition to collecting three rebounds, while Dieng played only three-and-a-half minutes and tallied three points and two rebounds during that time.

Joe Johnson led the way for the Nets in the opening quarter by converting on all four of his three-point attempts, and the Wolves trailed by three at the end of the first frame. Johnson, aside fellow starters Deron Williams, Shawn Livingston, Mason Plumlee and Paul Pierce, also added two assists. For the Wolves, Martin seeked to insert himself early, scoring nine on four-of-seven shooting from the field, and Rubio did as Rubio does en route to six first quarter assists. Still, the Wolves trailed the Nets after one.

Love was three-of-five shooting from the field and scored seven points during the first quarter, and that was about the entirety of his evening in terms of his offensive production. According the Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Love sat on a dolly outside the Wolves’ locker room before the game and was chatting with Jeff Schwartz, his agent who is based in New York City. Love’s future with the Wolves obviously remains uncertain. His recent depressing*…speech?……after a road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies clarified the obvious; Love is gassed after carrying a vast majority of the load this season. He failed to score in either the second or third quarter on Sunday night.

Brewer and Martin, both acquired during the offseason, were the two Wolves players that kept the game close throughout the first three quarters, but without the usual punch from Love the Nets went for the jugular when the fourth quarter began. Brewer, a puzzling conundrum on the offensive end if he’s not receiving outlet passes that lead to easy buckets, was surprisingly efficient (6 of 9 FG w/ 15 points in 18:38 minutes) during the second and third quarters. The notorious gambler also found himself with four steals, but continued to drive me batty with the unnecessary risks on the defensive end. Martin was the Wolves leading scorer entering the fourth, he had 19 points on 8 of 13 shooting despite only four trips to the free-throw line. Usually, Martin obnoxiously tries to create contact so that he can try to rack up points from the charity stripe. Reminder: Kevin Martin is not Kevin Durant.

The Wolves trailed the Nets, 82-85, entering the fourth quarter.

It’s unquantifiable, but the Nets wanted a victory on Sunday night more than the Wolves. The difference between a team bidding for seeding in the upcoming postseason and a group all but mathematically eliminated from postseason contention is immeasurable, but between these two teams, the definable gap is 12 points. No statistic can signify that Brooklyn played more engaged, and with greater effort, during the final quarter. Two minutes went by and what was a three-point deficit grew to six, then 10, until it reached 14 with four minutes to play.

Adelman determined the Nets lead was insurmountable with just over two-minutes to play in the game. Insert Robbie Hummel, Alexey Shved, and Shabazz Muhammad, these three played aside Dieng and Brewer as the Wolves waived the proverbial white flag — Adelman had seen enough. The Wolves would not play the foul-game, and the 10 point deficit at the two-minute mark was all the Nets needed to secure the victory.

Final: 113-99, Brooklyn defeats Minnesota.

The current makeup of the Wolves roster, well, it is what it is. Questions will continue to surface; will Love leave? Is Adelman on his way out the door? But, on the floor, it’s important to focus on the team’s overall demeanor. Body language, motive, and signs of development from the younger players are small, intricate details to keep an eye out for in order to properly assess this team’s future [with the information we know to be certain.

That being said the performance outside of the starting lineup is an issue, and Adelman’s rotations aren’t helping. Sunday, those outside the starting lineup accounted for 23 of 99 points. Can the Wolves find a way, or will Adelman determine a rotation, to conduct bench scoring, or is their fate frozen until Love and Adelman’s futures are decided? There’s multiple approaches that may help assess and evaluate the Timberwolves, just remember to differentiate between the speculation, and the hard data reflected by the players that are still playing basketball — however meaningless it may be.

Flip Saunders talks with Colin Cowherd

Flip Saunders

Flip Saunders appeared on ESPN radio and spoke with Colin Cowherd about his transition from coach to a front-office position, other teams’ interest in Kevin Love, and how well he slept in his days as an analyst.

Click this link to be taken to the interview. 

Cowherd starts things off cordially by asking Saunders about the difference between being a coach, and working in the front office of an NBA franchise.

You sit up in the stands and you really have no control of what your players do on the floor. It’s then the coaches decision; who to play, what plays to run, and how to guard people, defensively. That becomes the most frustrating thing when switching to the front office.”

“When you’re a coach, you live in the present, you live for today. When you’re in the front office; you live for today but you also have to have an eye on the future.

Not long after than Cowherd got to the good stuff.  He went on to ask Saunders whether he feels “more empowered, or powerless, with a star player.” Needless to mention that Cowherd asked specifically about the Kevin Love situation, you know — that thing.

“Well, I laugh. One, having had, conversations with Kevin –maybe– every week. Having a pretty good relationship with him, you understand where he’s at. There are many things that have been said about the, “Glamour Situations,” but, whereas Kevin said (referring to his recent quote in GQ Magazine); it might not be so glamourous.

“You know good players are going to be wanted. That really comes with the business, so, when you have a player that’s wanted by people; people are going to talk about them because that’s what goes on.”

Cowherd continues talking about Love by asking Saunders; “why hasn’t he (Love) produced more wins with his unbelievable production?”

Kevin has been with a lot of very young players, he’s still only 24-years old. That’s what people don’t understand. He’s still a very young, and talented player. The other thing is, it’s very difficult for a player like Kevin, and the way he plays.

He’s a big player, even though he does shoot the three. Many times players don’t have the ability to carry teams down the stretch. He relies a lot of players, either getting him the ball for a three-point shot or getting him the ball into the post.

So, other players many times, in the fourth-quarter have to help him makes plays. We’re a young team, we’re gettin’ guys that are learning to do that. That’s going to be part of the transition for (Ricky) Rubio.

The final sentence sounded as if it were an admission of confidence. Only speculating, but it sounded as if Saunders believes Rubio is the point guard of the Wolves future. At no point did it seem like Cowherd was insinuating anything Rubio’s way and it was the first mention of his name in the interview.

Two days ago, Minnesota Republican State Representative, Pat Garofalo, tweeted out a controversial opinion. Cowherd asked Saunders about how he deals with those who negatively perceive the NBA without such warrant.

You have to educate the people. When people are educated on what our players do, and how active they are in their community. (Even) Individually, on their own — I know a lot of players go out to hostels and get involved with St. Jude (A Childrens Hospital), that’s a big thing for us this month.

You just have to educate the people and understand that they have to realize that, many times, perception is not reality. We’ve got players that do a lot of positive things in the community.

Cowherd ended the interview by asking if Saunders slept better; as a coach, or as a president, of an NBA team?

As an ESPN Analyst. That’s when we sleep the best. When I can talk to you in the morning and we can talk basketball.

That would be the life, wouldn’t it? Again, you’re able to listen to the interview via ESPN, just click this link.

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.

Wake me up when November ends: Pacers-Timberwolves Preview

Somethings really aren’t fair in life, like this month’s schedule for the Timberwolves. In each of the last two weeks, they have played two stretches of five games in seven nights, which is tough. Overall, they’ve played four back-to-backs as a part of a 17 game month. Sure, it all evens out in the end since everyone in the league plays the same teams, but when you’re in the midst of it, it is pretty unpleasant. And tonight, two nights after losing to Rockets on a second night of a back-to-back, will play no one other than the 10-1 Indiana Pacers.

Oh, joy. I can’t decide if this is less fair than having to play the Clippers twice on the second night of a back-to-back this.

As we knew last year, the Pacers were really freakin’ good, but they’re even better this year thanks to the further improvement of Paul George. He’s averaging 24.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists on .463/.366/.843 shooting, which is nutty. If having an MVP candidate in your favor isn’t enough, they still have Lance Stephenson, David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill. That doesn’t even touch upon the fact that their bench is really good. If the Timberwolves wanted a barometer of where they are now, they have a good one on the slate tonight.

The Pacers play with a style that is a complete opposite of the Timberwolves’. While Minnesota plays at the second-fastest pace in the NBA, Indiana prefers to slow it down as the league’s 26th-slowest. Not only do they like to control the pace, but they are the NBA’s best defensive team, which is a dangerous combo. To make things even more daunting, they are averagely efficient on offense despite what their ranking of 20th in points per game might have you believe since they operate at such a grinding pace.

The Timberwolves do have an opening for success, and that will be on the glass. Minnesota has been one of the league’s best teams and the Pacers have been average at worse. Therefore, the Timberwolves’ ability to crash the boards could enable them to control the tempo of the game and force Indiana to play their style and not allow them to get their defense set.

After tonight, the schedule eases up as November comes to an end and a victory over Indiana would be a huge morale booster going into December.

Where: Whatever-they-called-it-after-Conseco-Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, IN

When: 6pm

See/Hear it: FSN/WCCO AM 830

Timberwolves-Nuggets Preview: I’m going the other way, thanks.

This isn’t exactly the same Denver Nuggets team that took the season series from the Timberwolves 3-1 last season. Head coach George Karl is gone in favor of Bryan Shaw. Forward Andre Iguodala hit a game-winner last night…for the Warriors. Even Masai Uriji has moved on to become the general manager of the Toronto Raptors. And now we’re hearing about forward Kenneth Faried on the trading block.

Despite this amount of turnover, the Nuggets still sit at 3-4, with three wins in their last four games. But how do you lose that many key pieces and still remain moderately competitive? Well, their schedule has something to do with it. They have two ‘meh’ wins against the Lakers and Jazz who are a combined 5-14, but one against the Hawks that is legitimate.

It’s not as if the Nuggets do anything particularly well, but they don’t do anything terribly either. They’re 23rd in eFG%, which is bottom-third in the league, but not horrendous. Additionally, they’re not good or bad on the boards…just adequate. Are they good defensively? Kinda, but they’re nothing special. In short, this Nuggets team is just “here.”

That said, they do have some players. Center Timofey Mozgov has been remarkably efficient, and Ty Lawson is off to a decent start to the season. There may be no JaVale McGee, but Anthony Randolph will be available for all our entertainment needs. No Danilo Gallinari either, but there is a chance JJ Hickson could do this again. Wait, scratch that last one; why would I want that to happen?

As for the Timberwolves…we get to watch Kevin Love be brilliant every night with Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio by his side. While the Timberwolves have gotten better, the number say they are still steadily improving with figures now in the upper-half to third of the league. Their rebounding has come along a good ways since the start of the season and they are still 18th in the league in eFG percentage with Nikola Pekovic beginning to get in rhythm. You don’t have to take my word for it, see for yourself:

Timberwolves four factors

Thank you for the data, Basketball-Reference.com. I love you so much I’m naming my first child after you.

 

 

 

 

Not that these figures guarantee anything, but it’s just an encouraging trend to note. Tonight’s game is the first of a home-and-away back-to-back with tonight’s game in Denver and returning tomorrow night to play the Boston Celtics.

Where: Pepsi Center; Denver, CO

When: 7pm

See/Hear It: FSN; WCCO AM 830