Not my favorite backcourt tandem.
1 – Johnson & Gelabale
Nobody quite knew what to expect from the 10 Day Wonders now that Rick Adelman was back with the team. He hadn’t coached them, as each guy joined the team after Adelman’s departure. Tonight, with Nikola Pekovic also returning to the lineup, there was no time for Chris Johnson. Pek was revealing his new bear tattoo (I haven’t seen it yet, I’m just trusting @steventurous on this one) and earned all of his 37 minutes of action. He put up a 17 & 12 line. Greg Stiemsma played the other 11 center minutes. Eventful ones. He took a flagrant-two cheapshot from Matt Barnes, prompting an ejection. A moment later, he knocked over one Clipper (flagrant-one) and was shoved in the back by Caron Butler. Technical foul. Stiemer was mixing it up and played okay. In any case, no Chris Johnson tonight. In some ways, he was missed. The Clips have a ridiculously athletic front court pairing in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and crucial rebounds were lost; often times the “high in the air” variety.
Mickael Gelabale played a solid 16 minutes of action — solid defensively. He shot a forgettable 0 for 2 from the floor, but was noticeably disruptive on defense. He had 3 steals. I suspect his minutes will stay as long as Budinger is out. The Wolves wing defense is suspect and Gelabale is quite obviously a solid defensive player who frustrates the basic things like a post entry pass. He was a +4 in tonight’s game.
Andy G: Wolves host Clips tonight. CP3 isn’t playing. He has a bruised kneecap. The Clippers have lost 3 of their last 4 games played without their MVP. On our side of things, disaster relief is on the way. Nik Pekovic is back. Alexey Shved is back. And most importantly, Coach Rick Adelman is back. The Wolves should be able to trot out some semblance of a starting NBA lineup tonight, perhaps the only eye sore being Luke Ridnour at the starting off-guard, should Adelman choose to move Shved to 6th Man. Personally, I’d just as soon start GELABALE next to a creator like Ricky, but there’s no chance of that happening so I’ll stop right there. In any case, the way I see it the equation goes something like:
Adelman + Pek + Shved – CP3 = Automatic Wolves Win
Tell me why I’m wrong.
In the midst of a Season Heading South – the umpteenth consecutive in Minnesota, it seems – frustration is too easily projected on what’s known. In mass losing, what’s consistent becomes What’s Wrong. Even if it really isn’t. What little joy or optimism remains after a playoffs-hopes-killing losing streak is disproportionately allocated to the unknowns; the uncertainty. On the Timberwolves right now positive energy derives from Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson, ten-day contract wonders. They helped lead an unexpected win in their mutual Wolves debut and each has provided a shot in the arm at a position of short-term need. Even the most beaten-down can rally behind a feel-good story. If Chris Johnson successfully “makes it” out of the D-League that will be special indeed.
The injury-depleted Wolves limp into Charlotte tonight for a 7:30 PM Eastern tilt against the Bobcats. Fresh off a 114-101 loss to the Wiz last night in The District (see our video diary of the night here) the Wolves will again be running in a 10-man pack, remaining Love-less and waiting for a Pek (*that’s what she Shved* [h/t Anthony Downs]).
The Wolves traveled to D.C. and Punch-Drunk Wolves was on the scene at full strength.
If I had a bucket list, it would probably include “See a Timberwolves game at an arena other than Target Center,” and that number would now have a line through it. It’s almost never fun to watch your favorite team struggle to stay within 20 to the Washington Wi-ZARDS, but tonight was the exception. Pat got some great seats and it was cool to see the Wolves play in a different venue from a different angle.
Randy Wittman: Stil at the Helm
The Timberwolves are in The District tonight for a 7 PM tilt against the Wizards. Andy G is here. We’ll be courtside.
The Wolves have a bunch of problems right now, which came to a head Wednesday against the Nets. For those joining us in progress, let’s recap:
Unsurprisingly, the Wolves have been losing a lot, going just 2-9 since Kevin Love’s injury forced him out of the lineup.
A silver lining for the Wolves heading into tonight’s game in DC…
Here’s the thing. Everybody knows about the injuries and the unofficially-interim coach and the knee rehabilitation process and the 10-day contracts. I could begin every single game wrap by laying out why the performance should be immune from criticism because it’s nobody’s fault but plain old bad luck’s. But then there’s no point to going to the games and there’s certainly no point in writing about them for a hobby. My dad drove up from the Rochester area to watch tonight’s game. The couple next to us came down from St. Cloud. People spent time and money to come watch professional basketball on a sub-zero night in Minneapolis.
So the least the team can do is hold itself to a professional standard. In the fourth quarter tonight — WINNING TIME, as we call it — that did not happen. In case you missed the game, it was a real struggle for Minnesota, but they scratched and clawed their way back into it, largely behind a Rubio and Williams rush of assists and buckets in the second half of the third quarter. When each checked out of the game before the fourth quarter began, it was assumed by viewers that they’d be back soon. Neither had played many minutes in the first half, and both certainly had plenty in the tank for the stretch run.
Dante Cunningham hit a pair of jumpers and the Wolves trailed by just 2 points with slightly over 10 minutes to play.
And then J.J. went crazy.
And not in a good way.
Kyle Korver being defended by a 6’6″ player.
With just under 4 minutes to go in the first half of today’s game at Atlanta, the Wolves held a 54-36 lead. In the remaining 27 minutes and 46 seconds of action, the Hawks outscored the Wolves 68 to 42. In barely more than one half of basketball, the Wolves were outscored by 26 points. How does that happen?
Luke Ridnour: Out of Position, Out of Role
The Hawks made a halftime adjustment by starting Kyle Korver in the third quarter. The Wolves went with their starting lineup that included Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour. Seems reasonable enough, why start adjusting to the Hawks when everything they had done to that point was working just fine? Problem was, the the Wolves put tiny Ridnour on tall Korver. Ricky Rubio, meanwhile, stayed on the little point guard, Jeff Teague. Korver licked his chops, remembering the damage he inflicted in the late moments of the last Wolves-Hawks game. That damage was done when Ridnour was trying to check him.
After Josh Smith and Al Horford each scored and cut the Wolves lead to 10, Korver took over. In a span of 4 possessions and less than 2 minutes, Korver hit a pair of treys and a curling jumper, cutting the once-18-point lead down to just 4. From that point on, the game was close and the Wolves large advantage was gone.
I have a dream, that Wolves fans will be seeing lots more plays like this…
MLK Day Wolves games are the best. Sam Mitchell won’t be walking through that door, so it won’t be quite like the good ol’ days, but the Wolves are on a one-game winning streak, and that’s better than an any-game losing streak.
[Last night's game is the rare Wolves tilt that shows up in my League Pass Broadband archives. I wanted to look back at Derrick Williams' three turnovers, because I remember each one was of the head-scratching and maddening variety, and they represent recurring issues with the inconsistent young forward. Below are my notes on how he screwed up 3 times in last night's 1st Half, causing his minutes to be limited to just 29 on a night that every other viable option was out with an injury or illness.]