Author Archives: Andy G

Unshackled Ricky Rubio

But the Knicks, they put the shackles on him, man, you know, on his whole game. They locked him up, like, in a straight jacket or something.

But when he was in the streets of Philly, in the playgrounds, ahh! (laugh)

You know what they called him?

What?

Jesus.

That’s what they called him. Jesus. Cause he was the TRUTH.

It might have been due to Nikola Pekovic’s absence. Without him, the Timberwolves’ typical offense — which is very high-low intensive — does not make as much sense.

It might have been due to a specific matchup the Wolves wanted to exploit, like Jose Calderon’s poor defensive skills.

Or maybe it was because the playoff chances are now gone, and it is time to tinker with new ideas.

Whatever the case, Rick Adelman removed the shackles restraining his point guard, Ricky Rubio, and let him run wild.

Last night, Rubio played one of his finest games ever. He had a triple double with 22 points and 15 assists. He had 4 steals. His energetic, at times ball-dominant, floor leadership showed flashes of prime Steve Nash or Chris Paul. If the Wolves were not running pick and roll, it was because Ricky just took off on his own, reading and reacting the way only he knows how.

The only point in time in which things changed was with a few minutes left in regulation, when the Wolves went to a sticky isolation offense involving Kevins Love and Martin. That also happened to be the worst offense the team played all night. Rubio ended the game having played 49 minutes; 49 minutes in which his team won by 11 points, which is an impressive plus-minus in a game that ended with a 1-point win in overtime.

Dallas wanted that game, too. This wasn’t tanking-season stuff. Rick Carlisle called a pair of timeouts in the opening minutes to chew out his team and make sure they knew that — to borrow Bobby Knight youtube language (nsfw, language) — he wasn’t there to f**k around! But the timeouts did not change things. Because Ricky.

It would be fun to see the last 16 games played this way. It not only seems good for the health of Ricky Rubio’s development, but possibly Gorgui Dieng’s too. The young center had another double double last night; this one in just 25 minutes. Gorgui, and players like him, are more likely to succeed in the style generated by Rubio. Defenses become scrambled, which means more dunks and open shots become available. If Pekovic returns, it’s probably a different story — the Wolves had a very nice thing going (aside from crunchtime) with Love and Pek as the focal point. But if Pek’s ankle needs time to rest and heal, let it heal. Let it heal and let Ricky be Ricky.

If last night was any sort of predictor, we will all gladly watch 16 more games with Unshackled Ricky Rubio running the show.

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Why Gorgui Matters

Dieng

First things first: What this post is not.

This post is not a knee-jerk reaction to Gorgui Dieng’s nice performance last night in his first career start; a points-rebounds double double with 5 blocks mixed in for good measure. Despite the low level of competition — the Kings sans Cousins — Gorgui impressed fans with his calling-card rim protection, as well as some competent-looking finishes around the basket.

Adelman sung Gorgui’s praises after the game. “Dieng did a great job coming in, double-double and as the game went on he got more and more comfortable,” Coach said in his presser. “It was a good win to get.

But this isn’t the Gorgui Kneejerk Post. There are enough reasons to delay that one for a while: His 6.5 fouls per 36 minutes, his 42.4 percent free-throw accuracy, and his horrific plus-minus numbers, are good places to start when chilling one’s enthusiasm about the Wolves rookie center.

This post is about why we should take interest in Gorgui’s development and what he *could* mean to this team going forward.

I see three main reasons why Gorgui matters:

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You GOTTA have an opinion! (on the NBA’s age minimum requirement)

pulp_fiction4340

Vincent Vega thinks you should have an opinion on the NBA age minimum issue.

Adam Silver talked about it.

And then Chad Ford wrote about it. And Amin Elhassan wrote about it. Jay Bilas and Jeff Goodman wrote about it. Kevin Pelton wrote about it. And David Thorpe wrote about it. Tom Haberstroh wrote about it. And then Chad Ford wrote some more about it. So did Jeff Goodman.

And those are just recent espn.com pieces. (eds note: Many or all of those are “Insider” links that require a subscription to read.)

Last year, Steve Kerr helped get this ball rolling toward an increased age minimum for NBA basketball players. In “The Case for the 20-Year-Old Age Limit in the NBA,” written for Grantland, Kerr… well, made the case for the 20-year-old age limit in the NBA. His basic point is that it makes good business sense for the NBA to increase its age minimum from 19 to 20. He listed six basic reasons: Player maturity, financial costs, player development, marketing, “a sense of team,” and mentoring.

Kerr’s piece, and the entire notion of having an age minimum (let alone raising it) has invited mixed reactions. Those ESPN articles and many others contain some combination of the following opinions about this contentious issue:

* 18 and 19 year old kids are not ready for NBA basketball or the lifestyle it involves. They should go to college, get an education, and continue to grow up. Also, get off my lawn.

* Who is Adam Silver to say what 18 and 19 year olds should do with their lives? If they’re good enough to get drafted by an NBA team, they should have that choice and not be forced to get an education that they don’t even want.

* But they’re not actually good enough to play. Not most of them anyway. They get drafted for their potential.

* NBA scouting would improve with an additional year of performance to analyze.

* No it wouldn’t. Look back at the drafts before Kevin Garnett began the early-entry habit. Sam Bowie and Michael Jordan each played three college seasons. Spoiled with that trove of data, the Portland Trail Blazers selected the former over the latter in the worst draft mistake in league history. And that is not an isolated incident. The draft is a crapshoot and it doesn’t really matter if teams have one, two, or zero college seasons to analyze.

* College basketball is a better place for young players to develop their skills.

* NBA basketball is a better place for young players to develop their skills.

* Increasing the age minimum will be good for the college game, as star players will have to play for two seasons instead of one. And a good college game is ultimately good for the pro game. It increases the marketability of young pros, as more “casual” fans will recognize them from their college days.

* Yeah, it will help the college game, but that’s terrible for the NBA. It’s helping out a competitor for TV ratings and fan interest. How is this a good idea?

What I find most interesting about these arguments is that they are always focused on either the interests of the players, or the interests of the league. They are rarely, if ever, focused on the interests of basketball fans. It seems to be this way in any coverage of sports labor issues. In order to write something about it, you necessarily must be an advocate for one of the parties. The discourse — and this is probably more on Twitter than in published articles — also tends to be ideological. The facts of any particular sports-labor issue take a backseat to the need to choose a side between ownership and the players union. There are parallels to the deep divide between America’s two political parties.

Forgive me then, for my selfishness here. When I think about NBA labor issues in 2014, I tend to place my interests as a fan and paying customer ahead of the interests of the owners and players. And in the case of this age minimum issue, I would like to see Adam Silver get his wish. I want a higher age minimum in my NBA that I pay money to watch. For two main reasons.

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It’s Algonquin for ‘The Good Land’ (WOLVES 112, Bucks 101)

I guess it’s 90s Movie Clips Week here at Punch-Drunk Wolves.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about tonight’s win at Target Center over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Wolves were supposed to win by a lot of points on their home court against the worst team in the NBA. They came out all too conscious that inevitability and fell behind early. Despite being owners of one of the league’s worst offenses, the Bucks made their first 12 field goals (!) and led 33-22 toward the end of the first quarter.

Throughout most of the first half, Kevin Love looked uninvolved and not particularly engaged. Ricky Rubio sat out more than usual after picking up his second foul. The Wolves trailed by 6 at the half.

Things got better in the second half, but never quite so good that you felt much of anything about the game. The Bucks are 13-51 after the loss, after all, and like I said, the Wolves were supposed to win and pretty much played like it.

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“The Best Part of My Day” (Raptors 111, WOLVES 104)

(Not safe for work, language)

@PDWolves: See, for me, it’s like that scene in Good Will Hunting. You guys have seen that, right?

@brianjacobson: Yeah.

@bobs219 (nods)

@GymRatInParis (doing something on phone, not paying attention)

@PDWolves: Ben Affleck’s like, “One day I just wanna pull up to your house to pick you up, and you’re not there. You’re just gone.” And for me, one day I wanna just turn on a Wolves game, and Ricky’s shot just LOOKS DIFFERENT. Rather than that weird sequencing and wind up, he just pops up and fires it. With way more arc. I don’t even care if it goes in, I just want it to look different.

You know what I mean?

@bobs219: (seems a little confused) Yeah.

@brianjacobson: (incredulous look on face) That’s a pretty loose ‘Will Hunting’ tie-in.

@PDWolves: But you got it.

@brianjacobson: I’m not sure that even makes sense.

@PDWolves: Whatever, you’re right with me.

@bobs219: Grimmy, do you have any other super popular movies you wanna force comparisons to? Maybe something from Shawshank?

@PDWolves: Well, let’s see.

I know that hope is a good thing; maybe even the best of things. And with tonight’s loss the Wolves’ playoff hopes are shot. And that really sucks.

How’s that?

The Timberwolves lost to the Raptors on Sunday night.

Kevin Love played a great game, scoring 26 points and almost notching a triple double. Nikola Pekovic was solid, chipping in 17 of his own and fighting hard all night for the deepest, choice real estate possible and cashing in on baby hooks near the rim and off the glass. Corey Brewer played like a slightly-crazier-than-usual Corey Brewer with a surprising level of success. He had 17 points and 6 steals and was a best-among-all-starters +10 in 44 minutes of action. Say what you want about Brewer, but it’s damn impressive that a person can play that hard for almost an entire game.

But the Raptors were just better. DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points despite battling some foul trouble. Steve Novak came off the bench to shoot 6 three-pointers and make 5 of them. Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, and Chuck Hayes set bruising screen after bruising screen for Kyle Lowry, who posted a triple double with 20 points and a pair of steals.

When Shabazz Muhammad scored three times in a short fourth-quarter sequence, and Ricky Rubio was gesturing for the crowd to get excited, the Raptors responded with sweet perimeter shooting and extra hustle on the offensive boards to fend off any possibility of a dramatic finish.

The Wolves’ most blameworthy stretch came at the beginning of the second quarter when a 33-33 first-quarter score quickly became a 13-point Raptors lead. Kevin Love, who ended up playing 41 minutes, had to check back in a little bit early to keep the ship from sinking. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who took back some first-half minutes from Muhammad (who did not play until the second half) was extremely ineffective, dropping the ball for turnovers and doing nothing to limit Raptors points. LRMAM somehow ended the game with a plus/minus of -18, despite only playing 4, middle-of-the-game minutes.

But credit goes to the Raptors and former Timberwolves coaches Dwane Casey and Bill Bayno. They have an impressive team that includes skill and grit at point guard, length, athleticism and shooting strokes on the wings, and punishing size up front. They earned this win.

Next up are the Milwaukee Bucks, who come to Target Center on Tuesday night. Milwaukee has the worst record in the NBA and the Wolves will probably win that game.

Until then.

Season Record: 31-31

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The Tense Disconnect Between Adelman and Rubio

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

“I thought he was really active, but… this group has, uh… How do I put it?

(sighs)

When we’re 28 or 25 points up, we don’t need to score quick. I mean, we don’t have to make HERO PLAYS. We threw the ball away in the third quarter and even the last possession with a minute to go, we steal it, and Ricky throws that pass out of bounds trying to get it to Kevin–WHY?

Sooner or later that’s gonna cost you the game! We have to have more discipline in what we do. I don’t care what the score is, and that’s what we have to learn. It’s hurt us in the past and it will hurt us again.”

A leading question about Ricky Rubio’s good performance was posed to Rick Adelman.

It was supposed to elicit praise.

Instead, he got worked up.

Adelman’s team had just beaten the Pistons in convincing fashion. His starters dominated almost every second they touched the floor. Rubio in particular played well, nearly compiling a triple double (11 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) in just under 36 minutes of action. Ricky’s 3 turnovers were offset by the same number of steals.

Rather than focus on the positives (which he explicitly said that he was going to do, a moment earlier in response to a question about his bench’s struggles) Adelman went on this vague, critical rant about “this group” that seemed — in context — a lot more like a thinly veiled, direct shot at Ricky Rubio.

If you have been following this Timberwolves season with any interest, you’ve noticed a simmering tension between Ricky Rubio’s playing style and Rick Adelman’s offensive vision. The tension is manifested in three ways:

First is the offense itself.

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Wolves-Knicks Preview & Why Shabazz is more interesting (to write about) than K-Love

The Opponent

The New York Knickerbockers are in town.

That sounds cooler than it actually is. Despite their rich history and big-market glitz (and luxury-tax qualifying payroll), the Knicks are terrible this year.

New York’s record of 21-40 only tells part of the story. Mike Woodson’s squad went 2-11 in the month of February, when its playoff hopes in the anemic Eastern Conference were on the line. They’re off to an 0-2 start in March. They’ve lost their last 7 games. Three of their last four were blowouts and the other was a double-digit loss at Detroit.

Oh, and Carmelo Anthony — the ray of sunshine reflecting out of this dumpster fire of a roster — is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Oh, and the Knicks first-round draft pick, which promises to be a high one in a loaded draft, will go to Denver as part consideration for the same trade that brought Melo to Manhattan in the first place.

For the best summation of what it means to be a Knicks fan in 2014, see netw3rk’s, The New York Knicks: It’s the Hope That Kills You in the End, written for Grantland on Monday.

Of course nothing is taken for granted here in Minnesota, where the “longest playoffs drought” title belt proudly sits. Carmelo has torched the Timberwolves many times before and unless Adelman wants to dust off Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for some specialized isolation defense (and he very well might) Melo might just go off once again tonight.

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How to feel about a double-digit road win (Wolves 108, KINGS 97)

30" x 22" mixed media on paper painting by Holly Grimsrud

hollygrimsrudart.com

Timberwolves fan expectations are in a funny place. Heading into last night’s game in Sacramento, the team had a win/loss record of 28-29; under .500 and good for tenth place in the Western Conference. They are far removed from playoff contention. Minnesota’s road record was 12-18, which happened to be the exact same number of wins and losses that the Kings had on their home floor. With these facts taken under consideration, one would think that a victory — any victory — would generate some good feelings.

But when the Wolves did win — by 11 points, no less — it just didn’t seem all that impressive.

There are a few possible explanations for this:

One is that the Timberwolves have underachieved compared to expectations. Wins like last night’s over the Kings feel overdue. According to Basketball Reference, the Wolves have an “Expected W-L” of 37-21; a record that would have them in sixth place and in the thick of the playoff picture. Instead, here we are at 29-29 and most likely looking forward to another draft lottery.

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Simmons On Kevin Love Trade Ideas

My best guess: I think Love rides it out in Minnesota, then jumps to the Lakers in 2015. But I wouldn’t rule out the Celtics. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

–Bill Simmons dishes on Kevin Love trade possibilities over at Grantland. (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-nba-bag-volume-1/)

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by | February 26, 2014 · 2:30 PM

10 Questions & Answers About Shabazz (Wolves 110, SUNS 101)

Flea

Question 1: How’d Shabazz do tonight?
Answer 1: Bazz was unreal. Had his best game as a pro. 20 points and 6 boards. TOUGH boards. Crunch-time, sky-up-in-a-crowd boards. For shits and giggles, he also had an assist and 2 steals. By far his best game.

Question 2: Yeah, but did he help the team?
Answer 2: Yep. Wolves won at Phoenix, despite Martin and Pek sitting out. Shabazz’s plus/minus was +8 in 24:20 of action.

Question 3: What are Shabazz’s strengths?
Answer 3: Physicality, positioning, and touch around the basket. That spinning lefty hook.

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Instant Reactions (BLAZERS 108, Wolves 97)

The Wolves lost tonight. The end result isn’t as upsetting to fans as the manner in which it came to be. Since it’s late and tomorrow is Monday morning, I’m doing this rapid-fire style with a few key bullet points:

* The obvious storyline is that Ricky Rubio sat out the entire fourth quarter, despite three major factors suggesting this was a bad idea:

1) He was playing pretty well. He had 11 assists in just 23 minutes of action;

2) A growing body of stats shows that the Wolves play much worse with Barea than with Ricky during fourth quarters; and

3) J.J. Barea, his replacement, lost his cool in a chippy matchup with Blazers reserve guard, Mo Williams. Barea actually won that matchup in the first half, scoring 15 points in the first two periods. But Williams eventually got him fired up (in a bad way — REALLY bad way) and this led to offensive fouls and dumb shots. Long story short: Rick Adelman has fans and analysts perplexed as to why he prefers Barea over Rubio down the stretch of close games. Wolves brilliant color commentator Jim Petersen openly discussed this confusion after the game, and it’s a story that is not going away.

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K-Love’s Good Day, Rookies in Action, Blazers Preview

Kevin Love.

That’s the two-word synopsis of last night’s victory in Salt Lake City. The Wolves power forward continued his even-better-than-usual stretch of dominance against the Jazz. In less than 33 minutes of action, Love put together his first career triple-double stat line. He scored 37 points, rebounded 12 missed shots, and assisted 10 of his teammates baskets. For the third consecutive game, Love attempted at least 10 threes (10). For the third consecutive game, he made at least 5 of them (6). Love connected with Corey Brewer for a few of their patented outlet bombs. He was a game-best +23 and, by far, the biggest reason that the Wolves won easily for the third consecutive game despite the absences of Kevin Martin (thumb) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle).

Rookies

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Love for Three (WOLVES 104, Pacers 91)

The Wolves beat the Pacers last night. They didn’t just beat the Pacers, but they handled them from start to finish. They led by 20 at one point in the first half, and ended up winning by 13 points. It probably rivals the victory at Oracle as the season’s most impressive.

My subjective reaction is one I’ve had after many Timberwolves wins during the Ricky Rubio Era:

The Wolves are a better team when Kevin Love shoots a ton of threes.

Love played incredible last night, scoring 42 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. My favorite part of his performance was how he hunted three-point shot attempts, realizing how strong the Pacers defense is in the interior. He ended up shooting 10 of them, making 5. When he does that, it removes him from the high post where he is effective at initiating offense, but also serves as an obstacle to Ricky Rubio’s playmaking. Against the Pacers, a freed-up Rubio dished 17 assists, setting a personal record that matched the franchise’s best in history.

My subjective feeling is barely supported by the numbers, this season. In wins, Love shoots 6.5 threes per 36 minutes versus the 5.9 per 36 that he shoots when the Wolves lose. But, to my eye, this season hasn’t properly tested this hypothesis because of the heavy reliance on high-post sets. Instead of Ricky Rubio wheeling around picks, looking to set up shooters and dunkers, we’ve seen much more emphasis on feeding Love behind the elbow to allow him to make a play. According to nba.com’s player-tracking data, Love touches the ball 86.9 times per game, which is more than Ricky Rubio’s 84.1 and much more than any non-point guard in the league.

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Wolves-Pacers Preview (& Ricky’s Shooting…)

Back to basketball tonight. The basketball that counts, I mean.

It’s been a while, as the Wolves last played one week ago; a home victory over the depleted Denver Nuggets. Tonight will be a far different test with the Indiana Pacers in town. Frank Vogel’s boys are 41-12; owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference. (Second best in the NBA, behind Oklahoma City.) Indiana’s recipe success is simple: long, athletic, aggressive, smart defenders working together as a cohesive unit. Together, they take away shots in the lane and behind the three-point line. Instead, the Pacers invite mid-range jumpers that are usually contested. Per nba.com/stats, the Pacers allow the most field goal attempts per game from 15-19 feet (just inside the three-point line) and the second-most per game from 10-14 feet. Taken together, it adds up to, BY FAR, the league’s top defense.

So that’s the challenge tonight. Figuring out ways to score. According to espn.com, the Pacers are 3-point favorites. It should be a competitive game. The playoffs are almost definitely out of the picture for this team, but it’s always fun to take on a challenge like this one against a title contender in front of the home crowd.

In other news, the trade deadline is tomorrow. There are multiple reports suggesting that J.J. Barea and Chase Budinger might be headed to Memphis in exchange for Tayshaun Prince and Tony Allen. There are thousands of tweets suggesting that either Kevin Love will be a Laker or that Laker fans are stupid and don’t know what they’re talking about.

It’s just that time of year. Try to enjoy it.

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Lovely Ambivalence

lovelyambivalence

[Editor's Note: The trade deadline is next Thursday, February 20. What follows is a conversation that many Timberwolves fans are having with themselves, in their own minds. Or at least I am, anyway. Enjoy.]

Mr. Pessimist: K-Love is gone. Just like Simmons predicted. Six straight years and no playoffs? Are you kidding me? And that bullshit with Taylor and Kahn refusing to offer the max? Did you read the Woj interview? He’s gone. They have to trade him, and they will. Before next week’s deadline.

Mr. Optimist: Nah, they can’t. They won’t. He’s their best player. Their FRANCHISE player. Kahn’s gone, ain’t ya heard? Flip Saunders is back. He and Love are tight. They have lunch all the time. And that stuff with the new practice facility? And the Mayo Clinic? Did you miss the part where Love said he’s looking forward — FORWARD — to playing in it and attracting free agents here. He’s looking ahead to the future. Here in Minnesota. Whats’ so hard to understand about that? He took out a full page ad in the Star Trib. What else do you need to see?

Mr. P: Well, some wins would be nice. The most they’ve won in Love’s five years here is 31. That’s not even .500 ball. Not even close. And Love barely even played that season. Oh, you musta forgot when he smashed up his hand doing knuckle push-ups. Or the part where nobody (except you?) believed that he actually hurt himself doing knuckle push-ups. Yeah, that happened.

Look, the team is flat lining and this plateau isn’t even close to where All-NBA players in their primes become satisfied. HE HASN’T EVEN PLAYED IN A PLAYOFF GAME YET! Why am I even having this conversation. Trust me, he’s gone. They’re putting on a happy PR face to keep his trade value and reputation intact. It’s smart business, but face the facts: Love is gone. Early next week, at the latest. You’ll read about it this weekend. Trust me.

Mr. O: But what are they gonna do without him?

Mr. P: Uh, keep losing? Whaddayou mean?

Mr. O: I mean, even assuming you’re right — which I don’t — what could they get for him? If everyone knows he’s a free agent in a year and a half, why would a team pay big for him now?

Mr. P: Because he’s an All-NBA forward and the best scorer-rebounder combination in the world. He could EASILY be the “2004 Sheed” that pushes a playoff team over the edge into a bowl of deep playoff runs and a championship.

Off the top of my head, the Bulls would definitely want him, and they’d send back Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and change. That’s 75 cents on the dollar, which ain’t bad. Chicago’s in an uncomfortable spot with all of these Derrick Rose injuries, but imagine if they could re-load with a Rose-Love-Joakim Noah core? That locks up Tom Thibodeau for the next half dozen seasons and they’ll probably win a championship. They’d certainly contend for a bunch of them. And Love wouldn’t leave Chicago.

Or the Thunder, where his college roommate Russell Westbrook plays. The Thunder are rolling now, but they couldn’t turn down a Love for Ibaka and Jeremy Lamb trade. Shit, they’d probably toss in a couple draft picks. Those are just two possibilities. I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea. The Wolves would take a step back, but what’s the difference? They’re not cracking this top eight in the West this year, or any other time soon.

Mr. O: Whatever man, I’m not buying it. We haven’t heard a peep about Love being shopped. He’s averaging 26, 13 & 4. Those are numbers from a different era. You don’t trade that for Serge Ibaka or Taj Gibson. You just don’t.

Mr. P: Believe what you want. Just don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

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Wolves lose at home by a lot of points.

That was a bad game. The final score was Houston 107, Minnesota 89.

It had some nice moments, but more bad ones that lasted much longer than the good. Rick Adelman wasn’t there tonight, due to personal reasons. Terry Porter took his place as chief decision maker on the sidelines.

In the opening minutes, the Wolves couldn’t defend. They started Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger at the wing spots. Corey couldn’t defend James Harden without fouling. Chase couldn’t rotate quickly enough to contest Rockets three-point shots. This theme continued all night as Brewer and Budinger posted defensive ratings for the game of 124.9 and 118.7, respectively.

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No Bruises, No Win

Wolves lost at Oklahoma City, 106-97.

Five points about the game:

* Kevin Love didn’t play. This meant a few things, but most significantly, it meant that the entire Bruise Brothers front line was missing. That’s 43.6 points, 22.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists, gone. The Wolves don’t have a good bench to begin with. A starting front line of Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf — jokingly referred to by me as the Snooze Brothers, before the game — is not going to win against the Thunder. Earlier in the day I was surprised to see the Wolves set as 9.5-point underdogs. Maybe the gamblers knew that Love wouldn’t play.

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Wolves Report Card (WOLVES 109, Lakers 99)

We’re not really creatures of habit here and I try to mix up game wrap formats.

So I’ll borrow one from the excellent Knickerblogger site and do this one Report Card style.

Starters

Ricky Rubio: B+
Ricky had 13 assists and just 2 turnovers. Combine those stats with his 6 boards and +5 plus-minus and he deserves a positive grade even when he scored only 4 points on 1-4 shooting.

Coach Adelman yanked Rubio after an unnecessarily fancy pass in the 3rd Quarter, when the lead was shrinking. After the game, Britt Robson asked Coach if the flashy mistake was the reason for the immediate hook. Adelman replied, “We’ve been talking to him all the time about there’s a time and a place to attack the basket. And I think we were up 15 or 16 points up at that point, got the ball, and it’s one on five. And the chances are that nothing good’s gonna come out of that. Make them guard us for 20 seconds. Know the time. Know the score. And that’s just something he’s got to learn; when to pull it back. I was gonna take him out anyway for a blow, but that sealed it.”

It has become clear that Adelman and Rubio are not always on the same page. Ricky handles his late-game benchings with class, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career. And tonight, I should add, Ricky played down the stretch over Barea. But there are both stylistic and substantive reasons for the times Adelman chooses JJ in crucial situations and the quick hook after the turnover tonight was yet another message, even if a more subtle one.

But all things considered, Ricky played well tonight in his 31 minutes of action. Continue reading

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A Great Comeback & A Bad Coaching Job (Grizzlies 94, WOLVES 90)

A lot of things happened in last night’s game that led to the Grizzlies winning by 4 at Target Center: Memphis played its patented Grit & Grind defense, smothering many Timberwolves possessions and holding them to just 90 points. Zach Randolph, aka Z-Bo, commanded double teams on the low block, and put up an easy 26, 12 and 4. Courtney Lee made shots.

On the Wolves end, Kevin Love played a great game; particularly in the third quarter with Ricky Rubio. Dante Cunningham broke out of his Elbow Jumpers Only shell to crash the offensive boards and and had a big two-hand flush off the dribble, in traffic. The Wolves also struggled for long stretches of this game. Especially in the first half. Chase Budinger shot just 1-5 from the field and missed a pair of wide open threes down the stretch. Alexey Shved was ineffective and played just 6 minutes. Gorgui Dieng was disruptive on defense, but was out of control just about every time the ball was passed to him.

But the big takeaway from the game was Rick Adelman’s decision to play J.J. Barea instead of Ricky Rubio for the entire fourth quarter.

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Five Friday Questions

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1. Is Gorgui Dieng an exaggerated plus on defense, and exaggerated minus on offense?

After learning the nature and extent of the Pekovic injury, I wrote a little bit about Gorgui Dieng. Specifically, I wrote about the question marks surrounding the Timberwolves offense when Gorgui takes the floor, and also the fact that he blocks a lot of shots and crashes the boards.

Well, in 6.4 meaningful minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans, he continued his reputation. With Gorgui on the floor, the defense was really good and the offense was really bad. In a game like tomorrow’s versus Memphis, maybe he will fit right in?

I wonder how Adelman feels about muddying the game up in the paint and trying to win in the low 90s. Gorgui seems like a one-way player in the extreme sense.

2. Now that he’s finally playing well, why is Alexey Shved removed from the rotation?

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