Minnesota sports fans remember Robbie Hummel from his days as a Purdue Boilermaker who frequently dominated the Gophers. Now on the Timberwolves, he appears to have cracked Rick Adelman’s regular playing rotation.
In forecasting this Timberwolves season, pundits came to a broad consensus about strengths and weaknesses. With the acquisitions made at Flip Saunders’ direction the Wolves would be a team that plays fast, scores a lot of points, but would struggle to defend their own basket. If you asked me before the season to describe what a “typical loss” would look like for this team, my answer would’ve resembled last night’s game at Denver.
The Wolves lost 117-113 to a mediocre Nuggets team that no longer has Andre Iguodala playing or George Karl coaching, and is currently without Danilo Gallinari, who is recovering from knee surgery. But they still have Ty Lawson, who is still incredibly fast with the ball in his hands. They still have Kenneth Faried, whose trampoline-bounce rebounds are much more different in style than substance from our own Kevin Love’s. And they still have Professor Andre Miller, whose skillset seems immune to the normal aging process.
Denver scored 35 in the first quarter, 30 in the third and 31 in the fourth. Had we not seen the absolute best version of the ever-unpredictable J.J. Barea, this game would have been a rout. Barea scored 21 points off the bench on 10-14 shooting and dished out 4 assists for good measure. It’s his second good game in a row, and immediately follows my harshest criticisms of him since he’s been here. (I vented with some player-tracking data in Britt Robson’s comments section the other day about how sick I am of watching J.J. dribble the air out of the ball.) While J.J.’s huge game off the bench helped offset some others’ struggles (Ricky Rubio didn’t score) it did nothing to stop Denver from scoring.
A very late Wolves rally cut the deficit to 2 points after a Kevin Love three. Wilson Chandler was sent to the line where he made the first and missed the crucial second; a miss that gave the Wolves a chance to tie. Only it didn’t, because Andre Miller [illegally] creeped into the lane from behind Chandler to secure the offensive rebound and the win. A little kick to the ribs when we were already down about losing a winnable game. Denver isn’t very good right now and the Wolves had enough things going on offense last night to leave the Pepsi Center 7-3 instead of 6-4. It’s the type of loss that can’t sit well with Coach Adelman who certainly appreciates how difficult it will be to lock up a Western Conference playoff seat.
Hi folks. I’m slammed at work today and don’t have time to write an in-depth preview of tonight’s game at Denver, which will be televised on ESPN. Mea culpa.
Good previews can be found here and here. And a whimsical preview of sort–with lots of good music–is up on Canis Hoopus.
So something fun, easy, and different.
We’re coming up on December–the beginning of firing season for NBA coaches. The fact that capable replacements–George Karl, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins, and even Phil Jackson–are currently twiddling their thumbs at home doesn’t help the current crop of underperformers.
Several coaches might have job security issues this firing season. Randy Wittman is the obvious candidate to lose his job first. But there are dark horses out there, such as Cleveland’s Mike Brown (and his stanky leg offense), Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd (Prok isn’t afraid to do, well, anything), and New Orleans’ Monty Williams (losing a lot of games, not getting much out of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans).
So which coach do you think loses his job first? Weigh in below.
About twenty minutes ago, Matt Barnes and Serge Ibaka were both ejected from a basketball game. Ibaka fouled Blake Griffin under the basket and the two star big men got their arms twisted up. Whether it was aggressive basketball or showy machismo, the interlocking continued. Serge pushed Blake and Barnes quickly dove in and shoved Ibaka back. Serge then balled a fist, a crowd swarmed between them, and — one Ken Mauer video review later — two key players were headed to the showers before the half. The period ended with Russell Westbrook sticking a pull-up trey in Chris Paul’s eye, turning and signaling double holsters to drive the point home:
It was on now.
That game is still being played, now entering the fourth quarter as I write. No matter who wins (Clips lead by 5 at the moment) tomorrow’s game wraps are certain to include a few sports-cliche buzzwords. It was a “playoff atmosphere” out there on the Staples Center floor. The game was “a preview of what’s to come” in the playoffs, next spring. There “will be no love lost” the next time Ibaka and Griffin match up in the post.
I begin with this because it is the polar opposite of what went down at Target Center tonight.
Note to Rick Adelman: Don’t let Alexey Shved near this man tonight. (Wait, Alexey couldn’t get near him if he tried. Nevermind.)
The Wolves are at home for tonight’s tilt against the Cavaliers. The tip is at 7 P.M. CST. You can watch it on FSN (most of you) or League Pass (me).
The Wolves will try to undo some of the damage witnessed in their horrific first-three quarters performance on November 4, which presaged a Wolves run in the fourth quarter that fell a Kevin Love buzzerbeater away from a huge comeback win. (Eds. Note: Andy G and Patrick J attended the November 4 game in Cleveland. A photo diary of the festivities can be seen here.)
Rubio-Irving is the marquee matchup. Ricky is a flashy point guard who’s leading the league in steals and is one of the best defensive point guards in the business. As Wolves watchers know too well, Ricky has his problems shooting the ball, and with scoring more generally. Irving is Rubio’s mirror opposite in many ways, excepting the flashiness part: Kyrie is arguably the best pure-shooting point guard in the League not named Stephen Curry, but he struggles mightily on defense.
Ironically, Mike Brown executed perhaps the best in-game strategy of any opposing coach this year to exploit Ricky’s shooting ineptitude, daring Rubio to take open shots and doubling down hard on Wolves post players, who struggled to get any interior offense going against the Cavs’ collapsed, outsized defensive trio of Anderson Verejao, Tristan Thompson (!), and Andrew Bynum, the last of whom has been moved into the starting lineup in place of Verejao.
The Wolves might consider executing a similar strategy by trying to bait Dion Waiters into taking long jumpers whilst shading Kevin Martin to help against Cleveland’s bigs.
Moral victories feel a little bit better when the team actually has a winning record. The Timberwolves are now 5-3 and last night’s close loss at Staples Center can be filed away as a moral victory for a team with hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
On the tail end of a road back-to-back and facing one of the league’s most talented teams, the Wolves were inches away from forcing overtime. Down by two, out of a timeout, Kevin Martin’s bank shot missed. Then Nikola Pekovic’s bunny from about 5 feet missed. And then Kevin Love’s point-blank tip in missed. The buzzer sounded, the game was over and the Wolves wild comeback effort (they trailed by 11 with under 5 minutes to play) fell just short against long odds and a tough opponent.
But the point stands: This wasn’t a game for the Wolves to hang their heads over. Despite a rocky first-half defensive effort (36 points allowed in the 2nd Quarter, many off of breakdowns leading to open Clipper dunks) the team offense was solid throughout the entire game (with the exception of a stretch or two of JJ-led bench play) and really tightened up the D in the second half. While the Clippers did a nice job of limiting the Love-Brewer outlet bombs, they had no answer for a new wrinkle to Adelman’s offensive attack: the high-low pass from Love to Nikola Pekovic.
In the words of legendary Canis Hoopus commenter MAYNHOLUP, “u alreddy kno” this is classic material: It pretty much captures everything one needs to know about “Good/Bad J.J.,” without needing a single word of explanation to accomplish it.
I spilled a lot of virtual ink yesterday about the Wolves season to date. They went on to pummel the Lakers, defeating LAL by the most points in franchise history and for the first time in years. Three pointers by the Kevins, Outlet bombs to Brewer, pesky backcourt defense, and a Ricky Rubio triple double all factored into the win. Oh, and Nick Young’s shot selection.
Another big one tonight at the same arena, against a much better Clippers team.
Update (11:05 A.M. CST):It’s a cliche , but we’d be remiss not to honor Ricky’s triple-double (highlights here) by giving it the proper Ice Cube treatment (see 1:18) - Patrick J
The Timberwolves have won four of their first six games and sit tied with the Blazers for second place in the Northwest Division. They’ve blown out the division-leading Thunder and have been manhandled on their home court by the Warriors. With the season now 7.317073 percent complete, it seems a good time to step away from the game wraps and look at some early trends, causes for hope, and causes for concern.
Tonight the 4-2 Timberwolves will be taking on the 3-4 Lakers in LaLa at the Staples Center. The game is at 9:30 P.M Eastern, 8:30 P.M. Central. I’ll be watching on League Pass.
Kobe Bryant won’t be walking onto that court. (Eds. Note: He might be limping onto the bench. The operative message is, he won’t be playing tonight against the Timberwolves.) But Nick Young will. Like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young is a shooting guard. Like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young gets up shots.
That is the one-sentence summary of last night’s game at Target Center. I wasn’t necessarily expecting a Timberwolves win, but if you told me that Andrew Bogut would foul out in 16 minutes, and that Steph Curry would tweak his ankle and score just 5 points, I would’ve liked their chances. But the Warriors — for one night, anyway — proved that they’re much more than the Steph Curry Show. Despite the lackluster performances turned in by Bogut and Curry, the Dubs rolled to a 106-93 victory at Target Center that was mostly not in doubt through the fourth quarter.