As my preview post made clear, I thought the Wolves should beat the Cavs without too much difficulty. That is, unless they came out lethargic or complacent against a heavy underdog. Cleveland is a developing team that was playing without its go-to guy. So the Wolves’ 18-point victory in last night’s game is less cause for celebration than relief. Along with Kevin Love’s return to form (36 points and 13 rebounds, importantly regained free-throw stroke) Andrei Kirilenko’s return to the lineup prevented a letdown. AK47 never stands still. Even if he’s stationary in a set, it’s like he can’t keep himself from bouncing on his toes. Never long strides. Short, choppy steps, and quick, short jumps. Rarely flashy. Always efficient. He continues to cut at an elite level, and it seems that his teammates are following suit. Kirilenko sometimes defers on easy passes, knowing that a backcut is only a moment away. He had just 4 baskets last night, but on 5 shots. He had 6 assists, some for backdoor layups. His defensive energy manifested itself with 4 steals and 3 blocks that set the tone that lasted for most of the game. In 31 minutes, he was a team-best +23. It’s natural to wonder what the Wolves’ all-important “ceiling” is. (Other fan bases are doing the same about their own teams.) I don’t know whether it’s an 8-Seed, or a Larry O’Brien Trophy. But I suspect the answer depends strongly on keeping Andrei Kirilenko healthy and allowing his habits to influence his ‘mates.
Tag Archives: Andrei Kirilenko
The Wolves (6-8) take on the Milwaukee Bucks (7-6) tonight at 7:00 PM CST at Target Center.
Milwaukee started 6-2, and leads the Central Division. But the Bucks are fading, having lost four of its last five game. Having gone 1-6 in their last 7, the Wolves are a half game out of the cellar.
(In case you didn’t know, the West is way better than the East.)
Injuries are again the key story.
Twitter was going wild on the Timberwolves Injury Report front in the hours leading up to tonight’s game at Staples Center. First, the good news:
Ricky Rubio has been cleared to participate in practice for TWolves—
Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) November 28, 2012
Life is good!—
Ricky Rubio (@rickyrubio9) November 28, 2012
Such. Great. News. I can’t wait to see Minnesota’s most-entertaining athlete back on the floor at Target Center. Should only be another week or two.
Now, the bad (for tonight’s game anyway):
AK is not in uniform tonite, still in sport coat and hooked to stim machine, won't play to tonite because of back spasms—
Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) November 29, 2012
That hurts. Through 13 games, AK47 is the team’s MVP. Without him, taking on a title contender, on the road, on 0 days rest, is not a winning proposition. But as Chris Berman might say if he were segueing into a game in which an unexpected result occurred, “That’s why they play the games.”
To the action…
The Wolves have a new player. And it just feels right. It’s like we were destined to get him as part of a Ndudi Ebi exorcism after Brandon Roy’s five-game trial failed to redeem Roy-Foye. On Josh Howard’s future with the Wolves, go check out Oceanary’s post at Canis Hoopus.
In other news…
In the interest of getting some much-needed, early-in-the-week sleep, I’m doing this wrap in two parts–first and second half splits. So the first half is being written at halftime.
1st Half Notes
The first half–and especially the first quarter–was dominated by the Wolves two best healthy players: Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic. [Eds note: In hindsight, I should not have phrased that sentence that way. More on that in the 2nd Half.] Pek showed off a move that he’s clearly been working on with Coach Billy Bayno, the standard jump hook. He buried three of these with his right hand in the opening quarter and finished the half with an impressive 13 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. It’s hard to understate the importance of this new skill, because as defenders become forced to defend it honestly it will open up his go-to favorite, the drop step. We’ve seen Pek taking a hard right-hand dribble into the paint when defenders cheat to his right (baseline side/left block) shoulder and try jump hooks. He makes them sometimes. What we saw in the first half tonight was on the right block–more of a standard post hook. Pek improves at things. That’s mostly a credit to him but also to Rick Adelman’s coaching staff.
Illustration by Howard Shum. Go check it out.
Paul George is good at professional basketball. Really good.
We’ve raved before about George’s underrated defensive prowess, but it’s worth reiterating: George can defend the hell out of the ball. George has those extremely long arms, that effortless footwork, and excellent positioning that, on a good day, might remind you of Scottie Pippen.
The Wolves will have to contend with George tonight, when the Wolves take on the Pacers at Target Center at 7 PM. But they won’t just have to plan for George’s disruptive defense…
In Part 1 of our Wolves preview, Andy G delved into several issues that will have key implications for the team’s success this season. I come back with my takes on these topics, as well as a few other things he didn’t look at closely.
Find out what below the fold.