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INBOX: Timberwolves at 76ers (The Closer/Active Shooter Edition)

 

Evan Turner

Evan Turner

The Wolves play at Philly tonight. I’m sure everyone involved is happy to be outside of Minnesota where the temps are so cold that the Governor canceled school (and apparently Minneapolis has already done the same for tomorrow). The game is at 6:00 CST and can be seen on FSN and heard on 830 WCCO.

Let’s preview this one in INBOX format.

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Playing to the Competition (WOLVES 93, Pistons 85)

15,598 people attended tonight’s matchup between the Timberwolves and Pistons, and most of them brought the same level of enthusiasm as the Wolves’ players. That is to say the arena had the feel of a tennis match as Tayshawn Prince destroyed Wes Johnson (and anyone else who tried to stop him) and Wolf jumpers continuously clanked off the rim, the backboard, or both.

The saving grace tonight for the good guys was just how inept Detroit has become. Despite a hot shooting night from Prince (13-23, 3-5 3PT, 29 points) and a (relatively) efficient night from Ben Gordon (7-15, 18 points) Detroit made enough mistakes and missed enough free throws to lose to Minnesota on a REALLY cold night. The Wolves shot just 30-75 from the floor (40.0 percent) and that number must have been even lower at halftime, when they trailed 42-36. I overheard somebody in the concession line remark that “it’s okay; you only need to play one quarter to beat the Pistons.” That was proven correct in this game. The Wolves ratcheted up the defensive pressure in the 4th Quarter (WINNING TIME) and buried Detroit with a 29-14 quarter point.

This really wasn’t the most interesting of contests, even for the die-hard NBA fan. With that in mind, and with a weekend double-header on the way (Clippers on Friday (CP3 may not play–hamstring), Jazz on Saturday) I’ll bring this one home with a few brief notes and let readers add anything they see fit in the comments:

* Detroit lost this game at the free-throw line. They shot 10-21 (47.6 percent) and a respectable 15 or 16 makes would have SERIOUSLY pressured the Wolves comeback effort.

* Ricky missed everything tonight–EXCEPT the coolest layup I’ve seen all year. He drove left, whirled the ball around his back and finished as the defenders’ heads were spinning. He shot 1 for 8, yet impacted the game with filthy dime after dime down the stretch. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the winding kick-out to Wellington on the wing for a trey stuck out as an uber-important basket. This bucket extended the lead to 7 (88-81) with 4:22 to go and was the moment that the game felt in hand.

* Oh, and Ricky was getting his hands on every loose ball and rebound opportunity, too. This type of game is what optimists expected as his upside. (9 points on 8 shots; 7 rebounds; 8 assists; 6 steals). His impact was second to Love’s in securing this win.

* Love had 20 and 17. Ho. Hum.

* Derrick Williams, I continue to believe, needs to aggressively drive from that 15-feet, square-up position. When he does it without hesitation, he looks like Amar’e Stoudemire. Too many times, he looks more like Wes Johnson, shuffling his feet and wondering how best to not do something productive. Come on D-THRILL! He’s good, just give him time.

* No matter what you might think, or what you’ve been led to believe, the team is not benefitting from Michael Beasley’s absence. They’ve managed to beat some bad teams (Wizards, Hornets sans Gordon, Kings, Pistons) and have lost to the Raptors, Bulls, and Hawks. If Beasley’s shooting regresses to the mean of his career, he’s a player this team could use. That isn’t to say he’s perfect, great, or even “good.” Just that he possesses a skill set that no other Wolf comes close to. That may change over time with Derrick Williams, but he isn’t anywhere near as polished as Mike is at collecting baskets against real defense. Combine Rubio’s passing with Love’s foul-drawing and then add in Mike’s shot creating–that has the feel of a legitimately-good team. Not just one that eeks out scrappy wins against dog shit competition.

Season Record: 6-8

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Pistons Preview

Photo by Getty Images

The Wolves should win easily tonight against the Pistons, but Monday’s ugly win over SAC illustrates that you can’t take anything for granted.

What I’m most interested in about tonight’s game is Adelman’s rotations. What adjustments should he make?

Here’s what I think we’ll see:

Wes Johnson: For the first time this season, Adelman was praised Monday for giving Wes extended minutes against SAC, mostly because he did an effective job against Kings hired scorer John Salmons. With Webster still out and the Wolves facing Tayshaun Prince, another long three, look for Wes to get over 30 minutes no matter how bad he shoots.

Darko: The Wolves will need Good Darko to come out tonight, at least on the defensive end of the floor, because Pistons big man Greg Monroe is their best player and is emerging rapidly as a BIG headache for opposing defenses. Monroe’s finesse game and footwork would get Pekovic into foul trouble in a hurry, so look for Darko to play a lot of minutes tonight–closer to 30-35 minutes than 21-22, which he tends to get against smaller teams.

J.J. Barea: J.J. is due back from injury tonight, and it’s a good game to have him return for: Pistons SG Ben Gordon is ridiculously strong and won’t be the easier cover for Ridnour. With Rubio presumably committed to guarding Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, J.J.’s strength could be a huge factor in keeping Gordon from getting the looks he wants.

What else? K-Love should own Jerebko. Love has been logging a lot of long minutes, so if the Wolves get ahead, maybe Adelman can get Anthony Randolph or Derrick Williams some time tonight.

Enjoy the tilt.

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