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INBOX: In Which We Make Silly Predictions

Eds. Note: After a couple tough home losses this week, we decided to change things up a bit. The game is, each of us singled out a few players who’ll be rockin’ it in tonight’s tilt. We then assigned the guys we selected to the other guy, who then offered some Kahnjecture about how those players will fare tonight. Whoever’s closest to the mark (however defined) wins. It’s sort of like no-stakes gambling, unless, of course, you consider things like trash talk in future posts or pride as currency. We consider trash talk in future posts and pride as currency. Let the games begin.

Patrick J: Your first assignment is MASTER P ANTHONY DAVIS. What kind of NUMB#RS should we expect from Davis’s eyebrow tonight? Can the Wolves’ stop it, and if so, how? Does Adelman have Pek go mano e brow-oh with Davis, or are Wolves fans in for the kick-in-the-crotch consolation prize: a reminder of how much worse Derrick Williams is than another one of his contemporaries (i.e., a recent high lotto pick)?

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Intel Report: Timberwolves vs Heat

Former Wolves guard Mike Miller and those other guys host the Wolves tonight in Miami

Former Wolves guard Mike Miller and those other guys host the Wolves tonight in Miami

The Wolves take their talents to Miami tonight to play the incumbent Finals champions, after losing a winnable game against the Magic Monday night in Orlando. Well, maybe not all their talents: Ricky Rubio is not expected to play in tonight’s game, as part of a program that will have him avoiding back-to-backs until he’s cleared by team medical staff. Rubio, who struggled last night, will never say never, however, suggesting there’s a chance that he will play tonight if his knee isn’t too sore.

The Wolves could certainly use Rubio, even with Ricky coming off a subpar performance against the Magic where the rust clearly showed. Rubio ended the night with 0 points, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers in 16 minutes of action last night after having a nice Ricky-like 8/9/4/3 line in Saturday’s win over Dallas.

Against the Heat, the Wolves need Rubio far more than they did against Dallas or Orlando, and not just because the Heat are (by far) the best of the three teams. Why? Continue reading

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Wolves Season Preview, Part 2 of 2

Can Andrei Kirilenko really be the key to this year’s team? Who knows! The season hasn’t started yet!

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.

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INBOX: What You Need to Know as the Wolves Enter the Preseason

Can Shved man the point in Rubio’s stead?

Andy G: The team has returned from Mankato with optimism abound.  Is it something in the air?  Or was it Mrs. Taylor’s home cooking?  Why is everybody so jacked up about this Wolves team after only a handful of practices?

Patrick J: We should be optimistic because Rick Adelman is optimistic. Not one to mince words, Adelman was adamant during last season’s training camp about how sloppy the team looked. His words foreshadowed the truth, and the team had a lot of trouble with turnovers and ballhandling in general. This season, we keep hearing things from Team Adelman about how this group “knows how to play.” And not just the vets–praise keeps getting heaped on newcomers like Alexey Shved, who’s in the running to get major minutes at the point, and Derrick Williams, who was anything but an Adelman favorite last year. I don’t think Adelman’s doing charity for these guys’ egos–I think what he sees is what we were all hoping he’d see: a vastly, vastly improved team.

Onto specifics: There are a few key things to watch for in the preseason. #1: Is Alexey Shved a point guard? Should he get the bulk of the minutes there over Barea? (I suppose this question is actually two questions, since it assumes BAREA is a pg, which I’m not so sure about.)

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Some notes on a Wolves win

1st Quarter Notes:

  • Pekovic going right at Greg Monroe in the early going, racks up a handful of quick baskets.  On the other end, Detroit color guy says Monroe will be able to take Pekovic off the dribble.  Not so; Pek cuts him off the only time he tries.  Pek finishes the quarter with 11 points.
  • Tayshawn Prince, who would seemingly be tired of playing for loser Piston teams after playing for SIX consecutive teams that made it to the conference finals or beyond.  He’s schooling Wes right now.
  • Randolph with 5 energy points and 5 rebounds in the 1st.  Missed some wild shots, though — needs to calm down when he’s holding the ball. Continue reading

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A Serbian Nightmare (Wolves 108, NETS 105)

The Godfather

6:48, Andy G: So, Darko and Wes start again.  Both playing like crap again.  Wolves fall behind early. What gives?
7:08, Patrick J: One quarter in the books. Wolves up 23-19. ANOTHER bad start. Coincidence? This is hard to watch. Quick, does anyone have a good Kris Humphries joke?
7:15, Andy G: Barea and Beasley give a huge spark off the bench, just like last game.  I hope each gets more tick tonight than they did versus Indiana.
7:20, Patrick J: (Eds. note: Derrick Williams with a huge tomahawk with 5:58 in the 2nd). How much more athletic is the Derrick Williams we have than the Derrick Williams we thought we were getting when we drafted him? God this guy can cram.
7:28, Andy G: This Rubio-Ridnour backcourt is looking pretty horrific, tonight.  Now Webster joins them and body slams D-Will for a turnover.  The bench is way-outplaying the starting lineup so far.
7:32, Andy G: If K-Hump & Shelden become a PROBLEM, I’m going to be pissed.  It’s looking like a real possibility in first half.
7:36, Andy G: Rubio finishing half well, assists a Webster trey, finds Tolliver for dunk attempt/fouled.
7:38, Patrick J: The Wolves consistently get DESTROYED by shooters like ANTHONY MORROW. 20 pts in the first half and it looked like a breeze. Wayne Ellington is already salivating about the NUMB#RS he’ll have against the Wolves with his next team. 50-49 Nets at the half.
7:43, Andy G: I’m going to (slightly) disagree.  Morrow hit at least two 3′s with a hand RIGHT in his face (once Luke, once Martell).  But 20 points is a ton.  The dish from D-Will (between legs, backwards) was also pretty much set up by an elite point guard.
7:47, Patrick J: As long as you’re not disagreeing with my point about Wayne…
7:49, Patrick J: (Eds. note: Still halftime) I’m going to burn a Kurt Rambis doll in effigy if Adelman doesn’t give the Barea/Beasley/Pekovic group more time in the second half. They  gave a HUGE spark off the bench in the first half.
7:53, Andy G: By the way, what’s up with Kevlar?  6 points on 1-6 shooting, and a (-8)?  He should be able to beat up on this Jersey Shore front line.

7:57, Patrick J: Pekovic starts the 2nd half. My Rambis doll is safe for now.

8:01, Andy G: In a short sequence, Rubio picked Deron’s pocket and assisted Wes TWICE (no small feat).  What a baller.
8:02, Patrick J: Nets announcer: “They might lead the NBA in beards” (referring to the Wolves). Shows side-by-side mug shot pics of Love and Brad Miller while Pekovic is busy scoring inside. Doesn’t seem amused. 59-58 Nets with 7:15 in the 3rd.
8:06, Patrick J: Rubio with the sickest handling trick I’ve seen this season. You’ll want to watch SportsCenter, like, now.
8:09, Patrick J: Okay, Pekovic is outclassing Love. (Insert “Apocalypse” cliche here.) Pek has 17/8 and Love 10/5 with 3:26 left in the 3rd.
8:14, Andy G: Nets with an UNSPEAKABLY-BAD second unit leading comeback charge.  Where the fuck is Michael Beasley?  (See first half line of 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in 12 minutes of action.)  Has been sitting almost entire 3rd Quarter, now…
8:24, Patrick J: The Godfather has 21/10. Wolves up 84-83 with 10:02 in 4th. (Eds. note: Beasley’s FINALLY back on the floor after a painfully long absence. Thanks Rick!)
8:27, Patrick J: Nine minutes to go. Morrow’s 31 beat Pek’s 21. NOT a moral victory.
8:33, Andy G: After a couple of mistakes that followed a RIDICULOUSLY-long stretch on the pine, Beasley is quickly yanked.  I GUARANTEE that this has something to do with an unknown, off-game court event.  Mike outplayed all of his teammates, save Pek, in the first half, and gets this treatment?  I hope it’s nothing too serious with the coaching staff and higher ups.
9:32, Patrick J: Wes flails awkwardly on a contested miss from just inside the foul line. Having to write about Wes like this every day makes think I’m having a really long, nerdy, nightmare. ‘Cause in real life Wes would be over with Anthony Randolph, right? Right?
8:38, Patrick J: Tied at 89 with 5:39 to go. About to enter #winningtime.
8:41, Andy G: Rubio & Love exchanging clutch baskets with Morrow (!!!)… close game.  Should be exciting finish.  (Seriously, Morrow has 35 points and might hit 40 soon… was he one of those Rambis Targets that killed us last year or the year before?)
8:42, Patrick J: Nets announcer: “Anthony Morrow can do no wrong.” Nightmare hypothesis confirmed. 95-95 with 2:38 in 4th.
8:45, Patrick J: Morrow’s in a “Shitty Player, Wolves Killer” category that includes C.J. WATSON, REGGIE WILLIAMS, RYAN ANDERSON (okay, Anderson’s actually really good).
8:46, Patrick J: Nets announcer: “ANTHONY MORROW IS UNCONSCIOUS!” (I’m starting to worry I’ll never wake up.) Back to the announcer: this guy clearly came up listening to Kevin Harlan.
8:57, Andy G: A barrage of Rubio-Love-Pekovic led action has the Wolves winning this game.
8:57, Andy G: Okay, ANTHONY MORROW just hit a 3… AND GOT FOULED!!!!!!  41 Points!!!!! WTF?!?! Wolves lead by 1 with 23 seconds left.  A victory was in hand, now very much in doubt.
9:00, Patrick J: My League Pass Broadband cut out for a minute. When it came back to life, Morrow was finishing a 4-point play. Yeah.
9:02, Patrick J: Barea makes two throw with 18.2 left. Wolves 106, Nets 103.
9:05, Andy G: Game over, Rubio seals the win with a steal and Seve-like wedge shot just passed mid court with some backspin.  A few parting thoughts:
* The Beasley benching was a little weird.  Then again, once Rubio-Love-Pek got it going, perhaps Adelman thought Beasley wasn’t needed.  But why then play Luke at the 2, who isn’t so good on defense?  Strange stuff.
* If a guy like Anthony Morrow is going off, should the Wolves abandon defensive principles and stick to him (the way, say, Ray Allen is guarded) or assume the HOT HAND THEORY doesn’t exist and defend as usual?  Good question.  I don’t know the answer.
* Rubio and Love played extremely hard, and extremely in sync in the 4th Quarter of this game.  Big Pek dominated quarters 1 through 3, but Rubio-Love took this home.  That late possession when Morrow put them up 3 (with another 3) and Rubio quickly answered it with a driving basket… that was a sign that Ricky was not letting this one go easy.
* A road win is a good win.
PARTING SHOTS, REDUX (Patrick J)
* Weird, weird win.  Love was off most of the night; Pek and Morrow were the stories. This permutation of events is unlikely ever to occur again. Those who tuned in witnessed history.
* That said, it was largely difficult to watch. The Pek sideshow is funny but I don’t like that fans are beginning to think he’s a solution at the 5. Dude’s a backup.
* Can we get some more Mike Beasley? Or some Derrick Williams? I won’t say anything else because it’s already in every other post we put up.
* Darko sat, and so did Wayne. If I’m going to criticize Adelman’s playing time allocations, he also gets credit where credit’s due.
Season Record: 11-12

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Pistons Preview

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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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