The Wolves had plenty of them. Coach Rick Adelman remained away from the team, for the second consecutive game, for undisclosed personal reasons. Without more (or any, really) information, I won’t comment other than to say I hope everything is okay with the Adelman Family and he comes back soon. Along with Adelman’s absence was the continued loss of Chase Budinger and Kevin Love. Love indeed does need to have surgery and the expected recovery time is 8 to 10 weeks. That means roughly 30 games. That means the Wolves need to figure out an alternative path to the playoffs that they have explicitly labeled as the team’s 2013 destination. J.J. Barea also sat out tonight with back spasms. You might recall that he dominated the 4th Quarter of the Wolves recent win over OKC. Along with absent players and coaches was the simple fact that the Wolves traveled last night and were playing on 0 nights rest. Their opponent, who also happened to be the best team in the conference, had not played since Monday; a night they lost to the lowly Wizards. Oklahoma City was certain to come out looking for blood in tonight’s game.
All of this is to say the Wolves were not favored to win. The excuses were built in.
Wes Johnson Jerseys: Worthless? Or just worth less than they used to be?
Okay, folks, the Wolves are winners again. Hallelujah, rejoice. They beat the Phoenix Suns 111-107 last night at home.
They did it without Golden Boy Ricky Rubio, about whom I’d written a slurptastic game preview, in which I suggested Rubio and Love were/are/will be the keys to the Wolves winning anything significant. Kirilenko, Shved, and Pek are nice bit pieces – nicer than we’ve had since 2004-05 – but they’re dispensible in different ways. Rubio and Love aren’t, unless we’d flip one of them for someone even better. Pau Gasol probably doesn’t qualify, for those of you still fantasizing about a Love-Gasol trade. If you’re reading, that includes you, Kevin Love.)
A few thoughts from last night’s game:
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:
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):
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…
Andy G and I are exhibiting withdrawal symptoms after a multiday layoff from Wolves hoops. That should be fixed soon. Here’s what we’re thinking heading into tonight’s game.
Another thing: Punch-Drunk Wolves is at full strength tonight in the flesh. I’m in town for the holiday and about to head over to 600 1st Avenue.
A fatal mistake of the Wolves in Friday’s game against Golden State was a failure to box out and prevent second-chance points. The 17 offensive rebounds pulled down by the Warriors were key in staving off a last-ditch comeback effort. Tonight, the Denver Nuggets come to town with a league-leading average of 16.8 offensive boards per game. Kenneth Faried in particular has been a beast–or MANIMAL, I should say–in attacking the glass, averaging an absurd 6.9 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. If the Wolves want to win tonight, they need to get stops–which, against Denver, means working on the glass after forcing the missed shot.
30″ x 22″
mixed media on paper
painting by Holly Grimsrud
Andy G: SCENARIO: You just pressed rewind all the way back to June of 2010. You are David Kahn and you possess the rights to the fourth pick in the NBA draft. You have two choices. Draft Wesley Johnson out of Syracuse or DeMarcus Cousins from Kentucky. You cannot draft any other player and you cannot trade the pick. Oh, and most importantly, you have all the benefit of hindsight from mid-November 2012 going backwards. What do you do?
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.
Bo Ryan’s face while watching tonight’s beat-em-up halfcourt struggle in Chicago.
Without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls are the NBA’s Wisconsin Badgers. There are no elite athletes or SportsCenter top plays. Just execution and defense. They set big screens. They use most of the shot clock. They talk on defense. They rotate on defense. They push people around in the lane. At United Center, they push people around without fear of hearing a whistle blown. The pictures are not pretty, but the final score is in Chicago’s favor.
All of those qualities were on display in Chicago tonight as the Wolves fell to the Bulls 87-80 in a game that felt neck-and-neck until Marco Belinelli (of all people) caught fire in the early part of the 4th Quarter. The Italian shooter made three treys in the first 2:05 of the fourth, extending a 4-point lead to 9. A 9-point deficit to the Bulls in Chicago might as well be 30. Everything felt like a struggle from that point forward–and that’s just me watching on the couch. I can’t even imagine how Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams felt when Taj Gibson was swatting their shots into the third row. Gibson is truly an incredible defensive player. So is Joakim Noah, who also passes at an elite level and even showed off some fancy footwork on the block. The game-clinching play was when Noah did an Al Jefferson-like array of pivots that eventually left Nikola Pekovic in his dust as he laid in an easy two.
Joakim Noah leads the Bulls tonight against the Wolves
The Wolves play the Bulls tonight. The Bulls aren’t the same without Derrick Rose.
They struggle to create their own shots.
But they’re still 3-2.
The Wolves are in a similar situation without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio – their core.
They’re 4-1, after some inspired play last night and in other games.
Alexey Shved makes his Target Center debut tonight versus the Chicago Bulls.
Thank God that the short window of nice Minnesota weather is behind us and we can get back to our usual routine of spending 1 or 2 nights per week inside Target Center watching the Wolves, amiright? The fun parts of preseason are seeing the new faces and looking for signs of change, good or bad, that could impact the team’s chances at regular (and post!) season success. Two years ago at the home preseason debut, I was taken by how big and athletic Michael Beasley was, and the ease with which he could rise up for clear looks at the basket. Though Beas has enough weaknesses to offset this strength, it has been one that serves him well in giving his team a scoring punch. This was evident in a single viewing of a game that didn’t actually *matter*. Last year was Ricky’s debut. We did our best to temper enthusiasm, but the passes he was delivering were unlike anything we’d seen. Ricky had eyes on all sides of his head, it seemed. Like with Beasley’s dribble jumpers, Ricky’s passing wizardry carried over into the real games and he’s now one of the league’s most marketable young stars.
What should we keep an eye out for in tonight’s game against Chicago? Continue reading
Pek will happily run any Pacer through ye olde wood chipper!
It’s on. It’s what you’ve all been waiting for. Twolves. Pacers. 7:00 tonight. Fargo.
Fargo, baby, Fargo!
Pek and his wood chipper. K-Love and Danny Granger getting chippy. Paul George’s defense.
No TV or radio, so you’ll have to keep ‘specially close tabs on Mark Remme & the carrier pigeons Andy G and I deployed to the Fargodome to bring you the latest news and analysis.