Tag Archives: preview

Intel Report: Timberwolves vs Suns

Mike Beasley, suited up like a closer.

Mike Beasley, suited up like a closer.

The Wolves have lost four of their last five games. They are 3-2 since Ricky Rubio returned from injury. (Ricky sat out against Miami, because it was the second game of a back-to-back.) Rubio’s role is going to get bigger, and soon. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: give the kid more minutes.

He’s the key to our winning. Not JJ, not Ridnour, not Mal Lee, not Brandon Roy. Certainly not Josh Howard, Will Conroy, Troy Hudson, Sam Cassell, or Pooh Richardson. Not Derrick Williams, and not Dante Cunningham.

Ricky. Just Ricky. Throw K-Love in there too.

That’s what the Wolves basically have: two stars. One is still having his minutes limited (he’s now cleared to play 24 minutes, up from 18), basically nullifying his ability to make an impact by doing what he does – help the team win in lots of non-box score ways while on the floor. The other is out of shape and acting pouty and playing poorly.

Neither star is playing well. The Wolves are losing. End of story.

No need to overthink it. It’s great when guys like AK47 and Pek can carry the team to wins, and we love seeing Shved outperform expectations, but that’s not going to be a blueprint for winning in the playoffs. Which is what we want to do.

So what can be done?

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Fear the Beard

Beard me.

Beard me.

James Harden and the Houston Rockets are in town for a 7 PM tilt against the Wolves at Target Center.

The Wolves have lost 3 out of 4 and could use a win.

Harden is the main attraction. At 25.7 points per game, Harden is 4th in the League in scoring behind Kobe, Melo, and Durant.

But wait – there’s more.

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Intel Report: Timberwolves vs. Knicks

The Wolves take on Rasheed Wallace and the Knicks Sunday afternoon at MSG

The Wolves take on Rasheed Wallace and the Knicks Sunday afternoon at MSG

Coming off a signature win over the West-leading OKC Thunder, the Wolves take on the East-leading Knicks Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.  The 13-11 Wolves will be without Kevin Love, who played one of his best one or two games of the season on Thursday, with 28, 11, and, perhaps most indicative of the way the Wolves played against OKC, a season-high 7 assists; the Wolves moved the ball better against the Thunder than in any game this season, and with only a minimal contribution from point guard extraordinaire Ricky Rubio, who’s still on a limited-minutes program as he completes his comeback from a season-ending knee injury.

Love’s minutes will be divided between much-maligned Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham. Just when you think Derrick Williams won’t get any more chances, someone gets hurt, and Derrick Williams gets another chance. So far, he’s never done anything with any of them. Cunningham has exceeded expectations this season, and should give the Wolves the kind of steady but unspectacular performance Wolves fans have become accustomed to. The Wolves offense tends to flow better when Love isn’t on the floor, but there’s still no replacing his 20 & 13.

The Knicks are more than a worthy opponent, Love or no Love. A few things to watch for:

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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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The Return

Ricky's back. This is gonna be fun.

Ricky’s back. This is gonna be fun.

He’s back, folks. (At least that’s what they’re saying.) We all know what that means.

There’s no need to overthink it, so no pre-game breakdown today.

If you take anything into this one, it’s this: shut down your Internets for a while, give Ricky your undivided attention, and enjoy the show.

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Preview: Nuggets vs. Timberwolves

Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets take on the Twolves tonight in Minneapolis

Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets take on the Twolves tonight in Minneapolis

One day after Kevin Love’s disgruntled comments about the Timberwolves were published (see Andy G’s and my analysis here), the  Wolves play the Nuggets at Target Center tonight at 7 PM CST. Love is expected to be in the starting lineup. Despite the much anticipated return of Ricky Rubio, it currently appears as if that won’t happen for at least a few more days.

So what do we have in store tonight?

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Preview: Bucks vs. Wolves

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.

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Escape from LA?

The Wolves, coming off a feel-good victory last night in Sacramento, take on the Clippers tonight at Staples. A few things:

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Wolves vs. Kings: What to Watch For

‘Reke rocks the party

A struggling Wolves squad limps into Sacramento tonight trying to break their five-game losing streak against the Kings. Can they do it?

A few weeks ago, this would’ve looked like a gimme. But not anymore.

The Wolves are in disarray. At 5-7, they’re already in the cellar of a solid Northwest Division, just behind the 6-8 Portland Trailblazers. But if the Wolves lose tonight and fall to 5-8, that gap is likely to wide further tomorrow, with Portland scheduled to take on the Winless Washington Wi’zards.They badly need a win.

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Timberwolves – Nuggets Preview, or When Manimals Attack

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.

Box Out

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.

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Wolves vs. Mavericks Preview

The Wolves take on former Timberwolf OJ Mayo tonight in Dallas

Tonight it’s Mayo versus Shved. Mano-a-mano. Like a bullfight in which two matadors duel for an audience’s admiration, it’s OJ against Alexey no matter how much better it might be if it were a young Jet against a healthy Roy.

There’s no Budinger, either, and that has implications for how the Wolves are likely to play.

Still Mayo is averaging 21.9 ppg and Shved has been making a difference for the Wolves, too.

In fact, most of the main attractions will either be wearing a suit, or watching from somewhere in Minnesota. 

No Dirk Nowitzki for the Mavs. No K-Love or Ricky Rubio (again) for the Timberwolves. J.J. Barea is out too. 

Still both teams have winning records, so there are signs of life for the depleted Mavs and reasons for hope for the aspiring Wolves. In and of itself, this is surprising given that neither team’s All-Star power forward has played a minute this season.

Deets below the fold…

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Person of Interest: Paul George

Paul George is a baller

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…

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Game Preview: Magic vs. Timberwolves

Big Baby wants to play twister with Wolves’ defenders

Tonight, the 2-1 Timberwolves take on the 2-1 Magic at Target Center. Orlando is a vastly different team from the one that killed the Wolves last season. Gone are Dwight Howard and advanced stats hero Ryan Anderson. In are…Aaron Afflalo? More below the fold.

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NBA Preview: The Awards Ceremony

The National Basketball Association: Cuttin’ that Check to Rasheed Wallace since 1995. (I love this game!)

Okay, folks. With the season about to start and a hurricane about to blow my house down, Andy G and I are doing a rapid-fire INBOX-style NBA Preview wrap-up. We argue about Chris Paul, which teams will rise to the top of each conference, who will win the major awards, and why Rasheed Wallace is currently collecting an NBA paycheck, all below the fold.

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Western Conference Preview: The James Harden Edition

How does James Harden’s departure from Oklahoma City affect the Thunder’s prospects in the West?

So, James Harden. Yep. Gone. OKC is screwed. Or is it? You’ll find out in my Western Conference preview.

But first things first: Why did OKC trade one of its core stars, just before the season starts, and why was it that the Rockets were the ones who outbid the rest for Harden, a pricy commodity in a market that has few quality shooting guards.

The answer to the first is easy: cost. OKC owner Clay Bennett was unwilling to pay it, James Harden was unwilling to take less so he wouldn’t have to, and so a trade had to be made, even if not paying Harden might cost the Thunder an NBA title. This sends a horrible message to fans, and Durant and Westbrook should grab their mates and move the team back to Seattle.

The answer to the second is less clear. But I have a theory. It centers around Kevin McHale, Royce White, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and facial hair.

My theory goes like this: Having drafted point-forward Royce White, and subsequently discovering that Royce won’t be bringing much to the table this season (except increased awareness of the challenges of anxiety disorders), McHale and Daryl Morey concluded that in lieu of on-court competitiveness, they would  rekindle Houston’s rivalry with the up-and-coming Timberwolves.

They would do so by attacking an area of perceived Wolves vulnerability: facial hair.

McHale and Morey figured that after former Wolves beard Brad Miller – a former Rocket – retired, the Wolves’ claim to “Best Team Facial Hair” was up-for-grabs. Why not try to win something this season, and make White useful, all in one go?  By trading for Harden’s beard, and teaming it up with White’s  – White’s nascent beard already could put many Taliban to shame, and they go all-in on beards – in the NBA’s new Beard & Mustache Competition, which will be broadcast live just before the NBA Draft Lottery in the Spring, Houston has begun pursuing that strategy.

But McHale and Morey’s strategy is flawed. It neglects the fact that Kahn has armed the Wolves with a new Secret Weapon – a failsafe - in the form of Louis Amundson’s beard. In fact, RUMINT obtained by punchdrunkwolves.com indicates that Amundson’s beard has never lost in the “Most Pungent” competition in any Beard & Mustache Contest it has participated in.

Facial hair aside, there’s obviously a big story here: when you remove James Harden from the Thunder, it shifts the balance in the West, and also has implications for the Wolves. So what is the fallout? Find the answers to those questions and more in my Western Conference preview, located below the fold.

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