Nobody quite knew what to expect from the 10 Day Wonders now that Rick Adelman was back with the team. He hadn’t coached them, as each guy joined the team after Adelman’s departure. Tonight, with Nikola Pekovic also returning to the lineup, there was no time for Chris Johnson. Pek was revealing his new bear tattoo (I haven’t seen it yet, I’m just trusting @steventurous on this one) and earned all of his 37 minutes of action. He put up a 17 & 12 line. Greg Stiemsma played the other 11 center minutes. Eventful ones. He took a flagrant-two cheapshot from Matt Barnes, prompting an ejection. A moment later, he knocked over one Clipper (flagrant-one) and was shoved in the back by Caron Butler. Technical foul. Stiemer was mixing it up and played okay. In any case, no Chris Johnson tonight. In some ways, he was missed. The Clips have a ridiculously athletic front court pairing in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and crucial rebounds were lost; often times the “high in the air” variety.
Mickael Gelabale played a solid 16 minutes of action — solid defensively. He shot a forgettable 0 for 2 from the floor, but was noticeably disruptive on defense. He had 3 steals. I suspect his minutes will stay as long as Budinger is out. The Wolves wing defense is suspect and Gelabale is quite obviously a solid defensive player who frustrates the basic things like a post entry pass. He was a +4 in tonight’s game.
Andy G: Wolves host Clips tonight. CP3 isn’t playing. He has a bruised kneecap. The Clippers have lost 3 of their last 4 games played without their MVP. On our side of things, disaster relief is on the way. Nik Pekovic is back. Alexey Shved is back. And most importantly, Coach Rick Adelman is back. The Wolves should be able to trot out some semblance of a starting NBA lineup tonight, perhaps the only eye sore being Luke Ridnour at the starting off-guard, should Adelman choose to move Shved to 6th Man. Personally, I’d just as soon start GELABALE next to a creator like Ricky, but there’s no chance of that happening so I’ll stop right there. In any case, the way I see it the equation goes something like:
Adelman + Pek + Shved – CP3 = Automatic Wolves Win
In the midst of a Season Heading South – the umpteenth consecutive in Minnesota, it seems – frustration is too easily projected on what’s known. In mass losing, what’s consistent becomes What’s Wrong. Even if it really isn’t. What little joy or optimism remains after a playoffs-hopes-killing losing streak is disproportionately allocated to the unknowns; the uncertainty. On the Timberwolves right now positive energy derives from Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson, ten-day contract wonders. They helped lead an unexpected win in their mutual Wolves debut and each has provided a shot in the arm at a position of short-term need. Even the most beaten-down can rally behind a feel-good story. If Chris Johnson successfully “makes it” out of the D-League that will be special indeed.
The injury-depleted Wolves limp into Charlotte tonight for a 7:30 PM Eastern tilt against the Bobcats. Fresh off a 114-101 loss to the Wiz last night in The District (see our video diary of the night here) the Wolves will again be running in a 10-man pack, remaining Love-less and waiting for a Pek (*that’s what she Shved* [h/t Anthony Downs]).
The Wolves traveled to D.C. and Punch-Drunk Wolves was on the scene at full strength.
If I had a bucket list, it would probably include “See a Timberwolves game at an arena other than Target Center,” and that number would now have a line through it. It’s almost never fun to watch your favorite team struggle to stay within 20 to the Washington Wi-ZARDS, but tonight was the exception. Pat got some great seats and it was cool to see the Wolves play in a different venue from a different angle.
The POBO was on the radio this morning (Teaser: If we find out tonight that Kevin Love has re-broken his hand a third time, this time he probably did it punching a wall after hearing Kahn’s comments about him on KFAN.)
Unsurprisingly, the Wolves have been losing a lot, going just 2-9 since Kevin Love’s injury forced him out of the lineup.
A silver lining for the Wolves heading into tonight’s game in DC…
Here’s the thing. Everybody knows about the injuries and the unofficially-interim coach and the knee rehabilitation process and the 10-day contracts. I could begin every single game wrap by laying out why the performance should be immune from criticism because it’s nobody’s fault but plain old bad luck’s. But then there’s no point to going to the games and there’s certainly no point in writing about them for a hobby. My dad drove up from the Rochester area to watch tonight’s game. The couple next to us came down from St. Cloud. People spent time and money to come watch professional basketball on a sub-zero night in Minneapolis.
So the least the team can do is hold itself to a professional standard. In the fourth quarter tonight — WINNING TIME, as we call it — that did not happen. In case you missed the game, it was a real struggle for Minnesota, but they scratched and clawed their way back into it, largely behind a Rubio and Williams rush of assists and buckets in the second half of the third quarter. When each checked out of the game before the fourth quarter began, it was assumed by viewers that they’d be back soon. Neither had played many minutes in the first half, and both certainly had plenty in the tank for the stretch run.
Dante Cunningham hit a pair of jumpers and the Wolves trailed by just 2 points with slightly over 10 minutes to play.
With just under 4 minutes to go in the first half of today’s game at Atlanta, the Wolves held a 54-36 lead. In the remaining 27 minutes and 46 seconds of action, the Hawks outscored the Wolves 68 to 42. In barely more than one half of basketball, the Wolves were outscored by 26 points. How does that happen?
Luke Ridnour: Out of Position, Out of Role
The Hawks made a halftime adjustment by starting Kyle Korver in the third quarter. The Wolves went with their starting lineup that included Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour. Seems reasonable enough, why start adjusting to the Hawks when everything they had done to that point was working just fine? Problem was, the the Wolves put tiny Ridnour on tall Korver. Ricky Rubio, meanwhile, stayed on the little point guard, Jeff Teague. Korver licked his chops, remembering the damage he inflicted in the late moments of the last Wolves-Hawks game. That damage was done when Ridnour was trying to check him.
After Josh Smith and Al Horford each scored and cut the Wolves lead to 10, Korver took over. In a span of 4 possessions and less than 2 minutes, Korver hit a pair of treys and a curling jumper, cutting the once-18-point lead down to just 4. From that point on, the game was close and the Wolves large advantage was gone.
I have a dream,that Wolves fans will be seeing lots more plays like this…
MLK Day Wolves games are the best. Sam Mitchell won’t be walking through that door, so it won’t be quite like the good ol’ days, but the Wolves are on a one-game winning streak, and that’s better than an any-game losing streak.
[Last night’s game is the rare Wolves tilt that shows up in my League Pass Broadband archives. I wanted to look back at Derrick Williams’ three turnovers, because I remember each one was of the head-scratching and maddening variety, and they represent recurring issues with the inconsistent young forward. Below are my notes on how he screwed up 3 times in last night’s 1st Half, causing his minutes to be limited to just 29 on a night that every other viable option was out with an injury or illness.]
Even when you consider that the Wolves were the home team and the Rockets were playing on zero nights rest, this was an unexpected win. When you consider how the Wolves went about winning it, it was absolutely shocking. Kevin Love is out recovering from hand surgery. Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger are out recovering from knee surgery. Nikola Pekovic is out with a leg injury. Alexey Shved is out with a sprained ankle. Dante Cunningham missed tonight’s game with an illness.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets are in town for a 7 PM tilt against the Wolves at Target Center.
The Rockets, having lost 6 straight, are really struggling. Immediately before their current 6-game losing streak began, Houston reeled off a 5-game winning streak. Overall, the Rockets are 21-20. They are 2nd in the League in scoring and 30th in points allowed. (Adjusted for pace, their offense is ranked 9th, defense 18th.) James Harden is still really, really good, with the League’s 5th-best scoring average, 2nd-best assist average among non-point guards, and 1st-best beard.
Streakiness, mediocrity, and working the offense almost entirely through a go-to guy – what else could you expect from a Kevin McHale-coached team?
1) WOLVES – Clearly the shooting guard position is a problem. It’s usually filled by a point guard, and never filled by a catch-and-shoot floor spreader that fits with Rubio. But is Andrei Kirilenko–a hesitant perimeter shooter himself–also a poor fit for the offense?
2) NBA – The All-Star starters were voted in by the fans. The Lakers are 17-21. The Celtics are 20-18. 4 out of 10 All-Star starters come from those two mediocre teams. Who were the worst snubs?
3) WOLVES – Pek and Shved left tonight’s game with injuries. Did those injuries have anything to do with the loss to the Chris Paul-less Clippers?
4) NBA – The list of terrible teams goes something like: Cavs, Bobcats, Wizards, Hornets, and Suns. Which has the most hope for quick improvement? The least?
GOOD COP: Nikola Pekovic put together a 20 & 12 in 32 minutes. BAD COP: Pek missed 6 free throws, had a game-worst -24 (correlation, not causation, to be fair) and Coach Terry Porter weirdly limited his best player to 32 minutes of action. This, after playing just 29, 29, and 27 minutes in his last 3 games, respectively. What does TP have against his best active player?
We all love Ricky Rubio and what he has brought to the Timberwolves franchise. His injury last season marked an immediate downward spiral from hopefully playoff team to lottery-bound loser. Part of his recovery process from ACL surgery is regaining his shooting touch. But before we completely excuse his early woes (before tonight’s game Ricky is shooting 18 percent from the floor, through 9 games) it’s worth pointing out that his field goal percentage last year–when healthy–was also very poor; just 35.7 percent despite being a relatively selective shooter. From a shot-mechanics perspective, what is Ricky doing wrong?
Let’s start with a couple of great shooters, Ray Allen and Steph Curry.
That’s what a textbook, pure, jump shot looks like. The right foot slightly ahead of the left. The slight crouch straightened up into perfect posture as the ball is raised and set, before the proverbial “hand in the cookie jar” release, right at–or slightly before–the peak of his jump. Ray Allen, the greatest shooter of the modern era, is a good one to copy.
Mark Cuban on making it rain: “That’s dumb shit that people with real money dont do.” He better hope Dirk and OJ didn’t get the memo…
Mark Cuban can make it rain. But does he? (No, he says. Read here why.) Can the Wolves make it rain tonight in Dallas? What about Juice and Dirk? Am I mixing metaphors? Could you tell if I weren’t? (RHETORICAL!)
Okay, so the Wolves take on the Mavs in Dallas Monday evening after suffering an exhausting, frustrating loss last night in San Antonio. Dallas (15-23) recently fell to 10 games under .500 for the first time in 13 years last week. But Big D has since begun to pick up the slack. Dirk & co picked up a 117-112 overtime win at Sacramento, and followed it up by destroying Western Conference Contender Memphis Grizzlies 104-83 on Saturday. Dirk is coming back to form, just as the Wolves are settling into a Love-less reality.
Which Mavs team will show up tonight? Who knows? But it does look like the Wolves are catching Dallas on an upswing, not the downswing they were on a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Wolves are in the midst of a fairly horrible downswing of their own. So, for the sake of argument, let’s say that “momentum” – whatever that is – is in Dallas’ favor.
What’s wrong with the Wolves? Injuries, coaching, and shooting, for starters. More below the fold.
We can live with Tony Parker’s 20 points and 6 assists. Manu Ginobili’s 12 points and 5 dimes. Timmy’s 12, 9 and 5. Hell, even his 3 steals and 7 blocks. But the problem with tonight’s game was that Manu only played 12 minutes because of a pulled hamstring shortly before halftime, and with the Spurs shorthanded, Parker and Duncan were both able to be limited to 29 minutes of action.
That’s because, after Parker and Duncan went to the bench for a rest at the end of the 3rd Quarter (Spurs leading by 7), the Wolves got thumped by San Antonio’s short-handed second unit. The three-headed monster of Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson and Tiago Splitter led a dominant 4th Quarter that the Spurs won 28-17. Parker and Duncan iced their knees on the sidelines (just as we feared might happen), this time without Gregg Popovich’s company. Pop drew a quick double-tech and was sent to the showers with his team leading by 13 early in the fourth. Maybe he had dinner plans and wanted to beat traffic. Who knows. In any case, the Spurs won by 18 and dominated long stretches of this game. A few things that should give fans cause for alarm:
The Wolves are coming off a tough loss at New Orleans on Friday night, in which they were beat handily by the worst team in the Western Conference.
It doesn’t get any easier tonight at San Antonio.
The Spurs are good. Real good. 28-11 good – which is good for 1st in the Southwest Division and 3rd overall in the Western Conference. (San Antonio is currently 1½ games behind the 28-8 Oklahoma City Thunder.)
The Spurs are good, but are they great? That’s where the data stops and the speculation starts. But with the Lakers threatening to miss the playoffs, OKC lacking James Harden, and the Clippers being the Clippers, the Spurs have a shot in the West this year. And it isn’t just question marks about the competition; San Antonio’s play this season suggests they’re every bit a threat to make The Finals.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, if the Spurs have a special strength, it appears to be their performance at home. The Spurs have actually lost three of their last five, but all three of those losses came on the road, against the Knicks, Hornets, and Grizz, respectively. At 15-2 (.882), San Antonio has the best home winning percentage in the NBA. They’ve been eminently beatable on the road, at 13-9 (.591), but divine intervention isn’t going to move this tilt to the Target Center: coming off an overtime loss in Memphis Friday night, expect the Spurs to be primed and ready tonight at home.