Monthly Archives: November 2013

Reversal of Fortune? Wolves vs. Mavericks (The holiday dregs edition)

Dirk N. and his hat will be squaring off tonight against the Wolves in Dallas

Dirk N. and his hat will be squaring off tonight against the Wolves in Dallas

(Eds. Note: Andy G and Patrick J clearly don’t know what to do with themselves over a long weekend because they both wrote preview posts, unbeknownst to the other. Here’s part deux.)

The Timberwolves are in Dallas to take on Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks tonight at 7:30 CST. The Wolves have lost three straight. They’re now 8-9. After getting off to a quick 7-2 start, this the first time this season  the Wolves have been under .500.

‘Sota needs a reversal of fortune in a bad way. And by “fortune,” I mean “effort and execution.” They showed neither in Wednesday night’s home loss against Denver, a point that Rick Adelman lamented repeatedly in his terse post-game presser. Referring to the loss on the Wolves’ home court, Adelman  said,  “the players can’t expect the fans to pump them up. That’s backward. (The players) need to get the fans going.”

(Eds. Note: When you hear a coach emphatically describe how his team wasn’t ready to play and didn’t give the effort you expect from a group of professional athletes–his group of professional athletes–you immediately see the stark difference between a coach who has absolutely no concern about his job security and the majority who aren’t so lucky to have the same leash.)

It was clear that after three straight losses, Adelman has lost any patience with which he began the season for the Wolves’ propensity for unforced errors, lackadaisical defense, and their failure to do basic things–like, say, blocking out opposing bigs (and Andre Miller) on the defensive boards–for painfully long stretches in winnable games.

Worse than that, Adelman clearly knows he doesn’t have a magic bullet to use now that he needs one.

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Wolves-Mavs Preview: The “I found my old Michael Finley jersey” Edition

finleyfixed

Hey Wolves fans. I just got back from Thanksgiving in Zumbrota, Minnesota (yes that’s right, the original home of Jacksonville Jaguars coach, Gus Bradley.) As the lead picture shows, I was digging through some of my old prized possessions sitting in my parents’ storage. More on that below.

The Wolves are in Dallas today where tonight they face the Mavs (7:30 CST, FSN North, 830 WCCO Radio). Dallas is 10-7, slightly better than Minnesota’s 8-9, but they boast a home record of 8-1. That’s why I was surprised to see that the Wolves are currently two-point favorites in tonight’s game. I mean, the Wolves are 2-6 on the road and have lost 5 of their last 6 games. Even if they have extra days of rest, I expected Dallas to be favored. Digging deeper, I then noticed that the Mavs might be without starting point guard Jose Calderon, who sprained his ankle last night in Atlanta, in a game the Mavs lost despite leading 70-55 when Calderon left the game.

Through 17 games, the numbers show the Mavs to be a slightly net-positive (+0.9 per 100 possessions) team in the 31.1 minutes that Calderon registers, per game. This is because of how well their offense plays with him. With Jose running the show, the Mavs score 107.8 per 100, and allow 106.8. It’s an offensive game. When he’s off the court, the Mavs score 102.6 per 100, but allow a much-better 98.3. In pretty small sample size, then, the Mavs have been better with Calderon on the bench than with him on the floor playing. I tend to side with Vegas here in believing that rookies Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin will struggle to replace Calderon when faced with greater responsibility and starting-level competition. I guess we’ll find out tonight.

One last thing about the Mavs: Monta Ellis. He’s playing his best ball since the We Believe, pre-moped accident days. Credit probably goes to Rick Carlisle whose reputation for maximizing production from raw talent is well established. Check out Kirk Goldsberry’s Grantland piece for more about Monta’s early-season success. I should add that Ellis shot a combined 8 for 31 in his last two games, perhaps signaling some regression to the mean. If Calderon can’t go tonight, expect a more ball-dominant Monta to replace the missing offense initiation.

Okay, on to more important things like the other jerseys I found when I was home for the holiday. I wasn’t a huge jersey kid, but I found five of them that span from 5th Grade through sophomore year in college. I suppose it only makes sense to do this Jersey Power Rankings style, because all internet lists are to be power ranked.

Without further ado…

#5 – Jalen Rose, Michigan, Champion

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Is it time to press the panic button?

rickpanic

This is not how they wanted to enter the holiday. Having lost four of their past five games and with a brutal four-game stretch after Thanksgiving, the Timberwolves needed to win at home against the Denver Nuggets. Although Brian Shaw’s team came in riding a three-game winning streak (to say nothing of the 57 games they won last season, before significant off-season shakeups) and had already beaten the Wolves once this year, it was a game that Minnesota needed to win if it wanted to continue the early-season positivity giving rise to expectations of an overdue playoff berth.

As you probably already know, the Wolves did not win. In what was possibly the worst defensive performance of the season the Wolves lost 117-110 on the Target Center floor against a team that they’ll almost definitely need to be better than, in order to crack the Top 8 of the Western Conference. In the game’s early stages, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler made shots. Some were contested better than others. But as the game went on, the Wolves defense softened up considerably, allowing a mixed bag of wide open threes and wide open layups and dunks. Denver ended the game 8 for 16 from downtown. In the fourth quarter, they didn’t have to rely on threes as they managed to get to the rim almost at will. Three consecutive crunchtime possessions ended with Denver dunks.

After the game, Adelman lamented the surprisingly-poor effort:

“I was just really disappointed with our effort — the first half especially. We just, defensively, we allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do. Everything we had on the board, they did. We gotta figure out what we’re gonna do from this point forward because you can’t defend like that. We can’t have the energy coming into a home game like that.”

“We were so passive. We have to get more aggressively physical if we’re gonna play in this league.”

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14 Points After a 14-Point Loss (PACERS 98, Wolves 84)

Well, that was frustrating. Even if we didn’t expect a win, it’s still frustrating to watch a game get out of hand down the stretch, and doubly so when shots won’t fall. Since it’s Monday and I don’t feel like spending too much time recapping an expected loss without much by way of riveting fourth-quarter theater, I’m doing this one point by point. Fourteen in all; one for each point of the game deficit.

1. The Pacers are really good. With tonight’s win they move to 13-1. If the Spurs beat the Pelicans (currently leading by 17 at half) Indiana will be tied for the league’s best record. They’re 8-0 at home. Indiana’s defensive rating is down to 90.3, which is also best in the league. That mark would also be way better than last year’s 96.6 which — oh by the way — was also best in the league. Indiana is crazy-good on D.

2. Minnesota’s offensive flow became disjointed almost immediately, when Ricky Rubio went to the bench at 7:30 in the first quarter with two fouls. With the exception of some Rubio-created layups in the third quarter, the offense was ugly throughout. The Wolves shot just 32.6 percent from the field. Combine that with the 19 turnovers and, well, let’s just say Indiana looked every bit as good as their defensive statistics suggest they are.

3. Corey Brewer had a nice first quarter and helped cut an early double-digit deficit to just 4 points by period’s end. After that, he was an absolute train wreck, finishing with 6 turnovers and a whole lotta missed shots. Brew was out of control for most of this game.

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Why the Wolves Will Struggle against the Pacers

Pacers star Lance Stephenson was a schoolboy phenom at Brooklyn's Lincoln High School

Pacers star Lance Stephenson was a schoolboy phenom at Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School

Hi Folks, I’ve been traveling for the last week, unable to post but catching Wolves basketball on my laptop when I could.

Lots of ups and downs, from the disappointment of the four-point loss in Washington to letting off some steam against KG & the Brooklyn Nyets to a disappointing 112-101 loss at Houston on Saturday night against a Rockets team that was down one James Harden.

The inconsistent play is more a function of stretches of bad Wolves basketball than it is of running into the wrong team at the wrong time. The Wolves struggle to take and keep leads, as was particularly evident in the loss to Washington, with the exception being when they get out to giant first-half leads, which won’t be the case very often against the kinds of teams we’ll need to beat if we make the playoffs.

One team the Wolves are unlikely to get out to a big lead against is the Indiana Pacers, who host them tonight at Conseco Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 7 P.M. Eastern. You can see the game on League Pass.

The 12-1 Pacers are undefeated at Conseco Bankers Life  this season, and are 19-4 all-time when playing ‘Sota in their gym. The Pacers have two of the best defenders in the NBA in Paul George and Roy Hibbert. With his canny feel for the game and his long arms, George guards the wing like a young Scottie Pippen. Roy Hibbert leads the NBA in blocked shots and is the kind of rim protector Wolves fans dream Gorgui Dieng might someday become. Collectively, the Pacers currently allow the fewest points per game of any team in the NBA at 87.6 and hold opponents to a stingy 39.7 field goal percentage.

Lance Stephenson

A sign that everything is clicking in Indiana? Things are so good in Indiana right now that respected columnists have begun to wonder whether the Pacers will be able to afford Lance Stephenson, formerly the punchline of so many sordid jokes.

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Sunday Post: Weekend Split, Superstars Injured & How Opponents are (and are not) Scoring

Weekend Split: A Friday Win & Saturday Loss

The Timberwolves won on Friday against the Nets and lost on Saturday against the Rockets, continuing an early season trend of winning at home and losing on the road. (The Wolves are currently 6-2 at home and 2-5 on the road.) The weekend split also reinforced a growing body of evidence suggesting that the Wolves will end the season very close to the cut line of Western Conference Playoffs inclusion. As things stand, the Grizzlies are 8th in the West; the Wolves 9th.

Friday’s game seems like a great win because the Wolves won by 30 points against a team that had Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett playing. But it wasn’t a great win as much as it was a terrible loss by the Nets who turned in such an embarrassingly unprofessional effort. Any of the league’s other 28 teams would’ve defeated Brooklyn on Friday.

Saturday’s game seems like a bad loss because Houston was without superstar guard James Harden, yet controlled the game from start to finish. There weren’t many moments when a Wolves win seemed likely, if even possible. But it wasn’t a bad loss as much as a combination of a “schedule loss” (The Rockets were at home and hadn’t played since Wednesday. The Wolves played Friday and obviously had to travel.) and an unlucky night to play against reserve guard, Aaron Brooks. He had barely seen the floor this season, but the Harden injury gave him a rare chance. Brooks made the most of it with 26 points in 25 minutes. He was 6-7 from downtown. If Brooks plays his usual game — whatever that is exactly — the Rockets may still have won, but the game would have been competitive.

Friday Injuries

Panic spread around the NBA world on Friday night when three marquee players went down with scary injuries. In a matter of minutes, my Twitter feed announced a(nother) possible ACL tear for former MVP Derrick Rose, a non-contact knee injury for Defense Player of the Year Marc Gasol, and a hamstring injury “with a pop sound” to Warriors linchpin Andre Iguodala. If every injury realized its worst-case potential, the 2013-14 season would be damaged beyond comprehension. In the case of Rose and Gasol, they are unquestionably the best players on their teams that are gunning for a title in pure “win now” mode. Iggy is new to the Warriors, but his defensive chops and impeccable fit with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have given the Dubs a title-contending look that doubles as the league’s most watchable brand of ball.

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Mismatch (WOLVES 111, Nets 81)

There isn’t much to say about last night’s game other than the Nets — literally — did not look like an NBA team. The Wolves played fine, but were hardly at their best, yet still led by 16 after 1, 20 after 2, and 32 after 3. Nobody aside from maybe Corey Brewer had a hot night by their standards. Ricky made 2 of 3 from downtown, and that is great to see, but the game had a major front-running feel to it where there wasn’t a worry in the world when anybody’s shot went up.

I don’t want to waste my time or yours with too much detail about a game where one team didn’t show up to play. The Nets better hope that the returns of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez have a dramatic effect. Jason Kidd’s job might be in jeopardy just one month into his coaching career.

Some scary injury news around the league. I haven’t had a chance to read the stories — and I think the MRIs and whatnot have yet to come back with definitive results — but it sounds like the NBA might be once again without Derrick Rose. Marc Gasol and Andre Iguodala might be out, too. More to come on all this when we have better information.

Always good to get a win, even when the opponent isn’t ready to play.

Season Record: 8-6

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KG’s Final Farewell? – Wolves vs Nets, 7:00 CST

Wolves (7-6) host Nets (3-8) tonight. With Brooklyn missing its two best players (Deron Williams & Brook Lopez) it’s absolutely a game that Minnesota should win.

But in terms of reasons to watch, this one’s easy. Kevin Garnett is back in town and in the lineup, possible for the last time ever at Target Center.

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by | November 22, 2013 · 1:54 PM

Choose Your Own Adventure (Clippers 102, WOLVES 98)

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-A

If you view an NBA season as a marathon, and each game as 1 micro-sampling not be taken very seriously, go to A.

If you view each NBA game as a meaningful event worthy of dissection and takeaways, go to B.

If you are a pessimist, go to C.

If you are an optimist, go to D.

If you watch Timberwolves and other NBA games for entertainment only, to to E.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (WIZARDS 104, Wolves 100)

The Good

J.J. Barea continued his productive play with 12 points (5-10 shooting) and 7 assists (compared to 2 turnovers) in 29 minutes of +9 action off the bench. He was the Wolves best option at point guard tonight, as Washington borrowed whatever game plan Mike Brown used in Cleveland to completely neutralize Ricky Rubio.

Also good: Kevin Love’s early three-point shooting. Love buried 3 jumpers in the first quarter. Had his hot hand continued, or had the Wolves given a reasonable effort on defense — particularly transition defense — they would’ve won tonight’s game. But neither of those things happened. (Love finished the game 4-10 from downtown after a 3-4 start.)

The final good: Robbie Hummel, who made shots (2-3 total, 2-2 from three), collected 6 rebounds, and even drove the lane and dished off an assist for a layup. Hummel made 0 turnovers and had a +3 in 22 minutes. He continues to correlate with positive minutes for the team.

The Bad

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Wolves-Wiz Preview: The Wittman’s Last Stand Edition

The Wolves play at Washington tonight (6:00 CST, FSN Plus), where former Minnesota coach Randy Wittman has his team off to a more-than-disappointing 2-7 start. Wizards players and fans (and coaches, I suppose) expected this to be the first winning season of the John Wall (or Post Gilbert Arenas, if you prefer) Era. They finished last season strong, they have star talent surrounded by competent role fillers, and they even made a short-term move to trade for Marcin Gortat after Emeka Okafor got hurt.

But the wins haven’t followed, Randy Wittman’s seat is burning hot, and the Wizards are holding players only meetings. I’ve sat through what I thought was Wittman’s Last Stand; his last ever game coaching the Timberwolves. It was a cold, quiet night in Downtown Minneapolis and the only thing breaking the sound of Baron Davis three-point swishes was a steady supply of “FIE-YER WITT-MAN!” from various pockets of Target Center seats. (The few that were filled.)

It’s not a pretty place for a franchise to be. We’ve been there.

The good news for Wizards fans: It can only get better from here. (Well, unless your next key move is to hire David Kahn to handle personnel decisions.)

It goes without saying that the Wolves view this as a winnable game; much more so than tomorrow’s matchup at home versus a rested, title-contending Clippers team. I don’t cheer for people to get fired from their jobs, but in the case of Wittman’s Wizards, that team should definitely be playing better than it is, and Wittman’s history suggests he’s doing more harm than good.

Enjoy the game.

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INBOX: Wolves Beat Boston, Derrick Williams Trade Rumors

Nikola Pekovic's emergence was key to last night's victory and is critical to the Timberwolves' long-term prospects

Nikola Pekovic’s emergence was key to last night’s victory and is critical to the Timberwolves’ long-term prospects (Artwork brought to you by Holly G)

Andy G: I closed yesterday’s post with: “If last night’s loss was an eye opener for the defense, perhaps a renewed focus can keep the Celtics under 90 points tonight and give the fans an enjoyable win to watch.”

Well, the Wolves held Boston to just 88 points, won by 18, and gave the fans a win that was mostly enjoyable to watch. Despite some first-half struggles from the Kevins, the Wolves used a combination of transition offense, J.J. Barea Hero Ball, and Nikola Pekovic glass eating to take a five-point lead after two quarters. In the second half, Kevin Martin calibrated his three-point range (he was short on just about everything in the first) and Kevin Love showed off hook shots while also grinding out foul-draws to the tune of a workmanlike 23 points and 12 rebounds. The 7 turnovers on his line are evidence of some of his struggles in this game. Robbie Hummel advanced the “positive correlation guy” narrative drum that I’m beating, with 8 points in 20 minutes of (+14) basketball. On defense, Adelman said that they wanted to make Boston a jumpshooting team. They pretty much succeeded at this. Early on, those jumpers went in. Later on, they didn’t. The lead grew and the Wolves cruised to a comfortable win. This team seems like a good front runner.

Let me get back to Pekovic for a moment because I think his performance gets to a bigger-picture issue with this team. With Ricky Rubio being such a non scorer (3 points combined in the two games this weekend) and nobody on the team possessing elite shot creating in the traditional mold of a LeBron/Melo/Wade/Kobe nature, I think one of the keys on nights like last night is to pound the offensive glass. There will be games like this one (the Cleveland loss was a good example) where the offense sputters and they’ll need an alternate route to points. Pek had 8 offensive boards last night and scored 20 points on 8-9 shooting. Most of these were putbacks.

As the Wolves continue to refine their offense — currently the league’s 9th best — the challenge will be to maximize all of the immense talents of Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love and Pek. In the early part of this season, Pek seemed almost like an odd man out, often losing shot opportunities to aggressive bucket hunters Love and Martin. One way he can unquestionably add value is to do what he did last night and crash the boards. After his huge game last night, his offensive rebounding percentage is up to 11.1 percent. Last season’s was 13.1 percent. It’d be nice to see him focus on getting back to this one skill that will be hugely important, particularly if Rick staggers his bench rotations like he did over the weekend, pairing Pekovic with Barea. J.J. is certain to create “Kobe Assist” opportunities with his kamikaze drives that usually draw an extra defender and often times clank off the rim.

All in all, a solid win over a bad team. Adelman emphasized after the game that good teams MUST win at home. He said that you then try to split on the road. Taken literally, he’s describing a path to winning three fourths of regular season games. While that’s a bit optimistic for this team (it’d be 61 or 62 wins, which even the most optimistic would be impressed by) it’s clear that Rick expects to win this season.

What else is happening?

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Saturday Post: Denver Disappointment, Hummel vs Williams, and Wolves-Celts Preview

robbie-hummel

Minnesota sports fans remember Robbie Hummel from his days as a Purdue Boilermaker who frequently dominated the Gophers. Now on the Timberwolves, he appears to have cracked Rick Adelman’s regular playing rotation.

In forecasting this Timberwolves season, pundits came to a broad consensus about strengths and weaknesses. With the acquisitions made at Flip Saunders’ direction the Wolves would be a team that plays fast, scores a lot of points, but would struggle to defend their own basket. If you asked me before the season to describe what a “typical loss” would look like for this team, my answer would’ve resembled last night’s game at Denver.

The Wolves lost 117-113 to a mediocre Nuggets team that no longer has Andre Iguodala playing or George Karl coaching, and is currently without Danilo Gallinari, who is recovering from knee surgery. But they still have Ty Lawson, who is still incredibly fast with the ball in his hands. They still have Kenneth Faried, whose trampoline-bounce rebounds are much more different in style than substance from our own Kevin Love’s. And they still have Professor Andre Miller, whose skillset seems immune to the normal aging process.

Denver scored 35 in the first quarter, 30 in the third and 31 in the fourth. Had we not seen the absolute best version of the ever-unpredictable J.J. Barea, this game would have been a rout. Barea scored 21 points off the bench on 10-14 shooting and dished out 4 assists for good measure. It’s his second good game in a row, and immediately follows my harshest criticisms of him since he’s been here. (I vented with some player-tracking data in Britt Robson’s comments section the other day about how sick I am of watching J.J. dribble the air out of the ball.) While J.J.’s huge game off the bench helped offset some others’ struggles (Ricky Rubio didn’t score) it did nothing to stop Denver from scoring.

A very late Wolves rally cut the deficit to 2 points after a Kevin Love three. Wilson Chandler was sent to the line where he made the first and missed the crucial second; a miss that gave the Wolves a chance to tie. Only it didn’t, because Andre Miller [illegally] creeped into the lane from behind Chandler to secure the offensive rebound and the win. A little kick to the ribs when we were already down about losing a winnable game. Denver isn’t very good right now and the Wolves had enough things going on offense last night to leave the Pepsi Center 7-3 instead of 6-4. It’s the type of loss that can’t sit well with Coach Adelman who certainly appreciates how difficult it will be to lock up a Western Conference playoff seat.

Some other Wolves jottings:

Robbie Hummel: Positive Correlation Guy

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Which NBA Coach Will Be Fired First?

Is Monty Williams' head on the chopping block?

Is Monty Williams’ head on the chopping block?

Hi folks. I’m slammed at work today and don’t have  time to write an in-depth preview of tonight’s game at Denver, which will be televised on ESPN. Mea culpa.

Good previews can be found here and here. And a whimsical preview of sort–with lots of good music–is up on Canis Hoopus.

Firing Season

So something fun, easy, and different.

We’re coming up on December–the beginning of firing season for NBA coaches. The fact that capable replacements–George Karl, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins, and even Phil Jackson–are currently twiddling their thumbs at home doesn’t help the current crop of underperformers.

Several coaches might have job security issues this firing season. Randy Wittman is the obvious candidate to lose his job first. But there are dark horses out there, such as Cleveland’s Mike Brown (and his stanky leg offense), Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd (Prok isn’t afraid to do, well, anything), and New Orleans’ Monty Williams (losing a lot of games, not getting much out of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans).

So which coach do you think loses his job first? Weigh in below.

Enjoy the tilt.

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Wolves Win: The Sunday Drive Edition (WOLVES 124, Cavs 95)

drive

About twenty minutes ago, Matt Barnes and Serge Ibaka were both ejected from a basketball game. Ibaka fouled Blake Griffin under the basket and the two star big men got their arms twisted up. Whether it was aggressive basketball or showy machismo, the interlocking continued. Serge pushed Blake and Barnes quickly dove in and shoved Ibaka back. Serge then balled a fist, a crowd swarmed between them, and — one Ken Mauer video review later — two key players were headed to the showers before the half. The period ended with Russell Westbrook sticking a pull-up trey in Chris Paul’s eye, turning and signaling double holsters to drive the point home:

It was on now.

That game is still being played, now entering the fourth quarter as I write. No matter who wins (Clips lead by 5 at the moment) tomorrow’s game wraps are certain to include a few sports-cliche buzzwords. It was a “playoff atmosphere” out there on the Staples Center floor. The game was “a preview of what’s to come” in the playoffs, next spring. There “will be no love lost” the next time Ibaka and Griffin match up in the post.

I begin with this because it is the polar opposite of what went down at Target Center tonight.

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Can the Wolves Get Revenge Tonight against the Cavaliers? (The Redux Edition)

CJ Miles Cavs

Note to Rick Adelman: Don’t let Alexey Shved near this man tonight. (Wait, Alexey couldn’t get near him if he tried. Nevermind.)

The Wolves are at home for tonight’s tilt against the Cavaliers. The tip is at 7 P.M. CST. You can watch it on FSN (most of you) or League Pass (me).

The Wolves will try to undo some of the damage witnessed in their horrific first-three quarters performance on November 4, which presaged a Wolves run in the fourth quarter that fell a Kevin Love buzzerbeater away from a huge comeback win. (Eds. Note: Andy G and Patrick J attended the November 4 game in Cleveland. A photo diary of the festivities can be seen here.)

The starting lineups should look like this.

Cavaliers Timberwolves
PG Irving 19.4 Rubio 8.6
SG Waiters 14.3 Martin 24.6
SF Gee 4.6 Brewer 13.4
PF Thompson 13.0 Love 26.4
C Bynum 6.2 Pekovic 13.6

Several interesting matchups stand out.

Ricky Rubio vs. Kyrie Irving

Rubio-Irving is the marquee matchup. Ricky is a flashy point guard who’s leading the league in steals and is one of the best defensive point guards in the business. As Wolves watchers know too well, Ricky has his problems shooting the ball, and with scoring more generally. Irving is Rubio’s mirror opposite in many ways, excepting the flashiness part: Kyrie is arguably the best pure-shooting point guard in the League not named Stephen Curry, but he struggles mightily on defense.

Ironically, Mike Brown executed perhaps the best in-game strategy of any opposing coach this year to exploit Ricky’s shooting ineptitude, daring Rubio to take open shots and doubling down hard on Wolves post players, who struggled to get any interior offense going against the Cavs’ collapsed, outsized defensive trio of Anderson Verejao, Tristan Thompson (!), and Andrew Bynum, the last of whom has been moved into the starting lineup in place of Verejao.

The Wolves might consider executing a similar strategy by trying to bait Dion Waiters into taking long jumpers whilst shading Kevin Martin to help against Cleveland’s bigs.

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Close Loss, Moral Victory (CLIPPERS 109, Wolves 107)

Moral victories feel a little bit better when the team actually has a winning record. The Timberwolves are now 5-3 and last night’s close loss at Staples Center can be filed away as a moral victory for a team with hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

On the tail end of a road back-to-back and facing one of the league’s most talented teams, the Wolves were inches away from forcing overtime. Down by two, out of a timeout, Kevin Martin’s bank shot missed. Then Nikola Pekovic’s bunny from about 5 feet missed. And then Kevin Love’s point-blank tip in missed. The buzzer sounded, the game was over and the Wolves wild comeback effort (they trailed by 11 with under 5 minutes to play) fell just short against long odds and a tough opponent.

But the point stands: This wasn’t a game for the Wolves to hang their heads over. Despite a rocky first-half defensive effort (36 points allowed in the 2nd Quarter, many off of breakdowns leading to open Clipper dunks) the team offense was solid throughout the entire game (with the exception of a stretch or two of JJ-led bench play) and really tightened up the D in the second half. While the Clippers did a nice job of limiting the Love-Brewer outlet bombs, they had no answer for a new wrinkle to Adelman’s offensive attack: the high-low pass from Love to Nikola Pekovic.

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Afternoon Fun: Invincible J.J. Barea

ICYMI: The Internet Video of the Year

In the words of legendary Canis Hoopus commenter MAYNHOLUP, “u alreddy kno” this is classic material: It pretty much captures everything one needs to know about “Good/Bad J.J.,” without needing a single word of explanation to accomplish it.

This is why we love the Interwebz.

(Big ups to Steve McPherson and Anthony Bain, who made the dream real.)

Enjoy the game tonight.

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Wolves 113, LAKERS 90

I spilled a lot of virtual ink yesterday about the Wolves season to date. They went on to pummel the Lakers, defeating LAL by the most points in franchise history and for the first time in years. Three pointers by the Kevins, Outlet bombs to Brewer, pesky backcourt defense, and a Ricky Rubio triple double all factored into the win. Oh, and Nick Young’s shot selection.

Another big one tonight at the same arena, against a much better Clippers team.

***

Update (11:05 A.M. CST): It’s a cliche , but we’d be remiss not to honor Ricky’s triple-double (highlights here) by giving it the proper Ice Cube  treatment (see 1:18) – Patrick J

It Was A Good Day (NSFW, depending where you W)

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by | November 11, 2013 · 9:21 AM

Sunday Jottings: Shooting Woes, Respectable Defense, Long Outlets and Extended Thoughts about Kevin Love

The Timberwolves have won four of their first six games and sit tied with the Blazers for second place in the Northwest Division. They’ve blown out the division-leading Thunder and have been manhandled on their home court by the Warriors. With the season now 7.317073 percent complete, it seems a good time to step away from the game wraps and look at some early trends, causes for hope, and causes for concern.

Poor Shooting

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