The Timberwolves were routed 105-89 last night against the Warriors, as the Dubs clinched only their second playoff appearance in 19 (!) seasons. These late West Coast games are wildcards for Patrick J, as they usually start at 10:30 Eastern Time, which is fairly late on a school night. Which is to say, I fell asleep around 10:30 P.M. last night, just before the tip of the Wolves-Dubs game. That’s what League Pass’s game archive is for. I plan to watch the game in its entirety as soon as I satisfy all of the niggling responsibilities today at my actual job here in DC, hopefully as a prelude to staying up late to catch tonight’s Wolves-Clips game live.
Operating on more forgiving Central Time, Andy G took in all of last night’s action. In this INBOX post, he’s going to wrap last night’s game and I’m going to preview tonight’s game, both with a simple “5 things” rapid-fire approach. Enjoy.
The Lakers have won 21 straight over the Timberwolves heading into tonight’s tilt at the Target Center. With the Lakers vying for a playoff spot and the Wolves coming off a dominant win against Detroit, could tonight be the night when the hex ends? That’s why I’ll be watching.
It’s March. Spring is (officially) here. Flowers are blooming and the air is warm. There’s still piles of snow on the ground and it’s cold as hell. But NBA and NCAA tournament basketball is being played. Basketball fans are in a state of full receptivity, like a f*cking lightning rod.*
Me, I’ve been traveling the last week, first to Minnesota, then to Chicago. Catching games when I could. But travel is disruptive, especially for someone who’s usually planted in his lounger in front of a 60-inch TV with the full suite of League Pass and cable options, and two(!) laptops, one usually dedicated to picking up a second NBA game on League Pass Broadband and the other to NBA Twitter. While on the road I’ve been catching games when possible. But it hasn’t been the same as my home base in The Hoops Junkie’s Blogger Lair. But now I’m back in the captain’s chair, and it’s on.
The Wolves take on the Spurs tonight at Target Center. On paper, it looks to be a lopsided affair. The Wolves are 21-39. They have lost consecutive games by over 20 points. The Spurs are 49-15. They just beat OKC by 12. Two games before that, they beat Chicago by 18.
That said, things look grim. The Blazers are fighting for the 8th seed in the West. The Wolves are, well – depending on how you judge incentives – fighting for a respectable finish or a higher lottery pick. One thing they’re decidedly not fighting for is a playoff spot.
Which isn’t to say that they aren’t playing hard.
Anyone who’s been watching knows Ricky Rubio is setting an example that good players on bad teams ought to be required to follow. The energy and leadership Rubio displays nightly is a model for other NBAers to follow (even if his jump shot isn’t).
The Heat (43-14) have won 14 straight and are on the cusp of the longest winning streak in franchise history. Miami has beaten the Wolves five consecutive times. If the Heat win tonight, it will have its third straight season sweep of the Wolves. I’ve written before on streaking. Much of that applies here.
PG: Ricky Rubio vs. Steve Nash: Before we knew Ricky, we thought he’d be something like Nash minus the jumper. Turns out that the only things Rubio has in common with Nash are his skin color and uncanny court vision & passing skills. Nash is a great scorer and weak defender; Ricky’s a poor scorer and great defender.
SG: Luke Ridnour vs. Kobe Bryant: It’s no fun leading half the stuff I write with “How can they expect Luke to match up with [insert big, physical shooting guard’s name here]?” But that’s the reality. Ben McLemore would be nice, but he plays for Kansas. Here’s hoping Adelman does the sensible thing and has Ridnour guard Nash and Rubio guard Bryant. In any case:
SF: Mickael Gelabale vs. Metta World Peace: This physical mismatch is almost as daunting as the potential Luke-Kobe one. I’m starting to doubt Kirilenko is going to get right again this season; it’s a shame, as he’s certainly been our best player when healthy. If he were matching up against World Peace tonight, the potential for physical harm to be done would have been high. And unlike Gelabale’s case, it’s unclear whether who would be the harmer(!) and who’d be the harmed. Advantage: LAL
PF: Derrick Williams vs. EARL CLARK: Williams is still maddening, but at least he’s starting to do stuff. It’s amusing (and kinda sad) how surprised even he looks when he does something good. So that’s the baseline we’re gauging D-Thrill from. That said, Pau Gasol is out. And Earl Clark stinks. For the Wolves, no Gasol = no worries. Advantage: Wolves
C: Pek vs. D12: Tough call. Pek may be the most likable player in the League; Howard may be the least. Each is a unique physical specimen but in a tototally different way. (Pek sort of has the Rocky from Rocky IV thing going to D12’s Drago.) I’m an admitted D12 hater, so I’ll say:
Advantage: Wolves. (If for no other reason, agree with me because of D12’s ManSpanx.)
Predicted outcome: Lakers by 13
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Tonight the Wolves are in Cleveland to take on Kyrie Lee Irving and his Cleveland Cavaliers (6PM CST, FSN, 830-AM). Hands down, Kyrie Irving has the best handle, and possibly the coolest offensive repertoire in the NBA. That’s the need-to-know. Rinse, repeat, enjoy.
Will this man stand between Nik Pek and a 20+-point game?
Andy G: Wolves at Memphis tonight (5:00 CST, My29 for TV; 830 WCCO for radio) where they’ll face a Grizzlies team 13 games over .500. The Wolves? They’re 11 games below. Some big changes going on in Graceland that put the Grizzlies’ lofty standing in question. ESPN’s NUMB#RS guru, John Hollinger, joined the front office. Guess who’s no longer walkin’ through that door? That’d be you, Rudy Gay. Memphis now has Tayshawn Prince, whose extended, post-Aughts-dynasty stint in Detroit was the NBA’s version of an indefinite Gitmo detentionI. Seriously, what took so long for Dumars to find Prince a suitable home for a quality vet? In any case, he’s on a fringe Kahntender in Memphis now. He’s not exactly lighting the world on fire (9.3/3.3/3.5 in last 4 games) but we know he can play and he’s a gap-filler between a quick and feisty backcourt and big and bruising frountcourt.
Enough beating around the bush: Do the Wolves stand a chance of winning this game?
Patrick J: The Wolves stand a chance, but it’ll be a tough-fought win if it’s gonna come out in the Wolves’ favor. The big thing, to me, is the Gasol-Pekovic matchup. The Wolves have been able to rely – and need to rely – on Pek as their one consistent scoring threat throughout this tough stretch. But tonight, Pek gets the Gasol treatment. That means an extra-strength dose of pain for most opposing centers. And their backcourt is great at defense too. Mike Conley and Tony “000G” Allen make the lives of their oppenents miserable on a nightly basis. So Rubio, Luke, Shved & co, will have their work cut out for them. (Eds. Note: Allen has an excellent Twitter account, found here.)
So this leads to the next issue (assuming you agree) – can the Wolves get enough punch from Gelabale and/or D. Williams tonight to give them a shot in case our usual first options struggle?
The Knicks are in town tonight for a 7 PM CST tilt against the Wolves. By way of preview, a few things:
The psychology of streaking: It’s time to talk about streaking, and the weird effects it can have on people. No, not that kind of streaking. I’m talking about the kind where someone does something many times consecutively. In this case,the Knicks have won 15 of the last 16 against the Wolves. They’ve basically been streaking against the Wolves. I hate streaks like that, because they play into teams’ psychology, even if the players won’t admit it. Continue reading →
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 PANTHONY 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)?
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…
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.
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?
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.
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.
The Wolves’ hipsters take on Thunder’s hipsters tonight in OKC
The Wolves got a nice win over Atlanta last night at Target Center. Tonight they have the Thunder, in Oklahoma City, on the wrong end of a back-to-back against the team with the second-best record in the NBA. As nice as last night’s tilt was, the Wolves are in for a long night if they aren’t ready from the get-go tonight.
The Thunder are really good (26-8). They have freak athletes (see Westbrook, Russell; Ibaka, Serge; and, of course, Durant, Kevin). They don’t have James Harden anymore, but they do have a former Mr. Efficiency, Kevin Martin, whom they received for Harden and who missed the last game OKC played against Minnesota, when the Wolves beat the Thunder 99-93 in Minneapolis on December 20th in one of the signature wins of the post-Garnett era.
UPDATE (4:58 PM): Add Rick Adelman to the Injury Report list. He won’t attend the game tonight for personal reasons, say reports. Hope all is okay with Rick and the Adelmans.
Tonight’s tilt is against the Atlanta Hawks at Target Center. Did you know that the Wolves have an 11-game losing streak to Atlanta? I didn’t, not until today.
That’s a trend that needs to be reversed. Like, eight matchups ago.
You see, the Hawks are one of the most unfun teams in the League. They will never make one of our All-League Pass teams, unless we write one up a “All League Pass: Most Unfun to Watch” version (which we’ll probably do at some point, perhaps in the offseason). Al Horford? Nice player, but yawnstipating. Josh Smith. Another nice player, super cool individually, but not even J-Smoove redeems the Hawks collective. Andy G and I don’t agree on everything, but we agree that we never flip to a Hawks game unless all our other channels are blacked out. Or they’re playing the Wolves. Which they do tonight.