Archives For 2011-12 Season

That was not a fun way to lose a basketball game.

Denver’s side of it will talk about how they gutted out the win with depth and heart and all of that crappy romance novel stuff that people love to spit after a win like this. And on some level, it’s completely valid. Ty Lawson injured his ankle in the first half and never returned. Then Andre Miller acted like a petulant teenager to the refs and was thrown out, leaving Denver with something called a Julyan Stone (I think you can get one from Crate & Barrel) to run the point.

Denver did outhustle the Wolves. They were active in the paint, fought for every loose ball and seemed to want to rebound more than the Wolves. Several times, it looked like guys on the Wolves were looking for someone else to grab a rebound, while Denver chased down the ball like it was a historic artifact in the National Treasure movie franchise. Kevin Love ended up with a 20 and 13 night, which doesn’t sound bad at all until you watch Kenneth Faried destroy him on the boards in the second half and overtime (Love had five rebounds, Faried had 10).

But let’s get down to the embodiment of what went wrong in this game – the Martell Webster blunder. Continue Reading…

It’s a shame to see all that Kevin Love does and wish he would do more. But watching Elton Brand dismantle him in the post probably made some of us do just that. Early in the first quarter, Brand recovered a loose ball at the elbow, sized up Love with a dribble between his legs, put his back on him and pivoted into a fade away 12 footer as fluidly as 33 year old knees can be expected to. Not pretty by any measure, but sound and effective.

Kevin attempted to fire back from the perimeter but continually missed the mark. His shots were flat and rushed. Philadelphia’s defense certainly took much of the credit, but this also bore the look of someone shooting simply because he was expected to. Not to say that he shouldn’t, only that he has more options. Love only made two shots in the quarter; a layup in transition and a hook shot over Brand off a post up. He missed five jumpers.

Continue Reading…

Patience is supposed to be a virtue, but there rarely seems to be room for it in today’s sporting world.

Rookies get drafted and we immediately start wondering how they’re going to get 36 minutes per game to fulfill their destiny of saving the franchise. If they’re a high draft pick, then immediate impact is expected and nothing can be brought along slowly. The problem with this intensity of expectation is it assumes every draft class happens in a vacuum.

There are some years in which a draft is loaded with All-Star potential. There are also some years in which you get unlucky by acquiring a top-7 pick because the talent pool just isn’t there. It’s hard to know it in the moment or even immediately after we start seeing these rookies at the NBA level. Because you “never know when a guy is going to surprise all of his doubters” and become an elite NBA talent.

Derrick Williams is caught up in this very problem right now, whether he’s aware of it or not. The number-two pick in the NBA draft is supposed to be a superstar, no matter what. And so far, D Dub has been underwhelming based on the stigma and expectations that come with the draft pick used on him. He isn’t starting and he isn’t getting consistent minutes. He doesn’t really fit in with where the Wolves are right now. Continue Reading…

Keep it simple, stupid.

It’s funny how basic professional basketball can be sometimes. You’re bigger and stronger than the opponent so you pound it inside and get easy points. You have a problem with turnovers so you just stay more patient and stop giving the ball to the other team. You’re facing the worst team in the league, start off slowly and just wait for them to regress to the mean.

This was the night against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Wolves look disinterested early on, giving up EASY baskets to Corey Maggette, Reggie Williams, and everybody else in the Charlotte unis. It was like the Wolves weren’t taking this game seriously at all. And maybe they weren’t. That’s what happens when you’re facing a team on a 15-game losing streak that happens to have a scoring margin of around -15 this season.

Minnesota gave up 30 points in the first quarter to a team that hadn’t reached 90 points in seven straight games. Not to take anything away from the Bobcats but I’m totally going to take everything away from the Bobcats here. They’re a horrible team that can’t score and the only way they have a 30-point first quarter is if you don’t take them seriously.

By the time the Wolves got around to caring, they were able to slow the momentum and scoring attack of the Bobcats while getting their own game on track. JJ Barea had his best game as a T’Pup so far with 12 points (4/9 shooting) and eight assists with zero turnovers. He controlled the pace of the game for the Wolves when he was on the floor without Ricky, which is something he hadn’t been able to show much at all this season.

Outside of the mean slapping Charlotte in the face, this game was won with the play of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.

After the game, Love was talking about how much the presence of Nikola Pekovic opens up Kevin’s game for him. And I’d imagine the same could be said the other way around. You’re not moving Pek when he’s getting position inside. I’ve been up close for almost every home game this season and I’ve watched player after player try to move him out of the spot he wants on the floor. It just doesn’t happen. Once he plants himself in the lane, you need a bulldozer to even think about displacing him.

The way to counteract that is to be in his way. Again, it sounds simple but if you’re already in the spot the post player wants then he has to wedge you out of there. If he tries to move you from the spot with his upper body, you’re going to see a lot of offensive fouls called (Dwight Howard does this a lot). The problem is if you’re in help defense because Kevin Love is on the floor, it’s really hard to beat Pek to sitting down in the key where you have no chance of stopping him from making his post move.

Love spreads the floor for Pek and in turn, Pek opens up the floor for Love. As a help defender, you know you have to keep a body on Pek so he can’t set up camp right in front of the basket for an easy hoop. This leaves Kevin with one-on-one coverage for much of the area between his man and the basket. Love mentioned that in situations like this he knows he has a great chance of getting off a good shot or getting to the free throw line. He credited a lot of that to the presence Pekovic has given the Wolves down low.

The symbiotic relationship the two big men seem to have on the court is developing into a deadly combination. Yes, they went against the Bobcats Wednesday night and you should be able to do whatever you want against the second worst defense in the NBA. They combined for 51 points and 29 rebounds against Charlotte’s frontcourt. The Wolves got 34 attempts at the rim (14 attempts by Pekovic) and shot 50.6% from the field for the entire game.

The Wolves didn’t have to do too much against a horrendous Bobcats team. They survived Kemba Walker’s streaky shooting, Boris Diaw’s versatility on offense, and whatever terrible shots Corey Maggette decided to put up throughout the game. Wes Johnson did a great job of forcing Maggette into bad and contested attempts after a good first quarter (4/8 in the first, 2/9 the rest of the game).

Wednesday night, the Wolves kept the gameplan and execution simple, and they let the talent on the floor naturally take over the game to win out.

Pay attention, Timberwolves; this is exactly what you want to be.

The Dallas Mavericks put the Wolves through a basketball clinic Friday night and showed the young Pups exactly where they need to end up as a team. Dallas isn’t a perfect team by any means and they certainly didn’t play a perfect basketball game. However, they did respond to moments in a basketball game the exact way you’d love to see the Wolves respond, night in and night out.

The Mavs set the tone early, capitalizing on a huge matchup problem that the Wolves didn’t know how to defend. The problem when you play two point guards in the backcourt is that the opposing team can get away from what they typically and just post one of those point guards up constantly. Most teams don’t out of stubbornness or a lack of creativity. They like to run their sets and get their game established. Rick Carlisle on the other hand decided to punish the Wolves early and often with Vince Carter trying to be checked by Luke Ridnour.

The Mavs seemed to go exclusively to Vince to start the game and dared the Wolves to make a personnel move throughout this game. It was a brilliantly obvious call by Carlisle over and over, and the Wolves couldn’t do anything to stop it. It’s not that Vince himself necessarily destroyed the Wolves; he had five points in the first and 12 for the game. But every time the Mavs went to him on the block against Luke, the Wolves had to double and rotate. And the rotations were not good last night. Mavs shooters were left open constantly throughout the game and it allowed them to get into a rhythm from beyond the arc.

The Mavs just capitalized on the Wolves mistakes all night. Missed rotation or left a shooter too much space on the perimeter? 3-pointer made. Turn the ball over carelessly? Transition bucket was coming back at you. Allow Dirk Nowitzki to catch the ball anywhere inside of halfcourt? He buried jumpers in your helpless eyes.  Continue Reading…

According to sources of Marc Spears from Yahoo! Sports, Kevin Love will be named an All-Star reserve for the second time in his career.

Obviously, this isn’t official at all but Marc is a pretty darn good reporter and it’s pretty obvious that Love deserves to be on the West squad this season.

Get excited, Pups fans!

Update: This is now official. From the Wolves:

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love has been named to the 2012 Western Conference All-Star team, the National Basketball Association announced today…The honor is the second of Love’s career as he made his first appearance in last year’s game. Love is the second player in franchise history to make more than one All-Star Game appearance, joining Kevin Garnett (10 appearances). Tom Gugliotta, Wally Szczerbiak and Sam Cassell all made one appearance as a Timberwolves player. Love recorded two points and four rebounds in 12 minutes during the 2011 NBA All-Star Game at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

And here’s a rundown of the reserves for both conferences.

While some might complain about Kevin Love’s suspension being unjust, I’m trying to look at it as a positive thing.

I’ve grown tired of Kevin Love’s complaining to officials this season. I’m fine if he wants to belabor a point or fight for his team verbally during stoppages in play, but when he’s taking an extra second or two to turnaround and complain to a referee that is booking it up the floor to keep up with the action (hint, hint: Kevin you should too), I find it disheartening to see a brief 4-on-5 defensive effort.

It’s not something that happens all the time. It happens maybe two or three times per game at most. It’s not costing the Wolves games either. It’s just a poor decision he makes that puts his team at risk of giving up scores and at a certain point, enough is enough.

The good thing about this suspension is it gives a real test to Nikola Pekovic, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams to step up and prove their production without the attention defenses pay to Kevin Love. Anybody could argue that everybody on the Wolves benefits from Love’s presence out there and they certainly do to some extent. But that isn’t the reason someone like Ricky Rubio gets a lot of assists or Nikola Pekovic is able to have a presence inside.

With Love out last night, the entire team had a chance to prove themselves and they did a pretty good job. There were times when his absence was felt. The Wolves got sloppy with the ball, forced shots they normally wouldn’t have to take and had to deal with DeMarcus Cousins dominating the boards in the third quarter. However, players stepped up when they needed to and the Wolves dodged a bullet at the end to secure the win. Continue Reading…

Hopefully you’re all somewhat familiar with Devin Kharpertian and the fantastic work he and his team do at Nets Are Scorching, our Nets blog in the TrueHoop Network.

He and I exchanged three questions each to prepare for tonight’s contest in New Jersey. Here are his answers about the Nets and then my answers for him about the Wolves. Enjoy.  Continue Reading…

It’s time to Pek a fight

Zach Harper —  February 3, 2012 — 14 Comments

Watching the Indiana Pacers punish the Wolves with physicality the other night made me a little jealous. The Pacers want to punish you. They want you to feel their presence every second of the ball game.

Stop-n-Pop at Canis Hoopus put it beautifully when he said:

The Pacers entered last night’s tilt with a single goal: to beat the living hell out of Our Beloved Puppies.

Mission Accomplished.

Here’s what I think was going through the head of each and every single Indy player:

“You want to run the pick and roll? We’ll crush the pick. You want to throw your body around on the defensive glass? We’ll grab at you until we get called. We’ll poke, pry, hustle, and hack and we’ll beat your finesse. We’ll beat you because you’re soft. We’ll beat you because we’re better. We’ll beat you because our bigs are bigger and our wings can play. We’ll beat you because our coach has an edge.”

I don’t know if this model of play is sustainable in a league in which scoring is valued by the rule-makers and ratings-counters. It’s hard to sell something as ugly as woodshed basketball when you’re trying to convince people they need season tickets to see your product. People love to see scoring. They want to see dunks, no-look passes, and 3-pointers raining hellfire on the nightly opponents.

I, myself, love a free wheeling team. Other than having an affinity for watching Kevin Love’s child-bearing hips remove opposing players from rebounding position, seeing Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, and others whip the ball around the court has given me a joy with this team that I haven’t felt since the KG era. Sharing is caring and sharing is also selling you a team for consumption.

But there is still part of me that wants this team to have a bully and a presence inside. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Darko isn’t that guy. Despite David Kahn’s best attempts to sell this roll of the dice to everybody years ago, the production just isn’t there and probably never will be. Continue Reading…

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Michael Gerard Tyson

Forget the Danny Granger incident in the third quarter.

We can pretend this was a turning point in the game and that it fired Granger up to lead his team over our beloved Wolves. We can pretend he wasn’t already in the process of torching Beasley, Wes, Martell and anybody else that was unfortunate enough to run into the 2007 version of the Pacers’ leading scorer. We can pretend Granger didn’t wait for Beasley and Webster to step between him and Love before he showed he wanted a piece of Love.

Everybody is a tough guy when there is no chance of actually fighting. Continue Reading…