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The Timberwolves played the Kings tonight. The Kings started rebounding demon Reggie Evans in place of the injured DeMarcus Cousins. Zach LaVine, as he’s grown somewhat accustomed to, at least in terms of regularity, stood in as Ricky Rubio’s spot as starting point guard. On top of that, tonight had no Nikola Pekovic, Darren Collison, Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, or Carl Landry.

Both teams have seen lots of absences due to injury (or illness, in some cases), and both fanbases have come to expect some goofy outputs from players you wouldn’t expect. As per usual with losing teams at the end of the season, players who don’t normally get their time to shine seem more apt for finding looks.

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Young Magic

These are the dog days of the NBA season for every franchise whose playoff seed or lottery fate is essentially settled. Sure, there are a handful of teams in the West scratching and clawing for home court advantage in the first round, and a few at the bottom of the East slap-fighting backwards into the 7th and 8th spots in the standings, but for everyone else, it’s a slog. Postseason-bound organizations are just trying to get healthy before the real fun begins, and everyone else is playing out the string.

Some teams, however, are accomplishing something as they kill time between now and April 15th. The Magic are one of them. Continue Reading…

Wolves and Grizzlies

A few weeks ago, the Wolves stole a game at home against the Grizzlies in rather dramatic fashion. It was Ricky Rubio’s third game back after his two and a half month absence, and it was immediately clear that Minnesota is a different team when he’s on the floor. The offense becomes functional, the perimeter defense becomes pretty damn good, and perhaps most importantly, there’s a certain level of grit that permeates throughout the roster.

Grit, moxie, chutzpah, toughness, fight – call it what you want. Although statistically immeasurable, it is a vital component to a franchise that is attempting to build a winning culture. The virtue of true toughness, in this sense, isn’t validated by the result. It is present no matter the situation, however good or bad things are going on the floor. Contesting shots, fighting for rebounds, working through screens, communicating with teammates, executing on both ends of the floor – all of it matters.

In that sense, the Grizzlies are a terrific barometer by which to measure these young Timberwolves, because they have it down to an art form. Continue Reading…

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More on this to come from one of us later.

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Saturday night, Target Center was home to some zone defense, full-court presses, half-court traps, a 6’8, 215 jump shooter playing backup center, a bunch of 19, 20 and 21 year olds on the floor together, and clown-show refereeing that left both teams, their coaches and the home crowd perplexed at every turn. A college game, perhaps? Nay, it was the Wolves’ 12-point loss to this season’s nicest surprise story, the Sacramento Kings. Continue Reading…

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(Once upon a time, friend of the program Matt Moore wrote a wonderful post about why the Oklahoma City Thunder fell short against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last year. He looked at everything: the departure of James Harden; the perpetually woebegone Scott Brooks; the injury to Serge Ibaka. All of it. And what he found is that none of that was really to blame, although each thing certainly plays its part in ways. At the bottom of all of it, the Spurs were just better. So just take that article and in place of the Thunder — a team with one of the two best players in the league, two of the top 15 or 20 and probably three of the top 40, plus many years and many playoff runs together — and substitute a Wolves team whose ten available players together have played 297 minutes (or roughly six games) more than Tim Duncan alone. They played the Spurs tonight and lost, badly. To quote Gregg Popovich from after the game, “It wasn’t a fair fight.” Wiggins got aggressive and good in the third quarter, Bennett had a career high with 20 and several strong dunks. That’s my recap.)

Earlier today I needed a break from basketball-related activities. This is maybe something that sets me apart from your real “hoops junkies,” which I am definitely not. I am not a “cannot get enough of basketball” person. I can get enough. So I just wanted to dial up a movie on HBO GO and watch it, maybe take a little nap along the way. Continue Reading…

Like Parquet Courts (or, now, Parkay Quarts), the Timberwolves seemed keen on counting down the days until it was time to head back. After a road trip that nearly totaled 3 weeks, they returned with a slew of injuries and sickness, with the absence of Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf to show for it (along with Thad Young, who remains with his family following the passing of his mother).

Even on a depleted roster, things can go right for a team when its most experienced plays well. Tonight, Mo Williams and Kevin Martin combined for 51 points on 19-29 shooting against a Knicks defense that seemed to take the Wolves’ recent history with the 3-point line a bit too seriously.

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(Note: I really wanted to put up a video for “The Future” by Restorations, but couldn’t find one. It’s on Spotify if you want to hear it.)

Here are two things that aggravate me: moral victories and people who complain about them. Lucky for us, then, that tonight’s close loss to the Chicago Bulls was not a moral victory. It was a loss. But when I said it was a good loss, several people got at me to say they were tired of moral victories as Timberwolves fans. So here’s what we need to do: stop talking about moral victories and also stop being sick of them. Continue Reading…

The poorest effort the Wolves showed all night was at the end of the above video, when the rookies’ version of “Happy Birthday” fell into halfhearted, off-key mumbling. Other than that, it was a pretty good night for Minnesota. Continue Reading…

The Wolves play in Cedar Rapids tonight! Finally, we get to watch them pl... what's that? It's not on TV?!? Dang it!

The Wolves play in Cedar Rapids tonight! Finally, we get to watch them pl… what’s that? It’s not on TV?!? Dang it!

So, it’s probably not something to get up in arms about or anything, but most NBA preseason schedules don’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s odd that they don’t make a whole lot of sense, because as far as I can tell, teams are in charge of making their own exhibition schedules, with very little oversight from the league other than “play between six and eight games.”

Thanks to this interesting SF Gate story from a few days ago, I understand that the nuts and bolts of creating a slate of games is a more cumbersome task than many people realize. Among the factors to consider: handshake agreements with other teams who you’ve “traded” home dates with, whether or not the arena where you’d like to play is actually available, geography, travel, and pleasing players and coaches with days off in desirable locales (like Santa Monica or South Beach) rather than less desirable ones (like, Iowa, or something).  Continue Reading…