(Via Kevin Love’s Instagram)
I’ve got a big three-part breakdown of Ricky Rubio starting Friday, and it’s a lot of writing so I don’t want to put too much thought into this blowout loss. Plus, how many ways can you state that the Wolves lost another key player to injury, tried to fight the best they could, Ricky Rubio played really well and encouraging basketball, and it wasn’t even close to enough to earn a victory.
Nikola Pekovic went down with an abdominal strain and found himself out the rest of the game with the ailment. He played nine minutes in the game and then for the remaining 39 minutes of action against a surging Western Conference team, Minnesota found themselves once again without four of their five ideal starters. Kevin Love was out, obviously. Chase Budinger is still out, although he’s running now and will be reevaluated in two to three weeks. Andrei Kirilenko missed the game with a calf injury.
The only player there in the starting lineup and getting regular minutes is Rubio. He was spectacular with his passing for much of the game, and he even made a few jumpers. He finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double, but he wasn’t good enough to lead second and third stringers to victory on the road. Kenny Smith talked about how Rubio has to learn how to score and dominate the game in other ways. Continue Reading…
It’s kind of the same old story this season, right?
The Wolves are talented enough to stay competitive with just about any team in the NBA, but they’re not healthy enough to overcome the wave of talent, execution, and production that a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder can throw at you. The Wolves need a special set of circumstances to overcome a team like the Thunder. They beat them earlier in the season, but had the luxury of a home environment at their disposal. They also had a balanced attack from a lot of the players, including J.J. Barea going nuts in the fourth quarter of that game.
This time, the bench carried the Wolves when the starters were largely ineffective. The Wolves got 59 points from four bench players, thanks to Barea, Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham, and Greg Stiemsma stepping up to the challenge. And this was kind of a long time coming from a few of these bench guys. For Alexey, it was the first real good game he’s had since the loss to Memphis. For Stiemer, he hadn’t really produced much since the win over New Orleans. For Dante, it was the first real good game since the loss to Portland.
On a night in which Nikola Pekovic was completely neutralized by the duo of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, the Wolves badly needed the bench to step up and keep things close until the starters could find a rhythm. The problem is the Wolves’ starters never found a rhythm. This often leads to the knee-jerk reaction of shuffling deck chairs on a sinking ship, but I like the balance of the Wolves’ rotation based on what is available to Rick Adelman. Continue Reading…
Maybe the Wolves shouldn’t explore the Mozgov/Pek backup plan after all?
In a game that was incredibly fast in the first half because of a lack of calls and completely bogged down in the fourth quarter because of 23 foul calls and 38 free throw attempts, the Wolves had to power through their first game back from the All-Star break. Luckily for them, they have the most powerful guy in the NBA with Nikola Pekovic. It’s amazing how a guy with so much brute strength can have such a feathery touch when it comes to scoring with hooks and push-shots around the basket.
There was one shot in particular in the second half when he used about four or five bounces on the rim and backboard before the shot dropped in which I thought he was practicing for Plinko on The Price Is Right (Actually, how awesome would Pek be on The Price Is Right?). The thing with Pek is he’s a rare breed of center now. In the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s, the NBA was ruled by powerful guys on the low block who could move mountains with a drop-step. Because we have such a faster and more athletic game now, guys like Pek just don’t come around anymore. Continue Reading…
The trade deadline is schedule for 2pm CT on Thursday and the Wolves are said to be buyers right now by enticing prospective trade partners with Brandon Roy’s salary relief and a future first round pick. This makes sense for the team if it means they’re adding a piece they can take into next year that helps balance out the roster without taking on too much money. While I don’t believe Glen Taylor to be a cheap owner by any means (when the team is good and producing, he historically spends the money and even flirts with the luxury tax), the Wolves do need to be cognizant of cost right now (more on that in a bit).
So what could the Wolves be targeting? Continue Reading…
When you’re a losing team and you have injuries all over key parts of your roster, you need a full team effort to pull out victories. It isn’t getting good performances just from your remaining top players. Of course, you need good games from them but it takes a village to raise a victory, or something like that.
It also helps playing a really bad team. It gives you more and less pressure at the same time, which is an odd thing for a team to manage. The Cleveland Cavaliers are not a good basketball team — at all. They have Kyrie Irving, who might already be a top 5 point guard, and if he’s not then he’s knocking on the door like one of those creepy stalkers in the movie The Strangers. Continue Reading…
For the final play of the Wolves-Blazers game, Rick Adelman drew up a play that gave Ricky Rubio a fairly basic pick-and-roll set with the floor spread and plenty of options off of that play. And the Wolves actually ran it really well. They ended up with Dante Cunningham pump-faking, nearly traveling, and then having to rush a jumper just a bit against his defender.
After the game, Adelman described the play they ran:
“The last play was a bang-bang play. I thought it was the best play we had. Pek might have been open rolling down the middle. At least he was going right to the basket and forcing the action. Dante made a nice pump fake, missed the shot but he’s not used to having the ball in his hands like that.”
Cunningham had made eight of his 10 shot attempts in the fourth quarter and was 20 for his last 25 heading into that final play. The Wolves options on the play were essentially spot-up shooting from Barea and Shved on the two sides, Rubio driving to the basket, Pek rolling to the basket or DC pupping near the top of the key.
“When Rick draws up a play, it’s not only one option,” Rubio said in the locker room after the game. “You never know what’s going to happen. It was like a different option and I felt that was the best option because he was shooting pretty good. But they defended it pretty good too.”
How good was the play and could it have been better? Let’s take a look. Continue Reading…
Remember how we felt late Friday night?
The Wolves had just gotten pummeled by the Lakers. I know the final score was pretty close, but any time you’re down 29 points to a team at any point in the game, you’ve been pummeled. The Wolves eventually whittled a 29-point second quarter deficit down to four before losing by double digits to Kobe and
Friends Colleagues. And the cliché in games like that is “use the momentum of the run to make it a game and roll it over into the next game.”
I don’t know if there are statistics readily available to back this up, but I feel like that doesn’t happen a lot. The idea of game-to-game momentum doesn’t seem real to me unless the team has walked away with a victory. And yet, the cliché rang true Saturday night for the Wolves. After getting down 61-32 just a few minutes into the second quarter of Friday night’s game, Minnesota built their own 29-point lead. Theirs existed in the third quarter of their victory over the Pelicans but it existed.
Know what I realized during the Wolves’ blowout victory when juxtaposed to their ginormous deficit just 24 hours prior? I have a hard time learning anything from blowout games. Continue Reading…
There’s a kind of weird, inherent contradiction in writing about sports. Because here I am, preparing to build something out of words about a game played by people who don’t use words to illuminate, but rather to sometimes obfuscate, sometimes motivate, and almost always for ulterior motives. I don’t mean that athletes are dumb—far from it, actually. The clichés they often speak in are tools as surely as the pick and roll is a tool. I simply mean that I’m always striving to use words to carve away the noise from the game, to find some skein of sense—or at the very least, a clearer perspective—that can build a resonance for myself and, hopefully, whoever reads this, while athletes and coaches are packing together words for themselves, for their team, for the public in multi-layered and often contradictory ways. Continue Reading…
After a night of next to zero sleep (not Wolves related, just your basic insomnia), I was in a zombionic haze all day long. Because of this, I never got around to writing a recap of the Wolves’ loss to the Thunder from Wednesday night. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to write about it; I just didn’t really know what to say about it.
The Wolves are incredibly short-handed, especially with Barea missing the game. Having three guards, one of them on a minutes restriction due to ACL rehabilitation, is not an ideal situation for facing Russell Westbrook. Throw in the fact that Kevin Love isn’t around and the Wolves are almost out of shooting guards, and you could see the writing on the wall before this game even started. And that’s fine. You can’t expect to have a Disney moment every time this season. The Thunder are just too good to topple consistently. They aren’t going to let that Wizards game happen often.
While trying to come up with something to write, I looked at a pen I recently got and couldn’t help but think about Nikola Pekovic. Continue Reading…