Game Preview: Dane Carbaugh tells us about the Blazers

There’s not much Dane Carbaugh can’t tell us about the Portland Trail Blazers. He is the All Everything of A Young Sabonis, which may eventually be published to paperback depending on how the Blazers finish their season, and does video breakdowns over at Blazers Edge.
Carbaugh is good people, follow him on Twitter. Click the link to do so, here.
If you wish to read what I had to say about the Wolves at a Young Sabonis, you may venture down that dark tunnel at your own risk.
1. Before we get going on tonight, how confident are Blazers finish with a top four seed in the Western Conference Playoffs this season?
I’m not sure they will finish in that place since they have been struggling against teams lately due to an increase in game tape on their offensive strategies. The other part of it is that the Blazers have a ridiculously tough March where they basically play everyone in the Western Conference playoff race without getting more than 1 day off for the duration. Of course, the Blazers have played the other top teams in the West quite well, so I’m not sure that would be a disappointment. Just so long as they avoid the Phoenix Suns in the first round — they are Portland’s kryptonite.
2. What will they do to expose the absence of Nikola Pekovic on offense? How do you believe they will attack Ronnie Turiaf who is starting in his place?
The best way to tell if Stotts is going to get Lopez involved early is to see if he has a play drawn up for him in the first two possessions. If he goes to him that early you can expect it throughout the game.
3. Why all the chatter surrounding Nicholas Batum and his defensive game? Who does he match up against tonight, and what worries you when looking at the Wolves available roster?
Don’t ask me about why, other than the fact that people like to push narratives. Two years ago people were still likening him to Scottie Pippen which is absolutely ridiculous. Other than shooting the three ball, there’s nothing Batum does better than Pippen did. Physically, his defense is all about his length. He’s not as laterally mobile as many think, and that gets him caught out. He gets put on opposing point guards because they aren’t quick enough to get around his arms and his first step combined.
That being said, it’s not as though he’s a bad defender, he just doesn’t live up to the impossibly-high Hall of Fame comparison unfairly placed upon him. Really, Batum can step up his game when the time comes he can lock a guy down. My guess is he gets put on whoever starts at SF to start the game but could transition to Kevin Martin if he gives Portland the same amount of trouble he game them last  time these two teams met. I don’t think Stotts moves him to Rubio unless Lillard is really having an off night defensively.
4. How do you prepare to defend the Kevin Love to Corey Brewer connection in transition? Besides making baskets, is there anthing – as an opponent – that can be done in terms of X’s and O’s to prevent such uncontested baskets?
That’s all down to whether the Blazers have scouted them properly. Portland’s transition defense has been everywhere from average to atrocious this year, and they have a habit of ball-watching when shots (threes) go up. Squaring the floor on the rotation is key — making sure there are always two wings above the break with a designated safety — and making sure that Brewer doesn’t leak out will most likely Batum’s assignment. The real improvement in their transition D has come when Batum is playing middle linebacker, directing traffic. He needs to be alert tonight since Love is such an elite talent with his passes.
5. How do you believe playing a physical, overtime game against the Indiana Pacers last night will affect tonight’s game? (If at all)  and who do you believe will emerge victorious?
That depends. I think it was a tough game but I don’t suspect the Trail Blazers are feeling deflated. They rode the Pacers the whole game and when it came down to crunch time, they basically had a few bad mistakes and a few bad blows of the whistle allow the game to slip through their fingers. Saying “good teams find ways to win those games” is sort of ridiculous, considering Portland has literally won those games this season. You win some, you lose some. And sometimes the Thunder lose to the Magic on a last-second breakaway dunk.
These teams have history and with Jay-Z reported to be in attendance, you best believe Damian Lillard will be looking to impress. I think Portland gets a win in a fairly ordinary game, 103-95.
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An Exchange with the Enemy: Jacob Padilla, Bright Side of the Sun

Seeing how we haven’t had a guest lately, and Wolves-Suns is always exciting – for me – because of personal reasons — Timberpups welcomes Jacob Padilla of Bright Side of the Sun. Padilla is an editor at BSoS, and because both sites are reciprocation stations, you can find me in an email exchange over there answering a few questions. I can’t entirely suggest you will like what you see, though.

I’m calling this the first edition of, “Exchange with the Enemy.” It may also be the last time we call a preview that, it’s up for debate. I asked Padilla six questions hoping to get a little closer to the Phoenix Suns, they’re in town tonight to play the Timberwolves — let’s begin.

I hate the term tanking, but like everyone else, the ‘method’ is an unavoidable topic and the term was tied to the Suns entering the season. Is it safe to say Jeff Hornacek feels as strongly as I do about this subject? How much of the success is thanks to Hornacek? He’s a clear front-runner for Coach of the Year, but what’s something he does for the Suns personnel, in terms of X’s and O’s, that makes this team a threat to make the playoffs? How does he have this team winning when nobody expected them to?

 Magic. I’ve taken to using the #HornacekWIzardry hashtag on Twitter to describe how the Suns are winning. Jeff hornacek really has done a phenomenal job getting guys to play to their strengths. I’m not really exaggerating when I say that nearly every single player on the roster is having a career year, and Hornacek deserves a lot of the credit for that. He has designed a system that puts everyone on the team in position to succeed. He encourages them to run on every play as transition is really where they do the most damage, and he has conditioned guys to take good shots.

The Suns are shooting mostly 3-pointers and shots around the basket, which is what you want your team to do in today’s NBA. Channing Frye, Marcus Morris and Gerald Green are bombing away from deep, P.J. Tucker is killing teams from the corners and making the hustle plays along with Miles Plumlee, and Goran Dragic is doing his Dragon thing on and off the ball.  I haven’t even mentioned Markieff Morris, who is legitimately in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. Hornacek isn’t doing anything super complicated from what I can tell. He’s just encouraging his guys to do what they do best.

As for the tanking, it’s not all Jeff Hornacek. It looks like the Suns went into firesale mode and got rid of all their veterans, but I don’t think the return on those moves has been all luck. Ryan McDonough saw something in Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee and he has been proven right with their play this season. We don’t call him McMiracle (among several other nicknames) for no reason. The team’s may be a complete surprise to almost everyone, but I don’t think it caught McDonough off guard at all. Continue reading

A Philadelphia 76ers Roundtable, Hosted by Timberpups

So, I don’t know much about the Philadelphia 76ers. Is Allen Iverson still there? (Kidding)

But really, I don’t know much of anything about the Sixers.

Here’s a few bits.

  • Head Coach is Brett Brown
  • Record is 7-15
  • Royce White, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe were all Sixers at some point before the season, but are no longer — clearly Philly doesn’t like Minnesota Natives. So this one is personal, right?

Alright. That’s what I know. Anyway, to provide you guys with a little more (a lot more) in depth knowledge about tonight’s opponent — I’ve brought in the experts.

First, introductions.

My name is Jovan Alford and I am a senior communication major at La Salle University specializing in mass media and journalism. I am also the owner/editor in charge of totalsportslive.com, a site a part of the Broad Spectrum Sports network. My site covers Philly collegiate and pro sports and also national sports. I’ve been covering the Sixers for about two years now and you can find my work at totalsportslive.com.

Hi! My name is Emily Gruver and I am the Co-Editor of The Sixer Sense (Part of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network). I’m a huge Philadelphia sports fan. You can find my work at The Sixer Sense, That Ball’s Outta Here, and Hoops Habit.

O’Connor didn’t bother reading the ENTIRE EMAIL, but I had a chance to meet him over the weekend — he was in Minneapolis for business. After chatting with Sean during the Wolves-Heat game last Saturday, which was the most expensive loss I think either of us has payed for, I found that it really is true — people from Philly only talk about Philly, that’s it. (No disrespect intended, that’s what happened — he’ll tell ya) ALRIGHT HERE’S WHAT HIS TWITTER SAYS: “I write words on the internet, primarily at Liberty Ballers (Part of the SB Nation Blog Network)and occasionally at other places.”

Now, the good stuff.

1. Before we get into any talk about tonight’s game, and not to kick anybody in the dirt, but; how bad are the Sixers? Does it reach beyond player personnel and go up the front office ladder? 
Alford: The Sixers are bad. The sad part is as Philadelphia fans we expected them to be bad because once you trade away your all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday that automatically means you are going to have a couple of loses under your bag. I think this is all apart of Sam Hinkie’s plan to blow it up and bring in the players that he wants to fit the team.
Gruver: The Sixers are really struggling right now. With a 7-15 record, they are continuing to lose to teams that they are capable of beating. I think the main reason for this is injuries, mainly with Michael Carter-Williams recent absence for a few games now. I think it’s also the fact that they just don’t have enough talent to compete with these other teams. It’s really just these little things that are costing them these losses; injuries, turnovers, missed free-throws, and defense.
O’Connor: Well, even while they’re better than expected, the Sixers still have lost more than 2/3rds of their games. They haven’t won a game in regulation since November 8th, over a month ago. And it’s totally by design. 
2. Sixers and “tanking” are often associated, that’s what they’re doing — right? What is the best long-term result that could -possibly- come from this season for the Sixers?
Alford: I don’t think that the Sixers are tanking. The players don’t even like the word “tanking” it offends them. The best long-term result that could come from this season is hopefully you can find out who you want to bring back for the long term with head coach Brett Brown. You also want the players to be students of the game and learn how to play the game the right way. Also long term, they will eventually get back Nerlens Noel and possibly you will have two top ten picks so you can keep on building from there.
Gruver: The Sixers are in an odd situation because I actually do believe they don’t want to tank, but are continuing to just fall short. From listening to head coach Brett Brown, as well as the players, I’m actually getting the feeling that they want nothing to do with tanking, especially in the beginning of the season when they were creating miraculous comebacks.
O’Connor: “Tanking” doesn’t have a single, set definition. Some people take “tanking” to mean the intentional losing of games by the players put out on the court, either via holding people out with phantom injuries or an intentional lack of effort. This isn’t happening – the Sixers try really hard every game, and that’s part of Sam Hinkie’s vision. However, they are certainly not built to win games – which to me constitutes tanking by the organization. “Rebuilding” just sugarcoats the intentions.
The best case scenario from this year: vets play well enough to establish trade value, get swapped for future assets, MCW and Noel develop into all-star or borderline all-star caliber players, and the Sixers still end up with the worst record and the best chances for the number one overall pick and a guaranteed top 4 selection.
3. Have you thought of any trade scenarios involving Spencer Hawes, Thad Young or Evan Turner?(These can be as a pair or individuals)  If so what are they? And are you for or against them and why? 
Alford: I haven’t really thought of any trade scenarios myself but one trade scenario that I think we all have probably heard is Thad Young to the Houston Rockets for Omer Asik. I am not a big fan of this trade because nothing about Asik’s game gets me excited. The Sixers already have a big man sitting on the bench in Nerlens Noel so it would be no point. Trading a player like Thaddeus Young would be devastating to this team because he is the heart and soul. If you watch him play he is always hustling diving your balls and taking charges. Plus he is a great guy on and off the court.
Gruver: I haven’t thought of any myself, but I know of the report in which the Houston Rockets would trade Omer Asik in return for Thaddeus Young. Spencer Hawes hasn’t really been in many trade rumors here, and the Evan Turner trade rumors have surprisingly died off.

If it’s the right deal and the Sixers would get something reasonable in return, then I’m for it, but at this point, I don’t see the point in trading away any of them because I feel as though they can be solid pieces for the future.
O’Connor: I’m for trading all of them. Hawes and Turner are free agents at the end of the season – both could potentially help current playoff teams at the low, low cost of a late first round pick, and neither will be cheap or valuable enough to retain at the current market rate. Young makes more sense as a long-term piece, but he’s only guaranteed to be under team control for this year and next. I find it likely that he will opt out after next season, at which point it’ll be costly in years and dollars to retain him. He also should bring back a solid return in a trade.
As for individual deals, Young for Omer Asik has been bandied about quite a bit. I’m a fan if it’s part of a bigger move to eventually move Asik’s contract. Meanwhile, I’m a fan of pretty much any scenario that nets a first round pick for either Hawes or Turner, no matter what team really. But if I had to pick individual teams for them to move to, I’d say Hawes would fit well as a Clipper, while Turner could be useful in Atlanta.
4. No Michael Carter-Williams (<- Caution, there’s self-promotion in there) tonight means we’ll see Lorenzo Brown, right? He was one of the Wolves final cuts prior to the season, do you have any thoughts on his play?
Alford: You can probably expect to see some Lorenzo Brown tonight but more of Tony Wroten Jr. I think Brown has been adequate since he has joined the Sixers. I think he is better than Darius Morris, who the Sixers released earlier this season. In the last three games he is averaging 13.3 minutes per game. That is good, that means Brett Brown has him apart of this rotation and hopefully he can stick around for the entire season.
Gruver: Lorenzo Brown has been OK. He has only played 9 games so far this season and averaging just 7.7 minutes per game so I haven’t seen too much from him. He has just been a guy who will give you a few points and assists a game, but nothing special.
O’Connor:Brown doesn’t wow me in any way, but really that doesn’t matter. Sam Hinkie has brought in players to compete, and he’s lauded Brown for being a hard worker. The Sixers have him playing as a combo guard, but to me his shooting and/or passing (preferably both) need to improve to be a legitimate rotation player. At least he’s not Darius Morris, though.
5. Lastly, is there any way the Sixers beat the Wolves tonight? If so, how? If not, what scares you about this Wolves team. (Feel free to rant a bit here about anything really)
Alford: The only way this Sixers team beats the Wolves if they come out and play like they did to begin the season against the Heat and Bulls. They could sneak up on the Wolves tonight because Minnesota is coming off of a back to back. Those are the only two ways they win. But I think they won’t win because when you are going a team that has the likes of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, and Kevin Martin you are going to have to play solid defense. Rubio is a great passer, Love is a great passer and shooter, and Martin is a great shooter. The only person I can see defending Love is Thad Young because he is just as versatile. But Kevin Love has the ability to stretch the defense and he throws beautiful outlet passes. I also can forget about Pek who gets monster boards.That is a man in the paint and I hope the Sixers are ready to get punched in the mouth down low because if they aren’t it is going to be a long night tonight.
Gruver: I don’t see the Sixers defeating the Wolves tonight. First off, the Sixers are horrible on the road (1-8). What scares be the most about this Wolves team is that I’m afraid Kevin Love is going to completely go off and the Sixers won’t be able to defend him. Plus, the Wolves are 3rd overall in PPG, and 7th overall in both rebounds and assists per game. The Wolves just have the better talent and have Love and Nikola Pekovic who are dominating on the boards.
O’Connor: I suppose it’s possible that the Sixers could win but not likely by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyway, what scares me most about the Timberwolves is Nikola Pekovic. That was an easy answer! To be completely serious, though – the three-point shooting capabilities of Kevin Martin and Kevin Love. Though the game we attended in person had some of the worst shooting in the NBA this year, the Sixers are awfully charitable at giving up open three point opportunities. Having two guys that have the ball in their hands often that will fire away whenever open is a scary thought for a Sixers team that leaves people open entirely too often.
Welp. All of our guests today were fantastic. I don’t believe the Sixers can beat the Wolves, either — see weekly preview for further prediction. If you’re a fan of the Sixers or sports in Philly — give these guys a follow on twitter. If they were kind enough to answer my emails, they’re kind enough to befriend you guys.
Wolves-Sixers is tonight, 7:00PM CST — FSN North. 830 WCCO for Radio Goers.

Timberpups Weekly Preview | December 9th

his is the Timberpups weekly preview for the week of December 9th.

It’d be nice to have strong performances from the Minnesota Timberwolves this week. Looking ahead at the schedule, which is becoming fairly easier, there are some decent opportunities to get momentum moving in the right direction.

The Wolves have the opportunity to be, on paper, a better team than their opponent three of four times this week.

The Wolves have the opportunity to be, on paper, a better team than their opponent three of four times this week.

 

Tuesday December 10th. 

Wolves at Detroit Pistons. 

These two met at the Palace in Detroit during the preseason, this time the game counts. If you can remember the preseason meeting was a dramatic loss, Josh Smith hit a three at the buzzer and the Wolves lost a ‘heartbreaker’. The Pistons, like the Wolves, are hovering around .500 with a record of 10-11. Detroit had five players averaging double figures and enjoy a moderate paced game, picking-and-choosing when to run in transition — mobile big men; Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe aren’t slouches moving up and down the floor. The Pistons rank 14th in pace per game (the number of possessions a team uses per game) while the Wolves rank second.

Chauncey Billups and Wil Bynum are out indefinitely, Rodney Stuckey missed Sunday’s game with left knee tendinitis and it’s unsure if he’ll be ready to go for Monday’s game.

Prediction (and I’m no good at these): Wolves punish Pistons — 117-98.

 

Josh Smith whining, about something -- who cares?

Josh Smith whining, about something — who cares?

 

Wednesday December 12th.

Wolves -happily- welcome Philadelphia 76ers. 

There couldn’t be a better time to play the, less than stellar, 76ers — especially at Target Center. Philadelphia is allowing more points per game than any other team in basketball and are considered one of the favorites in the race to “Tank for Wiggins”. Former ‘potential’ Timberwolf Lorenzo Brown will be in the building, the Sixers recently signed him to fulfill the void that was created at point guard due to multiple injuries. One of those injuries was suffered by Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers rookie has been a glimmering bright spot so far this year averaging 18 points and 7 assists per game but his status for this game is uncertain. “MCW” has a bacterial infection in his right-knee. Evan Turner will need to do a LOT for the Sixers to have a chance in this one.

Prediction: Wolves scoff at the Sixers — 110-89.

Barea drives hoping to score during a meeting with Sixers in the preseason

Barea drives hoping to score during a meeting with Sixers in the preseason

Friday December 13th.

Wolves at San Antonio Spurs.

This would be a rematch between these two teams, but because of the inexplicable generator fire in the Arena at Mexico City last week it’s the first meeting between these two this season. It’s no surprise that the Spurs are one of the best team’s in the Western Conference, this is the Wolves toughest challenge for the week. San Antonio is 11th in the league in offensive rating and 3rd on the defensive side of things. I’ll take the Gregg Popovich approach on this one by not saying much more; The Wolves have work cut out for them against a premier NBA franchise on the road.

Prediction: Wolves slip-up against the Spurs, late — 96-101

Rubio finding a way to pass around Danny Green to someone open in the lane for a dunk, probably.

Rubio finding a way to pass around Danny Green to someone open in the lane for a dunk, probably.

Sunday December 15th. 

Wolves at Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies may have proved a more difficult challenge than the Spurs were, but this matchup is a bit more even. Marc Gasol and Quincy Pondexter are sidelined indefinitely because of their respective injuries — a huge bonus for the Wolves. Tony Allen is also uncertain as of now, but his condition may be updated during the course of the week. The Grizz are 10-11 on the season thus far, but have suffered 20+ losses in their last two games; falling by 20 to the Los Angeles Clippers and 27 at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless and Nick Calathes are now the key components to success in Memphis, hopefully the Wolves are able to take care of business against a team wounded by injuries.

On a lighter note, it’s likely we’ll see Jon Lauer. He’s a Minnesota native (Orono) and a University of Wisconsin Graduate (Something Alex knows very well). It’s always fun seeing guys I’ve watched in high school play at the professional level, though it doesn’t do much for my self-esteem.

Prediction: Wolves go Walkin’ in Memphis and leave victorious — 100-86.

Mike Conley is good, that's pretty much what I got -- but can he carry an injured Grizz roster passed the Wolves at home?

Mike Conley is good, that’s pretty much what I got — but can he carry an injured Grizz roster passed the Wolves at home?

 

Wrap Up: Wolves begin the week in Detroit, head back home for a cake-walk (or what should be), venture down south to hostile territory and hit Beale Street for a team suffering the blues. The travel continues, though it’s dispersed and there will be NO -I REPEAT ZERO- back-to-backs this week. That means there’s no excuse, other than being out played for at LEAST a 3-1 week.

 

Week Three, Part Two: Cleveland Cavaliers

The Minnesota Timberwolves split the Staples Center Series and are back in action tonight facing the Cleveland Cavaliers at home in the friendly confines of Target Center.

Here are things, they’re for you.

I spoke with David Zavac, editor of Fear The Sword – A Cleveland Cavaliers Community, on yesterday’s Break The Huddle Show with John Meyer from The Daily Wolf and Billy Bohl of A Wolf Among Wolves. Here’s a link to yesterday’s show! (we experienced issues yesterday, so it’s only audio for the first 10:30).

Break the Huddle Show — 11/12.

There’s a great Q&A with Zavac that begins at the halfway point, 30:00 in.

Mr. Bohl and I host this hour long segment to talk about the Wolves every Tuesday, you can follow the show on Twitter –@BTH_Show– where we’ll promote for you guys to call in, ask questions and discuss random nonsense in a segment that’s fun for listeners of all ages.

PHEW, now that I’m out of the Promotion Ocean — we can continue. Read more about the meeting earlier this season between the Wolves and the Cavs, here.

  • Bynum is out for tonight because of family matters. This leaves Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao, and Tristan Thompson to make up for Bynums surprising productivity so far this season
  • Kyrie Irving had 19, 8 assists and 9 turnovers — the Cavs coughed the ball up 20 times
  • C.J. Miles went crazy, he’s the reason the Wolves lost and I’m convinced of it — won’t go on longer

Moving onto Friday.

The Wolves head to Denver to take on the struggling Nuggets.

  • Corey Brewer, who goes into tonight’s game leading the league in fastbreak points per game, played 82 games for Denver last season — he only started once. Brewer has started every game thus far as a Timberpup.
  • The Nuggets are 2 and 4 this season and are at home tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • George Karl, despite being awarded Coach of the Year honors last season, is no longer employed as Head Coach — a puzzling scenario to say the least.
  • Will the Nuggets have the one known as “The Manimal,” Kenneth Faried? Faried is averaging 11 points and 9 rebounds in Denver so far this season, but rumors surfaced today he may be involved in a trade that would send him to the New York KNicks.

News happens fast, so naturally after nearly publishing this post — I found this.

 

WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ANYMORE?!?!

I’ll talk to you guys again on Friday.

Tonight’s game will be aired on FSN North, 7:00 CST. You’ll also be able to hear it on the radio by tuning into WCCO’s 830, Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) will have the call.

 

Also, a Happy Birthday to Mark Remme and Shabazz Muhammad!

Zach.

Timberpups Weekly Preview: Part One, Week Three

Last week John previewed the week ahead for the Wolves because, here at Timberpups, we do week previews — not game previews. Well, sometimes we do game previews but we try to feature guests on those to gain some outside perspective; Trisity Miller (@Trisity_) will join us tomorrow previewing the Wolves matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. Ms. Miller is a Staff Writer as well as Editor of FullyClips.com, THE Clippers Blog of Sports Illustrated’s Fansided Network. Like Zach Oliver and Brandon Rushie before her, we’re happy to have some perspective, on and from outside, of Wolves Nation.
If you’re a writer who covers an upcoming Wolves opponent and would like to participate in our previews, shoot me an email or DM — Zwbd333@gmail.com or @ZacharyBD. Also, we’re not opposed to fan posts — if you’re a regular reader here at the PupsBlog, we’d love to hear your opinions pertaining to our favorite team.

Tonight the Wolves play the first of back-to-back games at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Here’s John’s take on tonight’s matchup from his Week Two preview.

This will be Wolves’ fans first opportunity to see the almighty Wes Johnson in purple and gold.  Have I mentioned him in the past?  I think I have.  While we won’t see Kobe Bryant, I still think this team can tread water for a while.  This past Friday night, the team stayed with Duncan-less Spurs and almost pulled it out.

Opponent to watch:

Wes Johnson – Just kidding, unless you want to induce a coma.

I’m not sure why he’s previewing tonight’s game, it’s Sunday today which means that a new week has started but John will be John.Since we’re not afraid of self-promotion here, here’s a tweet of mine from earlier today.

 

It’s been since March 6th of 2007, four days removed from my 17th birthday, since the Wolves last win over the Los Angeles Lakers (I’m 23, for those too lazy to do the math). The last time the team won in Staples Center, against the Lakers (Clippers play there, too), was December 5th, 2005. Yea, that’s when I was 15-years of age! Today is November 10th, 2013 and it’s time for the Pups snap these -undesirable- losing streaks.

Projected Laker Starters:

  • Nick Young
  • Chris Kahman
  • Pau Gasol
  • Steve Blake
  • Steve Nash

It’s not a laughable bunch that will start the game for the ‘Lake Show’, however, L.A’s bench unit is deserving of some praise. Against tomorrow night’s opponent tomorrow night, Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson (a former Timberpup) and Jodie Meeks scored 66 points in a shocking upset of the Clippers in the season opener. This Laker-five played the entire fourth quarter, scoring 41 points en route to defeating the stadium-sharing rival, 116-103.

Against the Dallas Mavericks we saw Rick Adelman try some different things to make up for his bench unit’s dismal scoring, keeping Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin on the floor for a bit longer than Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer. Adelman’s played Alexey Shved, until the Shvedder shows he’s struggling or does something that warrants him off the floor — I expect him to stick to a similar strategy tonight.

Shved's struggling this season: Averaging only two and a half points per game and failing to shoot 30 percent from, both, inside and outside the three-point line.

Shved’s struggling this season: Averaging only two and a half points per game and failing to shoot 30 percent from, both, inside and outside the three-point line.

 

Monday, the Wolves face the Clippers — we’ll bring you more in depth information tomorrow with Trisity but here’s a few bullets on the ‘Clips.

  • Doc Rivers is now head coach, he’s called for the removal of Laker banners in the Staples Center during Clipper home games.

“This is our arena when we play,” when asked about the banners. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them (Lakers). But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.”

  • The Clippers offense ranks first in the league in points per game — they’re piling 110 on opponents
  • Oh, if you weren’t aware — Chris Paul is really, really good.

If you’re a follower of my work personally, you may have seen my Pacific Division previews for SavingTheSkyhook.com. Saving the Skyhook, like FullyClips, is part of SI’s Fansided Blog network. I combined the preview for the Lakers and Clippers into one piece — read it here. (Sorry more self-promotion, it just fits for this week in Wolves basketball)

Pek shook his struggles off Friday against the Mavericks, he scored 15 points on 44 percent shooting and tallied six rebounds in addition to three-blocks.

Pek shook his struggles off Friday against the Mavericks, he scored 15 points on 44 percent shooting and tallied six rebounds in addition to three-blocks.

I’m hoping to the Wolves split or sweep these two games in L.A, they return home for a rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. The Cavs won a thriller against the Philadelphia 76ers last night, 127-125. They face the Chicago Bulls tomorrow and will have an off-day before having to play in Minnesota. Neither team will be on the tail end of a back-to-back, there shouldn’t be any excuse for the Wolves this time. Read what happened in last Sunday’s meeting between Cleveland and Minnesota — here.

Irving led the Cavs to a victory last week with 15 points and 6 assists, though he also had 8 turnovers -- the Wolves hope gain revenge Wednesday

Irving led the Cavs to a victory last week with 15 points and 6 assists, though he also had 8 turnovers — the Wolves hope gain revenge Wednesday

 

On Tuesday I’ll check back in and go over the Wolves trip to Los Angeles beyond our recaps that will follow the outcome of each game. That’s when we’ll take a closer look at the Cavs, Denver Nuggets- and Boston Celtics. The Wolves are in Denver on Friday and travel home to face the C’s on Saturday, after that they’ll have three days before their next game.

For now, #BeatLA.

Zach.

 

(Photos are from the Minnesota Timberwolves website and may be found in the photo gallery)

Wolves at Knicks: The First Road Test

The Wolves venture to the Big Apple to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 CST and will be telivised on FoxSportsNorthPlus where available and on the Wolves radio network, 830AM WCCO (@WolvesRadio on Twitter)

I’ve brought another guest for this one, Brandon Rushie, informally known as Bruce Chillroy (@AyoRush), is a Knicks beatwriter for The Knicks Wall. Rushie and myself both write for www.5thRowJoe.com

The Knicks Wall was founded in January 2012. Since then, the site has grown into the largest independent Knicks site on the web. The Knicks Wall’s main goal is to keep Knicks fans up-to-date on all things Knicks.”

I’ve asked Rushie to provide us with some perspective from the opponents side of things, which should be interesting considering it’s a New York team. Always fun to see what those in the big city think about us here in one of the ‘flyover states’.

Tonight the Knicks take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the West’s young upstarts full of talent. An inexperienced yet still improving core, the promising duo of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love have the Wolves entering the Garden as 1 of the 6 undefeated teams left in the league. Rubio is coming off an ACL tear that ended last year’s campaign prematurely, and Love looking to ready to finally give the Wolves a full 82-game season, it would be a mistake to take Rick Adelman’s squad lightly; especially considering the last three meetings between these teams have been decided by an average of 4 points.

 

The Knicks enter tonight with a record of 1-1 after a tough loss in Chicago, though their defense has been a bright spot — allowing a league low 82.5 points per game. Despite a 6th consecutive loss to the Bulls, New York did a solid job of containing Derrick Rose, holding him to 7-of-23 shooting and more turnovers (4) than assists (3). Perimeter defense was a major issue for the Knicks last year, especially when attempting to deny opposing guards entry into the paint. Head coach Mike Woodson’s switch-happy defensive philosophy, while sound in theory, is easy to attack once the pick and rolls start. Look for Rubio to put on show.

 

Although they’ve been defensively impressive, generating points has been difficult for the Knickerbockers — they’re last in points per game and 27th in pace (points per possession) this season thus far. The Wolves put on a superb defensive performance in their last game against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, throwing the kitchen sink at the 3-time scoring champion and forcing someone else to beat them. It worked, as Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka both struggled, and the Wolves pushed the pace, forced turnovers and converted them to easy points on the other end.

 

How does the Turiaf injury play to the knicks favor?

The Wolves were thin in their frontcourt even before Turiaf’s unfortunate injury. I loved watching Gorgui Dieng play at Louisville, however he was unimpressive in limited burn against the Thunder, can’t imagine Adleman wants him spending a majority of his 18 or so minutes tonight against a former DPOY, but his options are limited. Look for New York to attack the young big man and try to get to the line early.

 

What are things that the Knicks do on both ends of the floor that Wolves people should look for? How do they run their offense?

Woodson isn’t the most imaginative fellow on the offensive side of the ball, the bare bones version is get Melo the ball in the post and look for the open man once the double comes. The Knicks can make teams that double hastily pay dearly with their outside shooting, so rotations better be crisp. Defensively the Knicks show good intensity but the challenge is maintaining the mentality for all four quarters. For instance — Opening night the Knicks porous defense almost blew a 20+point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks. They must be able to close out and shut the door on an opponent if the Knicks hope to be a legitimate threat in the East, especially in games at MSG.

 

Your concerns, or lack of concerns about the game.

New York lacks frontcourt depth. Offseason acquisition Andrea Bargnani has underwhelming performed in his first two outings and Tyson Chandler, though a monster, has propensity to rack up silly fouls in a hurry. Banging around with the 290-pound Nikola Pekovic will be a tough test for him. Amare Stoudemire has been officially ruled out for tonight, so Chandler must stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble at all costs.

 

What do you believe the wolves do well (offensively or defensively) that will be effective?

While the Knicks have been doing a solid job defensively, there’s still been instances that display susceptibility to defensive breakdowns against the pick and roll. Rubio is one of the best passers in the NBA, don’t be surprised if Woodson assigns Iman Shumpert -lockdown specialist- the task of corralling the young Spanish point guard. The Knicks are guilty of becoming stagnant on the offensive side of the ball so if the Wolves come with the same level of help defense as they did against OKC, the Knicks won’t have the luxury of passing the ball to Melo and expect a blind double-team to come. The blue and orange must have solid ball movement; they must make the opponent work defensively.

 

On behalf of Timberpups I’d like the thank Rushie for contributing to the preview for this game.

Here’s a few notes of my own.

J.R. Smith will not play for the Knicks tonight, he’s serving a five-game suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy during the offseason.

Minnesota has scored 72 points, combined, in the first quarter of games this season and 159 in the first halves. The Wolves have yet to work out all the kinks to Adelman’s offense, there’s room to improve in terms of efficiency but it’s certain — these guys can score in bunches. They’ve scored 72 first quarter points in the first two games, combined but the Knicks have only allowed 34, also through two games, in the opening quarter. The Wolves scored 34 against OKC on Friday night.

It’s going to be two strengths battling tonight, something’s gotta give.

As a reminder, if you’re interested in more Knicks news go to TheKnicksWall.com and follow Rushie on Twitter (@AyoRush).

Keep in touch with us via @thetimberpupsblog and be sure to comment in tonight’s forum, we’ll post the link in a tweet later.

What’s Thunder Without Lightning?

The Wolves defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in Minnesota’s second game of the season at Target Center. Over 17,000 attended Minnesota’s second game of the season Friday.

The Thunder were without All Star guard Russel Westbrook and after dealing Kevin Martin to the evening’s opponent during the offseason, Kevin Durant need to do some heavy lifting if he wanted to leave with a victory. Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic started the game with an aggressive mentality on offense. They got to the rim, embraced contact, got to the foul line and hit 13 of 14 free-throws in the opening quarter. Rubio was 4 for 4, Love 5 for 6 and both Brewer and Pek went 2 for 2 and the quarter ended with a 34-19 lead.

In the second period backup center Ronnie Turiaf walked to the bench after banging around for a rebound, he grimaced and appeared in pain. We later learned the veteran fractured his elbow and that no timetable has been made for his return. This didn’t prevent from the fans having a blast in the stands, here’s Crunch crowd-surfing in 121, second of the T-Wolves Army — the place was rowdy, the Wolves have returned.

Photo Credit: Todd Dombock

Photo Credit: Todd Dombock

The first half ended with the Thunder trailing by 20 points, 39-59. Minnesota has scored 72 points, combined, in the first quarter of games this season and 159 in the first halves. Consider the idea that the Wolves haven’t worked out all the kinks in Rick Adelman’s Princeton offense and there’s room to improve in terms of efficiency — these guys can score points.

By the end of the third Love and Rubio each had their own double-double, K-Love had 24 points and 12 boards while Ricky had 14 and dished out 10 dimes before period’s end. Big Pek would order his own double-double, tallying 15 points and 10 boards before the starters rested early in the fourth. The Wolves lead was as high as 34 at one point and Durant hinted to the media that something like this could happen prior to tip-off .

“Ever since I got in the league, every game against the Wolves has been either a great game or a blowout,” Durant said at the Thunder’s morning shootaround. “Either they blow us out, or we beat them pretty bad.”

The team’s split the season series last year 2-2 and the home team’s record was 4-0 — the last time the Thunder returned to Oklahoma City, from Minnesota, with a win was April 14th of 2012. Durant is spot-on and these two always seem to entertain at least their own audience, if not both, when getting together. They’ll meet in Oklahoma City for the first time of this season on December 1st.

Derrick Williams saw his first action of the season, making the most of 27 minutes by scoring points and finishing plays with powerful, enthusiastic dunks — he cut well, played within himself and was eager to make plays after not seeing the floor in Wednesday’s opener.

Rookie’s Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, as well as Robbie Hummel, as a whole, played roughly 27 minutes but failed to score. They shot 0 for 5 from the field, Hummel missed a three-pointer and Dieng failed to hit any of his four FT’s during the fourth quarter. I presume we’ll be seeing a lot more of the rookie out of Louisville due to the injury to Turiaf — Hummel and ‘Shabazz’ will compete for minutes backing up Brewer at shooting guard, D-Will played mostly as a power forward while Love rested and Dante Cunningham failed to get things going offensively.

Here’s the final box score.

From the NBA.com Gamebook.

From the NBA.com Gamebook

 

The Wolves face the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden tonight, tip-off is at 6:30 (CST) and the game will be broadcasted on FoxSportsNorth.

Look for the preview in an hour or two, follow @TimberpupsBlog for play-by-play updates.

 

Zach.

Game One: Orlando Magic Preview

For the season opener against the Orlando Magic, Timberpups welcomes Zach Oliver! Oliver is a good friend of mine who covers the Magic for www.BallerMindFrame.com. The link to his author profile is here (http://www.ballermindframe.com/author/zoliver8812/) and you can follow him on Twitter for more Magic News, NBA chatter and some of the finest nonsense on the internet today — his handle is @ZOliver8812   .

 

Zach, hope all is well — I have a few questions about tonight’s game.

First, there was lots of hope and little speculation the Wolves would trade up to try and land guard Victor Oladipo out of Indiana University, how is he doing?

 

Oladipo just picked up playing point guard in the Orlando Summer League, after playing mostly the two guard spot throughout college at Indiana. His game is better suited playing off-ball guard but he’s developing ball handling skills and won’t hurt the current rebuilding process in Orlando. If he works out, great! We’ll have the point guard for the future and If not — he’ll be a fine secondary ball handler and continue growth as a two-guard.

How’d he play last night? How did the Magic perform in games played on back-to-back nights last season?

 

In his debut last night, Victor Oladipo looked good. While his stat line may not be something that makes you say “wow,” he was very solid. He struggled some with his shot, but he looked comfortable out there. Kid’s going to be special, he brings such high energy and physicality to the game each time he steps on court. Once he finds his niche, and a comfort level, he’ll be stuffing the stat sheets and growing in Magic fans hearts night in and night out.

 

As for back-to-backs… It wasn’t pretty for the Magic last season. They went an abysmal 3-9 in the second game of back-to-backs. The team opened up last night in Indiana against a tough Pacers squad, so thing’s could be rough early on. Remember, the Magic made their sole trip to Minnesota early last season on the second night of a back-to-back and lost 90-75.

 

What matchups will you be watching closely?

There’s two different matchups that I’ll be watching closely tonight. The Magic have a lot of intriguing young players who will be challenged night-in and night-out. The two I’ll be watching closely tonight is the battles at power forward, and when the aforementioned Oladipo is on court.

 

Kevin Love vs Enter Magic Power Forward

 

With Glen Davis out, the Magic have a question as to who will be the starting power forward throughout the season. Tobias Harris finished last season as the starter after he was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline. Harris showcased his scoring ability and versatility in his short time with the team. While it’s hard to not start your best scorer, it might be the best for the team to bring him off the bench in a backup role at both forward positions.

Last years first round pick, Andrew Nicholson, showed some promise on the offensive end last season. However, he struggled mightely on the defensive side, and is a below average rebounder. While center Nikola Vucevic can help mask his poor rebounding numbers, there will be times when Love gets away from him and is able feast on the boards. Love would be a matchup nightmare for the youngster, so he might be best suited in the second unit.

 

Possibly the best matchup and healthy defender at the position for the team, Jason Maxiell, could slide in and grab the start. The team brought him in to add toughness to the teams soft interior defense, and while he might be better off coming off the bench, he’d be the best one to bang down low with Love.

 

The final candidate to see some minutes at the four would be second year big Kyle O’Quinn. The team experimented with him starting at the four next to Vucevic, but it’s less than ideal to start both together. O’Quinn is not afraid to go down low and bang his body around, but he has a problem with fouls, and he’s really the best option to play center with the second unit.

 

Victor Oladipo vs Ricky Rubio

 

Two exciting young guys going head-to-head. How could you not want to watch this!? Rubio could be the best passer that Oladipo is forced to guard this season, and it’s an early matchup for the possible defensive stopper. He’s got a good IQ while out there and is possibly the team’s best perimeter defender also. Will Oladipo take advantage of his size and take Rubio into the post more and try to score with his back to the basket or will he try to take him off the dribble more? There’s a lot of intriguing storylines to watch with this matchup.

 

Now, Zach, I have some questions about you and your Timberwolves.

How important is it for the Timberwolves to get a win tonight?

 

For those in attendance tonight, including myself — it’s very important. The Timberpups have high expectations this season, not only here in Minnesota, but around the league. If this club wants to a be a threat to make the postseason, they’ll need to beat the weaker teams in both conferences — tonight’s a chance to take care of business against a weaker Eastern Conference foe playing the tail end of back-to-back road games.

 

What can we expect out of the small forward position with Chase Budinger out for the foreseeable future?

 

Derrick Williams, Robbie Hummel and Dante Cunningham started the final three preseason games at the 3 spot, respectively, for the Wolves. Tonight’s the first chance any of us will get to see how Adelman addresses the SF position. Provided coach doesn’t go completely unorthodox, Corey Brewer will get the nod and will be relieved by Williams, Cunningham and maybe rookie 14th overall draft pick -Shabazz Muhammad- gets out there tonight. There’s so many groups of five that we could see, tonight’s game may tell us a lot about the Wolves future regarding the SF position.

 

How does Budinger fit in with the team once he returns?

 

If and when ‘Bud’ returns he’ll be eased back into the lineup, slowly, because that’s how basketball injuries go. It’s a tough question to answer simply because he had his knee repaired but during training camp, things started swelling again, leaving us with the question — did he ever really recover? Dr. James Andrews removed around 75 percent of the meniscus and a hopeful timetable for Budinger’s return would be Christmas, but I’m just unsure. He’ll be part of the small forward by committee with Brewer, Williams and Muhammad and Adelman will use him where he thinks is best.

 

In terms of matchups, Zach, you’ve hit it right on the head. I’m going to keep an eye on Oladipo because of the speculation and the ambitious thought that he could have ended up in Minnesota. Whether he’s up against Kevin Martin or Rubio, he’s got his hands full defensively. Rubio will give him more fits on the offensive side of the ball than Martin will, ‘K-Mart’ will be less to handle defensively for V.O., Ricky might shred him up, if he’s not up to the task.

 

What’s your expectations from Ricky Rubio, not only tonight, but going forward this season?

 

Numbers wise, I hope he can average 15 points and 10 assists per game but I’m not big on predictions. If he’s healthy, he’s a threat to lead the league in assists, steals and possibly the non-existent ‘comeback player of the year award’ — that’s if Love doesn’t steal away all the spotlight from the Spanish Unicorn.

Production wise, Ricky’s going to do what it takes to win basketball games. He’s not afraid to take the big shot, as we saw last year against the Clippers when he tied the game with less than a minute remaining after hitting a corner-three, he’s a relentless defender and, half, of the face of this Timberwolves franchise. He needs to stay healthy, more than anything — that’s the key. (edit reminder)

 

Zach, this has been fun, do the Magic and the Wolves play any more times this season?

 

Yes, Saturday April 5th in Orlando.

 

The game will be aired at 7:00PM CST on FSNorth and 830AM WCCO Wolves Radio. Follow @TimberpupsBlog for live-tweets but JUST COMMENT IN THE FORUM BECAUSE IT’S GOING TO BE FUN.

Phew, sorry.

Wolves are going to win tonight, not only on the court — but which one would you rather have? Seriously?

 

The Pups’ Prince Hits Philly

There’s only a few minutes before the Timberpups take on the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The game will not be televised or available on radio, but don’t worry — @timberpupsblog will be live tweeting the events.

 

I’m going to say sorry to the Sixers, they’re horrific and are expected to win the Andrew Wiggans Sweepstakes, an award handed out to the worst basketball team at the end of the season. I may say sorry, but I’m not.

The Sixers were last league in scoring in 2012-13 with 93.2 points per game and  it marked the first time in franchise history the team finished last in the league in scoring. It’s safe to say this season — they’re the favorite in the to win the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. If you don’t know who Wiggins is, he’s going to be a freshman at the University of Kansas this year, the hype surrounding him in high school is similar to what we saw with LeBron James, though I understand that comparison is ridiculous.  Here are a few of his high school credentials.

  • Mr. Basketball USA (2013)
  • Gatorade National Player of the Year (2013)
  • Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2013)
  • McDonald’s All-American (2013)

How sad is it that I’m writing about a player Philly doesn’t even have yet. Sorry, back to the regular scheduled program.

The players on the court for the Sixers tonight, by default, are NBA players. Head coach Brett Brown had this to say about his team in article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“You have six NBA players and then you have a bunch of guys who are fighting for spots and want to be seen and need opportunity.”

 

By my count, six players is generous. I have Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Michael Carter Williams as credentialed NBA Players — though some guy named James Anderson has scored in double-figures in four of the six games this preseason.

The Wolves have a chance to demolish another feeble opponent tonight, they defeated the Boston Celtics on Sunday — 104-89.

Quick Rundown:

  • We saw more out of the starters than any preseason game thus far
  • Derrick Williams started the game at Small Forward (5 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists) and the team picked up his six-and-a-half million dollar option through the 2014-2015 season. He’ll be expected to pick up the slack in Budinger’s absence
  • Ricky Rubio scored 15 on five of 9 shooting from the field and was 2 for 3 from the three-point line — an awesome shooting night by his standards
  • Love struggled from downtown, he was two of eight from behind the ark though he still scored 22 and shot eight of nine from the charity stripe
  • Kevin Martin did Kevin Martin things, he scored 21 and was five of eight shooting from long-distance

I suggest you watch the youtube link below, HINT it’s Rubio highlights.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cizWRNt-Ydw

 

 

The Wolves might crack open the Liberty Bell that much more, at least I hope so. We’ll see how Rick Adelman decides to play the starters and go about running his offense. On Sunday against the Celtics the team was determined to execute in halfcourt sets, they did. Was it because of Boston’s pleathera of defensive weaknesses? I’m not sure, but they could have played a little more in transition — who knows?!

Maybe they work on their sets in the Princeton offense more tonight, but regardless, I’m expecting a Pups victory by a large margin tonight. They’ll travel to Detroit after the game, the Pistons are tomorrows foe in the back-to-back final preseason games of the season.

Robbie Hummel, A.J. Price, Lorenzo Brown, Othyus Jeffers and Chris Johnson are with the team on the trip, though the 15 man roster restrictions only allow for two of the five (if any) to make the team.

 

AGAIN, FOLLOW @TIMBERPUPSBLOG FOR ALL THE UPDATES YOU CAN HANDLE.