By: Dan Slaubaugh
Good morning, Wolves fans. It's Sunday, and we have some matinee basketball to watch today with the Wolves in Los Angeles to take on the Clippers.
Minnesota (8-8) is coming off 3 straight wins special thanks to Andrew Wiggins (Philly) and strong bench play (ATL & SAC). In the latter 2, lots of players contributed, but the bench came up big, resulting in a pair of victories. LAC (8-8) has won two out of their last 3 and lost 4 out of their last 6. They just recently pummeled the Pelicans, who were without their superstar (#TheBrow) the final quarter because of a hurt knee.
Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the Clippers. Whether it's the whining and complaining to the officials, the chokefest team they are in the playoffs, or all the drama they bring off the court (DJ), they just set me off for some reason. Therefore, it'd just make my day if the Wolves can continue their surge on the road and defeat these guys.
Anyways, now that you all know now I am not LAC's biggest fan, here's what you need to know for today's game.
What: Wolves @ Clippers
Where: Staples Center. Los Angeles, California.
When: 2:30pm CST
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO Radio
What to watch for:
Rubio & Bjelica: Both were unavailable for Friday night's game against Sacramento. Rubio was out because of a tweaked left ankle. Bjelica was out because of a left knee contusion. It sure would be nice to have 2 important players back against a vey good Clippers team. Keep an eye out on the injury report before tomorrow's game.
KAT sitting in crunch time: Town's minutes have been down the past couple games because of Sam trying to keep his legs fresh for an 82 game season. Therefore, he has been leaving Gorgui in for crunch time play and keeping Towns on the bench. It's frustrated fans; but I don't mind Sam riding the hot hand at the end of games, and it is important for Gorgui to develop as well. There's no way it becomes an occasional thing, so no need to worry. As far as tonight goes, bank on Towns being on the court during crunch time. They will need him sorely against LAC's frontcourt.
LAC frontcourt: A big key in this game for the Wolves will be limiting 2nd chance points and the amount of offensive boards LAC can grab. With that, Minnesota will have their hands full down low tonight, having to deal with DJ, Griffin, and Josh Smith. If Towns and Garnett can maintain the Clippers frontcourt from breaking out, I believe Minnesota has a good chance in this game.
Points: Andrew Wiggins (21.8)
Rebounds: Karl-Anthony Towns (9.4)
Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.5)
Steals: Ricky Rubio (1.7)
Blocks: Karl-Anthony Towns (2.3)
Points: Blake Griffin (25.1)
Rebounds: DeAndre Jordan (12.6)
Assists: Chris Paul (8.4)
Steals: Chris Paul (1.8)
Blocks: DeAndre Jordan (2.9)
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
PG: Chris Paul
SG: JJ Reddick
SF: Wesley Johnson :)
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan
Questionable: Ricky Rubio (left ankle)
Questionable: Nemanja Bjelica (left knee)
OUT: Nikola Pekovic (still recovering from surgery on right achilles)
No injuries reported
Alrighty, that is all. I'm excited for this game, as well as you should be. Both teams are 8-8, so one team will move up and one will move down in the standings. I expect Wiggins to have a field day with LAC's opposing wing defenders, who have recently struggled guarding opposing wings. My final score for this one: Wolves lose 104-97. Sorry. However, I'll leave you with this quote provided by Doc Rivers.
"I think that this young Timberwolves team is the team of the future in the West. They're playing amazing basketball."
By: Drew Mahowald
Over the past decade or so, the Minnesota Timberwolves haven't given fans much to be thankful about. I mean, no playoff berths in, what is it, 11 years now? That's no fun.
However, times are a-changin' in the Twin Cities. The Timberwolves have pieced together what looks to be a puzzle of success for the future, and we're seeing glimpses of it so far in the 2015-16 season.
While this season may not halt a large number of victories (and maybe it will, who knows), one thing is certain: The Minnesota Timberwolves are fun and relevant for the first time in years. If you ask me, that's something to be thankful for.
Since it's Thanksgiving, it only feels right to feel gracious for family, friends, food, and, of course, the Minnesota Timberwolves. In honor of what is my favorite holiday, I've composed a list of Timberwolves-related things that I'm thankful for today.
-- First and foremost, I'm thankful for Kevin Garnett and everything he has done for the Timberwolves franchise. I would ask you to attempt to think about what this franchise would be like if he had never been a Wolf, but it really can't or shouldn't be done. He single-handedly took the Wolves to the playoffs annually in the late nineties and early 2000s, including a berth in the Western Conference Finals in 2004.
I'm going to add a note in here about that 2004 team. Without Garnett, that team is less than mediocre. That wasn't a great roster by any means, and Garnett carried them much like LeBron James carried the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in his first stint in Cleveland.
After 12 seasons with the Wolves, he realized a title probably wasn't happening in Minneapolis anytime soon, so he left to go win one. No hard feelings, no blame on KG. Nothing but respect.
But then he comes back to play the role of player/mentor/coach while Flip Saunders' master rebuilding plan unfolds? That's just too awesome.
If I hadn't grown up watching Kevin Garnett play basketball, I probably wouldn't have been a Timberwolves fan. And today, being a Timberwolves fan and blogger is really fun. Really, really fun. Thank you, Kevin Garnett.
-- I'm thankful for Ricky Rubio. He's the most brilliant unicorn I've ever seen. He sees things that humans aren't supposed to see on the basketball court.
When this guy is on the court, the Wolves are just so much better and nobody can argue against it. The offense flows exponentially smoother, while the defense is as stingy as it will ever be if he's out there. Needless to say, he plays much louder than his quiet demeanor.
Moreover, Rubio is just 25-years-old and he's already one of the most looked-up-to leaders on this team. He appears to be one of the main pieces for this team's success moving forward, and there's not a better combination of leadership and point guard intangibles from a 25-year-old to have for the future than Rubio.
-- I'm thankful for the veteran leadership on this Timberwolves team, from Garnett (obviously) to Andre Miller to Tayshaun Prince to even Kevin Martin. There isn't a much better group of old men to have imposing their wisdom on the tremendous corps of young talent on this team. What these guys are doing for the development of the younger players really is more valuable than we know.
-- I'm thankful for the never-ending talent from young players on this team. Saunders has put together a roster that has, by my completely and totally unbiased calculations, the most talent among young players in the NBA. Whether it's Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne or Tyus Jones, there's talent everywhere on this team.
Yes, I left out a couple guys. Just be patient. You've been doing that for a decade now, you're fine.
-- I'm thankful for Karl-Anthony Towns. I decided to separate he and you-know-who-else-who-shall-remain-nameless-until-he's-officially-revealed from the previous note because, well, they're really, really good and they've earned it.
Towns, man. Where do I start? I'm thankful for his shot blocking ability, which is already scaring teams night in and night out. I'm thankful for his post game offensively, which I thought might struggle in the beginning of his NBA career but NOPE. I'm thankful for his ability to hit the mid-range jumper and stretch defenses. I'm thankful for his demeanor, which, at 20-years-old, is more professional than nearly every player in the NBA.
Lastly, I'm thankful for the way he plays in crunch time. He wants to win, and he wants it badly. It shows in the final stages of close games, when he takes his game to another level.
-- I'm thankful for Andrew Wiggins, the silent assassin that he is. After a rookie season that was very impressive, Wiggins has drastically improved already this season. He can score and defend at an elite level already at the age of 20. He's already dunked over half of the league. His spin move makes me dizzy watching games, but I'm not even mad.
But again, like Towns, Wiggins' crunch time play is more impressive. He, too, REALLY wants to win, and it shows. For the entirety of the game, Wiggins has the same expression on his face. But when crunch time happens, and you watch him put someone on a poster or finish an And-1 at the rim, that emotion comes out of hiding. That hunger and desire to be great is alive and well in Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins and Towns are the future of the Timberwolves and, as OTP editor Dan Slaubaugh writes, they're poised to take over the NBA sooner than later. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty thankful for that.
-- I felt like I should save the best and most important for last.
I'm thankful for Flip Saunders.
What this man did for the Minnesota Timberwolves organization is incalculable. As a coach, as a general manager, as a president, but most importantly, as a person, Saunders was excellent.
Everything I've put on my list here of things I'm thankful for is because of Flip Saunders. He's the master of it all, and he deserves endless credit for it.
I've said this before and I'll say it again. When the Minnesota Timberwolves win an NBA championship in the next few years (notice I said 'when'), Flip Saunders will be the main reason for it. He laid the foundation and is the inspiration behind this team.
While watching Kevin Garnett was what got me really hooked onto the Timberwolves as a kid, I've now come to appreciate Flip Saunders even more because, without Flip, KG's not a Timberwolf. And who knows? I'm probably not a fan, and I'm probably not writing this very post.
Thank you, Flip Saunders.
Happy Thanksgiving, Timberwolves fans.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
It all started on the date of August 23, 2014. Kevin Love was going to Cleveland. Andrew Wiggins was coming to Minnesota.
That was the beginning of a rebuilding phase of a Timberwolves organization that was in desperate need of another star player, more specifically, a star player that wanted to be here.
Fast forward to today, and it is all but certain that the Minnesota has not one, but two budding stars that should pair up to be one of the most dominate duo's the league has seen in awhile.
Last night's victory against the Philadelphia 76ers signaled a beginning of a new era. One that ought to be full of posterizers, swats, and most importantly, wins, led by Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
One of the reasons it is a joy to watch these two compete on the court, is because of their ability to put the team on their back and carry them down the stretch. Besides just being a joy to watch, clutch play from Wiggins and Towns at an early part of their careers is HUGE for development sake. The experience they are gaining is invaluable.
For example, last night's win over Philadelphia manifested how much Andrew Wiggins has grown since the beginning of his career. He was an assassin during crunch time, fully displaying all the tools he has developed over the past season. He simply took over the basketball game.
Countless times this season we have seen at least one, if not both of them shine in the clutch.
Here, Minnesota, down two points with a little under 5 seconds to go against Orlando, turns to Wiggins to send the game into overtime.
Wiggins delivers with under 3 seconds to spare. The Magic would have one final shot at ending the game. Towns was not going to let that happen.
This is just one example of Wiggins and Towns shining in the clutch this season. In fact, if you look at the schedule, 6 out of the 14 games, Wiggins or Towns have excelled during crunch time play.
"Crunch time" is defined as less than five minutes remaining in the 4th quarter or overtime with neither team ahead by more than five points. Like I said, these two have excelled during crunch time. Wiggins is 6th in the league in scoring during crunch time scoring with 4.2 points. Towns is 2nd in the league averaging 0.7 blocks in crunch time play.
In conclusion, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are setting this team up to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference for years to come. They may not make the playoffs this year, or next year (not ruling out the possibilities), but from what I have seen this year; These two are ready, and hungry to make an impact in this league. They hate losing. Hate it; and because of that, they are going to dominate this league. Keep in mind, they are only 20 years old.
Look out NBA, and enjoy your time while you can, because Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are about to take over this league, and it may happen sooner rather than later.
Yesterday, Zach and I engaged in a series of messages alternating thoughts about the lineup changes that has Kevin Martin taking over the starting 2 guard spot, Wiggins back at the 3, and Tayshaun moving to the bench. We also touched on Nemanja Bjelica's struggles as of late.
Zach M: Like the lineup change?
Dan S: Yes. It doesn't fix everything, but it fixes some things.
Zach M: It's better, they definitely need more scoring. I would say I'd rather have Wigg and Bazz start, but there are no shooters. Prince needs to be in that second unit. Also, can't start Lavine because he's the best backup pg (even though it's stunting his development at sg)
Dan S: Agreed; but not so much that Lavine is best backup pg. Still think Andre is the better backup right now, though Lavine is improving.
Zach M: I haven't seen enough to say that. Backup pg needs to play 15-20 minutes a game consistently. Can he handle that? I'm not sure.
Dan S: That is a fair statement, though I do believe, as far as what we've seen, Andre could handle 15-20 minutes a night being the floor general of a 2nd unit that is in desperate need of some ball movement.
Zach M: Fair enough. Anyways, about Kevin Martin moving into the 2 spot; he has probably been one of our worst players the past week or so. Refusing to shoot open shots.
Dan S: Yep. He said that he's never experienced a slump like this. Hopefully the transition gets him back into his groove again, providing much needed scoring we have lacked as of late.
Zach M: He needs to be more of a catch and shoot guy, not a pump-fake-take-an-off-balance-shot guy.
Dan S: Absolutely. Needs to stop forcing shots and hoping for a foul call. Wolves have other players who can score now, not like before. Therefore, no need for him to act like he's focal point of offense. He just needs to facilitate more.
Zach M: It all comes down to if they continue to let up more made 3's than they even attempt. If it does continue, losses may pile up.
Dan: Agree to the fullest. Can't have that, especially in today's NBA,. Heck, Steph Curry has attempted more threes than we have as a team. No excuse for that.
Zach M: With Prince getting less minutes, scoring should go up.
Dan S: Yes. I love that their opening up more minutes for Bazz. It needed to happen. He should provide a much needed offensive boost.
Zach M: Agreed. Also, Bjelica needs to get going again.
Dan S: Yep. When Wolves were winning Bjelica was at his best, or at least productive.
Zach M: He's been shooting terrible lately.
Dan S: Also traveling too much and not shooting open shots.
Zach M: Looks like he's back to thinking too much out there and not just playing.
Dan S: Yep. Just needs to get his confidence back. Wolves need his scoring and valuable minutes in frontcourt. Can't trust Payne and Dieng has struggled. Need him badly.