It was going to be very interesting to see how the Wolves would come out against the Golden State Warriors, after the loss at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. In previous years the team would more than likely have their head down and look flat. Would this team be different? Would they be able to fend off a Golden State team that is young and feisty? The Wolves were going to get a chance to see the newly acquired Josh Howard who was making his Timberwolves debut. Would his impact be enough to get the Wolves back on the winning ways?
With only 9 players available to play tonight the Wolves sent forth the starting 5 of Greg Stiemsma, Derrick Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Malcolm Lee and Luke Ridnour. From the very onset of this contest it looked as if DWill was again going to be disappointing. So much so even the Target Center made some rumblings which sounded as if there was a slight “oooo” to it, and it wasn’t because of great play from DWill. To the credit of Derrick he shook it off and after his first miss he went 4-5. He showed some more glimpses of being aggressive, he hit some open jumpers and gave Wolves fans again some hope that he can put it all together consistently for 48 minutes. The saving grace DWill has had on his side he has been providing some very solid defense. AK-47 again showed to be the model of efficiency. He continues to quietly go to work game in and game out. The most glaring concern for AK will come down to the amount of minutes he’s been playing. The Wolves started this game off with 6 assists on their first 6 field goals. It was great ball movement that helped the Wolves open up a 27-22 lead after the first quarter.
Starting the second quarter the Target Center got to see John Howard for the first time as he came off the bench and knocked down his first shot in a Timberwolves uniform. The Wolves second unit again is just a very sound and fundamental squad. It sounds like a broken record to keep saying the Wolves bench is so much better from last year, but the fact of the matter is they are. Just think about the fact that the Wolves are missing 4 starters and their 6th man. Even missing all of that talent the Wolves are not only competing but they are winning and opening up leads with this depleted roster. The Wolves clearly missed Pek tonight though as they were outscored in the paint 30-6 in the 1st half. The Warriors were able to get into the paint seemingly at will and used that to take a 53 – 50 lead into the half.
Derrick Williams started off the 3trd quarter where he left off in the first half, making shots and the Wolves seemed like they were going to come out from half time firing on all cyclinders, only to go almost 3 minutes without a basket to start the 3rd quarter. During that offensive drought for the Wolves the Warriors offensive rebounding allowed them to not only open up the largest lead of the game, it allowed them to clearly dominate the Wolves. Missing Pek for the second straight game is really showing the Wolves inability to score in the paint and control the boards. Kirilenko went to the line on back to back trips mid way thourgh the 3rd single handedly trying to will the Wolves back into the game only to have Golden State answer every effort AK put forth. The Wolves just couldn’t seem to get stops down the stretch in the 3rd, partially because the Warriors were just able to score at will in the paint and it allowed Golden State to take a 82-69 lead into the 4th and final quarter.
The Timberwolves started the 4th trying to claw their way back into the game getting back to back stops and got some great play from Josh Howard who even show a series of moves on one possession that was very reminiscent of his All-Star form. It didn’t seem to matter what the Wolves did though because Golden State had an answer. When the Wolves collapsed the paint the Warriors were knocking down shots. With 7:40 to play in the 4th the Wolves finally started to string together some stops and close the gap to 5 on a 15-4 run. At 3:14 Steph Curry knocked down a huge shot for the Warriors which was their second made field goal in a six minute span. The Wolves came right back down and answered, they also got Curry to pick up his 6th foul. In what would seem like the Wolves finding the perfect formula to close out the contest and make it another big comeback win, they saw the Golden State Warriors finish this game off with poise and confidence to close out a hard fought 106 – 98 road win.
It can’t be said enough how much the Wolves miss Pek. The Wolves tonight were man handled in the paint getting out rebounded 50-34. It was also the ability of the Warriors to score in the paint which helped them finish with a 50.6% FG%.
Consistency is still missing for some players. Not just from game to game as we saw with Luke (-21) after such a nice game against the Bobcats, but from half to half. DWill had 15 points at the half on 5-7 shooting in the first to finish the game with 23 on 8-16 shooting. Sure his stat line shows he finished with 50% shooting but he became nonexistent in the 2nd half. It is becoming a reoccurring theme.
The Wolves corrected the horrible free throw shooting they had against the Bobcats and went 23-29 (79.3%) for the game. In a game that saw the Wolves have more steals (+3), blocks (+7) and fewer turnovers you would expect a win, but again the story was in the paint and the dominance of the Warriors that allowed them to win.
All things considered Josh Howard was surprisingly effective netting 6 points, pulling down 2 boards and grabbing 2 steals for a +1 on his first night out with the Wolves.
The Wolves fall to 5-4 on the season and will now get a much needed rest (4 days off) before they host the Nuggets Wednesday at 7:00 pm where they should get Roy, Pek and JJ back into the line up.