Friday night’s tilt in Charlotte was a disappointing and unsatisfying eulogy to the 2013-14 season for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The other takeaway? Former Wolves Al Jefferson, Anthony Tolliver, and Luke Ridnour apparently have it right: joining the Eastern Conference, even if it’s the Bobcats. That 32-34 record isn’t pretty, but it’ll get the job done if making the playoffs is your goal.
To be honest, the game was never all that competitive, despite Charlotte never leading by a consistently large margin. The Bobcats did lead pretty much throughout, and usually by double digits, and Minnesota never really put up a sustained fight.
In an exceedingly disappointing showing, the Wolves allowed the Bobcats to walk all over them. As predicted about in the game preview from earlier on Friday here on Dunking With Wolves, Minnesota was unable to stop Al Jefferson, or contain the Bobcats’ generally sub-par perimeter players.
Jefferson shot just 12 of 26, but was able to score 25 points and haul in 16 rebounds. And the Wolves’ concern with Jefferson in the post led to points scored by Charlotte. Not necessarily on the initial kick-out, as Big Al tallied just one assist on the evening, but on the rotation and the Bobcats swinging the ball around the perimeter.
Early in the game, Corey Brewer was unable to contain Gerald Henderson, who scored a few quick baskets, and the rest of the Wolves’ guards and wings couldn’t contain Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gary Neal, either. Ricky Rubio did a good job on Kemba Walker, however, holding the point guard to just 3 of 12 from the field and forcing 7 turnovers. But Brewer and Martin’s gambling costed the Wolves a great deal, and represented the biggest issue for the visitors.
Charlotte was able to tally a ridiculous 65 points by halftime, and the Wolves’ defense was, per usual, non-existent. After the first quarter, the Wolves’ offense was also sluggish. Kevin Love posted just 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists on the evening, and Kevin Martin led the squad with 19 points on 6 of 13 shooting. Rubio scored 6 points on 1 of 6 shooting and 9 assists.
Nikola Pekovic played just 17 minutes on the night. He struggled early in the second half with his shot, barely missing a handful of point-blank looks at the rim, shooting just 4 of 11 and finishing with 8 points and 4 rebounds. His lack of playing time was likely a combination of his shooting issues and his injury concerns. But a match-up with Big Al and Bismack Biyombo would have been a good time to put Pek back on the floor and see what he could have done down the stretch.
Instead, Rick Adelman elected to keep Pekovic on the bench, and try various combinations of Gorgui Dieng, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Dante Cunningham alongside Kevin Love. It wasn’t enough. Al Jefferson was aggressive and largely successful in punishing his former team in the paint and from the mid-range.
It was a disappointing and devastating loss, essentially clinching the Wolves’ fate on the season. And frankly, a performance like Friday night’s in Charlotte more or less confirms that this year’s squad is anything but worthy of a playoff berth. It hasn’t worked, and they aren’t close. It’s baffling, to be sure, but it just isn’t happening this year. And 2014-15 is likely the last shot to get it right with the Love-Rubio-Pekovic trio.
For what it’s worth, Memphis happened to lose to Toronto on Friday night, although Phoenix defeated Boston. So not a whole lot changed for the Wolves, except for dropping back to 4 1/2 games behind ninth place.
Next up: a home game against the Sacramento Kings at 6:00 p.m. CT on Sunday evening. Until then, the Wolves are back at the .500 mark at 32-32.