Game Recap: Bobcats 89, Timberwolves 87


Nov 14, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker (15) shoots against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Let’s just say…if this was almost any team other than the Charlotte Bobcats, it would have been a lot worse. The Bobcats tried as hard as they could to hand the game back to the Wolves, and a battle of “I don’t want it, no you take it, no I insist” ensued, all the way up until the final buzzer. I’m not sure how else to describe how ugly this game was…but…it was atrocious. And that feels gentle.

Where to begin? Obviously, the Timberwolves missing six of the top seven players on the depth chart means that the Wolves were already starting behind the eight-ball from the opening tap. The Bobcats have been playing decent thus far in the young season, but let’s not forget that this is still a team with a rookie coach, coming off of the worst winning percentage in NBA history last season, and starting Jeffery Taylor at small forward. Not that the Wolves’ starting lineup, including Greg Stiemsma and Malcom Lee, was any more formidable.

Derrick Williams started another game aggressively, and had another first quarter in which he missed a number of shots from directly beneath the basket. He did a good job of running directly to the rim, both off of made baskets and in transition, and Andrei Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour both did a good job of finding him early on in possessions. Unfortunately, Williams struggled to either hit the easy shots or create enough contact to draw foul calls. While his aggressiveness is welcome, it is clear that the game is still not slowing down enough for him to be efficient or effective on the offensive end of the floor.

The Wolves kept the game within four points headed into the second quarter, thanks to a made three pointer at the buzzer by Kirilenko. Once the second unit was on the floor, however, the Bobcats extended their lead as high as fifteen points before halftime. As bad as a lineup consisting of Will Conroy/Alexey Shved/Malcom Lee/Dante Cunningham/Lou Amundson looks….well, it was worse. After outscoring the Wolves 23-14 in the second quarter, the Wolves found themselves down by a score of 51-38 at halftime.

In the third quarter, the starting lineup pulled to within eight points after a Luke Ridnour offensive rebound and put-back. Greg Stiemsma got to the line with a chance to cut the game to six, but missed both free throws in what quickly became a recurring theme for the Wolves. The Timberwolves shot a horrifying 20-37 (54.1%) from the free throw line for the game. The main culprits: Stiemsma (1-4), Amundson (1-4), Kirilenko (5-9), and even the normally fantastic Ridnour (3-5).

Even with their awful play and embarrassing display at the charity stripe, the Wolves were able to cut what was a 16-point deficit with 8:07 left in the fourth quarter all the way down to four points with just over two minutes remaining. The 14-2 run was slowed briefly by a Byron Mullens offensive rebound and put-back over the diminutive Timberwolves’ frontline of Cunningham and Amundson, and after the Wolves failed to score on their next possession, Ridnour stole the ball from Kemba Walker and threw a dangerous alley-oop on the fastbreak to Cunningham, cutting the lead back down to four points.

On the other end, Amundson and Shved combined to shut down Walker again, and Shved scored in the lane for the Wolves to make it an 87-85 game with 38.9 seconds remaining. Coach Mike Dunlap used the Bobcats’ final timeout, immediately after which veteran Reggie Williams called a non-existent timeout while trying to get the ball in-bounds in the frontcourt. After Ridnour converted the technical free throw, Ramon Sessions stole the ball from Shved and proceeded to miss both free throws after being fouled by Cunningham.

Shved was well short on a baseline jumper out of another timeout, which was rebounded by Tyrus Thomas. Thomas took three full steps and walked out of bounds (apparently expecting a foul that never came) and turned the ball right back over to the Wolves. Given a third chance to inbound the ball and take the lead, Rick Adelman called an out-of-bounds play designed to free Ridnour in the corner, curling off of a triple screen. Thomas, guarding Cunningham, sniffed out the play and remained in the passing lane, denying the ball to Ridnour. Kirilenko passed the ball to Derrick Williams, who smartly rolled to the basket after setting a screen in the middle of the lane. Williams was fouled by Mullens, and hit one of two free throws to tie the game for the first time since the first quarter.

With no timeouts remaining, Kemba Walker took went directly at Alexey Shved in isolation on the right wing. Walker crossed half court with nine seconds remaining, waiving off a high screen from Thomas. With 3.5 seconds left, Walker moved inside the three point line to his right, crossed back to his left, and faded away from 21 feet, hitting the game winning shot over the outstretched arm of Shved with 00.7 seconds remaining. Luke Ridnour’s ¾ court heave fell short, and the Bobcats eked out a win they should have had in the bag much, much earlier.

Quick Notes:

– Your nightly, gaudy Kirilenko line: 26 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. He did turn the ball over five times and shot just 5-9 from the free throw line, but he is also being asked to do much, much more than he ever would in a healthy Minnesota lineup.

– With Will Conroy playing just four (horrible) minutes in the second quarter, the Wolves had eight players all play between 22 (Stiemsma) and 44 (Kirilenko) minutes. Hopefully, some combination of Pekovic, Roy, and Barea will return to the lineup on Friday night versus Golden State.

– Kemba Walker is really, really good. He also played an astonishing 45 minutes, sharing much of his time in the back court with Sessions, who played 32 minutes himself. Ridnour, on the other hand, held his own on the offensive end of the floor, shockingly committing zero (0!) turnovers. Here is the point guard match-up between Walker and Ridnour, by the numbers:





















– The Wolves will play host to the Golden State Warriors at Target Center in Minneapolis at 7:00 on Friday night, before getting four consecutive days off in advance of a home game against Denver next Wednesday, November 21.