GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Bobcats | Jan. 10, 2014

GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves 119, Bobcats 92





Final: That's a wrap from Target Center, folks. The Wolves cruised tonight to a 119-92 win over the Bobcats--a much-needed victory in dominant fashion. It puts the Wolves back at .500 at 18-18 with a chance once again to go above on Sunday night in San Antonio. Minnesota started fast and maintained that offensive efficiency well through the third quarter while the regular rotation was in place. Nikola Pekovic finished with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting, while Love had 19 points/14 boards and Martin had 21 points. Shved had nine, Rubio and Budinger had eight and Barea had seven. For Charlotte, Tolliver had 19, Douglas-Roberts had 16 and Henderson had 12. Nice win for Minnesota, more to come in postgame on Timberwolves.com. MIN 119, CHA 92

Q4 5:37 Minnesota is tapping into its bench for the remainder of this one, and for good reason. They're still up 25 with just under six to play. Minnesota is holding a 48-36 advantage in the paint and a 15-2 edge in second chance points. The Wolves have just three players in double figures but 10 different players have scored. MIN 104, CHA 79

Q4 9:33: As my colleague Cristy Brusoe (@cbrusoewriter) mentioned on Twitter, Anthony Tolliver is having a nice game against his former team. He's up to 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting off the bench. Also 4-of-4 from 3-point range. Nice to see AT having a good night, but it's also great to see the Wolves putting up such impressive offensive numbers. They're shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 8-of-13 from 3. MIN 99, CHA 75

End Q3: Not a whole lot to report here. Brewer had a nice throwdown in transition off a sweet Love full-court outlet pass--we saw them a lot earlier in the year but teams really have cracked down on Brewer leaking out. Pek was an animal in that quarter. He picked up 15 of his 26 points in the third alone. Adelman is going back to Adelman and Shved as we start the quarter teaming with Barea, Love and Turiaf. MIN 95, CHA 70

Q3 4:18: I might sound like a broken record, but this is exactly what the Wolves needed tonight after the loss to Phoenix. They are in complete control and have been since pretty much opening tip. Right now they have a game-high 31-point lead and are cruising. Pekovic has 26 for the game and has 15 points this quarter, while Love has 17 & 13 and Martin has 17 on 8-of-10 shooting. The Bobcats are trying to figure out a way to stop the bleeding, but time is running out. MIN 88, CHA 57

Q3 10:03: The Wolves keep pouring it on here in the third, extending their lead to 26 thanks to a quick start after the half. Pek just had a rim-rattling dunk to put the exclamation point on a 7-1 run here to start the third. MIN 75, CHA 49

Halftime: Very nice half by the Wolves responding after a tough couple days after the Phoenix loss. Minnesota is up by 20 and put up 68 in the first 24 minutes. K-Mart is leading the way with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, while Love has 14 points and 10 rebounds, Pek has 11 and Rubio has eight. The Wolves are 7-of-9 from 3 tonight. Minnesota's bench has 20 led by Barea's seven and Budinger's six. The Bobcats have 13 from Walker and 11 from Douglas-Roberts as we head into the break. MIN 68, CHA 48

Q2 1:09: Minnesota is crushing it from 3-point range tonight, shooting 6-of-8 tonight from beyond the arc. They've been rewarded with a 20-point lead as we near the end of the half. Ricky Rubio is 2-for-2 from deep, while Love is 2-of-3 and Barea is 2-of-2. Charlotte is 3-of-7 from beyond the arc and they've really struggled from the field in general since the end of the first. After shooting 50 percent in the first quarter, they're 7-of-19 this period. MIN 63, CHA 43

Q2 5:55: Really nice sequence there. Dante Cunningham came up with a huge block off the backboard, Barea chased it down and fired a nice outlet pass to Alexey Shved who threw down with a one-handed jam. The Wolves are up 45-34 thanks to 16 points off the bench. The Bobcats, however, are shooting 3-of-11 this quarter. MIN 45, CHA 34

Q2 8:56: The bench must have read my last post and said, "Oh really, Remme? Really?" Barea, Shved, Budinger, DC and Turiaf have put together a nice showing in the second, outscoring the Bobcats 9-2 and opening up the the largest lead of the night. Barea has six on 2-of-3 shooting (pair of 3s), while Shved has three and Budinger has two. MIN 40, CHA 30

End Q1: Adelman went to the bench late in the first and gave Turiaf, Barea and Shved three minutes each to close out the quarter. They went 0-for-3 from the field during that span. Meanwhile the Bobcats closed out the quarter with nine field goals on their last 15 attempts. Both teams hovering around 50 percent from the field. Martin with 10, Pek with eight and Love with six points and nine boards. Budinger and Cunningham are checking in to start the second. MIN 29, CHA 28

Q1 2:45: Charlotte started off 2-of-7 from the field but are 7-of-9 since, and their 56.3 percent shooting has put them down just one at 25-24 w/ 2:45 left. Walker just blew past Rubio moments ago; he's one of those guys that can really impact a game with his quickness and his competitive fire. Martin is still on fire tonight, he's 5-of-5 with 10 points early.
MIN 25, CHA 24

Q1 7:49: The Wolves are off to a fast start here, opening up a 15-8 lead on 5-of-7 shooting. K-Mart has been a big part of that. He's 3-of-3 with six points and looks to be feeling it tonight offensively. He's also got two assists. Pekovic has four points, while Rubio has three. Pek and Love each have gotten to the line in the first four minutes, going a perfect 4-of-4. That should be an advantage again tonight for Minnesota going down low to Pek and Love against this Bobcats front court. Meanwhile, Douglas-Roberts has four points for the Bobcats, who have started out 2-of-7. MIN 15, CHA 8

Starters:

Bobcats:
PG-Kemba Walker, SF-Gerald Henderson, SF-Chris Douglas-Roberts, PF-Josh McRoberts, C-Al Jefferson

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic

PREGAME 6:45 PM: Wolves forward Dante Cunningham was the third and final person of the DC/Barea/Love comments triangle that commented on the situation just before gametime tonight. On Wednesday after the Phoenix loss, Love called out two unnamed players for not leaving their seats during timeouts in the fourth quarter, taking offense to it for team continuity purposes. Love and Barea spoke at shootaround, and Cunningham commented briefly on it in the pregame locker room. He said it's an in-house matter that will be handled internally.


"We're trying to learn together. We're getting new pieces back, and we're trying to put everything together and click and go in the same direction," he said. "You know, that's just where we are right now."

Cunningham said it's a tough situation but the team is working through it. Establishing roles will be a part of the equation, too.

"It's definitely a lot easier when you know every night this is what you're going to do, this is where you're going to be," he said. "But you know, you have to be professional about it and understand coach is doing his best."

PREGAME 6:25 PM: Bobcats coach Steve Clifford stressed that the NBA is a league close calls and how you respond. His team, to a degree, is mirroring that philosophy this season and is in the Eastern Conference playoff consideration because of it. Charlotte has just 15 wins this season, but they're seventh in the East and five of those victories have come in games decided by four points or fewer (they are 5-6 overall). If you recall the stats circulating since the Phoenix loss, Minnesota is 0-10 in games decided by four points or fewer.

In games decided by six points or fewer, Charlotte is 9-8. Minnesota is 2-10.

The point is the Bobcats have not been a team that blows people out, but they have become a team that can handle fourth quarter situations. Coach Rick Adelman is aware of that point.

"They've won 15 games already, and they won only 22 last year," Adelman said. "They're defending well, and they're really controlling their tempo. They have guys that can break you down in the end of games. Hopefully we'll be playing a lot better in the course of the game than we did last time."


Breaking down opponents late is important, and Clifford emphasized that when the Bobcats have lost games by small margins this year they've come at the hands of cool, calm and collective scorers like LeBron, Kobe and Dirk. he said having that type of presence is a big part of having fourth quarter success, and one thing the Wolves don't have in their bevy of talent is a guy who can penetrate off the dribble with that type of tenacity and create his own shot.

"As good as they are, and everywhere [Adelman's] been he's been a great, great coach, they don't have a breakdown guy on the perimeter. They have very good players...that's the hardest thing to guard. And when you don't have a guy you can just give it to, you know, it's going to be harder."

Charlotte is 1-4 in their last five games decided by four points or fewer, coinciding with a 1-6 slide over their last seven.

But the Wolves are aware that they'll need to be on point executing late if this game comes down to the wire.

"Obviously it was a tough loss the other night, but you have to respond in this league," Adelman said. "You've got to respond, you have to put it behind you. You've got to play. This team is improved a lot since last year, so we have our work cut out for us."

PREGAME 5:00 PM: I caught up with Anthony Tolliver this morning after Bobcats shootaround and chatted a bit with one of the guys I enjoyed covering most during my first year with the Wolves back in 2011-12. AT played two seasons here in Minnesota before moving onto Atlanta last year and now onto Charlotte. He said he still has friends in Minnesota and enjoys coming back to the Twin Cities.

"Whenever I come in here it's always fun to see everybody," Tolliver said. "And it seems like everyone who was here when I was here (training staff, equipment crew, etc.) is still here. A lot of great guys that I met and a lot of great friendships."

As for the here and now, Tolliver is on a Bobcats team that is in the process of finding itself in the Eastern Conference. Their 15-21 record is not eye-popping, to be sure, but it is good enough for seventh and a playoff spot at the moment. Tolliver is playing about 27 minutes on this squad and averaging 4.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

He said the biggest thing this Bobcats team has is a good locker room full of character guys who want to win. They're trying to change the culture in Charlotte--a team saddled with nine losing seasons in its 10-year history.

"You've got to have the right guys," Tolliver said. "That's where it starts--having guys who are willing to sacrifice for the team and do whatever it takes to win games and change the attitude around the organization. I just try to do my job when I'm called upon and work hard and see what happens."

He said the Bobcats have made strides in some areas since Week 1 but are also trying to change some lapses they've encountered as of late.

"We definitely have to keep working hard and get better every single day," Tolliver said. "We're at a crossroads right now where we can really make a push and try to make the playoffs, or we could falter. We definitely have to come out and play our best basketball against a good team like Minnesota."


PREGAME 1:45 PM: Welcome back to Target Center as the Wolves get set to face the Charlotte Bobcats tonight. This is the teams’ first of two meetings this year, and the lone time the Wolves will host the Bobcats here in town. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM. And of course, you can follow along right here on Timberwolves.com for all the pregame news and in-game updates on the blog. Stay with us all night!

We’ve got a few members of our extended Timberwolves family in the house this evening with the Bobcats. Former Wolves center/forward Al Jefferson, forward Anthony Tolliver and public relations guru Mike Cristaldi are all in town with the Bobcats.

Jefferson, of course, was the main return piece when Minnesota traded Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007. He stayed with the Wolves for three seasons before moving on to Utah, and in the final two years of his time here he was able to play with future All-Star forward Kevin Love.

Now Jefferson was in his fifth year by the time Love joined the Wolves, and he put up a career-best 23.1 points per game to go along with 11.0 rebounds that season. And as Jefferson said on Friday at shootaround, the two had a good relationship working together—the younger Love even had a little bit of an impact on Big Al.

“Kevin, to be honest, I was stealing some [basketball tricks/moves] form Kevin as a rookie—his basketball IQ was real high,” Jefferson said. “It was a couple things I helped him out on, but Kevin was just, he was a brainiac when it came to basketball. He just knew what he needed to do.”


Love has since gone on to become the face of the Wolves’ franchise, been selected to two All-Star Games and is currently averaging a career-high 26.1 points per game to go along with 13.2 boards per night. He’s developed into one of the premier scorers and players in the league, and he’s on pace to register his third All-Star selection next month.

None of this is surprising to Jefferson.

“Even as a rookie, and he learned real, you could just tell that he was going to be something special,” Jefferson said. “In the second year, he elevated from six to 12 just how much more smarter he was, how hard he worked in the offseason. And every year after that, the last three years he really took it up to another level.”

Each year Love returns from his offseason regimen, he does come back with something a little different added to his game. Whether it’s losing weight through his training sessions, developing his 3-point shooting or adding that baby hook, Love does fall into that category of player who improves each year because of his offseason work ethic.

Jefferson said because of that, the sky’s the limit.

“Just with the talent and how hungry he was, how much better he was getting,” Jefferson said. “He wanted to learn. He wanted to get better. I just knew he had a chance to do whatever he wanted to do in this league.”

Stay with us here as we get closer to gametime for more news and notes on tonight’s Bobcats/Wolves game.

 

Here are a few pregame notes for tonight:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 6-12, and are 4-5 at home.


  • Wolves Notes

  • Kevin Love ranks 3rd in the NBA in scoring (26.1 ppg) and rebounding (13.2 rpg), Only 11 players in NBA history have finished in the Top 3 in scoring and rebounding and only two in the past 30 years (Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett). Love is also averaging a career-high 4.1 assists this year (5th among forwards). The last player to average 26+ points, 13+ rebounds and 4+ assists over a full season was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.


  • Love has recorded eight 25+ point, 15+ rebound, 5+ assist games this season. The rest of the league has recorded four combined (Cousins - 2, Griffin, Howard).


  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 22.7 points, on 53.0% (89-for-168) shooting, and 11.1 rebounds (5.9 offensive) over the last 10 games. He has tallied 19 double-doubles, including 8 in the last 9 games.

  • Minnesota ranks 2nd in the league in second-chance points (15.7 ppg) while ranking 7th in points in the paint (46.2 ppg). Pekovic (5.4 ppg) and Love (4.8 ppg) rank 1st and 2nd respectively in second-chance scoring and Pekovic is 3rd in points in the paint (13.3 ppg).


  • Ricky Rubio ranks 1st in the NBA in steals at 2.74 per game, is 5th in assists with 8.3 apg and 20th in free-throw percentage at 85.3%. He has recorded 5+ steals in a league-best six games this season.


  • Corey Brewer is averaging 12.6 ppg, on 53.0% shooting, in the last seven games after averaging 4.7 ppg in the previous four games. He ranks 13th in the NBA in steals (1.71 spg).


  • The Wolves have made 764 free throws to just 476 for their opponents, a differential of +8.23 per game. Minnesota is on pace to record the largest free throw differential since 1970-71 (Denver +7.77, 1981-82).


  • Minnesota has forced 20+ turnovers a league-leading 13th times this season. The Wolves rank 2nd in the NBA with 19.4 ppg off turnovers (Miami 19.9).


  • Bobcats Notes

  • Charlotte has lost six of its last seven games. The Bobcats are 7-10 on the road, 1-6 vs. the Western Conference. With a 15-21 record, Charlotte is 7th in the East, 1.5 games behind Chicago and 0.5 games ahead of Brooklyn.


  • The Bobcats rank 3rd in the NBA in points allowed this season, giving up just 95.8 points per game. They have held their opponents under 100 points in 25 of their 326 games. Charlotte has committed the second-fewest turnovers in the NBA with 13.14 per game.


  • Kemba Walker is one of 10 players this season averaging 18+ points, 4+ rebounds and 4+ assists. He has tallied 20+ points in all four of his career games vs. Minnesota, averaging 22.0 ppg, on 48.5% shooting, with 5.3 rpg and 4.8 apg.


  • Al Jefferson is averaging 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the last four games. He has 13 double-doubles in 27 games played this season. Jefferson is averaging 27.3 points, on 60.0% shooting, and 10.7 rebounds in his last three games vs. Minnesota.


  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.