Simons Says - Dec. 19, 2013

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

I loved waking up this headline (yes, I still read a newspaper) after seeing it first hand. A loss would have made it a “what might be” game but rather, it was one of those special basketball evenings. For some fans, their trip to Target Center on a cold Wednesday night was a brief rest from the Holiday dash. Perhaps, just a chance to see two good teams tangle. For many others, those who have a lot more emotion invested and those resting on built up expectations and anxiety, it was a test night. Call it a post-college Final in the always changing landscape of basketball-612. This quarter, the Wolves will attempt to get grade-A by dissecting and defeating basketball’s best team by record.

If you read this often, you know I drag my basketball better half, my friend “Hoop” to games like this and yes, he was along on this night. Although he talks too much, Hoop is a Wolves die-hard (and who wouldn’t love a fan who’s in his mid-40’s who still wears a season-1 jersey that’s too small over a new T’shirt) and a believer in what team Turnaround will do this season.

THIS is what the Wolves have needed. Period. We’ve seen their handy work all season, the wins over Dallas, OKC, the road blowout in LA. They can get it done but it’s laying an egg after the big wins that they have to fix to be considered contenders. As I was explaining, Hoop nudged me and simply said, “Its consistency, bro. Consistency”.

It is consistency. It’s beating a team smoking hot like the Rip City Warriors AKA the Portland Trail Blazers when they steam roll into your house. Treat ‘em like THAT. It’s OK. They’ll certainly entertain the option when you visit the Rose City.

And as Games go, that chilly Wednesday will be one they look back on. It offered it all, an amazing start with phenomenal passing, big leads and lost leads, some defense and solid contributions all over the court.

For as good as Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge has become, Wolves fans are just fine with Kevin Love. They are both outstanding players and each showcased that. Love was a tick short of his first career triple-double by finishing with 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. Those assists were key for Portland was doubling at times and keying heavily on K-Love and #42 responded by putting a Bill Walton on the Blazers, that is, passing to find the open man and his teammate burying the shot. The Wolves PR team offered this nugget and it’s a good one. Against Portland, that was Love’s sixth 25+ point, 15+ rebound, 5+ assist game of the season while the rest of the NBA has one such game (DeMarcus Cousins, Dec. 17 at CHA).

The Wolves scored 69 points in the first half. They led by 32 points at one point. Even 69 points and that separation didn’t calm the nerves of fans, fans like my buddy Hoop for sure.

It was good to see that K-Love had help. I thought it was vital to see #23 in the game and the return of Kevin Martin was huge. After missing Monday’s game with a sore left knee, K-Mart dropped 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting. His place in the line-up can’t be understated. The Blazers game was Martin’s 14th 20+ point game of the season and first since Dec. 1 at Oklahoma City.

The difference in this game is that the Wolves match brawn for brawn. Portland gets busy in the paint and it’s normally Aldridge and Nicholas Batum calling the shots but 72-points in the lane and a rebounding margin of 53-45 for Minnesota made a huge difference.

Give it up for Nikola Pekovic. SimonsSays was one of the first to proclaim great move for resigning the big fella during the “Outstanding Off-Season of Flip” and it sure showed last night. Pek is too much for the lanky Blazers big men. Pek was great with his third career 30+ point game, finishing an efficient 14-of-19 from the field for 30 points, 9-rebounds (including five offensive boards).

You see a game like that and you are hooked for the season. As Hoop was waving his index finger leaving the Target Center to the cold walk to car, the entire time waving his gloved finger proclaiming “we’re back, we’re number-1”, some fans simply offered a half smile and quick head turn, others offered Hoop a gratuitous high-5 and chimed in.

Mr. Glass-Half-Full (that’s me) simply wants to see it this weekend in LA. Yep, back to So-Cal for back to back’s with the LakeShow and Clippers. This is where we’ll see how the Wolves fare. It’s nice to be at 500 but it’s more telling to get dramatic wins over strong teams. Add Portland to the list and go ahead, turn up the heat on Rick Adelman’s squad. He knows exactly what they have to do. “All year long, we’ll have a game like this, a half like this, and then we slip up…we have to be consistent and that’s what we haven’t been”.

GameON! twitter mate Ben in St. Cloud hit me up after the game. “The Wolves were great but allowing Damian Lillard 36 for 13-of-24?! What’s up?”

Ben beat me to the punch. Lillard is the next superstar in the NBA folks. You can keep cats like that down for a bit but rarely for a game. It was delightful to watch him in person. WOW! That was a draft coup for Rip City and what you have to love about him is his determination, his fearlessness and skill. That Blazers got game! Ben, thanks for chiming in but all I can say is they bottled him long enough.

There’s more good stuff ahead. For the time being, take it all in. Here’s hoping your Holidays are filled with happiness, a brief break for you, the joy of the season and kindness to you and those around you. Wherever you may be we’re hoping only the best for you and your family. And as you dial your basketball radar into the waning days of December, keep an eye on this vital stretch of games. And to you, keep your GameON!


Help someone stay warm:

A big shout out for the fine work of All Star Kevin Love. More than four thousand coats on his Coat Drive to help Minnesotans in need! Love partnered with The Salvation Army to gather coats to help those in need this winter. It ended December 18 but the Salvation Army will still take any donations of new or gently used coats. Love is right on point. "Cold weather is here and many people are in need of winter coats," Love said. "With the support of The Salvation Army and Wolves fans, we can make a difference again this winter for those in need."

Vote now and often:

The NBA’s All-Star Balloting continues. Timberwolves starters Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio highlight Wolves representatives on the ballot as fans worldwide have the opportunity to vote for their favorite players as starters for the 63rd NBA All-Star Game.

This is the second straight year that fans can vote for their favorite player via social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter. Twitter voting allows fans to tweet a vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the All-Star balloting period.

SimonsSays on TV/PODcast:

You can now get SimonsSays in new PODcast form with insight/input from fans just like you and exclusive player interviews! Keep an eye out for SimonsSays PODcast @ each and every week. And there is always a Wolves update on my TV show, GameON! Don’t miss an episode of the multi-Emmy nominated GameON! @ 10am this Sunday morning on FOX’s My29 and throughout the weekend regionally on MidCo Sports Net.

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As we have for years, we talk Wolves. Every day. High’s & lows. We’re there because we are fans, just like you! Keep your GameON! See you soon!

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