The Wolves finished 3-1 last week and were one solid late game stretch — against the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs — away from having an undefeated week. To recap last week, look no further than the MVP performances of Kevin Love. In four games, he averaged 31.0 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists — shooting 48.8% from the field (41-for-84) and 58.6% from beyond the arc (17-for-29).

Notes from last week:

    • Ricky Rubio had is best scoring week of the season, averaging 15.8 points per game on 41.8% shooting (18-for-43). The difference was Rubio’s ability to get to the free-throw line which contributed to the scoring increase (he was 22-for-25 from the charity stripe). In November, Rubio averaged a modest 2.4 free-throw attempts per game so his aptitude to get to the line for freebies will be something to monitor throughout the rest of the season. He also nailed 5 of his 10 three-pointers.
    • Robbie Hummel was the catalyst in a comeback win over the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring all 10 of his points in the final period. After the game Love said, “It showed the second unit can step up and can score…So I guess this was a character builder for us.” It’s hard not get sappy about a guy who’s NBA future was far from certain back in training camp and summer league. Omid Ferdowsi wrote a nice article on Hummel this past summer, recounting his turbulent college career, which you can read here if you like ‘Big Shot Bob’ as much as I do.
    • This also happened in the game vs. the 76ers after Hummel nailed a clutch three-pointer in a key fourth-quarter stretch by the bench unit:

    • Pekovic scored 18 or more points in all four games last week and is now averaging 19.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in the month of December. However, he continues to rush shots around the rim, typically coming off offensive rebounds, that result in easy misses. It’s not a huge concern at the moment, he’s still shooting 52.2% from the field, but it’s become enough of a factor to mention. Sometimes the best option is grabbing the board, kicking it back out, and resetting from the top of the arc.
    • There still has been no official word on the expected return of Ronny Turiaf or Chase Budinger. At this rate, it would be somewhat of a shock to see either player before January 1st. In the case of Turiaf, I hope I’m wrong.
    • Kevin Martin didn’t score in Sunday’s win over Memphis and played only 19 minutes. After the game it was revealed that he’s been playing with a sore knee. Adelman opted to sit him for the rest of the game last night, with the hopes that he could suit up tonight in Boston. The slump he experienced last week becomes easier to understand, as he only totaled 19 points over the last three contests (5-for-24).
    • My ‘Dunk of the Night’ (last Tuesday) went to Corey Brewer because it was ferocious and I didn’t watch any other games. Here it is:

Monday, December 16 @ Boston

The Wolves haven’t won in Boston since March 6, 2005 and have the opportunity to nab their first season series sweep over the Celtics since 1999-2000. Earlier this season, Minnesota torched Boston at home (106-88) behind 63 points from Love, Martin, and Pekovic. We also saw the best game of the season out of Dante Cunningham (28 minutes, 6-for-10, 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals and 1 block).

It’s really unexplainable how cold Cunningham’s mid-range jumper has been this year after being one of the most consistent players from that spot last season. He needs to find his shot again because it’s often been wide open and it would help our struggling bench unit find a much needed scoring punch. When Cunningham is scoring efficiently he becomes a dynamic bench threat that brings a multitude of skills to the table. Here’s to hoping he can break out of his shooting slump tonight. (Update: Cunningham had an excellent game and finished 5-for-6 from the field. Every shot was a midrange jumper)

Rubio struggled against Avery Bradley last time they matched up — Bradley scored a game-high 27 points while Rubio managed only 3 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. Look for Rubio to avenge that performance tonight and try to draw some early fouls against the defensive guru, Mr. Bradley. (Update: Bradley owned Rubio again)

Finally, Brandon Bass is an above average defender in the league but does he really have a chance at stopping the red hot Kevin Love? I’ll let you be the judge. (Update: Love was ice cold from the field (9-26) and looked worn out on the second night of a road back-to-back)

Below are highlights from last months contest:

Update: the Wolves had an ugly loss to Boston and I don’t really want to dive into the specifics, so I’ll leave with this quote:

“It’s just a disappointing loss. We had every chance to win that game; couldn’t make a layup, couldn’t make a shot, for our starters it really was a struggle. We just missed too many opportunities that were right there for us.” – Rick Adelman

Wednesday, December 18 vs. Portland 

Every single week I imagine the Blazers will come back to reality and each week, thus far, I have been utterly disappointed. After another undefeated week of play (4-0 last week) the Blazers continue to sit atop the Western Conference at 21-4 overall. Only the Indiana Pacers — a team the Blazers beat earlier this month — have a better record, and at this rate you would be ignorant to disregard the Blazers.

I still don’t believe they are a true contender, but they have played unbelievably well and jump into my Western Conference fringe contenders; I’ve been calling them pretenders for weeks because I didn’t believe they could actually compete for a championship. That group (fringe contenders) includes: Golden State, Houston, and Los Angeles (Clippers). I wouldn’t bet money on any of them winning the Larry O’Brien trophy, but I also wouldn’t put it past any of them.

LaMarcus Aldridge won his third Western Conference Player of the Week award earlier today, though Love could have won it too, but as phenomenal as LA has been thus far it’s been the play of the rest of Portland’s starters — Lillard, Matthews, Batum, and Lopez — that leave them at the top of the West.

Naturally, all eyes will be on the Love-Aldridge matchup as they continue to fight for the title of best power forward in the game. However, if the Wolves are going to steal a victory against PDX, Rubio must keep sophomore sensation Damian Lillard in check. Lillard has been excellent once again this season (20.1 points, 5.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds) and hit this last-second game-winner in overtime last night vs. the Pistons:

Let’s just pray to the Basketball Gods that the game doesn’t go into overtime…

Prediction: there will be at least 20 three-pointers made in the game and this will be the best home game of the season. You better buck up and go, ok? I’ll see you there.

Friday, December 20 @ Los Angeles (Lakers)

Oh my God, you didn’t know? Kobe Bryant is back from his Achilles injury and playing with the Lakers again. And of course, that means he’s back to his old tactics with teammate Pau Gasol. After the Lakers’ 88-85 win over the Bobcats on Saturday night, Bryant got on Gasol yet again, though it seemed pretty harmless, for his six turnovers after the game. Which leads me to the… 

YouTube Clip of the Week:

I know Pau Gasol is a grown man and should be able to handle criticism by now, but in the words of Dave Chappelle, when does keepin’ it real go wrong? Gasol is a shadow of the player he used to be, but he’s still more than capable of contributing on a championship contender. I bet he’ll look to play elsewhere after his contract with the Lakers expires. Perhaps a backup big of the bench for, lets say, the Wolves? Ricky and I can dream.

Anyways, this is a huge game that the Wolves can ill afford to lose. The Lakeshow find themselves in the thick of the Western Conference race (currently right behind the Wolves at 11-12) and the Wolves need to beat all the teams in the conference that they possibly can. The East is down, the West is deeper than ever, look no further than the Memphis Grizzlies who are 10-13 and find themselves 13th in the conference.

Look for Love to make all of Lakers nation drool even more over his 2015 free-agent status during this game. But he ain’t coming folks! (Honestly, nobody knows what Love will end up doing, not even Love, but it makes me happier to say he won’t be in LA because I genuinely dislike their organization and fan base).

Sunday, December 22 @ Los Angeles (Clippers)

The team they call ‘Lob City’ has beat the Wolves twice this season by a combined 6 points and the rivalry will continue to grow on Sunday. There are so many reasons this game will be great — matchups across the floor, playoff positioning, the results of previous games, the alley-oop vs. the outlet, etc.

The last time these teams played, Chris Paul left a salty taste in the mouths of the Target Center crowd. In the last five minutes of the game he simply couldn’t miss. Paul and Griffin are going to get theirs against us, just as they do against everybody, so it will be up to the Clippers’ other guys — most notably Jamal Crawford.

Crawford started for just the seventh time in the last five seasons in a win over Washington on Saturday, scoring 17 points (6-14 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 4-4 FT) and dishing out 3 assists. Known as one the most lethal bench scorers in the NBA, it will be a different look for the Wolves, though it should help having Brewer guarding him throughout the course of the game (I would imagine Adelman prefers Brewer on him over Martin).

And to conclude, this was flat out awesome after a win over Memphis last night…

Current record: 12-12, 4th in Northwest Division


Cover Photo Source: Folkert Gorter via Flikr

Minnesota guy through and through. The NBA was my first crush. I'm a sucker for stats and fantasy sports. Coffee makes the world go round.

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