Tag Archives: Pekovic

All You Need Is Love

In the spirit of the season, the Wolves gave back to their fans the ultimate gift: a healthy Kevin Love. Out of nowhere (so it seemed), Love returned to the starting lineup tonight. And Love made up for lost time with a first half that had Wolves fans mapping out the parade route.

The return of Love has Wolves nation thinking big.

Love had 16 points and 6 boards in the first quarter on his way to 22 and 8 in the first half.  Those 16 first-quarter points accounted for 62% of the team’s scoring. Not bad for a guy that missed the first 9 games of the season.

Riding the emotion of Love’s unexpected return and his hot shooting, the Wolves took a commanding 14-point lead into the half. A victory seemed all but a formality. But the emotion was left in the locker room. Poor shooting from the field and line ultimately did in the Wolves as the Nuggets pulled out the win.

Putting aside the outcome, this was an exciting night for Wolves nation. Love was joined by Pek and JJ in returning to the floor. All of a sudden, a team that couldn’t field more than 9 players, had so many players that D. Will didn’t see the floor (a topic for another post). Wolves nation was finally starting to see what this team will look like when healthy. And the potential is promising.

The starting five is a work in progress until Rubio returns. But, you can see the makings of a strong starting lineup. Pek and Love are efficient scorers in the post that rebound with the best of them. AK47 is a jack-of-all-trades type player that scores, rebounds, defends, and hustles on every possession. He’s simply the perfect compliment to Pek and Love at the 3-position. The Wolves still don’t have a 2 so long as they keep Shved in his 6-the man and 4th quarter role. Though, that could change if Roy somehow returns from another knee operation – not counting on it at this point.

Once Rubio returns, the bench becomes 7 deep: Ridnour, JJ, Cunningham, Shved, Stiemsma, Howard, and D. Will. It’s a nice compliment of players too, each with a critical role to the team’s success. In JJ and Shved, you have two playmakers, capable of creating scoring chances for themselves and others. Howard, if his knees hold, plays a similar game to AK47, and can be a strong defender and outlet scorer. And my personal favorite: Cunningham. He’s battles for every rebound and loose ball, never gives up on a possession, and he has a strong mid-range game.

You saw these players’ potential while Love, Pek, JJ, and Budinger fell to injuries. These role players stepped up and played gritty, fighting to a winning record. Shved showed he belongs and isn’t afraid of the big-shot. Cunningham showed the tenacity that has quickly become his hallmark for this squad. And AK47 did a little bit of everything to lead this young team; the savvy veteran. Now when healthy, it’s a matter of finding that balance and settling into their respective roles.

Some may consider this next statement overblown hyperbole, but it hopefully proves not to be: tonight may be the start of a new era for Wolves nation. With a healthy Love surrounded by a roster that has quality talent and depth, this team can develop into a playoff team not only this year, but also in the years to come. Finally, a team we can all be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

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Playoffs?! Playoffs?! We Talking Playoffs!

Playoffs?! Indeed.

Yes, Mr. Mora, we talking playoffs! At the halfway point of this shortened season, both local squads – the Pups and Bucks – are talking playoffs. Of course, talking playoffs doesn’t mean both or either of the teams will actually make the playoffs. In fact, if either team makes the playoffs, it’d be a bigger surprise than Darko resembling an actual NBA player.

Simply talking playoffs is an accomplishment for the Timberwolves. A franchise  mired in terribleness since gifting an NBA Championship to the Celtics in the infamous KG trade, the Pups have risen from the abyss on the shoulders of both K. Love and Rubio. With the emergence of Pekovic and the promise of D. Will., the Pups have the building blocks in place to be annual playoffs contenders in years to come – assuming Kahn doesn’t screw it up. Here’s hoping the Utah Jazz are not lottery bound and, thus, sending their first-round pick to the Pups. A shooting guard that can actually shoot would go a long ways for this squad.

K. Love is going to need to be as clutch during the second half of the season.

But, as far as this year is concerned, talking playoffs is the only accomplishment members of the Team of 1707 can expect. At 17-17 at the midpoint of the season, the Pups stand in 10th place in the conference, one game back from the 8th spot – Portland Trailblazers. The reason for pessimism is the Wolves schedule coming out of the break does not set up well with a back-to-back-to-back gauntlet against both LA teams and Phoenix, before getting one day off to travel to a critical game at Portland. Following this road stretch, the Wolves experience deja vu (and not the fun kind off Washington Ave.) when they play host to Lob City, Portland, and the Lake Show in a five day stretch. This stretch will test the mettle of the young squad and ultimately decide whether we will still be talking playoffs two weeks from now.

The moment the Bucks playoffs chances limped away.

As for the Bucks, a 13-20 record at midway point doesn’t show much hope for a playoffs spot. But, in the Eastern Conference, they are still only 2.5 games back of the aging Boston Celtics, who currently man the 8th spot. With rumors rampant that the Celtics may be breaking up the Big (read: Old) Three, the eighth spot is up for grabs in the East. Two years removed from a playoffs battle with the Hawks, the Bucks season outlook was promising on the premise Jennings would continue his growth and Bogut was healthy. Unfortunately, when Bogut went down, so too did the Bucks season. The Bucks were 7-7 at the time of the injury, and have since gone 6-13.

To have any shot at claiming that 8th spot, the Bucks need to start quick in the second half. Unfortunately, like the Pups, the schedule does not set up well. An easy home game against the Wizards/Bullets/Mental Midgets only serves as a pre-season warmup game to a gauntlet of playoff teams: Celtics, Hawks, Magic, 76ers, Bulls, and Knicks. Jim Mora might be correct that playoffs is absurd to mention with this squad, but crazier things of happened. I mean, a twice cut, Harvard grad, Asian-American is leading the New York Knickerbockers towards the playoffs. Who knows, maybe Ersan Ilyasova’s 29/25 evening last week is the start to his massive run. Ok, never mind, but when you have Brandon Jennings, every game is winnable if he gets that lefty stroke going like Mick at Pebble (yup, I just compared a kid Straight Outta Compton to a 40 y.o. chubby, perma-smile golfer).

We talking playoffs, just not making the playoffs. The Fear the Deer and Rubionation campaigns will have to wait until 2013.