The NBA: The Wolves Howling
"I don't want to be a tree. Can I be a carrot?" – Wolves center Nikola Pekovic when someone asked about what he'd be if he were a tree.
Okay, I can’t imagine a context in which someone would ask a 7-foot NBA center what he’d be if he were a tree.
I just can’t.
And I won’t really speculate about Pekovic’s floral preferences, but I will speculate about the Timberwolves’ vast improvement.
Last season, Minnesota won just 17 games of 82. Right now, they’ve already matched that total after just 34 games. 32 to go, and, at the rate they’re going, a potential 16 more wins.
That’s almost a 100% improvement on their 2010-2011 campaign.
Playoff worthy? If they were in the East. But out West? Their .500 record is good for just 10th.
But as long as they put themselves within striking distance of that 8th spot, anything can happen.
And if they do get that 8th spot? Well, ANYTHING can happen, right San Antonio?
In their most recent win (against Utah), Minnesota’s Rick Adelman went with an unusually small lineup in the clutch he had rookie Derrick Williams bodying up on Paul Millsap and Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea out back. Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio watched from the bench as his teammates won the game thanks to Ridnour’s teardrop.
That alone underscores one strength of this Timberwolves squad: flexibility.
They can go big with Pekovic, Kevin Love and Williams up front, or small with Rubio/Ridnour and Barea piloting from behind while Love and Michael Beasley take the frontlines. Such is the luxury, and depth, at Adelman’s fingertips.
And such is the danger awaiting every Minnesota opponent from here on out.
Every win is a step towards a better season for these Wolves.
Every win is a step closer towards the playoffs.
Every win is a step towards shocking the world.
These Wolves are howling, and everyone better listen.
After the JUMP, key stat-stuffers for today’s games:
IND over CHA, 102-88
Tyler Hansbrough scored 22 points and pulled down 9 rebounds off the bench as the Pacers dominated the Bobcats for the second time in four days. Six Pacers scored in double figures, including 12 from Danny Granger, and 10 points apiece from Darren Collison, Paul George and Dahntay Jones.
NOH over CLE, 89-84
Chris Kaman had a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Hornets past the Cavaliers. Marco Belinelli scored 19 points, Jarrett Jack netted 16 off the bench and Gustavo Ayon added 17 rebounds to go with 9 points for the Hornets, who have won four of their last six games.
OKC over BOS, 119-104
Russell Westbrook scored 31 points, dished out 6 assists and pulled down 5 rebounds as the Thunder held off the Celtics. Kevin Durant added 28 points, 9 boards, 6 assists and 4 steals as OKC recorded 11 straight wins at home for the first time since a 12-game streak from February 22-April 2, 1998, when the team was known as the Seattle SuperSonics.
SAC ovr WAS, 115-107
Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans scored 22 points apiece in leading the Kings over the Wizards. Sacramento had lost a season-high six straight games, but got 18 points from Isaiah Thomas and 16 points and 16 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins to head into the All-Star break with a win.
TOR over DET, 103-93
DeMar DeRozan netted 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor to go with 7 rebounds as the Raptors topped the Pistons. Leandro Barbosa finished with 17 points, James Johnson netted 15 and Aaron Gray contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Raptors snapped a four-game skid.
ORL over NJN, 108-91
Dwight Howard had 20 points and 17 rebounds, but the Magic may have made their biggest run of the game with him on the bench Wednesday night in a win over the Nets. Orlando beat New Jersey for the ninth straight time mostly on the strength of a 24-12 run while Howard sat on the bench after getting in early foul trouble. Glen Davis scored 12 of his 16 points during the surge, which gave the Magic a 20-point lead in the second quarter.
NYK over ATL, 99-82
Jeremy Lin netted 17 points and dished out 9 assists as the Knicks eased past the shorthanded Hawks. Steve Novak also scored 17 points for New York, which improved to 9-2 over its last 11 games. Landry Fields had 16 points, Carmelo Anthony dropped in 15 and JR Smith contributed 12 for the Knicks. CHI over MIL, 110-91
Joakim Noah recorded his first career triple- double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, as the Bulls cruised past the Bucks. Carlos Boozer added 20 points and 7 boards for the Bulls, who head into the All-Star break on a two-game winning streak.
HOU over PHI, 93-87
Houston's Luis Scola had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a win over the 76ers. Kevin Martin scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and Kyle Lowry finished with 13 for the Rockets, who enter the All-Star break on a three-game win streak. Philadelphia, meanwhile, saw its season-long losing streak reach five games.
MIN over UTA, 100-98
Luke Ridnour finished with 17 points, none bigger than his floater at the final buzzer, lifting the Timberwolves to a comeback victory over the Jazz. With seven ticks on the clock, Minnesota inbounded the ball to Barea, who dished it back to Ridnour. Ridnour split the defense at the top of the key and let go of a floater from the foul line that hit nothing but nylon to complete an 18- point comeback.
GSW over PHX, 106-104
Monta Ellis scored 26 points and made the game-winning jumper with one second left, lifting the Warriors over the Suns. Ellis' fadeaway jumper with Grant Hill in his face snapped Golden State's 13- game losing streak in Phoenix. The Warriors won in the desert for the first time since March 18, 2005.
LAL over DAL, 96-91
Pau Gasol had 24 points and 9 rebounds on as the Lakers escaped with a win over the Mavericks. With the narrow victory, the Lakers improved to 2-0 this season against Dallas, the team which swept them out of last year's Western Conference semifinals. This is the Lakers' fifth win in six games. They face Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City on Thursday.
LAC over DEN, 103-95
Chris Paul had a season-high 36 points to go along with 9 assists as the Clippers pulled away in the fourth quarter to down the Nuggets. Blake Griffin added 27 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists as the Clippers snapped a two-game losing streak heading into the All-Star break. Denver, meanwhile, has dropped 11 of its last 15 games.
Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Chris Paul (LAC) – 36
Jordan Crawford (WAS) – 32
Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 31
Greg Monroe (DET) – 30
Kevin Durant (OKC) - 28
Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Dwight Howard (ORL) & Gustavo Ayon (NOH) – 17
DeAndre Jordan (LAC) & DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) – 16
Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Jose Calderon (TOR) – 15
Kyrie Irving (CLE) & John Wall (WAS) – 11
Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Andre Iguodala (PHI) & JR Smith (NYK) – 5
Kevin Durant (OKC) & Josh Smith (ATL) – 4
Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Bismack Biyombo (CHA) – 6
A LOT with 3
Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
JJ barea (MIN) & Steve Novak (NYK) – 5
A LOT with 4
Feb. 22, 2012 First Five
C – Greg Monroe (DET) – 30pts, 14rebs, 2asts, 2blks, 1stl
F – Blake Griffin (LAC) – 27pts, 12rebs, 5asts, 1stl
F – Kevin Durant (OKC) – 28pts, 9rebs, 6asts, 4stls
G – John Wall (WAS) – 21pts, 11asts, 9rebs, 3stls, 2blks
G – Chris Paul (LAC) – 36pts, 9asts, 3 treys, 2stls, 1reb
Jordan Crawford (WAS) – 32pts, 4asts, 3 treys, 2rebs, 1stl
Paul Millsap (UTA) – 25pts, 9rebs, 2asts, 2stls, 2blks
Marcin Gortat (PHX) – 21pts, 15rebs, 1ast, 1stl, 1blk
*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.