Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cleveland Cavaliers 95 at Minnesota Timberwolves 129 - December 4, 2010

Day two of the Minnesota Sports Craptacular weekend featured an NBA game between two teams that have seen much better days. The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a national embarrassment at the hands of one-time hero LeBron James while the hometown Timberwolves have spent the past 3 seasons near the bottom of the league after losing perennial all-star Kevin Garnett to Boston.

Target Center

Located in downtown Minneapolis at 7th St and 1st Avenue, the Target Center is reachable via the skyway corridors that traverse most of the city core, allowing you to remain warm when temperatures outside are below freezing. It's right next door to Target Field, the Twins' sparkling new facility.

It was opened in 1990 and is typical of venues from that era, with few bells and whistles. If you enter from 1st Avenue, you'll find the main ticket windows. Here is where you should take some time to see what is available as the Wolves, mired in mediocrity, have some interesting ticket deals. For example, for tonight's game, I was able to get a $20 seat, a hot dog, chips and small pop for just $19. Other options differ depending on game dates, but there are ladies nights (including a gift certificate to a spa), college nights for $5, and other specials. Ask the ticket clerks as they are more than happy to help.

Once inside you'll pass through a games area, with hoops and some displays that demonstrate just how big the players are. There are footprints, handprints on basketballs, and a couple of life-size pictures you can stand next to. Great for the kids, but not for short, insecure people.

Other than that, I didn't see much. There's a lonely banner commemorating the Wolves' only division title back in 2004, a Hall of Fame banner that lists the 7 Minneapolis Lakers who made the HOF, and Malik Sealy's retired #2 (he was playing for Minnesota when he was killed in a car accident in 2000).

The upper deck seats are close to the court, but I found that many of the seats on this level have their view slightly blocked by the safety fences at the bottom of each staircase as you can see below.

The scoreboard has 4-sided with long, silver daggers at each corner that I guess resemble teeth or claws. There's also a circular sign that usually shows the Wolves logo but turns into a moon at times, which signals the fans to howl. It was particularly effective during the introductions.

Plenty of food options, but nothing out of the ordinary other than Fogerty's Irish Pub which had some specialty beers. The hot dog I ate was typical, although I apparently received an extra large bag of chips as the supervisor was chewing out the poor girl who served me, saying "You gotta give 'em the smaller bag!". Really, there's a smaller bag?

Otherwise, there's not much here. As you can see below, there weren't lots of fans in the upper deck (to be fair, this was just a few minutes after gates opened) but the Target Center really isn't much of a draw any more.

The Game

Given Cleveland's rollover against Miami on Thursday, I had no expectations that they would suddenly be good, but I did think that they would at least show up against the 4-15 Wolves. However, when it was revealed that Cleveland's regular starting guards JJ Hickson and Joey Graham were scratched due to illness, I figured that Minnesota would have a pretty good chance to win.

Sure enough, they burst to a quick 5-0 lead and then withstood a ferocious Cavalier comeback which made it 5-4 before breaking out on a 21-8 run to put the game away with 3 minutes left to go in the first quarter. There's obviously some sarcasm there, but that 1-point deficit was as close as Cleveland could come. Minnesota scored 37 points in the first quarter and had 50 points with 9 minutes left in the second as they won going away, 129-95.

Leon Powe grabs a rebound

There was only one story in this game and that was Minnesota's 3-point shooting. They made 11 of their first 12, the only miss being a last-second heave from the other side of half. Which means they made their first eleven regular attempts from downtown, an incredible run. They finished 18/26 from beyond the arc (69%) and Cleveland simply had no reply to such hot shooting.

For the Wolves, Kevin Love was superb, going 5/5 from 3-point land (that's one below) and grabbing 19 boards to go along with his 20 points. He only played 3 quarters, but that was more than enough. It's amazing that the league's leading rebounder can have such a great shot from distance; this guy will be a regular all-star once he gets some recognition from the mainstream media.

Darko Milicic (below) seems to be rejuvenating his career in Minnesota, leading the league in blocked shots and playing strong defense tonight, going +41 during his time on the floor.

Overall, this game was over early, but it was great to watch the Wolves continue to make those long shots. For the Cavaliers, coach Byron Scott needs to find the pride button on that team. They have already given up on the season and are an embarrassment to basketball; it is probably best to jettison every player who was on the team with LeBron and start anew. It's going to be a long winter in Cleveland.

Next Up

A short turnaround time for me as the Bills and Vikings get started at noon tomorrow. Check back tomorrow night to see how that one went.



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