Greetings from San Francisco where I’ve been the past couple days, and will be tonight (well, technically Oakland) to watch the Timberwolves play at Oracle against the Warriors. Since I last wrote here, the Wolves have played three times, losing each game.
Last Sunday, they lost a close one at home to the Pacers. Their offense came out tentative against a good defensive team that allows very little opportunity for easy shots in the half-court. In the second half, sparked by the energy of Shabazz Muhammad, they came back and even took a 1-point lead. But poor execution in the final minutes — some by Muhammad specifically — let that one slip out of their fingers. They (Wiggins and Budinger, mostly) allowed C.J. Miles to go off for 28 points.
Next was the anticipated matchup with Kevin Love, now wearing the wine and gold Cavs uniform. The game wasn’t as exciting as the hype going into it. Flip Saunders said something about Minnesotans not forgiving Love because he turned on them, and then some people blogged about that. During the game, the Wolves just plain struggled to defend. They gave up 125 points. Love had 20 & 10 and looked good. The good news for Wolves fans was that Andrew Wiggins busted out of his slump to score 27 points on just 16 shots. He dunked really hard next to* Love, one time. (*I can’t say he dunked “on” Love, because Love still does the thing where he steps out of the way of dribble penetration instead of challenging it.) In any event, this game was not close. The Wolves lost by 21.
Last night’s game at Denver was close; more like the Pacers game. The Wolves, like always, were much smaller than their opponent. Whether it was Timofey Mozgov, Jusuf Nurkic, or J.J. Hickson, the Nuggets always had somebody down low who looked about 50 pounds heavier than Gorgui Dieng. But even with that particular disadvantage, the Wolves did enough stuff to hang in there to the final minute of the game.
Wiggins posted a line of 22 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, building on the momentum started in Cleveland. Thad Young had one of his best games of the season, finding his touch on pick-and-roll floaters over the large Nuggets defenders. Gorgui Dieng did what he’s been doing, which is a little bit of everything. His stat line tells that story: 14 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks. Shabazz had a solid scoring start interrupted in the third quarter when he took a Kenneth Faried finger to the eye and required courtside medical attention for a few minutes. He ended the game with 14 points on 5-14 shooting, which is below his average. He missed a couple of dunks where he thought he was fouled that would’ve made that stat line look a little prettier.
It looked like the game might really get away from the Wolves before Robbie Hummel checked in for a productive, 10-minute stint. He scored 7 points and took 2 charges. Hummel is one of the few players on this entire roster who could fit into a limited reserve role on any team in the league, including the title contenders. He knows how to play team offense, his defensive ability is better than you probably realize, and he does nothing to hinder what playmakers around him are trying to accomplish. (There, dead horse beaten. I really hope to see Hummel land in a more competitive situation so his playing time is no longer cut in the name of talent-development.)
The Nuggets game was partially decided by missed Wolves free throws in the final minutes. With 2:18 to play, Gorgui went 1 of 2 to tie the game instead of take the lead. With 1:21 to play, Thad went 1 of 2 to cut a Nuggets lead to 1 instead of tie the game. With 0:40 to play, Wiggins went 1 of 2 to cut a Nuggets lead to 2 instead of 1. With 0:18 to play, Gorgui went 1 of 2 to cut a Nuggets lead to 1 instead of tie the game.
You get the idea. The Wolves lost by 4.
That’s a summary of the past three games.
Some team issues I’m noticing:
* Anthony Bennett is getting worse. Continue reading