The Minnesota Timberwolves were defeated by the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, 99-79, in what interim coach Sam Mitchell described as the “worst game” of the 2015-16 season. “I didn’t even recognize us to start the game,” Mitchell said in his postgame press conference, which lasted all of 35 seconds and ended after he had abruptly stormed out of the media room without having answered a single question.
The Wolves simply could not capitalize on a mismatch they had attempted to exploit from the get-go. Los Angeles started only one traditional big in DeAndre Jordan, which meant perimeter oriented players in Luc Mbah A Moute and Wes Johnson were left to guard Gorgui Dieng. Because neither Johnson nor Mbah A Moute stand taller than 6’8”, the Wolves made a concerted effort to feed the ball to Dieng, who is 6’11”, inside the painted area.
Unfortunately, this plan had been foiled rather easily as Dieng — an unorthodox offensive player who is at his best when used as a spot up shooter from areas 15-or-so feet from the basket — would struggle to score in the ensuing post up situations and miss his first-five field goal attempts. This, in turn, contributed to what became a woeful shooting performance by both clubs during the first half.
The Clippers, despite shooting 36.6 percent (15-of-41 FG), had given up just 34 points by the end of the first half as the Wolves connected on just 12-of-44 attempts from the field during that span. “As bad as they were shooting in the first half, we shot worse,” Karl-Anthony Towns admitted after the game.
What was a 13 point halftime deficit doubled before the fourth quarter but by that point, Mitchell had seen enough to warrant his waiving of the proverbial white flag. None of the Wolves starters saw the floor during the final frame, granted Andrew Wiggins had already left the game with what was described as a chin laceration.
“They still gotta learn how to play basketball,” Mitchell proclaimed during the unusually brief postgame presser.
“They still gotta grow up. They still gotta understand — they played a team that’s a real playoff team tonight. And you saw what happened. So I wish they would stop readin’ the newspapers, and stop talkin’ to their friends, because we’re not good enough to just show up and play. That’s the worst game we’ve played all year.”
“You know what, I think it is,” said Towns, seemingly in agreement with the assertion that the loss was and is the worst of the season.
“We came off a great win and we had the momentum on our side. We just came in, and came out flat.”
Zach LaVine, held scoreless for the first time in recent memory, appeared eager to put the loss behind him. “We gotta come back and do better than that,” LaVine said.
“It happens, it’s a bad night. We don’t want it to happen but we’re goin’ to take it, learn from it, and go out and play our butts off in the next game and try to get a win.”