When the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2017-18 NBA schedule came out in the fall, the stretch of six games culminating in Tuesday night’s game in Toronto was easy to pick out some likely losses.
This is their last nine games laid out:
- Six games in a nine-day stretch.
- Five of which came on the road the road.
- Two road-road back-to-backs, the second legs of which were against the best team in the NBA (Golden State), and an elite Eastern Conference foe in Toronto.
The Wolves were unable to ride a strong first quarter to a win, and a strong Toronto second half was enough to put Minnesota away, 109-104.
The Timberwolves led by eight points after the first quarter and by as many as 13 in the second, but Toronto chipped and chipped away. And as the Wolves’ offense dried up early in the fourth quarter, the Raptors took control and only briefly looked back, as Minnesota narrowed the deficit to two with just under a minute left.
Ultimately, a clutch bucket by DeMar DeRozan and a pathetic possession by the Timberwolves finished the game off.
Monday night’s loss to Atlanta remains atrocious. And while a second straight loss to yet another East foe stings, Toronto is a great team, playing at home, against a team on short rest that flew in late last night from Georgia.
There are common threads to worry about in the box score, but this review of the game is not a place for too many sweeping judgments about this team’s present and future.
It’s hard to focus on just one sweeping judgment when so much is happening, but one thing seems to be a constant lately. Karl-Anthony Towns is not involved enough on the offensive end of the floor, and starting point guard Jeff Teague may be a large culprit for this, whether his shots are going in the basket or not.
Teague bounced back relatively well from one of his worst performances of the season, turning in 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. However, this game marked the seventh game in the Timberwolves’ last 10 in which Teague attempted more shots than the taller of Minnesota’s two All-Stars, who seems to be less and less a part of his own team’s offense since his selection to the big occasion in Los Angeles.
Towns finished the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and had just seven shots from the field. Tuesday’s game was the fifth in the last seven in which Towns attempted fewer than ten shots, and while Toronto managed him well in both this matchup and the last (the first of those seven games).
This seems to be a nearly inexcusable failure of execution for any kind of offensive structure for the Timberwolves.
Jimmy Butler will always get his points and shots. Even he struggled tonight, badly missing some shots from the field in the fourth quarter and shooting only 50 percent from the free-throw line, by far his worst showing of the season.
Should the shots come out of Andrew Wiggins’ wasteful line (7 of 22) or would that too badly hinder the Timberwolves’ already pathetic 3-point shooting attempts? The Wolves attempted 12 3’s, but had only six entering the fourth quarter, and Wiggins was six of those.
The 3-point shooting deficiency and Towns’ missing attempts go hand-in-hand; the two best shooters from distance by percentage on this year’s Timberwolves team finished 1 of 1 from behind the arc in Tuesday’s game.
That is a travesty in the 2018 NBA. There’s really no way to possibly scheme and create attempts for two nearly seven-foot-tall players who are great shooters?
Again, the Raptors are a great team, and one that should be a model of what the Timberwolves want to be in years to come: built around the smart use of their draft picks and products of their G-League team.
Many of those youngsters killed Minnesota in the Raptors’ fourth-quarter run. Their team as a whole gave a strong impression of a very legitimate chance to win their conference after years of playoff-level finishes.
This is not a bad loss, but the stats tell a familiar and unsettling story that may cause the discussion around this loss to be just as toxic as Monday’s loss to a bottom-three team.
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