Dane Moore and Tim Faklis were in Chicago to witness the Wolves’ loss to the Bulls firsthand. Below is a list of notes and observations Dane made throughout the night. Tim’s recap can be found here.
1. Touch-less Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns has shot fewer than 10 shots in five of the Wolves’ last seven road games. Minnesota has lost each of those games.
The Minnesota offense is becoming increasingly Jimmy Butler-centric — and not just when he is having a homecoming in Chicago. While Butler is certainly capable of carrying much of the load, the lack of use for the equally effective offensive threat of Towns has become staggering.
Tom Thibodeau insists “the game tells you who shoots” whenever asked about Towns’ shot totals. If Towns is being double-teamed, that makes sense but it feels that too often the Wolves big man is not in the action.
The team has found success when utilizing Towns in pick-and-pop to start possessions — Towns missed a crucial late-game 3 but had made his previous 10 (a franchise-record). If the Wolves are struggling to find post touches for Towns, this is an action that can increase his touches and theoretically his shot total.
2. Jones Played The Entire Fourth Quarter
Minnesota opted to roll with Tyus Jones for all 12 of the fourth-quarter minutes; Jeff Teague — who was fully healthy — did not see the floor, playing a season-low 23 minutes.
Still, Jones — a net-rating superstar when Teague was injured — has cooled of late. The Jones-Teague question remains a conundrum but Jones’ fourth-quarter play is a signal of innovation in the often rigid rotations of Thibodeau.
3. End-of-Game Execution
With 40 seconds left, the score was tied as Butler effectively isolated on Lauri Markkanen to push the score to 113-111. While it worked, a 2-for-1 strategy could have been implemented. This would have meant going to the Butler isolation earlier in the shot clock. Ideally, the Wolves get the shot off with more than 24 seconds left on the clock — guaranteeing another possession.
In the previous game against Cleveland, Minnesota had a similar situation at the end of regulation. That time it didn’t work. The Wolves, again, used the entire shot clock but did not convert. This left time on the clock for LeBron James to isolate, though he missed the shot. Had the Wolves expedited the previous possession, they could have had the final shot.
Implementing this strategy is easier said than done. More broadly: It would seem advantageous to get into actions quicker at the end of games.
4. Towns’ Defensive Aesthetic Leads to Foul Calls
Towns has a beautiful mess of an offensive game. His body contorts in a flailing manner on his drives to the bucket, often effectively. He brings the same hectic nature to his defense; it is not as effective.
Even when Towns is defending admirably, he can look like an inflatable on a used-car lot. His body jets out north, south, east and west. Optically, he appears out of control. Whether he’s in control or not, referees seem quick to blow the whistle on Towns; he had five fouls against the Bulls.
It isn’t necessarily the foul trouble — or even the fact that Towns is putting the opponent on the line — that is not the issue. The issue is that it seems to take Towns out of the game mentally. His becoming incensed after the call translates to the offensive end. Perhaps there is no solution but a few deep breaths would probably help.
5. Thibodeau On The Trade Deadline
When asked about the trade deadline’s movement, Thibodeau compared the volume of moves to the MLB’s trade deadline.
“I don’t know if it’s maybe becoming more similar to baseball where this is buyers and sellers,” Thibodeau said pregame. “It seems to be moving in that direction. There was a lot of activity.”
The Wolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations said, “The next step is the buyout market. We have to evaluate all of those things.”
Thibodeau did not mention Derrick Rose or any other names of potential signees.
Listen to Dane on Wolves Wired!