The Minnesota Timberwolves looked the best they’ve looked in two years for three quarters last night against The Memphis Grizzlies!
Then the fourth quarter happened.
The Wolves were outscored 24-4 at one point and 38-17 for the quarter. They lost the lead with the reserves, and couldn’t find the rebounds or the offense to regain it with their starters. The easy thing to do is chalk it up to that and call it a day, but I can’t because I have to write about these dweebs. So in honor of Josh Okogie looking like John Legend and me looking like Aphex Twin, please click this link as a musical enhancement for your reading (NSFW).
Let’s play the Blame Game.
Let’s call out names. Rick, you led the team in plus/minus at minus-16. Are you back to your Minnesota shooting percentages? No one is guarding you, you were 0-for-2 from three (24% on the season), and you are getting torched on defense:
Y’ALL HE ALMOST MISSED THE BACKBOARD. Sorry Rick. We can’t love you this much.
During the 24-4 run, Grayson Allen made two threes over Rick (videoed above) and DLol (my nickname for D’Angelo Russell) respectively, Dillon Brooks hit one in transition (and torched Ricky for an easy bucket inside, also videoed above), and Kyle Anderson made two threes in a row over Juancho Hernangomez. No, we should not expect that trio to go 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, but some of these were lazy closeouts.
Kyle Anderson is literally nicknamed Slowmo. I think you can force him to drive.
The Wolves surprisingly won the rebounding battle last night 48 to 47. The problem was with the kinds of rebounds they were giving up. Memphis had 15 offensive rebounds, and a bunch of them were Jonas Valanciunas putbacks on their way to him becoming yet another center to set a season-high in points against this team. Here is an example of a demoralizing offensive rebound:
Minnesota does a great job of forcing the ball to their worst offensive player in an awkward position, but rookie second-rounder Xavier Tillman grabs his own miss (over Karl-Anthony Towns’ injured left hand). Instead of successfully stifling the 2-for-1 by forcing Memphis to take time to find a shot, the Timberwolves let Tyus Jones dribble out the clock and find De’Anthony Melton for a bucket with six seconds left in the third quarter.
The good news is that I believe our defensive rebounding woes will improve once Towns’ hand heals, but boxing out the bigger Grizzlies team was a problem for Minnesota’s other “bigs” as well.
The perimeter defense in transition, the shot selection, the rotations may all be filed under needs improvement.
Ricky Rubio was too involved down the stretch. Offensively, he had the yips so badly that he stopped shooting by the end of the fourth quarter. Late in the quarter, Towns helped clear a lane to the basket for him and he gave it up for a Malik Beasley contested three. On top of that, he was the turnstile that took the team from 10 points up to 2 points down while KAT was on the bench in the early fourth.
Ryan, you have to pivot if your guy isn’t feeling it. More importantly though, when your team is struggling offensively, you have to get your best player easy buckets. KAT and DLol got the ball inside to Beasley, but Karl is the best player, and it’s Ryan Saunders’ job to get KAT grilling the barbecue chicken.
Karl in the post with four shooters is one of the best offensive sets in the NBA. That fourth shooter is not Ricky Rubio, but in fairness to Ryan, I don’t know if that fourth shooter is on this team with Launcho Hernangomez looking more like a bottle rocket than an Apollo mission.
Help me, PJ Tuckenobi. You’re my only hope.
Thank you for playing the Blame Game. While there may be no hope, I still want to end in a more positive light. Despite the bench collapsing, the Wolves looked like a real basketball team, maybe for the first time this season. Most obviously, they are healthy again!
Also, Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell building real chemistry.
On top of that, the next seven games are all winnable games against some injured or COVID protocol-ed teams. The best record in this bunch is 6-5, and there’s only one back-to-back against the New Orleans Pelicans (so KAT should play a lot of games going forward). If the Wolves can muster four or five wins here, then they’ll get right back in the mix for the play-in games to the playoffs.
Lastly, I would like to leave you with a mixtape I made of Josh Okogie doing Josh Okogie things: