Now that the Corey Brewer trade demands, or Melo Drama as I like to call it, are over, the Wolves were finally able to get back to some sense of normalcy.
With Corey actually gone from the team, it gave us an opportunity to see Wes Johnson in a more defined role. It’s not like Wes hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do before, but now it’s him and only him as a main option on the perimeter. Personally, I don’t think he disappointed in any way.
Wes didn’t shoot the ball well and he didn’t wow anybody by taking over the game. That’s not his type of game anyway. What he did was make the little plays here and there that you really want a role player to do. His final line shows a 14-point effort on 5/14 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. But it’s the way that he accomplished such a modest line that impressed.
Wes didn’t just grab stray rebounds that Kevin Love wasn’t able to get to. Wes soared to the air, showed off his athleticism and snatched them with a vice grip and a purpose. He didn’t just take shots because he had to. He tried to create good shots for himself and moved the ball well when he couldn’t get free for a good look (take note, Wayne Ellington). Wes even had a big block in the fourth quarter that gave us a hilarious shot of him looking offended that it was taken within his vicinity.
This isn’t a breakout game for Wes in any way. He’s had better games and we know what he can do. But I love the mentality he showed during this game. He wasn’t passive and he wasn’t aggressive in a way, which made you feel like he was establishing himself in a detrimental manner to the team. He just went out there and played basketball with a purpose. Maybe it helps not having competition on the team of Corey Brewer at the same position and Wes knows he can just go out and have secure minutes. He played 38 minutes in this game and they were a damn good 38 minutes.
Imagine more than one of those six 3-point attempts falling and Wes had a pretty phenomenal game for a guy that isn’t really used as even a third option on the team. He’s going to have his ups and downs this season and I’m sad to see the Wolves let go of Corey Brewer for more of a project player, but seeing Wes get a chance to really grow into his role is a nice “addition” to this team.
As for the rest of the game, three things plagued the Wolves and prevented them from winning this game.
First, the Wolves couldn’t hit their free throws – 10/15 in the first half and 10/16 in the second half of this game. At least they were consistently faulty, right? They ended up shooting the same amount of free throws as the Bucks after some late game fouling and if they ended up shooting the exact same success rate as Milwaukee, they come away with a win (you know, if basketball was played in a vacuum). The Bucks made 27/31 from the field and the Wolves made 20/31 in a six-point loss.
Secondly, the Wolves could not capitalize on the Bucks turnovers. Milwaukee only turned the ball over 13 times in a 94-possession game and of those 13 turnovers, the Wolves scored just seven points off of them. Minnesota did a good job of forcing missed shots by the Bucks, rebounding the ball and keeping the 3-point line from killing their defensive effort. But you still have to score when the other team turns the ball over. Bucks managed to do that by scoring 20 points on 17 Wolves turnovers.
Lastly, late-game execution wasn’t terrible with the shots they got but it wasn’t very good either. If you’ve been paying attention this season, it doesn’t shock you at all to read that sentence. The Wolves ran their offensive through Darko for a missed hook in the lane, got Luke Ridnour a contested 3 in the corner that he forced over Bogut, and then couldn’t convert on two offensive rebounds with another miss in the lane and then Love failing to bang home a huge 3-point chance. On one final gasp, the Wolves turned the ball over with the game already in hand for Milwaukee.
It’s not like this is another crushing loss. This team was competitive on the road against a very good defensive team. They fought hard and just couldn’t pull it out. But you’d like them to take advantage of Wes, Beasley and Love all having above average games.
Love’s double-double streak continues and the Wolves continue to lose. Don’t forget to write, Corey.