2014-15 Season

Wolves fall to Grizzlies 105-101, but good things happened!

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The Timberwolves fought to the final seconds tonight, but couldn’t get over the hump against a borderline top-tier Memphis Grizzlies squad. Mid-broadcast, Dave Benz mentioned the Grizzlies haven’t won an opener since they moved to Vancouver. It was a tough 105-101 loss, but it’s important to remember the quality of competition that the Wolves were facing tonight, and the connotations that a win would bring for said competition.

The Wolves had their fair share of bright moments tonight, but they did lose. So, we’ll start with some things that went wrong.

It was, more or less, a nice night shooting the ball for Ricky Rubio, but a fair share of plays were brought to a halt because of some shaky passing. He finished the game with 7 assists, but also 7 turnovers, many off passes of the head-scratching variety. Obviously, Rubio’s passing isn’t a long-term concern, but his decision-making was not on-point tonight, and it clearly frustrated him.

Like Ricky, Pekovic struggled tonight with the his most recognized NBA skill. He traveled twice on attempted spin moves in the post, only finished 2-9, and struggled to stick with Marc Gasol on the defensive end. A big part of this has to do with the near-impossible task of matching up with Gasol – on both ends. Not only is Gasol a former Defensive Player of the Year, he’s also a skilled offensive big who can stretch the floor. He had Pek’s number tonight.

Overall, Minnesota’s interior defense was as-expected tonight, especially considering their competition. Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for a 24-33 shooting, getting easy looks in a variety of ways (good post position, offensive rebounds, mid-range, etc.).

Lastly, it wasn’t a crazy, wild, electric quadruple-double NBA debut for Andrew Wiggins. Instead, he looked like a rookie facing off against a sound defensive team. He got into foul trouble, struggled to find position, and was mostly silent in his 18-minute debut. He didn’t play poorly, but he also didn’t really impact the game.

Last tough break for the Wolves: In short, Memphis native Yo Gotti performed to open the game, and according to Marc Gasol…

That’s just bad luck. Maybe if Yo Gotti has the flu, and can’t perform, maybe Gasol has no motivation and doesn’t play well. I hate to speculate, but that’s probably what cost Minnesota the game.

Anyway, onto the good stuff!

Not only did the Minnesota bench outscore the opposing pine, they obliterated them 46-10. Granted, no Grizzlies bench guy played made it over the 20-minute mark, anyone who saw the Wolves’ bench last year should be quite happy with this number. This came with excellent production from a pair of question marks coming into the year: workout buds Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett.

The pair combined for 22 points on 50 percent shooting, and brought a spark the Wolves needed, keeping it competitive at points in both halves. Shabazz was doing his work on the offensive glass and his beloved left block, and Bennett was making a home at the mid-range. These two could become a fun bench frontcourt duo (along with Gorgui Dieng, of course) if things go as hoped.

That said, the best player off the bench tonight was Mo Williams. He hit his shots (no matter how many bounces on the rim it took), and stayed calm when things got nerve-wracking to end it. It was a Wolves loss as a team, but the bench brought it tonight.

Another newcomer, starter Thaddeus Young, was the best player for the Wolves tonight. Not only was he hitting tough shots inside, he expanded his range deep, hitting a pair from beyond the arc. I sincerely hope he doesn’t get burdened with the pretend task of “replacing” Kevin Love (I doubt that will happen), because he could become a big-time fan favorite very quickly.

It’ll be tough to surpass Ricky Rubio’s fan-favorite status, especially if Rubio’s mid-range shooting can show a consistency like we saw tonight. We’re just one game in, but Ricky’s confidence didn’t waver going up for a shot tonight. Keeping his confidence consistent should help stabilize his jumper.

Last positive thing to take away: Yes the game was a loss, but we have 81 to go! The NBA is back! Hooray!

We’ll see you tomorrow.

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15 thoughts on “Wolves fall to Grizzlies 105-101, but good things happened!

  1. Really liked what I saw out of the wolves tonight. The newfound athleticism showed itself on the glass, particularly on the offensive end. With K Mart in the picture, the wolves look like they will be a tough out for most teams this year. Hopefully their youth leads to some dividends in back to back situations as well, we will find out tomorrow night.

  2. Looking at the stat, it’s crazy that although we allow 24-33 from the duo of Grizzlies, we outrebound 47-33. It still show something positive for the Minnesota’s interior defense. The most crucial is that we committed 23 TOs while we average only 13.5 TOs last season. It’s understandable that the opponent is a very good team in D. The only comment is that I think some wolves did not turn the form 100% in the early season. We can distribute more mins to the productive bench players.

  3. MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A +/- PTS
    N. Pekovic 28:46 2-9 0-0 1-2 -17 5
    C. Brewer 26:31 2-7 0-2 2-2 -16 6

    After seeing the above stat lines from Pekovic and Brewer (two of the starters last night), I am definitely intrigued if you think we will be shopping the big man? Pekovic clearly looked like he didn’t know where he fit in last night. The aforementioned traveling calls and hucking basketballs off of the backboard from the right block are just a few reasons that Pekovic didn’t look to form. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy. Anyone who looks like a mid-9th century Viking should be on my team, but it just seemed that it wasn’t the right place for him. The other question mark on the team was Chase Budinger. Budinger had ZERO points in 14 minutes of play and missed a couple of threes where he was wide open.

    Granted, this is the first game of the season, but when you have 23 turnovers and two starters playing 24+ minutes with +/- of -16 and -17, I think we know where we lost it.

    The greatest comments came during the first half of last night’s game, when the announcer stated that he thinks there is the 2014-2015 Most Improved Player on the Timberwolves. After seeing Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammed play last night, I think he is on to something.

    Good article, great read.

  4. I think this sums it up nicely:

    I’m real bullish on a lot from this game, just overall they way the never let Memphis run away with the lead and the high-energy and aggressive style that’s been lacking in Wolves teams in recent memory. Shabazz doesn’t look lost anymore, Thad Young was a force, Mo Williams seems like a fun addition, Dieng seemed to be the best player on the court at certain times throughout the game and Bennett had me hoping he was the steal of the trade.
    Ricky and Corey both looked shaky, yes, but let’s chalk this up to rust and uncertainty with this new squad.
    On the other hand, Pek was a black hole of suck anytime he was on the court. At times, it seemed like he had rollerskates on and butter all over his hands. Just a stumbling, bumbling mess. Just one game, obviously, but let’s hope Pek hasn’t been exposed.

  5. Maybe this is nitpicking, but I am not sure why Carter got 2 FT’s at the end for elbowing Rubio in the face. It looked to me like Carter leaned in and initiated contact with Rubio’s face and the refs bailed him out.

  6. Rubio has to play smarter. His gamble for a steal at the end of the half led to a wide-open 3, several of his turnovers were avoidable, and he did a bad job defending that Carter shot attempt with 8 seconds left, getting caught in no-man’s land.

    I’m not going to bag on anyone too much because I was bracing for a blowout. They did what they had to do to stay close, and this is one of the toughest frontcourt duos they’ll face all season. They couldn’t stop the Grizz while Gasol and Randolph shared the floor (+13), and it wasn’t a surprise that they pulled away (though Mo Williams’ flagrant is a terrible play in any situation). They didn’t play particularly well (only Dieng and Muhammad were effective on both ends) and were still in the game, so time will tell if that indicates a competitive season.

  7. Great article Tim! I really like how the wolves played last night. Every played well yesterday except Pek. Defensively he was horrible. His footwork is so slow and can’t protect the paint. Offensively he didn’t looked like the same guy from last year. He did get some off reb but didn’t scored after getting reb. I feel like Dieng should start because of his defense and Pek should come off the bench. What do yall think?

    Thad is huge upgrade to the PF position. He gets steals, hustles and shoots great beyond 3pt line and makes all the right plays. And his ball handling his great.

  8. Pek was an absolute mess last night and I couldnt understand why Flip still stuck with him in the 4th. Put in Dieng and Shabazz if they are the hot hand and certainly were last night.

    I love the energy from Shabazz – he attacks the boards with purpose, constantly hustling, and has a go to move on the left block. Nice to see his hard work paying off and hopefully he just keeps improving. If that happens the Dieng and Shabazz trade will obviously become a brilliant move. Should he start for Brewer? I feel like with rubio and brewer on court at same time just wayyy too many risks get taken on D and we fall apart sometimes.

    Hopefully that will be Wiggins worst game of the year – he was pretty blah and picked up some early fouls, but he did disrupt a couple plays on the defensive end and nailed a 3. Same goes for Rubio, hard to see him having 7 TO’s again. He did stuggle a few times with decision making and seemed to lose the ball at crucial times, but his shot looked better (although he still couldnt finish on a couple hard drives to the hoop).

    Overall very pleased with the energy (especially the bench) last night. Got a bad call when ZBo poked it away from Ricky and it was sent back to the Grizz which made us play from behind rest of way, but we were in it at the end against a tough team on the road – not much more you can ask for in a season opener. Now lets smoke the Pistons tonight!!!

  9. I disagree with Mo Williams being the best player off the bench. Yes he hit his shots, but I felt when the ball was in his hands the offense slowed to a halt, where his points were stemming from isolation and not within the confines of the offense. Other than that I felt the team played great, although I would love to see Bennett/Deing get increased minutes as the season progresses.

  10. Pure speculation on my part, but might the contract situation be messing with Rubio’s head? He seems to be affected by off-court things at times. That said, seeing the new right-fading jumper keep going in was something new.

    Overall, it was great to watch the hustle and intensity even if some of it was too chaotic and mistake-prone, and the excellent depth. I like what Bennett is doing, but he has to avoid falling in love with that long two-point jumper, which I think he is already doing. Glad to see Muhammad get real minutes. I expect Wiggins to come along gradually and see more nights a bit like this one, but I’m not worried long-term.

  11. Drew and gjk,

    I think Tim meant Thad is an upgrade over our other options at PF, which would have been starting Anthony Bennett, and possibly Shabazz as a stretch 4 off the bench. So yes, Thad is a huge upgrade.

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