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…
“Yo Gotti set the tone for us” – Marc Gasol (!!!!!!!)
— Chip Williams (@chipwilliamsjr) October 30, 2014
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.