Tonight’s game was goofy.
On one hand, it would be easy to shrug off tonight’s 103-86 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Wolves were down to just 10 available players, had a pair of teenagers in their starting 5 (to be fair, so did the Bucks (tonight was the first time in NBA history 4 teenagers started in a game)), had many playing way out of position, and had Thad Young, its only returning player, come back noticeably (and understandably) rusty. They played hard, but got beat by a healthier team.
On the other hand, they were in the game for 3-plus quarters, and let some bad defense get the best of them. To be fair, the limited options Flip Saunders had to work with forced some guys to play more minutes than they’re used to. They got gassed towards the end, and when you get gassed, you foul. Brandon Knight took and made 8 of Milwaukee’s 13 free throws in that final quarter, where the Wolves were outscored 31-16.
Past the game itself, the storylines were surprisingly ample for a Bucks-Timberwolves game. Let’s look at a few:
Corey Brewer played point guard and Robbie Hummel played center….at the same time
This was by far the goofiest part of the night. With Rubio still out with an ankle injury, and Mo Williams out with the flu, Flip Saunders was forced to re-insert Mo Williams into the starting lineup. After that, his options at point guard were virtually nonexistent.
In the first half, Brewer was a surprisingly competent point guard, something he said he hadn’t done since college. Flip made the job as simple as he could from a schematic standpoint. For the most part, he’d bring the ball up the floor and immediately pass it off to another wing to start the offense. In the second half, he played more like the non-point guard he is, made a few mistakes, and forced Flip to go back to LaVine.
To add metaphorical insult to literal injury, Robbie Hummel played his third straight game as team’s backup center. At times, he was out there at the same time as point Brewer. Again, this game was goofy.
Hummel got overpowered and subsequently dunked on a couple times, but it’s tough to knock him. Like always, he played hard and was rarely out of position on either end. Still, he may be more excited than anyone for Turiaf and Pekovic to get back than anyone.
Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker
Early on, it looked like Wiggins was going to get the clear win in the battle between this summer’s top two picks, but an underwhelming finish to the game for Wiggins helped even up the battle towards the end.
Overall, Wiggins probably looked a bit better, especially when you factor in the flashes of defensive brilliance he put on early in the second half. This includes a block on one Jabari Parker.
Still, don’t let this swat fool you. Parker looks really, really good. His hesitation dribble was working on Wolves defenders just about every time. Much like we’ve seen from Wiggins, he would frequently get the ball poked away from him before he could make a play.
In short: both had their problems, but both showed flashes of dominance. Both are going to be ridiculous in a few years.
The Greek Freak
Admittedly, I haven’t been the biggest fan of Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it has very little to do with him as a player. The word “potential” is almost synonymous with his play on the court, and he’s so far from a finished or even a guaranteed product. I saw a number of picks for him as this year’s Most Improved Player, and I remain convinced that his time to win that award, if ever, is still 2-3 years away.
Regardless, he is an absolute monster in-person. The length of his arms live up to the “freak” aspect of his nickname, and I mean that in the absolute nicest way possible. After seeing him live, it’s easier to understand why people might use a bit of hyperbole when talking about his future impact on the floor.
In tonight’s game, he made some smart decisions and nice passes in the game. He did a little bit of everything and looked like a guy going places in the league. It’s tough to decide whether he should bulk up and look at playing power forward, or continue to try to be the most ridiculously large wing in the league. It’ll be a fun watch regardless.