Flip mentions playing time as a means of getting to his team. Criticizes the lack of energy, especially from 19-21 year olds.
— Derek James (@DerekJamesNBA) January 4, 2015
Through the Wolves’ current 11-game losing streak, we’ve heard stuff like this from head coach Flip Saunders. A lot.
Considering the number of injuries the Wolves have compiled (and who, specifically, got injured), it would be easy to dismiss this season as a wash. But when a young team like the Wolves can’t even properly use what may be their biggest tool (young, fresh legs) to their advantage on a nightly basis, things are going to get bad. Losing streaks like this are going to happen. It’s what happened tonight.
The lack of energy came as soon as the first quarter, when the Jazz got out to a quick 10-5 lead. The Wolves’ two best current scorers, Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad, may have gotten one combined touch during this stretch. Still, the most frustrating part of it was their lack of determination to go get the ball themselves.
As the game wore on, open three-point shots remained available for Utah, and they took advantage. The Wolves’ lack of size inside allowed the Jazz to bring back 11 offensive rebounds on the rare three-point miss. To be fair, Minnesota won the offensive glass battle, but that could be due to their 39.7 percent display from the field (compared to Utah, who shot just over 50 percent).
A lack of size and effort can make basketball especially strange. Tonight, it caused Rudy Gobert to put up career-high numbers, as he finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks in 30 minutes of action. Also, this is one of those blocks.
The Wolves were able to make things fun towards the end of the third quarter, when they stormed back and got what was an 18-point deficit back down to 8 in the fourth quarter. But in familiar fashion, a Quinn Snyder timeout triggered the Jazz to calm themselves and put the game away for good.
There were a couple good things that happened tonight. Andrew Wiggins put up his 5th 20+ point effort in 6 games (also his 3rd straight). The Thad Young/Anthony Bennett combination were somehow able to keep the much larger Derrick Favors from contributing too much. Gordon Hayward was a non-factor.
Still, too much went wrong tonight. The Gobert Report had a career night. Trey Burke dominated Minnesota’s point guard duo of Mo Williams and Zach LaVine, both of whom struggled to facilitate anything reminiscent of a steady NBA offense (6 combined assists between the two of them).
Getting Ricky Rubio back will help a lot. So will the eventual returns Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. But in the meantime, if the Wolves aren’t going to give a consistent energetic effort, at least up to their coach’s standards, they won’t be doing themselves any favors in the process.
Maybe it’s the ridiculous amount of youth on this team. Maybe they just need their vets back. More than likely, it’s a combination of things making this season’s Timberwolves increasingly difficult to watch. If the Wolves aren’t able to find the energy they need to stay in games, it will make it that much tougher when those guys do come back.