Nuggets 110, Wolves 101: Boy, that escalated quickly

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Last night was tough.

It wasn’t just basketball, either. On my way into the Target Center to see the Wolves play the Denver Nuggets, I came to find that the already-freezing outdoors had added some precipitation to the equation, making the drive into downtown that much slower and less enjoyable. Considering the Wolves’ 11-game losing streak coming into last night’s game, the weather/traffic combination made my personal entrance to the Target Center a bit more angsty than usual.

As the game got started, the Wolves’ aggressive play under temp. head coach Sam Mitchell (Flip Saunders missed due to illness) got my spirits up a bit. It wasn’t necessarily in typical Wolves fashion, though. Shabazz Muhammad hit a couple jumpers by way of catch-and-shoot, and Gorgui Dieng came out aggressive early. The Wolves quickly jumped out to a 7-0 run to start the game. For the time being, they seemed like they were finally ready to put the effort into winning a game.

After a Brian Shaw timeout, the Wolves seemed to re-enter the ways that got them into this losing streak in the first place. To Denver’s credit, not every outside shot they took was an open one, and they were still hitting. With that said, Denver had A LOT of open shots, and they made the Wolves pay. This was especially true of Aaron Afflalo, who had his best game of the season, dropping over 30 points on 11-18 shooting from the field. What started as a 7-point lead for the Wolves in the first quarter had suddenly escalated into a 62-38 Denver lead towards the end of the first half.

Denver took advantage of Minnesota’s lack of size the entire evening. At times, they would have 6’8, 225 lb Wilson Chandler at shooting guard, next to typical power forward Darrell Arthur at the 3. The smaller Wolves didn’t have an answer for either of them, nor giant 20-year-old rookie center Jusuf Nurkic (who, by the way, is going to be GOOD as his body develops).

The second half, the Wolves played with a bit more life, but by then, Denver’s superiority in talent was enough to keep Minnesota from making it much of a game. Despite the final 9-point difference, the game never felt close after the second quarter. Both teams played most of the second half like it was a blowout. Even Glenn Robinson III got some action as early as the third quarter.

If there’s one positive to take away from last night’s game, it’s that it was yet another “……..well, at least Andrew Wiggins is good” kind of game. He notched his final two points of the game last off an impressive drive to the hole, clinching his 4th straight game of over 20 points (also his 6th in his last 7 games). Granted, it was a tale of two halves for Wiggins, his consistency has come a relatively long way, considering his “score 8 in the 3rd quarter and that’s it” beginnings. After the game, Sam Mitchell made mention of the coaching staff trying to get Wiggins (and Shabazz, who finished with 17) to score off of set plays.

“They know how to score when we give them the ball,” he said. “But they have to learn how to score within the system.”

In fact, we’re going to leave it at that. The weather was rough, the game went from okay to awful at a ridiculous speed. aHell, it’s still cold outside today. The roads still suck. But hey, Andrew Wiggins is good.

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  1. The stretch of the 1st-2nd quarter where Mo had to sit with 2 fouls was some of the worst offense I’ve ever seen. Plus/minus doesn’t always tell a story, but they were up 3 when he sat and down 18 when he returned 10 minutes later.

    I think they’d have had a chance to make it interesting in the 4th if Afflalo didn’t turn into prime Kobe Bryant in the 3rd (all of his shots were contested and just kept going in), but it was mostly same story, different day. It’s extremely disappointing that they played two non-playoff teams 4 times in 10 days and couldn’t squeeze out even 1 win.

  2. What is this supposed to mean? “They know how to score when we give them the ball,” he said. “But they have to learn how to score within the system.”

    The last two people on earth we should complain about on the Wolves are Shabazz and Andrew. They are the only thing currently watchable about this team. Their improvement is one of our few sources of hope. The first people we should complain about in the organization are Saunders and Mitchell. Quotes like this, even if true (still not what sure WHAT that means in the context of this team…) take a lot of nerve. The most creativity and daring our coaching staff has shown seems to come from criticizing their own players.

  3. I asked this question when he was acquired, and I will ask it until he is gone. What is the point of having Thaddeus Young on this team?

  4. Mac- the point(s) of Thaddeus Young on the team are several but it boils down to this:

    Does anybody really want to watch Anthony Bennett play 30 minutes a night?

    Because if Young was not on the roster – who else would take those PF minutes? Robbie Hummel?

    Yikes.

  5. I feel bad for Young, because he’s a nice guy and a hard worker. Clearly, the death of his mother is still holding him back this season. What we’ve seen from him so far isn’t very good sample of what he can do.

    That being said, he was acquired because we needed a quick plug to fill the Kevin Love hole at PF. I feel that it was a quick fix acquisition but sort of a test–perhaps we could sign him for longer if he works out well. What we’ve learned is that he isn’t going to be part of the long term here. He’s much, much too small in height and weight for his position. Perhaps in the east he could get away with it by emphasizing somewhat unusual skills and speed for his position. In the west it doesn’t fly. Even with a good amount of steals, he’s a nightly sieve in defense. On offense he’s too small to be consistent. We’ll have to look at finding a replacement as soon as possible, perhaps in the draft.

  6. Karl – it cannot be discussed in so straight forward way. Back to the time before Love trade, Wolves know that they must lose Love. The obvious question remained that is who is the replacement? Or more specifically what type of player they should replace as a power forward? At the end, Saunders selected a down graded Love instead of vet leadership or paint protector, while I miss Shved very much (It may not be agreed with many people, but I really think he is a pure PG rather than a SG) right now. Even with the trio come back from injury, we are still a bad team in defense given by the exp these few years with no playoff vet.
    So at day no.1, I would say OK to get Wiggins + Bennett by Love. But it’s not a good deal to get Young for PF replacement by a backup PG and a defense specialist Mbah a Moute (which means Derrick Williams). And again and again, I would say trade KG. Yes! it’s annoying! The point is down graded Love is most needed element in the team with the new scoring power and many freshmen and sophomore.
    For sure, in the roster today, Young is a core player. But we may expect longer time for the rebuild here.

  7. Correction:
    The point is down graded Love is not the most needed element in the team with the new scoring power and many freshmen and sophomore

  8. Karl, this team is 5-28. Why not play Bennett 30 minutes a night? He’s part of the plan or he’s not, may as well find out in what was always going to be a throwaway season. Flip gave up the Heat’s #1 this year – which is only top 10 protected and probably will be a pretty good pick – to get Young, a guy who will be a free agent after this (lost) season and will not stay for a rebuild, not that the Wolves will have much interest in overpaying a guy who is a nice player (not this season, but in theory), but not a needle mover in any way.

    I don’t disagree with you that somebody has to play minutes at power forward for the Timberwolves in the course of a basketball game but “if not Thad Young, who?” is a question with as many answers as there are mediocre tweener forwards in the world. The Wolves could have signed a guy like Ed Davis, for example. Hell, they could have gotten Anthony Tolliver back. In my view, there was no rational point or need for this team to waste assets on an average player who will walk.

    Flip went out and got Young because he wanted to try to win as many games as possible this season, even though this year really should have been about developing young players and getting a good draft pick in 2015. Not tanking, but an honest year 1 rebuild. As GM, he absolutely should not have burned a first round pick to rent Young for a season, just so he could try to win 38 games as the coach. But that’s what he did, it was a poorly thought out move with no upside anyone other than Flip the coach, and that’s why I say I can’t understand the point of Thad Young on this team.

  9. Mac – you make some valid points – and some incomplete steps in logic:

    Why not play Bennett 30 minutes a night?

    umm… what about AB’s game defensively or offensively thinks he warrants or has even a small chance to thrive in 30+ minutes a night? I agree the team is 5-28, but that is more the fault of the 3 best players being nearly unavailable for the entire season than anything Thad Young has or has not done. In one sentence you say you dislike Thad because he has no upside, and in the other you advocate for Tolliver or Davis both guys with less upside than Young. The draft pick was questionable but not indefensible. The Wolves already have a bunch of late lottery talent on this team. Picking another player in the 18-22 range certainly doesn’t move the needle any more than Young getting a season to see if he could be part of the Wolves next run to relevancy.

    I guess my point is this – For someone who follows the team as closely as you do – have you been actually watching the games? I guess I just can’t see how anyone watching the games thinks that playing AB 30+ minutes a game has/had more upside than taking a flier on Thad (who did cost an asset – but the asset was marginal at best).

    It sounds like your anger with Thad’s play or lack of return on investment is actually pent up frustration for incompetent FO work.

  10. Fan –

    I have read and reread your comment 3 times. I want to have a discussion about what you are trying to say – but for the life of me – I just cannot make any sense of your above post.

    Could you summarize your points?

  11. The point is, in this roster right now, we may still have to let Young plays PF. But Young is not the right person from day 1. If I were Saunders, I will be patient that not deal with a sub for Love even Love gone, even we cannot have a better choice in the market.