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.