Timberwolves 112, Bucks 108: “I could go for another quarter, here”

Towns Wiggins

Much of the Timberwolves’ preseason, save for the occasional highlight (often courtesy of the two gentlemen pictured above), was forgettable. They were trounced by Oklahoma City, Chicago, Toronto, Memphis and Milwaukee; until last night, their only victory came in Ottawa versus a Raptor team that was resting many of their key players. Preseason losses are nothing to agonize over, but it was a little concerning that through six games, the Wolves hadn’t come close to playing 48 minutes of complete basketball at both ends of the court.

That changed in last night’s exhibition finale.

The defense was still a tad porous and foul-prone, and the offense stagnated a bit whenever Ricky Rubio came off the floor. Nevertheless, the Wolves’ 112-108 victory was an encouraging close to their exhibition season. Andrew Wiggins led the way with 24 points, Kevin Martin (20) and Shabazz Muhammad (19) combined for 39 points off the bench, and Karl-Anthony Towns added 18 points and 12 rebounds as well.

It was an odd game because it was both fast and slow; the two teams pushed the pace (combining for 36 fastbreak points) but whistle-happy officials ground the game to a halt at a few stretches. The Wolves and Bucks committed a total of 53 fouls and made 68 trips to the charity stripe. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 23 points and 7 rebounds (with 8 free throw attempts) and Khris Middleton poured in 19 of his own (with 6 free throw attempts).

Near the end of the game, following a transition Bazz-to-KAT alley oop that put the Wolves up by 8, FSN North color commentator Jim Petersen opened a vein a little bit, saying: “Ah, that’s fun. I could go for another quarter, here! This has been that much fun – we haven’t had… how many fun games have we had in the past couple games here? This has been so well played…”

Here are a few of the fun plays Jim Pete was referring to:

Minnesota had their share of clunky moments in transition, but those should be ironed out as the players get more familiar with one another. The clunkiness was owed to too much passing, at times, which is an oddly welcome sign. In fact, the ball moved really well in the half-court as well – swinging around the floor to the open man. Minnesota hit 9-of-18 threes, and the spacing that provided allowed Karl-Anthony Towns a bit of room to work in the post, where he had a terrific night (some of these plays overlap from the first video, but I don’t think you’ll mind watching them twice):

The defensive effort last night was spirited, though often ineffective. Kevin Martin (!!!) was particularly active, Zach LaVine (!!!!!!) was pestering Bucks’ ball handlers the whole way up the floor, and Ricky Rubio (as expected) was going at warp speed, racking up three steals (and recording 5 personal fouls in less than 30 minutes of action). Karl-Anthony Towns played well against Greg Monroe, though as Sam Mitchell said after the game, Minnesota was throwing a lot of traps at the Bucks’ big man in order to help the rookie out. The Wolves had issues getting back in transition, and certain lineups (especially when Nemanja Bjelica plays the four) give up a lot in the paint.

But the rotations were actually pretty decent at times. An example:

Mitchell also said after the game that the victory was nice, but the Wolves still made a lot of mistakes and have plenty to work on. Expect that to be the mantra of the entire coaching staff after victories, however many of them happen this season. After a rough preseason overall, Minnesota closed with an entertaining victory.

After the game, Jerry Zgoda revealed some sad news: Glen Taylor confirmed that Flip Saunders isn’t expected to return to the team this season. Starting Wednesday, the games count for real, but it’s hard to believe a piece of everyone’s mind won’t be on their ailing mentor, coach, friend, and father (Ryan Saunders was back on the sidelines last night, which was nice to see). Again, we wish Flip and his family peace and strength at what continues to be a difficult time.

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7 Responsesso far.

  1. Skune says:

    ‘Fun’ was the right word, indeed. These are the games that will make the Wolves ‘League Pass’ darlings despite not making the playoffs.

    I still can’t figure out why Coach Mitchell is insistent on leaving K-Mart out of the starting lineup. He’s really played well the past few games and Martin’s strong play is even more evident considering his possible usurpers (LaVine and Prince) have played like garbage.

    I just keep thinking there are better options than Prince no matter what. If Mitchell is committed to player development, then fine, start LaVine. If Mitchell wants Wiggins to play the 2 or values Martin’s scoring punch off the bench, then why not try Bazzy or Bjelica at the 3? With no disrespect to Prince who has won a ring and been a solid NBA player, he hasn’t been able to keep young guys in front of him on D and he hasn’t been able to knock down spot up jumpers on O… so why is a guy who is close to being a non-rotation player at this point in his career about to start for one of the league’s youngest teams?

    • killboard says:

      On Prince:
      I think he helps to Wiggins and Towns while he is on the floor. He has good positioning and make good reads in both Off and Def. In O he spread the floor with his corner 3 and in D the most active offensive player should be Wiggins assignment no matter what, so he plays off ball defense.

      I hope Bazz get the starting job at some point in the season, but he must show some improvement and this way you give more shot to Wiggins.

      As for Martin:
      If he wants to play Lavine like a back up PG, is good to Zach to have Martin and Bjellica to share the floor. Boths can inititate the offense and take some pressure of Zach. Play Lavine at PG could help him on D, cause he still needing get more bulkier to play like a 6`6 defender at this level.

    • Iga says:

      I think Prince is ahead of Bazz because of Shabazz’s defense. He just can’t play team defense, it’s horrible to watch. I like his agressive attitude and it was very nice to see how he attacks the rim and how he’s tryin to score and give us some point, but also – he’s playing with ‘tunnel vision’ – when he gets ball our offense mainly stops because Shabazz attacks the rim. Prince’s getting old, it’s obvious, and his one-on-one defense isn’t look good, but he knows team defense and gives us better ball movement. Bjelica is very good at shooting, I like him a lot, he’s a good passer, unselfish player, but again – he has problem on D and I think that’s problem. And by the way, I like lineup with Bazz, Bjelica and Dieng, so maybe it’s Sam’s plan to play them together.

      I really think K-Mart should be in S5, but Mitchell wants to play Wiggins at SG, so it’s a problem. It will probably change a lot this season, and maybe we’ll see Bazz or Nemanja in starting five.

    • gjk says:

      I won’t repeat the defense stuff that others have posted; I think his value defensively has more to do with knowing what the opponent is going to run and being in the right spots, which is something that can’t be overlooked with how it affects a young team’s ability to stop the opponent. As for his shooting, I was guilty of underrating him there until I looked it up and saw he’s at 41% for his career shooting corner 3s, and that % hasn’t been affected one way or another by age.

  2. Jumbob says:

    The key isn’t so much who is playing at the start of the game as much as who is playing the most minutes. Last night, they played in the following order from most minutes to least – Wiggins, Towns, Rubio, KMart, Bazzy, Dieng, LaVine, Prince, KG and Bjelly. I suspect Bjelly would have played more than Prince and KG, if he hadn’t gotten into foul trouble. If this represents the rotation we are going to see in the regular season, I’m good.

  3. finchy74 says:

    Very, very sad day folks. Just read that Flip has passed away. My prayers for his friends and family.

    Stunned right now.

  4. gjk says:

    The spacing when Bjelica was on the floor was good to see. There were many possessions that had 3 guys behind the arc for the majority of the possession. Even when their other bigs are in there, that spacing could happen a lot.

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