Wiggins, Wolves close Canada Series with victory over the Raptors in Ottawa
If you missed last night’s preseason game because you were watching the Lynx kick Indiana’s ass en route to their third WNBA title, we have you covered.
The Timberwolves concluded their Canadian tour with an 89-87 comeback victory over the Raptors in Ottawa. Gorgui Dieng led the way for the Wolves with 14 points, Tayshaun Prince scored 13 on 5-of-6 shooting, and rookies Tyus Jones and Karl-Anthony Towns added 12 points apiece. Toronto led much of the way, with Delon Wright, Bismack Biyombo and Anthony Bennett (3-of-4 from downtown) doing most of the heavy lifting. The inactives list included Pekovic, Rubio and Kevin Martin for the Wolves and Kyle Lowry for the Raptors, so both teams were missing most of their firepower, but Andrew Wiggins had some solid moments nonetheless:
Wiggins’ defensive presence, especially one-on-one, is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season. He will have a tough job most nights – there are a ton of really talented wing scorers in the NBA, and Wiggins will draw most of those assignments – but he seems focused on making his man work hard for everything he gets. His length enables him to bother jump shots, even block them, which is rarely seen when a player is in ISO.
Also on display this preseason has been a more effective touch passing out of the post. Wiggins has been feeling for double teams and swinging the ball effectively to open shooters. Of course, he needs to consistently show he can score from the post, otherwise smart teams won’t bother sending the double, but the improved court vision is a positive sign regardless.
Another positive sign, small sample size be damned, is that the entire team is shooting more threes, and hitting them at a higher rate than last year as well. Through four preseason games, the Wolves have shot 81 times from beyond the arc (insert automated Sam Mitchell + 81 joke here), an average of over 20 threes per game (mathematics!), which would’ve ranked around 20th in the league over the course of the 2014-15 season. They’ve made 43% of those attempts, which is completely unsustainable but a welcome development nonetheless. They actually look to swing the ball for an open three. Gorgui Dieng loaded up from the corner last night, and it was by design! And he made the shot!
Some other random tidbits:
- Nemanja Bjelica knows what he’s doing on defense, but his lack of speed makes things difficult at times. On one play, he showed hard on a pick and roll, but couldn’t recover to his man in time and wound up committing a foul.
- Once again, Zach LaVine didn’t look so great. It’s not just his shooting numbers through the preseason (now 9-for-38 from the field) or his poor shot selection (too often dribbling into long twos) – both of those could be helped by playing alongside Rubio – it’s his passing, too. LaVine turned it over four times, and all four were ugly plays – a lack of touch on a simple pass, an awful decision at the end of the first half, etc. Hopefully a return to the States rejuvenates his game.
- The Wolves went through a stretch where they ran 4/5 pick and rolls with Nemanja Bjelica and Gorgui Dieng, which could be a cool little wrinkle to throw at slow-footed opposing big men.
- We’ll close with this -towards the end of the game, Bismack Biyombo was fouled hard by Nemanja Bjelica, who swiped down on a shot fake under the hoop and wound up smacking him on top of the head. It was called a flagrant-1, but Biyombo was really chirping and upset about the play. Kevin Garnett had some, um, words for him:
- In case you want that stare in GIF form, Steve has you covered:
In case you didn’t already know: having KG around is going to keep things interesting, y’all.