Hornets 104, Timberwolves 95: Last-Second Changes


Injuries stink. Mild, minor injuries, announced minutes before tip-off to 2 of the team’s best 3 players also stink.

The Wolves were without Kevin Garnett (who won’t play the latter end of many back-to-backs), Ricky Rubio (sore knee), and Andrew Wiggins (sore knee), and that makes it hard to really get into the nuts and bolts of tonight’s game. Is it fair to look at the Wolves as a whole, when 3/5 of their starting lineup is temporarily sidelined, and should all see the floor as early as Thursday?

In some ways, yes. The Wolves had a season-worst 22 turnovers, 14 of them coming from Zach LaVine and Kevin Martin, the typical bench backcourt filling in for the starting 5.

Statistically, if you look away from the turnovers, LaVine put up a stat line similar to the final month of his rookie season; the month that earned him a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team a year ago.

As our own William Bohl pointed out in yesterday’s piece on LaVine’s journey as a point guard project, there’s still a great learning curve to what he’s doing as the primary ball handler. One thing he has struggled with has been turning the ball over on set plays. He has tended to force the pass for the sake of finishing what was drawn up. Even if the pass is forced a bit.


It’s plays like this that he’s struggled with, and have triggered talks with Sam Mitchell. Not to scold the youngster, but to tell him “It’s okay, just slow down,” as he said on the sideline early on tonight.

Defensively, both Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin had nice nights, and had an easy time weaving into the paint, but it’s hard to pin that completely on LaVine. With the exception of Karl-Anthony Towns, the pick and roll defense was not great in regards to containing the ball handlers.

There were things LaVine did well on offense. Excluding the turnovers (which, frankly, is hard to do), he played a fairly decent first half, and he did have a plus net rating all night. Amidst his 8 turnovers, he did get some assists, which means he was looking to pass a LOT, all while notching 20 points on 9-19 shooting.

It’s impossible for Zach LaVine to fill Ricky Rubio’s shoes, offensively or defensively, so he’s in a hard spot. He’ll be happy to have Rubio back (hopefully) on Thursday.

And hey, let’s not forget that LaVine can do this. This is fun. We still like fun, right?


Martin and LaVine struggled to keep the possession arrow in Minnesota’s favor, but the Wolves struggled with it as a whole, too.

The Wolves got called for traveling 6 times tonight. Six. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a basketball game before.

This isn’t all that uncommon for Nemanja Bjelica in his young NBA career, though. In just 7 games, Bjelica has shown promise, but has struggled to get an offensive rythym going off the dribble, in part because he gets called for traveling so often on one particular play.

Pump fake and/or jab step -> dribble move towards the hoop. It’s happened several times this year, and it happened again tonight.


Part of his problem is they likely don’t call that travel as often in Europe, part of it is the league trying to crack down on traveling, and part of it is Bjelica is simply shuffling his feet. It was his only turnover of the night, but it’s one we’ve seen several times before. His overall game shows lots of promise, but this play was a microcosm of the Wolves’ problems tonight.

What kept the Wolves within single digits all night was Karl-Anthony Towns, who once again played like he was 27 and not still a teenager. He shot the ball well from mid-range, hit from the foul line, and scored in the post.

Most impressive, though, was the defensive effort he put forth on Al Jefferson. Wolves fans know Big Al well, and know that his ability to get shot blockers off the ground is a trademark of his, with his full arm extension pump fakes. Jefferson went just 3-9, and those pump fakes weren’t working on KAT.


The Wolves looked lost without three of their starters, but Towns was able to carry them to a certain degree, an awesome feat for a guy who has yet to vote in a presidential election.

No, this game wasn’t as fun as the past games. Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevin Garnett are absolutely vital to what the Wolves have done to start off as surprisingly well as they have. No one in the locker room would use that as an excuse, but it’s hard to win games with players thrown into bigger roles last-second.

All things considered, this game went according to what most expected. Some high points from the young guys, some very low points for the new guys, and some nice production from an early Rookie of the Year favorite.

Regardless, it’ll be nice to have the whole crew back together again, and it’d be especially nice to get them back by Thursday. The champs are coming to town.

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7 Responsesso far.

  1. You can call in experiment, project or “gaining experience” bud LaVine playing as PG is just bad idea. He doesnt have the mentality of the playmaker, is not the floor general you need to run the offence. He is not a never will be player like Nash or Kidd. It stupid trying to make him something he is not. Ok, he has talent, atleticism, will, he can be “new Vince Carter”. Right now he is just taking time of “real PG” like Miller and Jones. And what is the long term point of creating Rubios backup when we need KMart successor at SG.

    • DimeZin292 says:

      I 1000% agree with you. Sam should let Andre play more. a vet and a true point guard

    • Stefan Kling says:

      You know who else will never be as good as Nash or Kidd? All but two or three of the point guards currently in the league! Further, you have remarkably high expectations for Lavine if you think he can be the “new Vince Carter.”

      Listen, Lavine hasn’t been great at point guard this year (though he’s been showing good signs of late), but it’s important to remember two things: it’s the beginning of his second year, and his ceiling probably isn’t that high. I agree that he’s likely better-suited to play 2, but what’s our alternative? Andre hasn’t exactly looked spry, and Tyus has been a disaster on both ends in the tiny amount of minutes he’s played.

  2. pyrrol says:

    Good thoughts Peter, particularly on grooming a replacement for Martin. On a related note, Martin has looked bad this season with too many turnovers, and even when he scores it isn’t efficient.

    And yes, after a full season with a lot of minutes and starting opportunities at PG for LaVine we still have the exact same problems with him this year. Is LaVine a slow learner? Maybe, but I just think it is as simple as what Peter says–PG is not LaVine’s mentality and I’m not sure it ever will be. I see him as a SG or a combo guard, not as a pure point.

    We didn’t play well, and that’s not surprising considering they guys we had out. But it did take a hot game from the bench to get the Hornets the win. They didn’t look all that great. Wow, Lin went from a guy I liked to cheer for to an irritant. Just when you think you’ve seen the worst NBA hair…

    Give Payne credit. He’s been a whipping boy on the Timberwolves blogosphere which I think is mean and inappropriate and also out of proportion with how bad he is. In this game he showed that he contribute. I don’t think he’s ever going to be more than a bench big that comes in for a blast of energy, but he could be really good at that someday.

    I think Atlanta got way too physical and didn’t get called for it in that game. That’s why we didn’t have Wiggins and Rubio for this game. It got out of hand. That team has more attitude than they should and they need to settle down, and the officials need to keep that stuff in check. The game is already marred by injury absence too much.

    Kat was impressive again. What a feel for the game! And he’s not intimidated by any challenge.

    Tyus looked a bit rough in his first action. I really think he was nervous and he might get better quick. Wouldn’t mind seeing more Miller here and there, even in full strength games.

  3. farnorth says:

    hmm for some reason I cannot post from my desktop.

    I am not sure Miller is the answer from what I have seen he does not seem to move well. I am not a fan of Zach as a PG but looking at the few times Miller has played I don’t believe he’s a better option than LaVine.

  4. pyrrol says:

    One thing I forgot to mention: What is up with these traveling calls!? I’m actually a proponent of more closely called traveling in the NBA. But they’ve just been calling the start before you dribble travels, which up to this point were rarely called. Now they are calling almost every possible one. Meanwhile, all other type of traveling are ignored as much as always. Some of the ‘start up’ travel calls didn’t even seem to be true travels. It’s really getting odd…

    As for Miller, yeah, he’s not looked good yet, but what do you expect with the minutes he’s been allowed so far? He’s going to have a lot of rust to work off. He’s simply too old and slow to be a full back up, of course, but why not play him 5-10 minutes a game if he feels good and move LaVine over to SG minutes for most of that, and maybe rest him a bit. There’s no reason every last backup PG minute has to go to LaVine, and there’s no reason for him to get zero shooting guard minutes in a game.

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