Sam Mitchell brought up an interesting point after tonight’s 96-86 loss to the Pistons.
“For us to win a game, we have to play unbelievable defense. I don’t think we’ve won a game this year with our offense.”
I looked back at the Wolves’ 5-8 start to the season; and sure enough, Mitchell was mostly right. With the exception of the win in Atlanta, where the Wolves scored 117 points and shot 57.5 percent, the Wolves haven’t won games on their scoring.
They’ve scored over 100 points 2 other times among their 5 victories, one in the overtime win at Chicago, and one at Miami (but on 36 percent shooting). In order for the Wolves to win, the Wolves need to play solid defense.
The Wolves did okay defensively tonight on paper, forcing 46 percent shooting from the field, and 21 percent from deep against the Pistons tonight. But that number was much more impressive in the first half, when the Pistons shot 41 percent. A 56 percent second half was triggered by a 30 combined points from Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond in the 2nd half.
Ultimately, the Wolves weren’t able to bring home a win because they couldn’t put together a big lead when the defense was at its best. Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky had their moments in the first half, but few else were able to contribute when they had a chance to pull away early. Andrew Wiggins shot the ball better in the second half and got to the line plenty, but missed shots on the perimeter (and at the rim) that he’s become accustomed to making this season.
There was some good basketball, again mostly revolving around the Towns. This play was nice.
This was fun, too (and featured a much-anticipated lineup of Rubio/LaVine/Wiggins/Muhammad/Towns).
But for the most part, tonight’s game was ugly, and didn’t feature good offense at any point. When Rubio was out, the offense often didn’t initiate until 10 seconds of standing and dribbling took place. The team didn’t box out, which Drummond and backup Aaron Baynes took full advantage of. And when shots became available for the Wolves, they often didn’t take advantage.
The interior defense left the most to be desired. Drummond, of course, had all of his makes inside. That’s to be expected. What made things difficult was how easily Reggie Jackson attacked the basket in the fourth quarter. He’s the one that put the game away for the Pistons, bursting right by the usually on-point Ricky Rubio, finishing at the rim over and over. These finishes are why the finish of the game wasn’t close.
The home vs. away record is interesting, but is more a matter of execution and finishing than the venue hosting the game. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be on anyone’s minds. With two days off, and finally some time to practice, Mitchell was have time to get the Wolves into shape to get his team in better position to shoot a better percentage.
It’s very hard to win with bad offense, and it can get even tougher when a string of losses gets in your head.
What’s important to remember: everything is fine. The Wolves aren’t in a panic, and ups and downs are to be expected with a team this young. The fact that they’ve been able to put forth so many good defensive sequences this year is a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. It’s to be expected that games this ugly will arise as they figure it out. This was one of those games. They’re never a good time, but they’ll happen.