Despite yet another star performance from Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves made it a game against a strong Orlando Magic team and came up short. By 3 points for the second time this year, in fact.
As the game began, it didn’t feel as though the Wolves were ever going to put themselves into position to go on a run. They started the game off missing their first 11 shots. Eventually Wiggins and Garnett hit some shots, but even then, the rest of the team was missing. This put the Wolves in a hole and it took them a long time to get out it.
To the Wolves’ credit, though, they did work their way out of what was a 17 point lead and eventually tied it up in the fourth. A lot of this, surprisngly, came by way of excellent pick and roll defense from the interior duo of…wait for it…Nemanja Bjelica and Gorgui Dieng. The two of them were switching when necessary, and were rotating back onto their guys at the appropriate time.
Kevin Martin also came alive during a stretch in the 3rd quarter, finally having an efficient shooting night. He had 16 points on 9 shots, and hit all 6 of his free throws. 13 of those points came in that quarter. Though, the Magic were scoring with Martin on most of his makes, and the real run didn’t get going until a bit later on.
Alternatively, Zach LaVine, who played a lot of minutes in the fourth quarter, some at the 2, had one of his worst shooting nights of the year. He went 0-5 from deep, and struggled to get anything going when attacking. There are still moments for LaVine when I wish he had Andrew Wiggins’ level of confidence in his hops.
There are still moment for LaVine where he should be able to jump on his defender and throw it down. To this point, though, he hasn’t been able to figure that out. To be fair, it’s not something he should have in his back pocket as a 20-year-old. And this situation is a rarity. It’s something that, hopefully, will come with time.
But this game wasn’t LaVine’s fault. It was absolutely a collective team loss, where nobody (excluding Wiggins and Dieng) was able to get it going on offense. Even on nights when Wiggins gets 27 on 9-15 shooting, and the Wolves get momentum on a 22-10 run, it’s extremely hard to shoot 38 percent from the field and beat a team as fundamentally sound as Scott Skiles’ Magic.
A few notes:
- The lack of Karl-Anthony Towns has been widely discussed on the internet, and is worth looking into. There have certainly been some nights where Towns’ production would warrant some key minutes at the end of games. But not tonight. Not only did Towns struggle to score on an acttive Nikola Vucevic, Gorgui Dieng absolutely earned his minutes tonight. He was mostly efficient on offense, and played his best defensive basketball of the year. Towns has plenty of time to play big minutes later this season, but his rookie status showed tonight. And that’s okay.
- Ricky Rubio didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, and while he got the Wolves going when they looked especially lathargic, has had better nights. I’m not going to speculate, but it should be good for the Wolves to get back into the practice floor for a couple days before their next game.
- More importantly, it’ll be nice for the Wolves to get 3 days off before their next game, which is also at home. They’ve got Portland at home on Saturday night, another team they’d like to even up the series against.