Magic 96, Wolves 93: The run came, but wasn’t enough

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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.
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3 Responsesso far.

  1. pyrrol says:


    -This could be listed as a moral victory again. We looked dead in the water all game and then finally made it a nail biter at the end. Again, this would not have been a close end last year. My personal feeling is that I’m sick of moral victories (hey, we just had one) unless they are to a good team. Magic are a good young team, not just a flat out good team. We need to be able to split with teams like this. The guys need to come out and look better than this. They should still have been volcanic after that last loss to them.

    -On a night like this it is easy to forget what an electric talent Rubio is. Even so, we would have not been in a position to steal this one without Rubio several times over. I get the feeling that though we struggle to win without him this season, we haven’t really seen the full Rubio yet. Between being rusty from how long he was out of commission and what looks like not yet fully developed chemistry with this year’s roster, we’ve not seen Rubio at his best yet, but it will come.

    -I’m happy Dieng is playing well, finally. The thing is he stunk most season, so he really didn’t earn his sudden finishing minutes in the conventional sense. Now people are quick to praise him, simply because he’s finally playing like we expected him to from day one. I think now that he’s playing better he should get more minutes, but a lot of these need to work around Towns getting minutes. I fear that a showing like this will ‘confirm’ Sam’s thinking on his Dieng late thing. Frankly, sitting Towns at the end of games is not a long term answer. Towns is a better player right now, too. It appears that Towns is seeing adjustment from teams who now give him more defensive attention, but I think what’s thrown him off more than anything is less minutes and not finishing when he never did anything to ‘unearn’ those minutes. Talk about a short leash out of nowhere on someone who should have a long one… Towns needs the opportunity to work though this second adjustment and find a way to make teams pay–they can’t focus heavily on both Towns and Wiggins defensively.

    -This was an upsetting game to watch. But basketball is like that… it’s contagious, and tonight misses and flat play were contagious for the Wolves in a scary way. We powered though it the best we could, but it’s something that can spread. It almost feels like Martin’s slump took over the team. Towns has had a few bad games here, but 2-11 is going to be rare for him, and a lot of why he’s been so-so lately is because his rhythm has been thrown off by the Dieng renaissance. A role change can throw someone off physically and mentally. And I think it is playing with fire, unnecessary, to handle a talent like Towns this way. LaVine will shoot better soon too, although, playing him more off the ball will help. Rubio looks like he’s in another confidence rut with shooting. It’s hard–his shooting is so sensitive. If he’s banged up or tired he gets no lift and his shot goes back to ‘bad Rubio’. Most NBA guys can shoot through the pains of the seasons better. But it is also mental. At a certain point Rubio’s shooting confidence turns over to the dark side. But he won’t shoot well unless he’s emphatic about it. Right now he tries to avoid taking shots, hesitates, and it’s a straight route to failure, from a shooting perspective. I think with health and another West coast trip he could get a lot better. Otherwise, I hope this was a fluke bad shooting epidemic type night.

  2. gjk says:

    Frustrating game when the guys you want taking jump shots are knocking them down. I’m fine with them sagging off guys like Oladipo, Payton, Gordon, and Harris. Orlando’s just more athletic 1-10 than they are, and it showed on both ends with rebounding and their difficulty scoring. It’s annoying that they aren’t able to play better against Orlando, though; it’s not like they’re playing Shaq, T-Mac, or Dwight in these recent games.

    The trade-off of emphasizing defense so much is they lack offensive flow. If guys can’t make jump shots and Wiggins can’t get to the rim, they struggle. Martin’s struggles embody this quite a bit; in Adelman’s offenses, he was constantly moving without the ball and getting open layups and catch-and-shoot opportunities. This season, he’s forcing the one-on-one stuff because the movement is so disjointed and the spacing doesn’t work. He’s working outside of his ability area because he knows he needs to score to earn his spot on the floor. I’m starting to think Bjelica is my imaginary friend because nobody on either team pays attention to him; you all see him too, right? He’s always one pass away from an open 3.

    I liked Towns’ defense on Vucevic and thought he earned crunchtime minutes despite his shooting problems. Bringing KG back also backfired. They can afford to do more Towns/Dieng at the end; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

  3. pyrrol says:

    gjk–Good point about the lack of offensive flow. I think the flow was better under both Flip and Adleman. Stagnant or dead are words that come to mind. Almost every team we play seems to run better plays, particularly in crunch time to get looks they need. Our sorry excuse for a play at the end of the game (tried twice!) is all too typical. It hurts what the team as a whole and individuals can do. What you said about Martin is true and an aspect to his trouble I have not thought about. It also seems like Rubio suffers from our ‘closed’ offense. It really isn’t a good offense for anyone, theoretically, but particularly ignores what Rubio’s talent brings to the table. Towns is hurt in his post development by the tight spacing, and his ability to move and jump well for his size is not taken advantage of in an offense that lacks movement. He should be getting a lot more easy dunks. Wiggins is particularly suited to weather the storm of this offense, yet it does close off some opportunities for his athletic ability to be used more. It seems contagious too–the offense itself seems to discourage what would be wise amounts of ball movement–stagnancy off the ball turns into stagnancy with the ball. Hopefully our guys can overcome this and Sam will improve his strategy.

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