Timberwolves 94, Jazz 80: Keeping the Momentum


Tonight’s game featured an extra helping of ugliness for both teams, especially in the first three quarters. The game’s starting shooting guards (Andrew Wiggins and Rodney Hood) shot a combined 7-30 from the field. Utah’s starting backcourt (Raul Neto and Hood) shot a combined 2-19 from the field. The shorthanded Jazz shot under 30 percent for most of the game, shot 39 threes and made just 10 of them. All this, and the Timberwolves took far too long to capitalize on these advantages until late in the game.

The game often went in lulls of bad offense and bad shots. As nice as Andrew Wiggins’ first two makes were (as well a couple later in the game), his misses were very poor tonight. In addition, Gorgui Dieng was the only Wolves bench player that really brought anything of substance to the table through multiple stretches of the game.

But the Wolves won by 14, and despite their inability to push (and keep) the lead to double digits until late in the game, they were able to fight down the stretch and get the win. This came in large part because of the veterans. In this case, I’m counting Ricky Rubio as a veteran. He tied the franchise record for assists AGAIN tonight with 17 (he promised to one day get 18 in the locker room after the game), finding great looks over and over down the stretch. Two of these looks went to Tayshaun Prince towards the end of the game, and once to KG, both of whom shot the ball efficiently all night.

Not counting Rubio’s set-ups, the Wolves’ most steady scoring source came from Karl-Anthony Towns, dropping his sixth game of at least 25 point and 10 rebounds of the year. He had a couple blown defensive assignments where Mitchell had to take him out, but KAT’s offense was stellar.

Since the Wolves weren’t able to build a strong lead in the early stages, keeping the momentum on their side was all the more paramount. This happened at different points, in every quarter of the game.

In the first quarter, it was a dunk from Andrew Wiggins. One of his best so far this season, no?

The second quarter’s was probably this one from Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s absurd that a 7-foot, 250 pound man has this kind of speed and ball handling ability. That said, this was an extremely out-of-control fast break that ended in highlight fashion. 

In the third quarter, there were a few options to choose from. There was a trio of nice plays, starting with one where Wiggins threw down another slam. But this fast break, off an assist from Wiggins, probably wins out.

At that point, it looked like the Wolves were going to pull away. But at this point, Trey Burke almost singlehandedly brought the Jazz field goal percentage over 30, and made it a game again. As the fourth quarter started to wind down, Ricky Rubio took over with his passing.

Sam Mitchell said after the game that this pass to Tayshaun Prince was where the team began to feel like the game was going to be won.

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Please note the KG screen here. Thoughts go out to Chris Johnson, who was on the receiving end on this monstrosity.

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When a team isn’t pulling away like you’d want, it’s important to at least keep the momentum. Sometimes a nice set of good basketball plays is what you need to find what it takes to win a game. Tonight, it seemed as though that was the case.

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5 Responsesso far.

  1. Marshall Andersen DVM says:

    Dat KG screen 0_o RIP Johnson

  2. pyrrol says:

    Not to be negative, because this was a winnable game that we went out and got, but it was a pretty ugly game. Don’t get me wrong–we did some things really well. A lot of this win had to do with the Jazz being not good and missing guys, which has not only diluted the team, but seems to have thrown them out of whack. They took 39 threes and only made 10. On the flip side, we only took 10, but did make 5 of them. In other words, in normal circumstances with more usual shooting percentages, we are destined to lose a game like this most nights. This lecture is coming from a guy who doesn’t like three point shooting that much and thinks it is foolish for most teams to emulate Golden State. You could say that 39 threes from Utah is really asking for trouble, and helped the Wolves win. At the same time, we seem to have no plan to take and make enough threes to not handicap ourselves out of winning games against teams with their stuff together. Tonight Rubio was our best three point threat(!) I’m not just trying to joke here. I actually like Rubio taking threes. He’s pretty OK at them, and gets looks as teams lag off him. Rubio taking some of those open threes will put some good looks in our attempt column and will make players be more honest in guarding him. It is one of the more efficient shots he takes. Also, if we aren’t going to help groom three point shooters by making plays for good looks and telling them they need to take threes and it is OK, even if they miss, then Rubio grabbing the occasional open three is a good way to help keep us in games. All that said, no Rubio shouldn’t be our primary three point threat, and we got lucky in this game in a lot of ways. Note that LaVine took no threes (although he was only 1-6 and played a limited number of minutes, Towns played great but did take zero threes, Shabazz only took 2 and Bjelica only took one shot and it was not a three).

    This isn’t meant to dwell on the negatives–it’s just to point out that if we play like this, even with the strong effort we had tonight (which, unfortunately, we don’t see consistently) we will lose a lot of games, often ones we ‘should have’ won. But this was a fun game. Rubio was passing out of his mind. He also hit 2 of 4 three pointers he took and defended well. He only had three turnovers and one of those was him trying an overly flashy pass that he thought he could unicorn into the sportcenter top ten. Such things happen when you are passing like Rubio was tonight. Towns was great, too. Sam’s over my head with pulling Towns over a couple of blown covers. I mean, yell at him during the next stoppage. They guy’s a rookie and he still was a plus on both offense and defense in a big way. It’s funny to see how random the slack cutting is from Mitchell.

    You can credit Deing with being the main help off the bench tonight, but he’s still not playing that good. He missed several open looks from his spots. He didn’t get a block in 25 minutes of play. But he did play well overall, even hitting a three. I just can’t get on the Gorgui bandwagon because of this. I like him as a guy, he’s skilled, tries hard, and helps us a lot some games. But he’s just not consistent after all this time. Even on a good night, like tonight, he could have been better given that he missed open shots he’s used to hitting. The game before this was ‘bad Gorgui’. I’m not trying to be negative. I think he has a good role right now off the bench and with any luck will improve his consistency enough over time to be really good at this role. I’m not expecting much more…

    An odd Sam experiment is basically giving up on Bjelica and doling his minutes out to others. The biggest beneficiary of this seems to be Payne. The box tells sad story–Payne was the only Wolf with a negative +/- tonight (-6). He shot poorly and didn’t really do much that well, but he didn’t look that horrid out there. I guess I just don’t see the logic of letting a cold and shaken Bjelica rot while you dink around with Payne until he forces you to bury him back on the bench. Payne may be a good low minutes/high energy big someday, but it’s a bad bet to play him over Bjelica and risk Bjelica’s skills and feel for the game by refusing to develop him out of this trough. I like Tyus, but he’s physically over matched out there and I miss Miller. A game like this shows what a little quiet, calm play from the vets can do for a team, and Miller would add helpful minutes. Not sure what the short term strategy is with this, the obvious long term is a retired Miller and Tyus as perhaps the back-up PG of the future. That doesn’t seem to be the present though…

    On top of everything else they do, KG and Prince are really hitting their limited shots now.

  3. gjk says:

    Whenever I’ve read the arguments on here and on Twitter about how KG and Prince are hurting more than helping, I’ve 1) thought those making that argument don’t understand on-off numbers or team defense and 2) thought the solution is just for them to take the open shots being given to them, not replace them in the lineup. It makes the game easier for Towns and Wiggins when the other 3 starters aren’t passing up open shots. Now, they just need Prince to extend his range back out to the corner 3, since he’s been good from there in the past.

    One play gave me hope for this team’s eventual destiny: Gorgui knocking down the corner 3. Even watching him warm up in his rookie season at games, I could see him knock down shot after shot from behind the arc. There’s no reason he couldn’t have Serge Ibaka’s range, which means all of their younger bigs right now can knock down that shot. None of them are high-volume shooters from there yet, like Love was, but it for now gives them the option of putting Dieng in that corner and getting more spacing for Rubio-Towns pick and rolls. If they’re going to run a simple offense, at least run pick-and-rolls and space the floor as much as possible.

  4. Mebert says:

    Boy the jazz announcers got real naff about the kg screen. They felt it was very illegal.

    It was nice to the wolves come out on top against Gordon Hayward and the d-league all stars.

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