2015-16 Season

Wolves 99, Kings 95: The Spectacle

First things first:

What stuck out about last night’s performance by Andrew Wiggins wasn’t just the point total (32 on 11-of-20 shooting), it was the way he filled up the rest of the box score (10 rebounds and 6 assists). He showed great patience with the ball in his hands, found open teammates, and pulled down some tough rebounds. Coming into last night, he was averaging just 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, including one four game stretch where he grabbed just 6 total boards. The raw scoring totals are fine, even if they’re a bit inefficient by most standards, but seeing him have a well-rounded game was an encouraging sign.

That’s not to say his scoring acumen wasn’t impressive last night.Wiggins got his buckets in a variety of ways – he hit nine of ten free throws, knocked down a three, scored from the post, had a couple of fantastic putbacks on offensive rebounds (more on that later), showed great patience as he curled around the top of the key, caught the ball and navigated through the Kings defense in the lane, executed one of his patented spin moves, showed a beautiful baseline cut and managed to finish, even though Omri Casspi thought they were playing football.

Next order of business:

Not to be That Guy on the Internet, but the LaVine dunk wasn’t nearly as impressive as Muhammad’s, not that it’s competition, or anything. I mean, just watch the way Rudy Gay and Marco Belinelli play “defense” on that one – they practically backpedaled into the first row, put on a comfy pair of slippers, and kicked back in La-Z-Boys to watch Zach take flight. I mean, that sounds like a lovely experience, and I’m sure it was nice for them, but their cozy indifference made the dunk less enjoyable for me. (Go ahead and boo me.) The sheer degree of difficulty on Bazzy’s full speed, full extension putback made it all the more enjoyable. The timing of Shabazz’s jump was perfect, and the fact that he was able to harness the carom from Ricky’s brick and flush it down in one fluid motion was simply exquisite.

Believe it or not, there was more to last night’s victory than just Wiggins and the dunks, though I’d argue those were the real stories, because hot damn, they were fun. But on to the rest of the basketball game…

  • There were a few moments where the Wolves did modern-looking things on offense. One was a dribble hand-off for Ricky’s second three-pointer, where he stepped behind the screener and fired almost immediately. It’d be nice to see LaVine or Wiggins empowered to make that move, especially with the design of getting an open look, but one thing at a time, I suppose.
  • Along that line, the Kings were basically begging Ricky to shoot, and while he hit 2-of-6 threes, he was just 3-of-10 overall. Many opposing coaches are gameplanning that way – having his man dive WAY off of him to help with Towns postups and Wiggins drives – so it’s becoming more and more important for Ricky to make them pay.
  • Another modern-looking thing that happened was that the Wolves swung the ball along the perimeter to hunt for a Shabazz corner three. It was lovely. Hopefully, it happens a bit more often.
  • Tayshaun Prince scored 6 points on 3-of-4 shooting and didn’t notch any other entry on the stat sheet in his 20-plus minutes on the floor, but the team was a plus-12 when he was out there. If you don’t like Tayshaun, and if you don’t think he’s good for the guys he plays with, you’re putting way too much emphasis on box score numbers (man, I sound like a fuddy-duddy when I say things like that). He’s fourth on the team in Net Rating. He helps when he’s on the court.
  • The Wolves did a pretty good job on Boogie, and this despite Towns being limited to 23 minutes with foul trouble. Gorgui, in particular, stepped up in his absence and had a very good game on the defensive end of the floor. Cousins finished with 24 points on 25 shots and committed 5 turnovers.
  • Kevin Martin… 1-of-4 shooting, 2 points, minus-10 in 15 minutes. Maybe the best thing to do is rest him until his wrist feels 100%, then hope he can put a few solid games or a couple of weeks together before trading him. Rushing him back, or letting him play through an injury, seems unwise.
  • I’m trying to find another way to say it, but I can’t. I try to keep this family-friendly, but in this instance, I can’t… Rajon Rondo is an asshole.
  • Seriously.
  • Read this awesome piece by Greg Wissinger of SacTown Royalty, if you haven’t already.
  • In closing… maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves are exactly where they ought to be in their transition from “bottom-feeder” to “team on the rise.” There are moments where their young players look like unstoppable dynamos and games where they put it all together, which makes their duds a bit frustrating for many fans. I get it – when they’re going right, the Wolves seem capable of staying with just about every team in the league, but they don’t do it consistently. Maybe the lesson they’re learning now, the target they’re aiming for, is steadiness. Maybe going from “not having a prayer most nights” to “expect to beat your rough equivalents, especially at home” is a big step to take in the span of a year, especially for a team with a core as young as Minnesota’s. Twice this week, the Wolves took their home floor against their “rough equivalents,” the Denver Nuggets and the Sacramento Kings. The Denver game was a dud. Last night was anything but.
  • Oh, one more thing. Thank you, Dave Benz, for the on-air shoutout during the telecast. You’re too kind. (Here’s the piece he was plugging, from yesterday.) It was humbing and I really, really appreciate it.
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4 thoughts on “Wolves 99, Kings 95: The Spectacle

  1. Super breakdown. It was so good on the eyes last night to watch that game. The execution and consistent effort on defense for 48 minutes was a pleasure to see…although when the Wolves went down by one with just over two minutes and change, I was concerned that a great effort would be wasted on another great effort. They showed some great resiliency and resolve. As much as I have criticized Sam Mitchell, I have to give him major props for his coaching last night. He kept the guys engaged and they played with good cohesion. Also, great decisions such as giving Bazz a nice amount of minutes. He played with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball and gives the Wolves another legitimate threat that opposing teams have to account for. And he’s hustling on defense and attacking the boards. Tayshun had a nice six points. I’ve been critical of him but watching him closely, I can see your point about him still being an asset to some degree even though he’s not showing it in the box score, mainly because of his experience and decision making. He doesn’t hinder other players. As for as Wiggins, that’s the way you put a team on your back and stop the bleeding. I can’t stress enough how Stat lines like that should happen more times than not because of his tremendous talent and athletic ability. Ten rebound consistently is asking a bit much, but there is no reason why a guy of his caliber can’t grab about six boards a game. Rebounding is all about positioning and effort. I must admit that I was shocked at the six assists-but he has that ability, too. Him averaging three or four assists a game is not asking to much, I don’t think. Hell, he can get three or four assists just by telling Towns to get deep post position and simply dumping the ball to him. LaVine didn’t have his best game, but he’s 20 years old and I’m not going to beat him up for having an off night. But he needs to concentrate more and cut back on crucial mistakes. In my opinion, he almost blew it for us last night. Sam made a great decision to take him out and immediately reinsert Bazz. He then showed confidence in LaVine by reinserting him at the end of the game. I think LaVine settles for way to many jump shots. Although he’s slight of build, a guy with his explosiveness and athletic ability should look to attack more and try and try and draw fouls at the basket. He bails out teams way to much. Quiet as kept, his dribbling is kind of suspect as well. He’s to weak with his dribble and it’s to longated, needs to constrict and tighten it up some. But I only point these things out because I think he can be great at some point. All in all, that was a great effort and victory. The vets and the young bucs meshed very well last night. Oh yeah… I love the passion and energy Rubio played with, too. It really helped permeate throughout the team.

  2. The guys played well and with effort and determination, but the positive that stood out for me the most was coaching.

    Wiggins is 20. I just can’t nit pick the guy. I’m not worried about little, less than ideal things in his game. He’ll get more rebounds and assists with time. He’ll get more efficient, and more wily.

    One thing about Boogie is that he’s pretty easy to frustrate, and Dieng did a good job of that. Minus the foul thing, Towns also played well. Considering the weight he will still put on, it’s impressive how he goes up against cinder block guys like Boogie without fear.

    I like Prince. I think we are using him well right now.

    I like Martin in a reduced role, even when healthy. I still like him on the team, but understand the trade rumors.

    There’s a lot of buttholes in the NBA and Rondo is certainly one. But he’s basically torn down a promising career by being such a butthole. He has weaknesses in his game that make certain situations for him hard to succeed in, but he seems to annoy his way out of all the good situations.

    Rubio does need to shoot more and better. Mostly more. People can lag off him so bad because they think he won’t shoot. If they knew he was a willing shooter, though not very good, they’d have to honor him a little more. Man, one of those threes looked nice. If he could find a way to keep in better rhythm it seems like he could be competent shooting. Perhaps it would help to find a way to get a layup when he goes into a funk to sort of reset. It’s upsetting because his game is otherwise so good, and his shot does look alright, it just needs to be consistent and not given up on…

    Yes, Sam was sharp with his coaching. We moved the ball, had varied plays, look a bit more willing to take some threes… Things were managed with competence at the end. He used good rotations and readily used Miller if needed. It was so nice to see all this, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that effort and morale seemed high among the players. I’ve been hard on Sam, but I compliment him here. This is what normal, competent coaching looks like. If we can rely on this most nights it will be a godsend. Not sure that will be true, let’s hope.

  3. Great points Pyyrol, BUT (lol)… I do have to nit pick just a little bit about the rebounding effort on a consistent basis. Even though he’s 20. Don’t care about the number if he shows consistent effort. He’s slight but 6’8″ and might be the most athletic player in the league. Five to six a game only helps the team. An offensive put back or second chance a couple more times a game helps. Now as far as assists, I get that may take time. I’ve seen times where he has set people up with nice passes and they miss the shot. I know his court awareness will mature the more he plays (hopefully). But he can’t average less in those categories than he did his rookie year. He has to move forward not backwards.

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