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.
- 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.