Thunder 101, Timberwolves 96: Both Sides of Nostalgia
Tonight, there was plenty to come away with that could have, and probably should have, put fans in a bad mood leaving the Target Center…
The Wolves held a “Throwback Night”, where the in-arena hosts (and some fans) dressed in 90s attire, while the sounds of Snow (no, not the Red Hot Chili Peppers song from 2006, the artist behind the absurd ALICKA BOOM BOOM DOWN!! song from 1992), Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls and many others filled the arena. The Wolves showed old Target Center fan shots, and other 90s-centric nostalgia. Or, you know, stuff from back then that you’d rather not remember. See: link above.
The one glaring, brutally obvious thing missing from throwback night? THE THROWBACK UNIS.
The most frustrating part of this may have been that an ad had come out earlier in the week, featuring all the current Wolves photoshopped in the retro uniforms. And they looked great!
But, of course, most of the frustration with the Wolves has come not from their branding decisions, but rather from their performance on the floor. The Wolves have lost 11 of their last 12 games, and still have 2 games to go against likely Western Conference playoff teams coming next.
In this stretch, their shots haven’t fallen, and the ball hasn’t moved well with Ricky Rubio out of the game. Tonight, the Wolves fell because they let the Thunder do what the Thunder do best. They let Russell Westbrook dominate the game’s first three quarters, then let a cool, consistent Kevin Durant close it out when the Wolves made a late run.
The Wolves got down big early, and despite a run that got the game within 3 late, they made it too difficult on themselves to make a proper comeback by getting down so big so early.
In Minnesota’s defense, the Thunder have used this approach against much better teams, and seen the same levels of success. But the fact that it happened now, as the Wolves came close but fell short makes it even tougher to swallow.
Andrew Wiggins’ free throw shooting woes got magnified a bit tonight as well, when a chance to make 3 free throws to bring the game within 2 points late resulted in hitting just the final pair on the trip. With 8 seconds to go, down 3, with Kevin Durant shooting free throws, the game was more or less lost at that point.
Karl-Anthony Towns, for good reason, didn’t play much in the 4th. Most of his makes came off putbacks, while he never found his postgame or jumper against Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.
As losses pile up in consecutive order, it can be hard to find the fun in watching, and sticking with, a losing team through that stretch. But tonight was easier.
Tonight, there was plenty to come away with that could have, and probably should have, put fans in a good mood leaving the Target Center…
While there were no throwback uniforms on “Throwback Night”, I did enjoy some of the festivities. It was fun to reminisce on horrible (and good) 90s culture and music, seeing certain media members do the Macarena, and remembering what fashion used to look like.
My favorite part was when they brought back the KG 4th quarter hype video. I could only get a snippet on video. It brought me back to going to games with my dad as a kid.
Wolves need to bring this hype video back permanently. pic.twitter.com/uNIGftK6uC
— Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) January 13, 2016
But it wasn’t just the fun nostalgic moments that had Wolves fans excited. Tonight’s game, especially in the 4th quarter, was a lot of fun.
The deficit grew to as much as 18, but the Wolves never let the number get out of hand by the end of each quarter. By the 4th, they were down 14.
When they made a run early in that quarter, it was mostly against the Thunder’s reserves. When Billy Donovan brought in KD and Russ, most thought they’d put it away. But to the Wolves’ credit, they played excellent defense on the drive, and managed to keep clawing away. Keep in mind, tonight’s 4th quarter comeback lineup was LaVine-Wiggins-Muhammad-Bjelica-Dieng. Before tonight, this group had only played 20 minutes together.
The Wolves saw a couple of slumps end tonight, or at least postpone themselves. Zach LaVine had has best game in weeks, and hit some big shots in the fourth quarter. He was catching and shooting on plays, instead of his usual catch-and-dribble for a while-and-pass of the past month. He shot 7-12 to end with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Nemanja Bjelica only took 2 shots tonight, but he made both of them, one of them coming in a key spot in the 4th. He was a +10 tonight, playing the glass well and even coming up with 3 steals.
Both of these guys needed a good night, and both of them got them.
Shabazz Muhammad had a great night and matched the energy of most of the Thunder players (hard to argue anyone can match Russell Westbrook’s energy, though. The man is a 6’4 jackrabbit with insane basketball skills).
Andrew Wiggins struggled to hit from the line late in the game, but his second half was mostly a success. Starting 2-8 in the first half, he cleaned it up and shot 6-11 in the second, and made some important plays down the stretch.
Most importantly, this was all happening with a lineup that doesn’t normally see crunchtime. Not most of them, anyway. This was all happening with Ricky Rubio and Karl-Anthony Towns, rightfully, on the bench.
The losing is tough, but it seems as though the Wolves are as sick of it as anyone else. Of all the losses in this tough stretch, it’s likely that this will be the only one that could be looked back at with any level of nostalgia.