2015-16 Season

Timberwolves 99, Cavaliers 125: I’m Watching a Blowout Loss AMA


Here’s a measure of my confidence in the outcome of this game before it even began. Every A Wolf Among Wolves recap begins with the teams’ names and the score, Minnesota first, the visiting team second (at least, that’s the way I’ve always done it). Before this game began, I set up my document with the title as “Timberwolves XX, Cavaliers XXX:”. The prophecy foretold by the Xs came true, with the Cavaliers soundly trouncing the Wolves 125-99.

First of all, the Cavs are just good. They’re just good good good, especially with Kyrie Irving back. As Britt Robson pointed out several times during the game, they’re bringing Timofey Mozgov — a key piece of their great play down the stretch in the second half of the season and the playoffs last year — off the BENCH. He’s bigger than any player on the Wolves and he doesn’t start. Matthew Dellvedova is exactly the player you want in his role off the bench as well, the kind of guy who would look like a disappointment on a lesser team as you begged for him to do more. On the Cavs, he does just what he needs to, all while having the most YMCA-looking jumpshot in the NBA. If the Warriors have this enviable consistency where every guy can kind of defend every position, the Cavs have created balance through counterweights: defensively challenged guys like Irving and J.R. Smith balanced out by LeBron James and the rebounding of Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.

And the Wolves? Well, the good news is that the most important players for their future were very good. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns were 23-for-33 (.696) and scored 57 points. The rest of the team was 13-for-46 (.283) and scored 42 points. Shabazz Muhammad was also very good for the Wolves on the offensive side of the ball and has really settled into a role spotting up in the corners and cutting to the basket from there. Going into the game, he had taken 25 corner 3-pointers — 12 more than either Zach Lavine or Kevin Martin — and he was shooting 52% on those shots. Sam Mitchell even acknowledged that in the postgame, saying he was their best shooter from there and they were trying to get him looks as well as encouraging him to cut from that spot as well. It worked: Muhammad was 6-for-13 overall and 2-for-3 from 3 point range for 22 points, a season high.

The defense was bad, allowing the Cavs to shoot .531 and .481 from the arc, plus allowing 24 points off of 13 turnovers — basically, every turnover led to two points. But again, it’s the Cavs, and they’re rounding into shape as one of the true contenders (rather than just expected contenders) to the juggernauts that are the Warriors and Spurs in the West.

So by the time it was a 20-point blowout in the fourth quarter, I decided to take a page from Bill Bohl and open the Twitter floor to questions — basketball-related or not — so here are some of the results of that Q&A, just because it’s more fun than rehashing the same stuff we know about this team in pure prose.

I promised to listen to the album on the way home and I did. Bowie, like the Spurs, has practically transcended the traditional limits we assign within his field of work. I mean, I found myself realizing I don’t even know what he looks like now, but I could instantly call to mind a dozen different visual looks he’s had over the years. This is the guys who did “The Man Who Sold the World.” AND “Life on Mars.” AND “Let’s Dance.” AND tons of other out-there cool shit in the last twenty years that he seems to do just because he wants to. The new record is good and instantly recognizable as Bowie: melodic, restless, strangely funky but experimental, clean and dirty at once. Will definitely listen again.

Anyone? I drank this in New England, where it was the cheapest keg of beer that was not utter garbage. I could never abide truly terrible beer like Keystone or Meisterbrau, so this is what we settled for. It’s kind of sickly sweet like Premium, but darker. Maybe like Nordeast?

Here’s how this strategy would work: They sit Wiggins down and tell him, “Listen. Andrew. We didn’t want to tell you this before, but the summer you were traded, some shit went down you never knew about.” *Milt Newton looks left and right shiftily to make sure no one’s listening. “You weren’t just traded to us from Cleveland. First they sent you to Golden State. Then the Spurs. Then the Knicks. Then the Bucks. Then the …”

And on and on. “No one wanted you, Andrew. NO ONE. Now go rip the 76ers a new one for not wanting you.”

This I think is the honest truth. The team is young and the scheme is bad. They each get blamed in a neverending horse tornado that’s on fire.

Basically, I think if I had to pick a three-song stretch to listen to, I would almost always pick this set of songs first, but finding terrific triptychs of songs has long been one of my favorite things.

You’ve got your players of the future, you’re probably going to get at least a shot at another good supporting player in the draft this year. What they need to identify is that guy like Brad Stevens or Brett Brown or whomever that can take the helm of this team on the floor for the next decade and mold it into something forward-thinking and exciting.


Shorts are a sartorial problem, but I’m done trying to solve it.


That’s right. Andre Drummond doesn’t have cloud tattoos on his shoulders. That’s pure man, right there.

I’ll leave with you to other jolts of joy, Kendrick Lamar’s outstanding performance of “Untitled 2” from Jimmy Fallon last night and another amazing late-night performance that was brought to my attention by @en_cohen, “One-Armed Scissor” by At the Drive-In.


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8 thoughts on “Timberwolves 99, Cavaliers 125: I’m Watching a Blowout Loss AMA

  1. Hey, Dellevadova was considered barely an NBA player coming in and he’s now a solid back up on a championship level team. He does about as much possible with what god gave him, and I admire that. YMCA jumpshot? Well, the Wolves could really use a guy that hits his shots like that, and takes ones that are good for him. In some ways he’s a craftier player than Irving, but he just lacks the potent natural aptitude on offense that Irving has.

    I like Cleveland and hope they win it all, but their level of spending is a little spoiling. It’s possible they are so spoiled with personnel that they could field a team that could have a better record than the Wolves with their bench as the starters. That’s an expensive team. I could not believe they got even Thompson after all that…

    I think it is unfair to act like our badness is simply a ying-yang of youth and coaching. Even taking into consideration that we could simply lump the youth under personnel, because we are an incomplete roster with balance issues and call the ying that, I think the larger issue here is coaching and system/strategy. A simple red flag is the regression from a team that looked competitive and was fun to watch, to this dumpster fire. A big part of it is we are cartoonishly simple, and never adjust, and at some point teams all figured us out and we had no counter move. And I get it–young guys get tired. But Towns is our big rookie and he looks fine. If anything, it is mental fatigue. But why are we so mentally fatigued already? Clearly, losing a great guy like Flip took a lot our of everyone. But so too does swimming upstream. The guys are put at a major disadvantage every night due to coaching and strategy. Without being a fly on the wall it’s hard to know ever aspect in which the coaching is failing, but the signs are there: Our regression, the lack of threes (Sam talked about how they were trying to get Shabazz corner looks, but he only took 3…) how awful we look every time we come out of a timeout specifically taken to draw up a play, how Sam never takes responsibility for any failing of the team, and on and on. It’s interesting how the Cavs are really just getting rolling at their game now, and we’ve already fallen apart. But they have all the pieces… Still, suddenly Philly and LA are looking a little better. We look shockingly worse. There is no sign of recovery, and I’m not sure the guys learn all that much when we are in devastatingly bad mode. That sucks. On the plus side, theoretically, we can fire Sam at season’s end, hire a decent coach and get back on track. But I’m mad, sick of waste, sick of waiting. I felt like a laughing stock on ESPN tonight. Van Gundy tried to be nice, but people just don’t know what to think about our destitute franchise.

    Pek could be a great Yeti. Is it crazy that I fantasize about him getting into acting after basketball? By acting I mean like a David Prowse as Vader type thing, or maybe as a bond villain’s henchman or maybe a barbarian in a sword movie. One can dream….

    1. I agree with every point you made. This is a dumpster fire. The team is regressing and the Lakers and Sixers are getting better. I also agree that it is more coaching and scheme than anything. This team just does not play hard and is by far the DUMBEST team in the nba. The defense is flat out atrocious. Wow! The Cavs were literally laughing at this team amongst themselves. It was so embarrasing. And Glenn Taylor was sitting over there like he doesn’t have a clue. It’s so sad. Yes, Van Gundy was definitely trying to be nice because he doesn’t want to burn any bridges. He had a great understanding about the team needs and what’s ailing this team. I was saying to myself how I would love for him to sneak in an interview while there. But, again, Glenn Taylor and Newton don’t have a clue. You are so right when you said it felt like the Wolves were the laughing stock on ESPN last night. It was so sad and embarrassing. Teams operate like they are having target practice against this team. Other teams at them like they are just in pregame warm-ups because the Wolves offer absolutely no toughness and resistence. It literally seems like teams feel like they are playing against a high school team when playing the Wolves. Again, they offer absolutely ZERO threat. A couple of my friends were texting me and in shock about how I can like this horrible team and franchise. They were really laughing at me. The Wolves are by far the worst team in the nba. BY FAR! Yep, I honestly feel that way. One last thing: Wiggins played well, but as I’ve been stating, and Van Gundy pointed out too….Dude 2 freaking rebounds. His lack of caring about rebounding is mind boggling and sad. ZACK LAVINE IS NOT A POINT GAURD. Damn Sam!

  2. A few thoughts: Im starting to like Bjellica less and less every game, for me he is joining the team’s “get rid of” tier along with Payne and Martin. Also, really liked bazz’ role in this game, reminds me of brandon rush’s role in GSW of a set up 3 point taker/energy guy off the bench. Lavine still got a LONG way to go in terms of in-game decision making, but in that third quarter there were some flashes of improvement in terms of his passing and pick point set up that I have yet to see from him, so that was nice. Also, the defense stinks. Need to improve that ASAP.

  3. By the way, I agree about Bjelica. I thought he was better than he’s shown. But I kind of think the system and Sam’s style of coaching has sucked the life and confidence out of him.

  4. Other issues: This game showed us just how unmotivated Wiggins is night in and out. I forgot what he can do when he turns it on. That said, his rebounding is terrible. He’s skinny, but he’s also 6’8″ and his numbers are below accidental numbers you’d get if you were not looking to ever get a rebound. Isn’t Garnett yelling at him in his face about this after every game? One good thing was that in his endangered, highly motivated state, Wiggins seemed to take threes he’s not being coached to–just finding them for himself, maybe against orders. I hope more guys go rogue in this regard.

    Sam is totally unable to motivate Wiggins, clearly. Sam is good at ruining guys’ confidence and seems to do nothing to get their confidence back. They sort of disappear for months or are a shell of themselves. It’s hard to like Bjellica now. Wiggins’ lack of motivation is on him to a degree, and Bjellica’s glass confidence is on him to a degree, but a better coach could get Wiggins playing harder and Bjellica back on track, despite these being personal flaws in these two players right now. Reportedly, players like Sam and relate to him, and he yells at them when they do bad, but it doesn’t translate into motivation or confidence. This, you could say, is the social/psychological aspect of coaching. Well, it’s hard to see this aspect of coaching in a clear way when the strategy being put fourth is so bad, when no adjustments are being made, and when personnel shifts are bad and late, plus the guy can’t draw up a successful play out of a timeout to save his life. That puts all the players at a huge disadvantage every game so that I think all of them are frustrated and unmotivated feeling as a default. This puts much more pressure on the social aspect of coaching, to keep these guys trying, and it’s just too much, Sam is failing at that. One wonders how different these issues would look with a better coach.

    1. Whew. “Sam is failing at that.” You couldn’t be more wrong, and I can prove it. Read the amazing, amazing interview with Mitchell that Britt Robson just posted yesterday. It is mesmerizing. It’s been obvious for months that the Wolves need a teacher before they need a coach, and I cannot think how you can improve on Mitchell: after reading that interview just now, with the tape on the Cavaliers up on his screen in his office, basically telling you how the Wolves get wiped out every night from bad habits, small size, and problems with understanding the sport’s fundamentals. If there was a way to keep Mitchell and his crew but get rid of Taylor’s influence, I’d sign up for years. The team is getting better, not worse, but only if you look at it from the game’s perspective and not the way a fan sees it. Wiggins is super-lucky to have Mitchell. He’s simply seeing the adjustments professional athletes make to his talents: Wiggins has to evolve to beat those adjustments, and he will, but he’s 20, and it takes time to learn. There is an excellent section that explains why KAT is having his troubles in the post simply because he doesn’t know where in the paint to begin defending and fighting for position. It’s a measure of how misunderstood the game is that a lot of people here still think of Wiggins as a 3, for example, when it is obvious he will never be a 3. But read Robson’s interview!

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