The Wolves came into last night’s brutal loss, all things considered, feeling pretty good.
They were fresh off a win from the night before against a New Orleans team they’ve (weirdly) struggled mightily with, and are winners of 5 of their last 9 games. For most teams, a 5-4 run isn’t anything to fawn over. For a young team with a rough winter record like the Wolves, it’s huge.
Last night’s game doesn’t, by any means, unravel the recent spurts of success the Wolves have had, but it has to hurt. It’s one thing to lose to a decent Western Conference opponent like the Mavericks, it’s another to give up an average of 32 points per quarter, all while shooting just 37 percent from the field yourself.
The Wolves were giving up easy looks all night, especially to Chandler Parsons, who had 29 points on 10-15 shooting, 4-7 from three, and was a ridiculous +31 on the night. Undoubtedly talented as Parsons is, the Wolves weren’t making his looks very difficult, like this play on the drive.
But, again, Parsons shot 4-7 from three. The Wolves have a history of not closing out three-point shooters with much urgency, and that was a common occurrence tonight, as the Mavericks jacked up 36 threes and shot nearly 40 percent from the field.
This wasn’t just a defensive issue, of course. Andrew Wiggins shot 5-14. Zach LaVine shot 3-14. The Wolves as a whole, minus the efficient scoring of Karl-Anthony Towns and (yes) Ricky Rubio, shot a combined 23-70 from the field. That’s 32 percent.
If you also take out Shabazz Muhammad, who had a good first half but a bad second half, the Wolves shot just 17-68 from the field. That’s 25 percent shooting for 6 of the 9 guys that suited up for Minnesota. That will never get you wins, even on a night when your team gives up less than 128 points.
It’s important to never look too closely at one game, and to keep everything in at least a sliver of perspective. Of course, it’s tough to do so when the game gets this bad, and the opponent’s victory cigar lineup is out and Dwight Powell is destroying rims.
So, yes, it’s absolutely important to take this game and try to figure out what went wrong. While enough threes were taken (23), too many non-threes were bad, forced looks, and weren’t built off looks that Ricky Rubio gave them. In other words, the offense wasn’t run to its full potential last night.
Defensively, the closeouts were bad. They let the lead get away from them, in large part, because the defense was about as bad as we’ve seen this year, from both the perimeter and in the paint.
But to look at it from the “hey, they’re young” lens is tedious, but probably still important. It’s still the second night of a back-to-back. They’re still a young team playing against a group of veterans. They’re on the tail end of a week-long road trip. Are these excuses for losing by 27? No, but ignoring it would avoid looking at the complete picture.
Last night’s loss was ugly. They’re now off until Wednesday, and they are off from practice today. How they respond from such a bad night might give us a better indication of how they’ll finish the season than the brutality that took place last night.