Warriors 109, Wolves 104: That Gray Area


It was a loud, fun, energetic game between one of the league’s all-time great teams, and one of its most talented young rosters.

Not surprisingly, the Warriors, who are looking like they may just reach that elusive 73-plus win record at season’s end, came away with the win. What was surprising was just how mature the young Timberwolves looked as their opponents.

After the Wolves fell short, Sam Mitchell spoke to the media in a mostly positive outlook, but an overall disappointment in how they executed down the stretch. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t see the mostly good play from the Wolves as a “moral victory”.

He also said that the Wolves know how to take losses the right way.

“When we’re on the road, lose, and get on the bus…the bus is quiet” he said.

This was apparent in the locker room tonight too, as the Wolves said very little to each other, taking their time preparing to leave the Target Center. Knowing to take losses hard isn’t a staple of all losing teams, so in that sense, this is one good takeaway, if anything else. The Wolves know that losing sucks, and they want to stop it from happening.

But as a few of us writer folk chatted quietly in the locker room, I couldn’t help but think about how well the Wolves played tonight. Sure, they made some mental mistakes down the stretch, didn’t execute in the last two minutes, and had the game lost on an errant Andrew Wiggins fadeaway. All of this is true, but for the most part, tonight qualified as more of a “moral victory” than any other game this season.

Because to me, there is such thing as a gray area. Yes, the term “good loss” or “moral victory” can be overused, and it probably has been by me and other Wolves writers in the past, in an attempt to salvage another otherwise lost season.

But tonight, they played their asses off, and they deserve to be commended for it, even though they lost. Ricky Rubio shot the ball great, showing off the work he’s put in with Mike Penberthy.

He showcased his badass intensity on the floor on a couple occasions, most notably (in the 2nd half, I believe) hustling back and going for a block he had no chance of getting, but still ending up diving on the floor. He was furious after he didn’t get the block, and cussed up a storm.

Andrew Wiggins had too many iso plays drawn up for him late, but he started off shooting the ball great. He was picking his spots perfectly, and showed a strong willingness to attack. One of my favorite plays came in the 3rd quarter, which involved him getting a good look off a great passing decision he made earlier in the possession.


Wiggins, like the rest of the Wolves, played better defense than we’ve become accustomed to seeing for most of this year. While too many iso plays late ruined Wiggins’ line a bit, it was an overall great game.

Karl-Anthony Towns is, well, you know by now. His play isn’t completely consistent to this point, but it’s consistent enough to where you should feel good (nay, great) about him going forward. He didn’t let big man killer Draymond Green bother him, as the 20 year old (I repeat, he’s 20 years old) go 11-19 en route to notching his 41st double double of the season.

Zach LaVine had a great game, too. Tonight may have been his best game of the year in regards to him coming off screens and playing off Ricky Rubio. He played within the offense correctly, and didn’t make mistakes. It was great to see.

Most of tonight was great to see. There isn’t a lot to take from this game that should, or can, be looked at in a negative light. There was too much chucker, iso basketball towards the end of the game.

That, with the fact that they were playing the freaking Golden State Warriors was their ultimate demise. It’s a demise that several good teams have faced this year against the defending champs. I’ll rephrase: It’s a demise most teams would love to say they’ve faced this year. The Warriors usually do much worse to their opponents.

So, can tonight be considered a “good win”? A “moral victory”? Some people will say that you win and you lose, and there isn’t much in between. But to me, watching a team as young and developing as the Wolves can’t be looked at in that lens. There was too much good here to walk away without feeling pretty good.

Maybe the terms are overused, but it applies tonight. If you’re still bummed, here’s a tune.

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5 Responsesso far.

  1. pyrrol says:

    Whether you call it a ‘good loss,’ ‘moral victory,’ or simply ‘another loss’ I’m proud of the guys for passion, grit, effort and showing that they are learning.

    I’m the resident Sam Mitchell troll (although I think a lot of folks are not happy with him), but I have to admit this was one of his better nights. He obviously gave this game extra thought to find a way to get us to compete. He seems to have taken a page from the Spur’s win over Golden State the other night and did a poor man’s version of it. The basic premise is, switch on Curry whenever you need to without any hesitation, no matter what match up it creates. Curry is simply an above average guard in the NBA without decent 3-point looks, caused by his ball handing and action. The idea with the defense we used was to never leave him on the perimeter for a split second to get a three off–no gaps. The Spurs did a more sophisticated version of this with much better recoveries from off match ups and less need to switch to maintain coverage. (We invited someone else to beat us, the Spurs managed to keep everyone off balance). But maybe you expect great things like that from Pop and the veteran, talented Spurs. It may have been more important that the Wolves continued this and showed the league that even lesser teams can defend Golden State enough to make a game of it. There is an answer. And we didn’t do an insultingly bad version either. We did a secondary version of this with Klay to try to keep him from going off totally, and while this allowed Green to go off and was our Achilles, as was easy drives through broken defense, we did defend well enough so that it was our offense that lost the game. This is a template for beating Golden State. Credit Pop for inventing it, but Sam had the courage to try his own version and proved that any team can use this strategy.

    All that said, Sam failed us at the end, not taking timeouts at the right times, leaving us mostly without real plays (I’m not counting Wiggins isos as a play anymore) and not being creative enough for multi option action in crunch time and perhaps going to Towns for big shots. I would say off hand that the number one reason we couldn’t get over the hump is inexperience, but the coaching to close the game was a hindrance, too.

    The amazing thing about the recent games we compete in is how we do it without a bench. We just don’t have the bodies. I guess that’s another critique of Sam in this game–we lost because the bench was so bad, and while we are not at the point of owning enough personnel to run a good bench what we are doing really isn’t working at all (8 total points from two guys). Yet, we didn’t play Bejelica, Payne or Rudez at all. Playing one of those guys some could have helped shore up the bench production a little. But all in all, we need to acquire some more bodies to form a cohesive bench next season. I guess we just go the rest of the way very short handed.

    I was watching TV and they talked about the current top two favorites in the draft. It made me think. I’ve just been ignoring Simmons because we just got about the best big imaginable and Dieng is improving and has chemistry with Kat. I don’t really like Ingram that much yet, but maybe I’ll come around. Hield has made me drool a bit as something to throw into our mix. But back to Simmons, I mean the guy has question marks, but he averaged 11 boards in the SEC this season. So he’s an elite rebounder in college, at very least. The Wolves get killed on the boards routinely. What would he look like paired next to Towns? We could trade Deing or have him on the bench if we somehow were able to get Simmons. Well, this is all fantasy talk–who knows what pick we will get. But it is telling that my mind wandered this way. Dieng has been playing well. He had an off night, and it made it easy to see his weaknesses going forward. He basically defends like a skinny center when we need him to defend like a power forward. He just doesn’t rebound enough. Towns is much better at holding his end of the rebounding up, and being only 20 stands to improve a lot. Wiggins needs to improve his rebounding of course, but even if he does, it won’t fix our problem as much as seeing an improvement in Dieng’s rebounding or replacing him with a player who rebounds better. Some of these weaknesses were on display tonight. We had the size and skill up front to win, but instead we gave away the game through Green, the small ball center. I can’t blame Towns for that.

  2. sportsbygreg says:

    I was pleasantly surprised at the way the competed throughout, but again was disappointed in the outcome. The Wolves are the best “ALMOST” team in the league, and I honestly was expecting the let down at the end, not because they were playing the (great) Warriors, but because the Warriors were playing the Wolves. As great as the Wolves were playing, I saw that meltdown at the end coming way before it happened. But I must admit that I am proud of the competitive spirit, and give Sam credit. I dream of pairing Simmons next to Towns, to go along with Wiggins, Rubio and LaVine. The upside of that line up would almost be illegal. I like Dieng as well, but I agree that he leaves a lot to be desired and is inconsistent and nothing special, would be a hell of a bench player behind Simmons if he’s not traded. If Daniel House from Texas A&M is somehow still available early in the 2nd round, he’d be a superb addition for the Wolves and would bolster the bench tremendously with a long versatile athletic wing who can play 2 or 3, defend and knock down the three-ball.

  3. finchy74 says:

    Was at the game and I’m tremendously proud of this team. The starters absolutely looked like they belonged out there on the court with possibly the greatest regular season team of all time.

    If we could have gotten ANYTHING from the bench, the Wolves win that game.

  4. gjk says:

    It really comes down to whether they’re able to play well again Wednesday. It’s one thing to have a letdown after a big win and something else when there’s a letdown after a competitive loss. There’s always a rush to call a competitive loss like this a “learning experience” for a young team when it’s not determined whether they actually learned something from it. They’ve seen the future of the league (the Warriors) far enough in advance that they can work on their games in ways that make them consistently competitive with such a team; they need to move more quickly, be more alert, and handle the ball better if they ever want to be taken seriously.

    It’s truly embarrassing that the loudest the arena gets is for free T-shirts and the potential of free yogurt. At least it seemed like more Wolves fans were actually there than normally, even with the increase in bandwagon Warriors fans.

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