Wolves 106, Blazers 105: Are We Seeing It?

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The Wolves won again last night.

They’re now on a 3-game win streak, which includes a pair of wins against top 5 teams in the Western Conference.

At late points of every regular season, glimmers of hope seem to start taking form for young, improving teams. Zach LaVine had his best months statistically last season in March and April. Andrew Wiggins was already on a good path, but looked more comfortable.

This year, that seems to be happening again. KAT has been meowing on the league all year, but the rest of the rookie crop is starting to hit their stride as well (Tyus has become mostly competent offensively, and Nemanja Bjelica’s last 2 games have arguably been his best so far).

But most exciting, the team is starting to gel. LaVine looks comfortable as the catch-and-shoot freak shooting guard, Wiggins as the slashing scorer, Rubio as facilitator, and Towns as jack-of-all-trades young superstar. Last night’s win, specifically on the last play, was a microcosm of the Wolves’ overall development.

But, the Wolves nearly blew this game. They played neck and neck with Portland for a majority of the game, but a four point play given up (on evil assassin Damian Lillard’s late three pointer), along with a couple defensive miscues made this game more interesting than anyone wanted to see.

But then, Sam Mitchell drew up a play that worked beautifully.

With fewer than 10 seconds to go, Wiggins and LaVine both cut towards the hoop, suggesting a pass to one of them, but  it was ultimately a decoy to give Towns all the space he needed to win the game.


The key here wasn’t the shot, and not even the play, really. It was that Wiggins and LaVine have become such strong scoring threats this season that their defenders had to follow them, and couldn’t return to help if the pass did indeed come to Towns. While LaVine was mostly quiet offensively last night, Minnesota’s 2nd and 3rd options are still good enough scorers on their own merits that they needed guys to hover on them.

All this time, Rubio stood by the 3-point line, but Damian Lillard had to stay on him. Remember, Rubio has proven he can make the clutch three-pointer if needed.

Of course, this is all small sample size. Yes, the Wolves are 6-4 in their last 10 games, but overall, the Wolves will lose over 50 games for a second straight season. Overall, this wasn’t what the players wanted from their season, whether fans/writers expected it or not. For as many good games as the Wolves have played this season, their have been just as many, if not more, duds to overshadow it. But this time around, it doesn’t feel like a fluky end to a mostly disappointing season. Not to me, anyway.

Through this season, highlighted by yet another efficient night in Portland a night ago, Karl-Anthony Towns has proven that he has the makings of a full-on superstar. Superstar, as in “I will be able to get you to the playoffs, with even a mediocre roster around me” levels of good. Is it early to say that? Maybe it was a few months ago, when he was first hitting his stride. Now? I think it’s safe to say he’s going to be absolutely amazing. He is already.

But here’s the most exciting part to me: his supporting cast probably isn’t going to be mediocre. Andrew Wiggins, for all that he has to work on, is a dynamic slashing scorer with great instincts. Zach LaVine is going to have a rough night from time to time (his April figures aren’t good), but he’s going to be a great scoring spark off the bench at absolute worst right now. It looks like he’s going to be more than that, too. And we already know the positive impact Ricky Rubio has on the Wolves.

In some cases, where bad Wolves teams have looked good to close seasons, I haven’t looked too much into it. But this year, I can’t help but think in a more hopeful light. These wins may not mean much by themselves, but it’s impossible to watch Rubio, Towns, Wiggins and LaVine and not see a future. A real future. Are we seeing a glimmer of what this future in Minnesota? Are the Wolves’ woes a year or two away from ending? From actually ending?

Maybe it’s too early to be at this point mentally. The Wolves need lots of things to start sniffing the playoffs again. They need a real bench. They need to continue developing their young talent. But, man, a few of these guys are going to be good. I’m pretty certain of it.

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6 Responsesso far.

  1. Mert Meral says:

    I really wonder what happened to Bjelica. His last two games looked totally different from the entire season. Especially his point forward style of play seems very useful. We should utilize it.

  2. sportsbygreg says:

    The young pups do seem to be gelling and developing some chemistry. As you stated, if they get a legitimate bench and significant role players (such as a guy wants to all the dirty work such as rebounding and defense), a great high draft pick like Ben Simmons, Thon Maker or Brandon Ingram… the sky is the limit. If Sam remains the coach he need to hire a offensive and defensive guru to the staff. If he’s not willing, I would back up the bricks truck for Luke Walton.

  3. sportsbygreg says:


  4. gjk says:

    Bad Wolves teams usually don’t look good to end seasons. They had that multi-season winless streak in April a few years ago during the Rambis era (Rambis’ teams didn’t win a single April game) that ended during the first Adelman year, when they went 1-12 in April. There were the “KG sit out the last 5-6 games so we don’t lose our 1st rounder” years. They haven’t had a winning record in April since 2005, and even then they needed 8 wins to make the playoffs and got 6. They’re 3-2 this month, so that might be a nice positive, as would getting to 30 on the season.

  5. pyrrol says:

    Towns is amazing. I was so nervous on draft night that we would find a way not to pick him that I almost couldn’t watch. His talent has proven to be a higher level than almost all the talking heads expected, and he was the consensus number one pick. However, as the season winds down, two things stand out about him. One, his poise and attitude are off the charts. Nothing intimidated him or threw him all season. Second, he never had any rookie wall. He coasted through the season with no bumps, and just kept getting better and more comfortable. You almost never see that from a rookie.

    This was a really fun game. I have to say that the Lillard 4 point play call was crazy. That call would almost never be made that close to the end, and that is one of the most permissive continuations I’ve ever seen. And still, Towns hooked it right in their face and we won. I feel like the players have gotten better as the season went on and also are starting to get real chemistry. I also think Sam has finally figured out more or less the basics of how to handle what he has after almost a whole season of trying and has gotten better as a coach. I like the play he drew up for the win, although I have to add that Portland didn’t defend it well. I also like how he went outside the box–he’s been so fixated on making Wiggins our Kobe that teams have come to expect a dump off to Wiggins in closing situations. So they double him and he doesn’t handle it well. Towns is a cooler customer in situations like that and it was a bit unexpected to go to a big for the last shot. So Sam impressed me there. I really think we are at a critical juncture here though. We are so close to getting a coral reef to start growing on the barren rocks of this franchise, but it feels like what we do this off season will have an ability to send the growth into overdrive or stunt it. My read is that we need to clean house in the coaching staff, but keep as much continuity as possible among the players (minus dumping unimportant players like Payne). I am glad that Sam has improved but I just don’t think he’s our guy going forward or is even an average coach. We need to invest more in coaching. Milt lost me when he tired to trade Rubio. I think it is important to keep Rubio for continuity, what he adds to the team, and because getting rid of him would have to include a plan to replace him with a damn good point guard (good luck). It was foolish to seriously try to trade Rubio. And frankly that’s all I actually know Milt did, all I can judge him by, so he gets an F. We should try to bring in Ricky’s shooting coach for him and the whole team from time to time and keep Arnie Kander who proved to be a great asset.

    Good to see Bjellica play well. We should have seen this a while ago, but this little spurt at the end shows us we need to keep investing in him. His defense and rebounding impressed as well as his shooting. He’s a smart player. In some ways he looks like a better prospect going forward that Dieng. Perhaps in a perfect world we would draft a starting PF and have both Bjellica and Dieng coming off the bench. But it’s good to have options and see potential for next year.

  6. fehler says:

    Two games left. 28 wins. Could the T-Wolves make the nice round number?

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