Wolves 105, Nuggets 88: A Preseason Party in Lincoln

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MARCH 21: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves talk during the game against the Golden State Warriors on March 21, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – MARCH 21: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves talk during the game against the Golden State Warriors on March 21, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Northwest Division foes Minnesota and Denver traveled to the heartland for Wednesday’s preseason tilt; Lincoln, NE played host, and the “home” Timberwolves emerged with a 105-88 victory. Luckily for those of us in the greater Minneapolis area, the team streamed the game, for free, on their website, which was a nice touch. What we saw was a pretty even first half and a pretty lopsided second, in which the Wolves’ starters run away from the Nuggets’ bench.

After commenting that his deeper rotation probably messed with the team’s flow in Monday’s loss to Charlotte, Tom Thibodeau pretty much stuck with a 10-man crew until the garbage time was in full swing. Production was dispersed pretty evenly among the starters. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, including this three pointer:

As well as a sweet seal-and-finish in the lane:

Karl also hooked up with Zach LaVine (12 points on 13 shots, easily the weakest output among the starting five) on this baseline give-and-go slam:

KAT wasn’t exactly perfect, though. He struggled to contain Nikola Jokic, who managed to put up 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in the first quarter alone, when he was primarily matched against Towns. (Jokic sat the entire second half – but man, that head to head matchup is going to be so much fun to watch over the next decade or two.) Ricky Rubio tried to atone for this himself, as he finished with 4 steals and played his trademark hustle defense whenever he was on the floor.

Andrew Wiggins chipped in 18 points of his own, and Gorgui Dieng had 10 points, 7 boards, and 2 blocks. Much of the Wolves’ offense came from the line, where they were 28-for-38 for the game, including 23-for-31 in the 1st half alone. They also hit 9-of-19 threes, which is a welcome change to offenses from the past.

While the starters were very good, the Wolves’ bench was more of a mixed bag. Shabazz Muhammad tied Wiggins and KAT for a game-high 18 points, but most of those came when garbage time was in full swing:


Still, it was nice to see a successful evening out of Bazzy. Nemanja Bjelica’s numbers don’t pop off the stat sheet (11 points on 10 shots, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) but he hit three three-pointers and looked confident and aggressive for the third consecutive exhibition game. He’s clearly been empowered to create a bit off the dribble and pull up to shoot when he’s in rhythm, which is a breath of fresh air after he looked so trapped inside his own game a year ago.

Cole Aldrich and Brandon Rush are splendid because they did nothing particularly memorable, good or bad, but they know what the hell they’re doing and they understand their roles. It’s nice having veterans on that second unit.

The weak link on the reserve unit was Kris Dunn, who just can’t seem to hit a shot right now. He went 1-for-7 from the floor on Wednesday night, bringing his preseason totals to 5 makes and 22 misses, or 18.5%. He did dish out four assists and finished with three steals,so it wasn’t all bad, but he needs a lot of polish. Physically, he looks more than capable, and his ballhawking instincts are good. But in terms of running the second unit and actually hitting a shot or two, he’s lacking now. But I suppose that’s what the preseason is for.

Minnesota will continue their whirlwind exhibition road tour on Saturday when they take on the Miami Heat in Louisville, KY.

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