Jazz 94, Wolves 92: When There Are No More Excuses
Games like these are frustrating, I know. The Wolves played well, built up a lead, and then let it slip away in the game’s final minutes. They played well enough to win the game against a fully healthy Jazz team, a playoff hopeful that’s been more successful this season.
It was frustrating because Ricky Rubio shot the ball better than he has all season, all while playing solid defense on the extremely tough (and underrated) George Hill. It was frustrating because Karl-Anthony Towns got it going in the second half, and the beginning of the fourth, playing like the future superstar Wolves fans hope and think he can become. It was frustrating because Zach LaVine was on-point from deep. On those fronts, last night’s game was frustrating because those things happening weren’t enough to get it done.
It was frustrating because Andrew Wiggins, fresh off a stellar 41 point performance in Washington, followed it up with a dud last night. He pulled up for elbow jumpers off screens, and even missed a couple bunnies at the rim. It was frustrating because the bench didn’t bring much of anything to the table.
The frustration came through in no greater way than that of Tom Thibodeau. Thibs is known for his anger-inspired antics on the floor, in the heat of the moment. But post-game was the most frustrated I’ve ever seen Thibodeau in front of the media. When Jon Krawczynski asked Thibs if his antics were impacting the way the Wolves performed for him, his response was straight up.
“You can look for all the excuses you want. We have to get the job done,” he said. “You can say this, that, whatever. We have to do our job. Everyone has to do their job.”
He basically dismissed it, which is understandable. And, as Jon K mentioned on his Twitter account, the players backed up Thibs on this one. Thibs’ on-court demeanor may not appear to be the most endearing to his players, but the Wolves had his back in the locker room.
So, the team is blowing leads at an unfortunately regular rate, their best players have been inconsistent at best on defense, and they currently sit at 11-26. So, when a game like last night’s happens, how does one deal with it?
There are a couple options. One is to simply stay frustrated until shown reason to react otherwise, which is perfectly justified. But, even when the Wolves are making games miserable for their fans, basketball remains too fun to have a negative attitude about. Even when the Wolves are at their worst, it’s hard for me to get totally bummed out, especially after hearing from Thibs and the players. Here’s why.
For a while, I had concerns that Thibodeau’s tendency to let his anger get the best of him would eventually get to the players. It’s mid-January, and the players have spoken. They’re on board with him. They agree that they need to play better.
“There is no excuse,” Ricky Rubio said bluntly last night, almost identically to Thibs.
This is where my confidence remains strong. No, this will not be the team that wins 50 games and makes the playoffs as a 5 or a 6 seed. But this team, while perhaps not evident by the results, seems to be on the same page otherwise. They need to be better, and they know that.
The team is on the same page as the team’s often flamboyant and energetic coach. The trick will be for this young, promising group of potential future All-Stars to properly channel that, and play with a stronger sense of purpose. Then they won’t need excuses.
PS- This dunk was awesome.