2016-17 Season

Wolves 107, Clippers 91: Tyus Jones, Tyus Jones (Frank Ocean voice)

“Ice cold, baby, I told you, I’m ice cold.”

-Frank Ocean, “Pilot Jones”

Starting games is overrated. You want to know who the coaching staff believes in? Take a look at who is on the court during fourth quarters, especially when the game is close. Starting slots that aren’t obvious (such as Towns, Wiggins, Dieng, and Rubio, currently) are driven by early-game matchups, with heavy preference given to veterans; Brandon Rush has 14 starts this season, and his numbers don’t appear to justify it.

There isn’t a basketball stat-equivalent of “saves” or “games finished” the way there is for pitchers in baseball, but there ought to be. Someone much smarter than I am should figure out the nitty gritty details. Who is on the court when it matters most? And how do they perform in those pressure situations? Who are the “closers”? Who is “clutch,” and not in a “who are you handing the ball with the game on the line” kind-of-way, but rather a “it’s an 8 point game with 10 minutes to go, the other team is closing in, who do we trust out there?” kind-of-way.

Tyus Jones has become one of those guys for the Timberwolves. This is a(n admittedly) clunky method of explaining it, but here’s a breakdown of various minutes distributions throughout the four quarters of play and overtime periods this season. Notice the numbers highlighted in yellow:

Well over half of Tyus’ total minutes have come in the fourth quarters of games. Granted, some of that is mop-up duty in blowouts, but lately, he’s been on the floor late in important victories. He played all 12 minutes of the 4th quarter in wins over the Raptors (which included the game-winning shot), Mavericks, Kings, Jazz, and now the Clippers. Jones leads the team in Net Rating overall (+5.5 points per 100 possessions); in 4th quarters, that figure is +4.8 points per 100, which is remarkable, as he is the only person in the regular rotation with a positive figure in the final frame. The Wolves, as a team, are actually -4.5 points per 100 overall in those scenarios. But when Tyus is on the court, good things happen. The Wolves outscore their opponents. In short, the Wolves WIN.

Last night, with the Clippers still pushing to get back into it, he hit a floater, then nailed a three with 2:25 to go that caused Doc Rivers to raise the white flag (read also: Wesley Johnson checked in). Before that, he assisted on two of the Wolves’ first three buckets of the final quarter, including salvaging a possession with a nice pass for a Kris Dunn three that gave Minnesota a 15-point lead. His final line – 7 points, 3 assists in 18 minutes – may not pop out at you, but there’s a certain calm and flow to the game when he’s on the court, whether he’s on or off the ball. The offense looks the way it’s supposed to look. And while he has limits as a defender, he’s rarely out of position or overmatched. And the kid can’t legally buy himself a beer for another two months. The Wolves might have a player, here.

Ricky agrees:

A few other bits and pieces from a nice victory over the MS Paint Clippers:

  • Those uniforms are trash.
  • Trash.
  • T
  • R
  • A
  • S
  • H
  • Trash.
  • The Wolves won points-in-the-paint 62 to 40, fastbreak points 20 to 4, and outrebounded the Clippers 50 to 36. All of these factors helped them overcome a rough night from beyond the arc (they missed 14 of their first 16 attempts and finished 5-of-20 overall).
  • This passssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  • Minnesota started the game red-hot, and they have Ricky Rubio to thank. I know I went on and on about Tyus, but I could’ve done the same for Ricky, who has gotten crushed by Chris Paul over his career but clearly got the better of him in this one. His steal and jumper, putting the Wolves up 21-6 midway through the first, brought the place to its feet. Overall, he had 7 points, 3 boards, and 5 assists in the opening frame. He played physical, tough defense on Chris Paul and didn’t back down when things got chippy. He knew when to push, when to slow the pace back down, and when to juke CP3 right out of his shorts:

  • Karl: 29 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists on 14-of-21 shooting. Come on.
  • Karl, since January 9th: 26 games, 15-11 record, 27.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 blocks, 60% FGs, 41% from three, 84% FTs. He’s reached the same point Kevin Love did towards the end of his time in Minnesota: the great numbers come so naturally, it’s scary.
  • Bazzy was solid off the bench, pouring in 17 points, grabbing 6 boards, and burning the Clippers in transition a few times. His energy/chaos was contagious; the Wolves put themselves on the floor for loose balls and clawed for rebounds. Bazz seemed to be in the middle of all of it.
  • Kris Dunn had a very good first-half stint. His offense is starting to come around. On the other side, he still fouls too much, but once he adjusts to what is and is not a foul (in my opinion, that’s the biggest leap players make from Year 1 to Year 2) he’ll be a very good defender.
  • Lance had a solid first-half run as well, but in the second half, he went full Lance. You never go full Lance. He started breaking off the play and doing his own thing, which, to be fair, does involve trying to create for others. The problem is, the others don’t always know what the hell is going on, and the passes aren’t always to the guys in the same-colored shirts. He was improvising too much. FreeLanceing, if you will.
  • Sorry, I’m sorry, I’m trying to delete it,
  • 16 minutes into the game, the Wolves had two techs and a flagrant. Gorgui got into Blake Griffin’s face, Kris chirped at a ref, and Tyus hit Austin Rivers’ head on a fastbreak attempt. The Bad Boy Wolves.
  • I know this isn’t breaking news or a wondrous insight, but the Clippers talk after everything. Every whistle. Every call or non-call is harangued over and fretted about. It used to really, really bother me. But since my hatred for the Warriors has consumed all of my ire, it is now merely a mild annoyance, or a bizarre curiosity. It looks like it’d be exhausting to do that every night.
  • The Wolves are 2.5 games back of the final playoff spot in the West. Next up, the reeling Golden State Worriers at home on Friday night.
  • We’ll send you all out with a little Frank Ocean. Enjoy.

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10 thoughts on “Wolves 107, Clippers 91: Tyus Jones, Tyus Jones (Frank Ocean voice)

  1. The defense has really started to show, I am really looking forward to seeing how much better it gets next season.

    PS Bazz started.

  2. The beauty of this game was that the wolves rarely took the bait, when the Clips tried every trick in the book to get calls from the refs. They whined, they intimidated, they played the star card, and nothing worked. Past wolves teams, even early this year, would have gotten frustrated, lost composure and after Paul tossed in a prayer at halftime would have collapsed for another loss.

    The Clips are a team that will never get to realize a championship and tonight they saw that the future is moving to the next generation. After they get bounced early this year in the playoffs, I expect them to do some trading of key assets and start over. Blake, JJ are FA and will not be retained, because the next generation will see them as missing pieces and they will see that the Clips aren’t going to get them a ring. That leaves CP3, Crawford and D Jordan as their only assets for trades to do a Celtics like retooling. Each year they wait, those assets will get less valuable.

    It is a lesson the wolves franchise and star players need to burn into their heads. You have to stay aggressive in this league with your roster. Keeping your key players healthy and supporting them with hungry talent to get to the Championship. Unloading players that don’t fit your salary slots instead of overpaying, getting a draft pick, or getting a veteran to see you as a chance to be on a championship team, like Gasol, and not a veteran like Paul Pierce who is washed up. Look how the Spurs have retooled without a lottery pick. Compare that to LAC, whose key players have had Health issues and keeping status quo overpaid. Having dead weight vets around.

    Most importantly, the wolves need to realize that new stars come out every year. You don’t have years to waste waiting for your turn. You may end up like the Clips and wait forever.

  3. It’s somewhat of a chicken-egg situation with Jones; how much of the team’s increased success late is because he’s playing, as opposed to the team just learning to finish out games? Last night, they outscored the Clippers by 2 whole points in the 4th. Correlation doesn’t equal causation here.

    It’s not completely clear how they’re doing this. The Clippers played them around the same time last season, in the middle of a Wolves good stretch of play, and eviscerated them with surgical precision. It’s one thing to beat a Jazz team that can’t hit the broad side of a barn or lose in OT to a Spurs team that mailed in the first half. This is the type of team that historically was able to play a mediocre game against the Wolves and ratchet it up enough to win going away.

    It’s been interesting to see how little DeAndre Jordan can do to stop Towns. This happened when they played in LA as well. Part of it might just be that Jordan is overrated as an individual defender, but it’s a good sign when compared to how awful Wiggins has always looked against Kawhi Leonard.

  4. Good game, good win. Ricky and Towns were great. Wiggins offense has cooled to ice, but he hit his FT’s and played well on defense.

    I had always hoped Thibs would work around Ricky, but never thought he would. Lately, however, Ricky seems fully engaged and I think Thibs is realizing he doesn’t have anyone nearly as impactful at PG on the team. Tyus is proving to be a capable reserve, but Ricky is the best PG on the team.

    That brings me to Kris Dunn. I don’t think he’s a PG, and I think Thibs may be realizing this as well. He plays most all his minutes as an off guard and that’s where he should focus. Don’t work on running an offense, Kris, just put up three pointer after three pointer in the offseason. He has the defensive side of the game down well already, and Thibs will surely work him there, but if he can hit his threes he can be a legitimate role player in a good NBA team. A three and D off guard is what this team needs and Kris can become that if he puts the work into his shooting motion. I really hope he and Thibs realize this and put a lot of effort into accomplishing it.

    Nothing much else to say. The Wolves are in a good rhythm, playing good D. Last three games have been all against playoff teams and the Wolves should have won them all. The idea of “potential” with this team has never been as tangible or visible as it is now. KAT is a legitimate All-NBA player that we need to build around and guys are starting to buy in. I’m super excited to see how they finish the year and I’m ready for them to storm the league next year and fight for a top 5 seed.

  5. I agree with Jello that a top 5 seed (mimicking UTAH this year) would be a great goal for this team. However, I do think Kris Dunn is a point guard and not a combo 2. He may be like Zack in that he needs to play and learn, but PG is hard to give minutes to a rookie, who isn’t ready to take over a team, so pairing him with another point guard helps him stay on the court and minimize his mistakes. It has also been a good pairing for Tyus, who can’t defend like Dunn, but can run a team and hit clutch shots. Kris does need to make Zack like improvements, over the summer, if he is to be viewed as a successful draft pick, but just like Zack, he has some wonderful physical talent and the two of them could be a great pairing next year.

    So what do we need to mimic the success of the Jazz this year? Wiggins and Hayward are a push. KAT is ahead of either Favors or Gobert, but maybe G isn’t the other piece. He is certainly a good teammate, but maybe as more of Trey Lyles or Jeff Withey part, off the bench. PG Hill, Neto and Exum are no better than Rubio, Dunn and Jones accept in the scoring at the rim department. Neither group is a high scoring component to their team. Rodney Hood is a more complete player than Zack, but Zack can be more deadly on offense. That leaves Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson,Shelvin Mack and Joe Ingles compared to Shabazz, Nemanje, Stevenson, Rush, Hill and Payne. Clearly, with the exception of Johnson and Baz we have a problem.

    When you look at how the Wolves and Jazz started this year, one with a new coach another with a returning coach. The Wolves started out of the gate as badly as you can start and UTAH played better than .500. They both now look like they could be a great rivalry for years to come, unless we use our money this year to add veteran pieces with game that complement our two stars and KAT and Wiggins keep getting better. Then I think the 5 seed is underwhelming, even in the big bad West. The Clips, Dallas, Houston and OKC are vulnerable to a drop in the standings. Denver and Utah and maybe NOLA will be fighting with us for those spots after Golden State and San Antonio. The drought seems to be coming to an end.

  6. Great win. We played with energy and poise that seems new to us. And very entertaining write-up!

    I know I’ve developed into a huge Tyus backer, but I kind of expect the game he had if given minutes. What surprised me was that Dunn looked like a real NBA player tonight. The stats weren’t flashy, but he looked like a composed, effective player out there and it was encouraging. As far as his defense goes, the heft of his talent is obviously on that end, and also a lot of effort. I’d tweak his fouling critique just a bit. It’s not so much that he doesn’t know how to not foul at the NBA level, but that he doesn’t know how not to foul period. In college, Dunn averaged 2.9 fouls a game (for comparison, similarly tenacious PG defender Rubio has averaged 2.6 fouls per game in the NBA with nearly the same MPG). Guys like Bjelica and Pek had an obvious issue with learning NBA officiating (and winning over NBA refs). But Dunn is still learning the game more generally at age 22. That’s still young and understandable, but makes me sweat a little given how far ahead younger guys like Wiggins, Towns and Jones are at learning the game. In this game, Dunn showed his potential well, despite his flaws.

    Ha, the MS paint Clippers! It does have that bad 90’s software company thing going for it as a logo. It’s sad, I used to like the Clippers nautical rope lettering and colors. That said, we certainly have a 1999 sort of thing going with our unis and it starting to not age well, to put it charitably. We need that redesign!

    I think the best way I’ve heard the Clippers’ whining described is ‘a bizarre curiosity’. Yeah, it is annoying. I used to like cheering for the hard luck Clippers. They were bad, but also fun to watch and likable. Now they are good (but not quite good enough) and unlikable. And it’s just not as fun. Cooling my potential red hot hatred of them is that complaining that much ultimately just hurts your own team. So it ends up being something I just stare at in wide-eyed disbelief.

    I like how tough and avid Lance is, so I’m currently willing to put up with some head scratching plays from him. He also is a vet presence, and even though he goes rogue at times, more generally he does know what he’s doing out there and that’s net helpful.

    Back to Dunn for a second, he has occasional flair with the ball, but I’m wondering it he’s just not a PG, period. Some time ago I started hearing folks raising the possibility that he was really a 2, and I rejected the notion based on size and skill set. Now I’m wondering…

    Ricky just dominated Paul in this one. At the beginning, Rubio came out like a force of nature and never really let Paul in the game.

    Speaking of bizarre, Towns is just bizarrely good. During Wiggins’ scoring streak, with Thibs’ push to make him the clear star of the team, created an atmosphere wherein we took Towns for granted. We shouldn’t. He’s like the millennial Tim Duncan. You build around that. It need not be a contest–Wiggins is really good. But Towns does more night in and out to help a team win and is more consistent. During that draft I was having heart palpitations until we picked Towns. He’s showing us why.

  7. Great win. We played with energy and poise that seems new to us. And very entertaining write-up.

    I know I’ve developed into a huge Tyus backer, but I kind of expect the game he had if given minutes. What surprised me was that Dunn looked like a real NBA player tonight. The stats weren’t flashy, but he looked like a composed, effective player out there and it was encouraging. As far as his defense goes, the heft of his talent is obviously on that end, and also a lot of effort. I’d tweak his fouling critique just a bit. It’s not so much that he doesn’t know how to not foul at the NBA level, but that he doesn’t know how not to foul period. In college, Dunn averaged 2.9 fouls a game (for comparison, similarly tenacious PG defender Rubio has averaged 2.6 fouls per game in the NBA with nearly the same MPG). Guys like Bjelica and Pek had an obvious issue with learning NBA officiating (and winning over NBA refs). But Dunn is still learning the game more generally at age 22. That’s still young and understandable, but makes me sweat a little given how far ahead younger guys like Wiggins, Towns and Jones are at learning the game. In this game, Dunn showed his potential well, despite his flaws.

    Ha, the MS paint Clippers! It does have that bad 90’s software company thing going for it as a logo. It’s sad, I used to like the Clippers nautical rope lettering and colors. That said, we certainly have a 1999 sort of thing going with our unis and it starting to not age well, to put it charitably. We need that redesign!

    I think the best way I’ve heard the Clippers’ whining described is ‘a bizarre curiosity’. Yeah, it is annoying. I used to like cheering for the hard luck Clippers. They were bad, but also fun to watch and likable. Now they are good (but not quite good enough) and unlikable. And it’s just not as fun. Cooling my potential red hot hatred of them is that complaining that much ultimately just hurts your own team. So it ends up being something I just stare at in wide-eyed disbelief.

    I like how tough and avid Lance is, so I’m currently willing to put up with some head scratching plays from him. He also is a vet presence, and even though he goes rogue at times, more generally he does know what he’s doing out there and that’s net helpful.

    Back to Dunn for a second, he has occasional flair with the ball, but I’m wondering it he’s just not a PG, period. Some time ago I started hearing folks raising the possibility that he was really a 2, and I rejected the notion based on size and skill set. Now I’m wondering…

    Ricky just dominated Paul in this one. At the beginning, Rubio came out like a force of nature and never really let Paul in the game.

    Speaking of bizarre, Towns is just bizarrely good. During Wiggins’ scoring streak, with Thibs’ push to make him the clear star of the team, created an atmosphere wherein we took Towns for granted. We shouldn’t. He’s like the millennial Tim Duncan. You build around that. It need not be a contest–Wiggins is really good. But Towns does more night in and out to help a team win and is more consistent. During that draft I was having heart palpitations until we picked Towns. He’s showing us why.

  8. Jones/Dunn combination has been a real plus for the wolves. I know that we would have won early had Jones be given his rightful #2 PG spot on the depth chart – and Dunn would have benefited from playing combination SG/PG from early in the season. That said – Thibs recognized something valuable about Dunn, and he is proving his worth. LaVine is missed – but it forced Thibs to use Jones/Dunn in a more productive and effective combination. L. Stephenson is also a productive menber of the bench – and if he regains some of his potential could have a long productive role on this roster. Bjelica/Kat/Wiggins and Bazz are also demonstrating a new ability and passion for defense – Let’s keep this core together and expect a major stride next season – 8th seed in sight, 4th or 5th next year – and these guys have the ability to compete for # 1 going forward if we can keep them together without major changes in the top 8 or 9 players on the depth chart.

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