Let’s just skip to the end:
— StreetHistory (@streethistory) April 10, 2017
Ok. Breaking it down…
This is not good defense. This is a pretty good look to allow the Lakers to get. Granted, it’s Metta World Peace taking the shot, and he entered the game shooting 22% from the floor and 14% from three this season (no, I am not exaggerating), but still. Not great.
Metta clangs it off the front iron, and the ball ends up in the hands of Julius Randle out on the wing. Note the time: 5.4 seconds remain. He can’t exactly be leisurely about what he does next, but it isn’t as if Randle needs to heave a shot immediately or anything.
But look what the Wolves do. The man assigned to Julius Randle is Gorgui Dieng. Julius Randle is a 28% three-point shooter for his career. Ricky Rubio leaves his man, Jordan Clarkson, to come over and crowd Randle. Jordan Clarkson, to the left of the screen, is a career 33% shooter from three, and he is now wide open. Andrew Wiggins also leaves his man, D’Angelo Russell, to come over and stand near the ball as well. D’Angelo Russell, top middle of the screen, is a career 35% shooter from three, and he is also wide open. The Wolves, up two, are triple-teaming a bad three-point shooter, and leaving two passable three-point shooters wide open. That is what is happening.
THE WOLVES ARE NOW ****CLOSELY**** TRIPLE-TEAMING A BAD THREE POINT SHOOTER, AND LEAVING TWO PASSABLE THREE-POINT SHOOTERS WIDE OPEN. LOOK! EVERYONE TOOK A STEP UP TO RANDLE! LOOK AT ALL THE ROOM RUSSELL AND CLARKSON HAVE!
And here’s the icing on the Tank Cake. Julius Randle sees a guy in the same colored shirt, who is just sort of standing there, all alone. It’s a good thing he did not see the OTHER GUY in the same colored shirt, who was standing on the other side of him, all alone as well, otherwise Randle may have panicked. “OPTIONS?” he would have thought. “I have OPTIONS? Why do I have options?” Anyway, Randle sees Russell, so he passes him the ball. Russell fires the cannon. Then, the ball arcs towards the hoop, past the desperate, outstretched hand of Andrew Wiggins, who was far too busy standing near a non-threat with two of his teammates to cover his own man, who is about a league-average three-point shooter. Then, the ball caroms of the back iron, high into the air. If you turn the sound all the way up, you can hear the rim reverberating, and the reverberations are a whisper, and the whisper says, “It’s been 80 games, why don’t the fellows in the black pajamas know how to play defense, yet?” And then the ball cackles loudly as it drops softly through the net, like a teardrop from the rafters, and the Lakers (who are trying to lose) have won the game, and the Wolves (who are playing very tired 21 and 22 year olds 38-to-41 minutes per night in an effort to win) have lost the game.
And that’s really the story of game 80 of this extremely long, disappointing season. Karl put up a 40-21-4 line on 17-of-22 shooting. Andrew scored 41 points on 13-of-26 shooting. It was just the 15th time (per the Wolves telecast) that teammates have scored 40 in an NBA game. Perfect, right? Those two doing something historic, while the team finds a way to lose it at the end. The game had the ebb and flow of garbage time – there was a whole lot of “I don’t know, YOU do something,” and for the Wolves, that was Karl, who feasted on whoever the Lakers threw at him. There was also a lot of “I will get to the rim and either score, or flail for a foul,” and that was Wigg, who attempted 14 free throws, and whose layup with 33 seconds to go looked like the game-sealer.
In closing: there’s going to be plenty of time to re-evaluate things in the offseason, but one thing feels certain: the way the Wolves are finishing the season does not exactly inspire confidence. Something’s got to change. Closing with two home wins will help, but until the Wolves figure out a a way to close these out, and play good defense when it matters, and have young studs who are real two-way players, this angst and apathy will linger beneath and behind everything.