Wolves 125, Heat 122: South Beach Bringin’ the Heat, Wolves Win in OT

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The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Miami Heat 125-122 in an overtime thriller Monday night, bringing their overall record to 4-3. The victory not only marks the first time that Tom Thibodeau has defeated the Heat since becoming the Wolves’ head coach, but also the first time they’ve lead.

The Heat came out of the gaits with a burst of energy that the Wolves were unable to (or didn’t even attempt to, depending on your disposition) match, dictating the pace of play and being the aggressors on both sides of the ball. Heat point guard Goran Dragic looked to push the ball early, snaking his way past Jeff Teague and putting the Wolves on their heals. Miami was able to take advantage in the first half, scoring 62 points on nearly 60% shooting.

Dion Waiters lead the way for the Heat scoring 33 points while adding five rebounds, four assists, and three steals (though he logged a +/- of -10 in 39 minutes of action). Bam Adebayo was also trouble for the Wolves, especially on the offensive glass, contributing 13 points and 13 rebounds (including 10 [ten!] offensive boards); Celtics transplant Kelly Olynyk added 23 points and six rebounds and Dragic 18 points, six rebounds, and five assists.

For the Wolves, this game was the story of two halves.

As previously inferred, the Wolves didn’t exactly begin the game with a ton of energy. You know the story by now. The rotations? Late. The off-ball defense? Unfocused. The overall composure of the team? Uninspired.

Teague struggled out of the gate, taking ill-advised shots, turning the ball over, and looking uncomfortable as he tried to figure out how to run the offense against the Heat. Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler struggled with efficiency. Karl-Anthony Towns continued his strong play on offense but reverted back to his pre-Oklahoma City game defense (read: not great, Bob).

The Wolves trailed 32-23 after one, but the game didn’t exactly feel all that close.

Source: ESPN.com

But then, something clicked a little bit. At least on offense.

The Wolves hung 37 on Miami in the second quarter. Teague’s play flipped 180-degrees, Butler’s efficiency and playmaking picked up, and Wiggins hit his free throws. Nemanja Bjelica once again excelled in his role, drilling a three and playing good defense. (Aside: Bjelica deserves to see more playing time. He’s only averaging a little over 15 minutes a game, but he has been easily one of the top five Wolves in terms of performance. He’s played really well within his role and the eye-test is saying that his defense has improved. The numbers don’t necessarily back up his performance as of yet, but it will be something to monitor as the season progresses.)

The Wolves clamped down on defense a bit in the second half, allowing the Heat to only score 60 points over the final three frames. Minnesota forced Miami to commit 28 turnovers on the night (to the Wolves 16) and simply made things ever-so-slightly more difficult for the Heat. Teague had a few crafty veteran steals and Towns was able to alter more shots at the rim (in the first half, it appeared Towns was helping too much around the rim, allow open space for the Heat to expose). Wiggins had a few possessions reminiscent of his famous one-on-one defense against James Harden during his rookie season and Jimmy Butler was strong as usual.

Teague ended up having himself a spectacular night; he led the Wolves with 23 points and added 11 assists, six steals, five rebounds, and was a team high +18. Towns (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Wiggins (22 points, 7 rebounds) also scored over 20 points and Jimmy Butler added 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Jamal Crawford with for 13 points in 22 minutes off the bench.

Source: ESPN.com

To this point, the Wolves have been a difficult team to peg because their effort and attitude often waxes and wanes greatly throughout the course of a single game; sometimes it changes as a response to the opponent’s effort and attitude, but sometimes it changes with no real explanation. One moment the Wolves will be struggling mightily (see: quarter, first) and then all of a sound they’ll be running like a well-oiled machine (see: quarter, two; game one against the Thunder). One moment the defense will be atrocious (see: half, first) and the next it will be much sharper (see: half, second).

The glass-half-full observer would be quick to point to the Wolves’ consistency ebs and flows being a good sign; “Just imagine when they figure out how to play with each other and round out the roster with a trade or two!” The glass-half-empty would say something along the lines of “well, why don’t they just play hard all the time?”

Due to the infancy of the season, both sides of the argument have merit and how the Wolves progress in the coming months will dictate whether or not they are a contender for a top or middle seed in the West or if they are simply a fringe playoff team. Are their struggles simply effort and comfort based? Or do they have more to do with team philosophy and roster construct?

The answer likely falls somewhere in the middle, but only time will tell how the Wolves grow and develop moving forward.

Oh. And Andrew Wiggins did this:

The Wolves are next in action on Wednesday night against Boogie Cousins, Anthony Davis and the 3-4 New Orleans Pelicans. Tip is slated for 7 pm central.

Notes:

  • I just wanted to make sure this ended up in the recap somehow. He missed the dunk, but had he landed it, this would’ve easily been Wiggins’ craziest play of his career:

Share this because Rubio would pass this along:

12 Responsesso far.

  1. pyrrol says:

    This game was competitive, had an exciting ending, had a great dunk, the Wolves are now above .500!

    But I’m not enjoying it all that much. What’s wrong with me? I’m going through something that has me questioning the nature of being a fan. In some ways following a team just because they play somewhat near to you (nearer than other teams) seems arbitrary and silly. I can think of a lot better reason to cheer for a team than proximity, particularly if you are like me and you can’t see games in person generally. Off the top of my head… style of play, players you like, cool team colors, awesome mascot. There is also something beautiful about it. You instantly have something in common with local people you see every day, a sort of sports brotherhood. And there is something neat about cheering for a team over many years, sometimes through complete incompetence, players you don’t enjoy, horrid uniforms… being proud even when other teams snicker at yours. I’ve been a fan of the Wolves since the 90’s and I’ve been through some dark days. If anything, my fandom intensified during some pretty bad years. There was something fun about cheering for a bad team that no one would choose. There was something fun in that underdog every night, no expectations thing, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

    I’m having a hard time cheering as hard as I’m used to for this team so far this season. I don’t totally understand why. Even though I was mentally prepping for Rubio to be forced out for years (this franchise never seemed to value him or use him totally correctly) it hit me hard. It hit hard in two ways–emotionally, and on the court. I used to watch games that were pretty lame matchups when we were way below .500 and think to myself ‘what’s Ricky going to do tonight?’ It was fun to wonder and often fun to watch. He’s one of those unique players who do unexpected and amazing things now and again… not amazing as in ‘look how high he jumped’ but amazing in magic, how did he do that sort of ways. Between the magic moments I found Rubio (even at frustrating moments, like clanking shots or bad layups) really fun to watch. (It’s also notable that this main flaw appears to be something he worked hard on and actually improved if we look at last year and this year, yet that counted for nothing with our staff). I didn’t expect that not having that would hit me so hard as a fan. I thought other guys like Butler and Towns would pick it up. This has not been the case. Butler has been effective overall, but a really meh thing for me to watch. Towns is my favorite new Wolf to watch, and I do like his game a lot, but he doesn’t have a magic to his game, nor does he play the required D most nights to be a highly watchable player. An example from tonight… Teague had 23 pts, 11 assists, and 6 steals in this game (according to the box) and it was about half as fun to watch as any time Rubio got anywhere near that line.

    Another related reason might be that as a team we aren’t that fun to watch. There isn’t a spunk and joy to this team. Recently, we’ve truly been a young core trying to grow up together in the NBA. That’s not really true anymore. We’re 2 young guys, and a bunch of vets and a bit older dudes (Gorgui Shabazz).Our young core really isn’t a core anymore–I think that term is for 3 or more. There is a bought aspect to this team instead of a growth aspect. And the team personality is basically nonexistent, or at least very underdeveloped and not sure what to be yet. This might have something to do with Lucas’ observation about how inconsistent the feel of this team is, even quarter to quarter. Beyond these feel things (team personality, young core versus bought team) we often run pretty dull offense in a pretty sloppy manner. We don’t run great p&r, we don’t get out and run for transition points, for a athletic team we play slow and low to the ground on average (Wiggins’ great dunk is more of an exception than anything…) and we have a certain joylessness. We often don’t bother to play D hard, but even when we put effort in on that end we play sloppy and inconsistent with no really fun defender to watch. For all the talk of Bulter on D, he’s more a physical pest with some vet wile than some super fun to watch D virtuoso. Thus far, Jimmy is very helpful in winning but a labored player to watch. He hacks what he does crudely with a machete rather than artfully carving.

    Yet another reason is the various players themselves. I really don’t like our guys that much… (personality and basketball style). I’ve grown really sour on Wiggins and his approach to the game. He’s just not that fun to cheer for as a personality, either. Towns has a better personality and a more interesting and effective game (in my opinion) but something is lacking in his platitude littered personality. And clearly something is missing on the court, too (Defense!). On paper he should be the best thing to cheer for since KG for this franchise, but it just hasn’t come together yet. Maybe it will. Teague I find unlikable. I was mildly annoyed by him before he became a Wolf and putting on the navy didn’t instantly change that for me, unfortunately. He does some really good things on the court, but aside from a nice shot now and again, his game bores me. Butler… I like his effort. But the in your face thing is boring in its own way and like I said above, he’s a machete player who’s often not enjoyable to watch. Bjelly is actually one of the most fun guys to cheer for for some odd reason. But he hardly gets to play so far. Crawford can be fun and his balls out there can be admirable… but he also induces jack up eye rolls and doesn’t really play D. Tyus is a fun story but he’s not a fun guy to watch this season. And Thibs… his personality actually makes it less fun to cheer for this team than it should be. For a guy who sweats tiny basketballs, he sure is joyless about the game. On the court, I dislike what I’ve seen of his systems and approach to the game. It’s boring to watch and at times antiquated.

    Objectively, this was a good game. It was fun. It was competitive. We’ll have a better record this year. It’s possible we will make the playoffs. Yet I’m at a low point for excitement. I find my attention drifting during our games. We won a tough game with lots of grit (although we likely lose this with Whiteside playing). Yet I found myself drifting, accidentally cheering for Miami in moments here or there, for their joy, effort, and Waiters’ performance. No one on our team garnered cheering like he did, nor did our team play, objectively. When we won, I was not aglow like I would have been last year after any win. I just kind of shrugged and said, ‘nice’ and went on with my life. It feels weird. Here’s to hoping this team grows on me, but I have to admit they have a little work to do in that dept (or I do…).

    • Mebert says:

      I get this, I have never been less invested in the Wolves than I am this year. I thought about it a lot and it is not just because of how Rubio has been treated, but that was the final straw. It all starts with Glen Taylor, everything he does is guaranteed to be the wrong decision. The most excited I have been about this team in a long time was that short lived rumor that he was looking to sell the team a few years ago.

    • Ryan says:

      Well said, you’ve captured many of my own thoughts about the team this year. I’ve been a fan of this team since the beginning, some years are always tougher than others. But like you I’ve really become disenchanted this year, despite the changes that ultimately should lead to a season with more wins. Most of the reasons you’ve already stated, but I will admit that I think the biggest reason for me was the dismissal of Rubio. He really did bring joy to the game, despite how he was treated by coaches, management and announcing staff while he was here. The fact that Teague is so different and arguably worse at a higher price is a factor, but simply the loss of Rubio hurts my enthusiasm. To a somewhat lesser extent, the loss of Zach also drains some of the fun away. I don’t know how many games I’ll bother to watch, but I do appreciate the articles and commentators on this site, It seems I enjoy reading about the game more than watching it these days.

    • Spot on Pyrrol. I too find myself putting less energy into the games. I am opposite of you on Kat and Wiggins. I am tired of Towns ass-kissing and platitude speak. Wiggins seems more real. Losing Ricky for Teague just plain hurts. Teague plays little defense, makes finishing passes but few movement passes or Gretskys. He seems to provide little leadership or energy to the team. Gibson is overpaid but useful. Jimmy plays hard but is not very dynamic. He is like a sledge hammer which is great when force is needed, but he seems to create very little ball movement. It is like we have a whole offense of finishers and no facilitators. I guess time is on our side? In a few weeks we will look smoother and be more pleasant to watch. Until then, if Midco had the NBA package I would watch the Jazz, but since they don’t I will keep putting a 20 on each game to keep myself engaged until my lack of defense and ball movement depression is over.

  2. Tom says:

    Give me boring wins over exciting collapses any day. We forget how it felt to watch young talent come out with energy and take double digit leads, only to lose to veteran guys like Crawford and Butler in the third and fourth by a last second shot or complete collapse. We still have a long ways to go (playing hard for four quarters or Thibs not using his final timeouts so foolishly every game for starters), but tonight you saw signs of a playoff caliber team, playing just good enough to win. I don’t like the iso game Thibs plays when the Crawford to Belly to G passing was so crisp, G almost forgot to shoot. Passing to open shooters is so much more enjoyable than dribble, screen, shoot. I also can’t understand why Belly gets the ball so infrequently, in the short times he gets to play. I would like to see him get 22 shots like Wiggins did last night and see what his total would be. Teague had me asking why did we let Rubio go in the first Quarter, but he did play much better after that. All in all, the bench provided a needed spark and the starters responded. Now let’s see what they do with the ultra big Boogie and Brow show.

  3. Tom says:

    Young Andrew needs to realize that five of his misses were badly forced shots that could have been better served by not dribbling so much and passing the ball and reset. A couple misses were fouls that he finally made a team pay for by making his FT. Bottom line is that he can get 20/game pretty easy and shouldn’t need to take 22 shots to get it. If BAZ could think like that at all, he would get more playing time.

  4. gjk says:

    Eh, I can admit missing some of the things Rubio did while still seeing all the times he’d get wiped out on ball screens or flop in a way that cost the team a possession or force a pass or miss a layup. Butler and Gibson replace his hustle plays and defense. I wish they played more like Golden State, but Rubio was only able to get them that way against bad defenses because the disciplined ones forced him to shoot and tricked him into bad passes. Their inability to play like that has more to do with a limited supply of those player types in the league; most teams have to play like the Wolves do or play “hunt the 3” like the Celtics and Rockets, which is also ugly basketball in its own way. They tried it when they brought in Kevin Martin, and if they had a better version of Corey Brewer and/or Pek along with a deeper bench who had those passing/cutting skills instead of posers like Shved, it would’ve been both fun basketball and playoff-contending basketball.

    It would be nice to see them play more quickly and move the ball more so it doesn’t stick (which does happen with good young scorers), but it doesn’t go that well with Towns’ post-ups. Towns is their best offensive player and one of the 5 best post players in the league, and it can be hard to not use those skills frequently. Teams mostly know that that style chokes off ball movement, though, and just let him go one-on-one.

    • pyrrol says:

      If you are replying to what I said in my comment, I’d like to point out my basic thesis is that I’m having a hard time cheering for this team for reasons I’m still discovering. One of the reasons is that we are oddly boring to watch. Re Rubio: my argument isn’t that I miss Rubio because he helped us win more than the combo we have now (or even Teague alone, though I’d like to think Rubio’s unique ability would have more use than Teague’s run of the mill NBA ability). It’s that we are less fun to watch without him. Although it is fair to point out we were dull at times last year and there are many, many other reasons I’m bored by this team or having a hard time cheering hardily for them.

      As for style, this is a will–our coach wills us to play this style. It’s true that Teague isn’t as good as pushing the ball as Rubio, running the offense in general, as good at setting and controlling pace and as excited about pushing tempo, but it’s also clear Teague could do such things more (as well as others) and it’s simply not the system. I agree that the Celtics and particularly the Rockets play a pretty dull (and even cynical) brand of basketball. Even GS can be numbing at times, though their ball movement is fun. But back to the Wolves… Having Towns as our primary offensive threat in half court sets (which isn’t always the way the team treats the situation. They should.) in no way keeps us from having a dynamic offense and more tempo. If Karl improves his passing and the team ball movement overall gets better he could be the fulcrum of a smooth offense not an awkward ball stopper (KAT is hardly the only one to blame for our stunted ball movement). More quick P&R would also be a good way to used KAT’s relative speed and agility as a center. Getting out are running would be a great gear change to post heavy offense too, and KAT is that rare center who can get out an run just like anyone else on the roster. As Jim Pete said a while back, we have to do things that make us hard to face. Our style on offense is pretty slow and one dimensional. We have enough imported talent now that in some games we can coast on it, but we’ll never be effective in the modern NBA without more dynamic, diverse offense that isn’t so dependent on personnel making it beyond middling (as an approach). Basically, I’m for even more KAT usage, with a quicker tempo, more ball movement and my dynamic action. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. But with this coaching staff I’m not holding my breath. Will be interesting to see how we fare against better and full strength teams. We are hopefully at the point where we beat the Miami’s without Whiteside of the world 9 out of 10 times, because without taking winnable games and cashing them in you can’t stay above water in the west. We had a habit of pissing away leads last year, but at our best on offense we felt more explosive (even though our 3 point shooting was not as good, and generally bad). This suggests we have more work to do than meets the eye thus far. However we have a lot of talent and useful pieces so this team could evolve into something really good.

      • gjk says:

        My comment was directed toward the multiple comments reflecting the sentiment I was arguing against. If we want to take this in the direction of fun, though, have they played a bad team yet? We all thought the Pacers and Pistons were bad, but they’re both 5-3 with positive point differentials and wins against good teams. Miami’s (barely) under .500, sure, but they play a style that’s hard to guard and Whiteside has played in 2 games. And they got swept by the Pelicans last season. Our collective memories surrounding Rubio’s fun centered around decisive wins against bad teams or good teams who had a bad night. Because the season is so long, it’s very easy to remember the highlights and overlook the lowlights. It wasn’t fun watching him flop for shooting fouls when the team’s offense stagnated, for example. There’s a vividness bias when it comes to Rubio because the fun things looked really fun but aren’t as representative of the team’s style of play when he was here as it’s being remembered.

        More to the point about their offense: their 3 best players are better close to the basket, and all of them have good post-up games. They’d be foolish not to take advantage of that, but again, ball movement gets choked off if the defense doesn’t send a double-team. A lot of teams don’t send the double and just give help if the guy gets close to the rim, which doesn’t facilitate as much passing because it’s tougher to make a good pass in a clogged lane. Even with that said, the % of their made 2 pointers that are assisted is 9th-highest in the league, so they’re moving the ball relative to their opponents.

        • pyrrol says:

          It appears that we have faced mostly middle of the road competition so far. Indiana and Detroit are not awful teams, even on paper, and are outplaying expectations. I’m not sure their records will hold, but at this moment they are playing well. Still, we have not played a lot of really good, sure thing playoff teams just yet and when we do that will be a great test.

          Again, the argument isn’t that last year’s team was better in any way than this one. So it doesn’t matter that we rolled bad teams and otherwise choked (heck, we lost to a lot of bad teams and occasionally beat a good one, too). I feel that Rubio helped the offense and defense be more fun to watch overall last year than this team by some small margin in my own brain. But he’s just one small factor in that dynamic. Towns’ cry baby game against NO along with a mediocre showing by Mr. Max contract and even Butler not playing his A game didn’t help the likability factor with this team, and yet… they won. Woo? I found myself only moderately excited again.

          Speaking of ‘vividness bias’ no, Rubio wasn’t flopping around all the time every game making it hard to watch. He draws fouls like a vet to supplement his offense. He certainly got hit too hard by screens which annoyed me. He’s good at taking charges (rather than flopping as so often reported). In other words, he ‘flopped for shooting fouls’ less often per game than he had snazzy assists, for instance. So why dwell on one of the least exciting aspects of his game if it’s once or twice a game, maybe? But that’s my argument overall, I guess. I think we indeed were more fun overall on offense from a style perspective last year, and yes Rubio was apparently a part of that. Winning is more fun than losing. But on style alone, I’m not thrilled by this team. They are lucky they have winning on their side. But this can all change. Maybe I’ll love the way this team plays after a while. Maybe I’ll be on the edge of my seat again. Last year at this time it was ‘go stand in the corner, Rubio’ offense. And that was more dull than either last season overall or this season by a long shot. So things change.

          There is no reason we can’t have better flow and better ball movement with the personnel we have. I’m not even sure where the idea that our roster keeps us from having good ball movement comes from. Because teams often don’t double us in the post? So what. Move the ball. ‘The % of 2’s that are assisted is 9th highest in the league’. Where do you even find stats that obscure? Seriously though, who cares? It’s clear we are going to have to improve offensive flow, ball movement and control pace better to beat the really good teams. Would anyone watch this team and come to the conclusion they have really good ball movement, consistently? I’m not trying to be overly negative. We have a lot of talent and are working on finding and identity as a team. I’m looking to see what we’ll be like in a month or two.

  5. Tom says:

    I just wish that our team had a lot more San Antonio in them and passed to the better shot more than working iso for most of the clock. It just seems like Spurs ball is more NBA sophisticated than the pick and roll game we play with decent success. I also refreshed my memories of Zack LaVine highlights and it made me think how unstoppable he was with his speed and ups. You look at Markkanen’s outside game and add it to Zack LaVine and the Bulls may not have gotten fleeced as badly as we thought, and I love Jimmy Butler’s game almost as much as KG in his prime.

    I think that Jimmy will have to be superman again tonight with KAT and Taj having their hands full with Boogie and Brow. I just hope KAT stays out of foul trouble and realizes that they can’t beat us by themselves. He doesn’t have to beat them in the scoring column to win. It will be important that the rest of the team shuts down the other Pels, and maybe we get a big scoring night from Jimmy, Teague and Wigs. Last year we fell apart against these guys and I hope that the vets can help us stay focused on the game plan more.

  6. seanie blue says:

    “Gaits”? You mean gates, right? ” . . . all of a sound” should be “all of a sudden,” right? Lucas, you make me feel like an elementary school teacher, wincing at your language. Read your stuff after you write it, man, so you don’t embarrass yourself with middle school errors. And learn about the apostrophe, its use and purpose. Read more, but less about sports. Try some literature, the heavy dope, and you can start with thin books that don’t have a lot of pages: enthusiasm is not style, and you need some tricks to dress up your problems with syntax and cliche. Look up the word “melodramatic.” If it applies to your reporting, you might be overcooking the slim ingredients of your kitchen. Read, bro. You cannot write without reading. Not sports or the news; that’s not reading, that’s wasting time. Read heavy so you learn how to write lightly.

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