2017-18 Season

Pistons 100, Timberwolves 97: Eyeroll, Shrug and YGTMYFT’s

The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Sunday 4th in the league free throw attempts per game and 6th in free throw percentage. Per the great John Schuhmann, Jimmy Butler was 72-of-76 (95%) from the line in clutch situations over the past two years. Andrew Wiggins, despite his own free throw struggles (62%), was knocking down 80% in the same situation. As a team, the Wolves were coming off three consecutive decisive victories, two of them on the road, and won 8 of 10 overall.

Despite playing the first 24 minutes to a near draw, with a late push capped by a crazy Jimmy Butler floater giving the Wolves a 4 point halftime lead, the Wolves managed to assert themselves in the third quarter. Nemanja Bjelica, who’s had the best month of his basketball career, re-entered three minutes into the second half, and the score tied; by the time he sat down, Minnesota was up 9. He was excellent yet again, knocking down a three, driving to make plays for teammates, and even directing traffic a few times when he was playing off the ball. Jimmy Butler was, of course, the team’s primary mover and shaker, accompanying his stellar defense with a 5-of-5, 12 point quarter. It appeared the Wolves were ready to cruise to their fourth consecutive decision victory.

But here’s another statistic/trend that held true to form: even with their recent success, Minnesota entered Sunday dead last in the NBA in 4th quarter Net Rating, at a negative -9.6 points per 100 possessions. Detroit won the final frame by a score of 29-17. Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley and Reggie Jackson combined to score 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting. There was a stretch, from the 10:00 minute mark to the 6:30 mark, where the Wolves went 0-for-3 from the floor, turned the ball over three times, and gave up two layups and an alley-oop going the other direction. Then there was another stretch, from the 3:20 mark to the end of the game, where the Wolves made 1-of-5 shots, missed two key free throws, and allowed the Pistons to hit all five of their field goal attempts, including two layups and another alley-oop.

Point is, Minnesota’s offense fell apart, and their defense gave up a ton of easy looks. With 1:02 to go, just after the Wolves had squandered the lead for the first time since early in the 3rd, this ugly Jeff Teague shot was all they could muster:

Then, coming out of a timeout, down three, the Wolves swung the ball wildly before being bailed out by a somewhat awkward, but ultimately effective, Nemanja Bjelica running bank shot:

Despite all of it, the Wolves had a chance to tie the game with 6.2 seconds to go, when Jimmy Butler was fouled shooting a three-pointer. He sank the first two foul shots, but then… well… Reggie Jackson did something annoying, which is something Reggie Jackson does very well:

Which, you know, whatever. Jimmy was right to glare at Jackson, because it’s a little bit bush league, but you’ve still gotta sink the foul shot. And he didn’t.

After Tobias Harris sank two free throws, the Wolves had the chance to inbound under their own basket with 3.3 seconds left (and no timeouts). Butler still managed to get a pretty decent look, which nearly sent it to overtime, which is not something the Wolves deserved, but nearly happened anyway:

A few more bullet points:

-Eyeroll.

-Shrug.

-Make the damn free throws.

-Minnesota is bad in the clutch.

-Reggie Jackson, could you not?

-The Wolves played pretty damn poorly when it mattered most, and still nearly won, and I can’t tell if that’s funny or frustrating. There was no grand social media freakout about this game. It was odd.

-Minnesota is 10-6, which is still a 51-win pace.

-The minutes distribution, on the front end of a back to back, is not great!

-Tomorrow’s game in Charlotte will be a good test of the team’s mental toughness and fight.

-Eyeroll

-Shrug

-Whatever

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3 thoughts on “Pistons 100, Timberwolves 97: Eyeroll, Shrug and YGTMYFT’s

  1. Two evenly matched teams, one got some help from referees that allowed a lot of contact to go unpunished (Drummond should have fouled out, but only had one going into the fourth quarter.) the other didn’t match the punishment and got frustrated with the no calls. Then, when we tried to foul, after Jimmy’s miss third FT, these refs waited three seconds to make a call. Not blaming the refs for the loss, but this team wasn’t especially strong last night.

    Making FT in a tight game is usually the difference, especially when you don’t shoot a lot of threes. Once again, we didn’t concentrate on that aspect of the game and left points on the floor. Thibs also didn’t save a timeout for a possible half court play at the end or bring Belly back into the game until it was too late. His use of TO at ends of games are so baffling that you wonder if he forgets he only gets two in the last couple minutes. He is so defensive minded that he fails sometimes to see the importance of spacing when his nine point lead evaporated with Taj on the floor. Your article yesterday on great coaches makes me think that we got out coached a little last night.

    They aren’t gong to win every night and losing to strong teams isn’t as bad as losing to teams like Phoenix, but this was a night that the wolves with a little leadership and concentration, should have beaten the Pistons.

  2. Eh, it’s mostly annoying to lose so frequently to the same Eastern Conference teams since they only get 2 shots at them every season. Towns has to guard the pick and roll better. One of the weird things about their recent offense is that they’ve gone away from Towns’ post ups to this extreme. That and the passing the ball around indiscriminately when some of those guys have to put up open 3s when they have them.

  3. I’m not even sure what to say about this game… The shrug part of the headline feels about right. The Wolves are continuing to have a weird effect on me. This was a down to the last second game, but I felt kinda meh the whole way. Not sure why, but it’s happening a lot. Last year I’d be yelling at the screen at the end of this game. This year I was like, ‘huh, whaddaya know?’

    Gjk brings up a few issues worth mentioning. You could technically say we are moving the ball more than in the earliest days of the season, but his description is apt: ‘passing the ball around indiscriminately.’ This is a glimpse of what I mean when I use quotation marks when discussing our ‘system’ on offense. We don’t really pass with purpose. We don’t move without the ball with purpose. We lack enough planned action units, such as different types of pick and roll. Teague dribbles a lot, often without purpose. It shows. We have a lot of talent, but don’t play O with the sophistication of our peers. Our talent sometimes covers these sins. but they are still there…

    Towns has to do a lot of things on D better. Guarding the P n R is a good example. I’ve been of the opinion that Wiggins has been overrated for a long time, and that is panning out so far this season. I actually like what he’s doing this year, his sort of let the game come to me, more efficient play. But that approach comes out of his role, which is 2-4th banana on max money. So he’s getting paid like a 1-2 option, but his actual role is much less consistent and somewhat more minor. I’ve always defended KAT, talked about him as the real deal, as a player who deserves the endless trust from this organization that Wiggins has enjoyed. But this season I’m starting to wonder… Is he really going to end up being the same level player as the rest of the ‘young guns’ such as Giannis, the Brow (R) (TM) Simmons, Embiid, etc? I just don’t know anymore. We’ll have to see. But I have some cracks of doubt. Our ‘system’ on O and D don’t seem to be helping him out. In general, I strongly feel we can use Towns in the post a ton and still have a dynamic offense. If you don’t use KAT in the post you are wasting a huge advantage. He does need to continue to get better at passing out, decision making in general, and get stronger.

    Teague was bad Teague in this one… I just don’t understand his particular brand of inconsistency. It’s confusing.

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