Timberwolves 112, Mavericks 99: The Rick Carlisle Blues

The Minnesota Timberwolves won their fourth straight game on Saturday night, 112-99. You could call it a “schedule win,” since the now-streaking Wolves had two days off to prepare, and the Mavs were on the second half of a back-to-back. Minnesota was rested and ready, and Dallas looked tired and slow, and that alone is enough to swing the balance of many games, especially ones between evenly matched teams.

But these teams aren’t evenly matched. The Wolves played fine, but unevenly. The Mavericks just kind of suck. Back-to-back or not, these are the types of teams that Jimmy Butler & Company had better expect to beat, the more handily the better. Despite being a 13-point win, the outcome was never really in doubt. It was more a blowout than a nail-biter, despite 19 turnovers from the guys in home whites and the energetic defiance of J.J. Barea and Dennis Smith, Jr.

The Wolves are now talented enough to cover for themselves on nights like this one, where they aren’t as sharp as they ought to be. A Tyus Jones lob to Gorgui Dieng arced high into the air before falling low into the big man’s hands, because he hadn’t even jumped, but he managed to salvage free throws out of the situation. Butler and Towns messed up a simple high-low pass, but Jeff Teague stole it back when the ball went the other way. Taj Gibson collected a loose ball and hit a turnaround jumper on a broken play out of a timeout, then turned to the coaches and shrugged in mild dissatisfaction. Forty-five seconds later, KAT hit a corner three when an errant pass careened off a couple of Mavericks and found him in the corner, wide open and ready to fire.

Sure, there was plenty of objectively good things about the Minnesota’s play. They out-rebounded Dallas 48-to-31, recorded 33 assists on 43 made field goals (an excellent ratio), shot 71% in the paint, and 42% from three. Karl led the way with 31 points and 12 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points on 14 shots, and although Butler and Teague combined to go just 6-of-20 from the field, they combined for 17 dimes. Taj Gibson, who goes terribly underappreciated, had 10-10-4 on 5-of-8 shooting and snagged six offensive rebounds. Tyus Jones hit three three-pointers, Nemanja Bjelica continued his hot play by hitting two threes of his own, and Gorgui Dieng had a few nifty passes in his 14 bench minutes.

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Old Friend J.J. Barea was his usual, tenacious self, scoring 14 points and dishing out 6 assists in 19 minutes. But other than that, Dallas was depressing as hell. Dirk Nowitzki looks old and slow and pained to move too much, too quickly. It’s like watching your graying 14-year-old chocolate lab, bad hips and all, willing himself into motion so he can gingerly trot across the room to his water dish. Nerlens Noel attempted three putback dunks where he palmed nothing but the air, and then grabbed the rim, bending it downward in vain, all for show, as if he needed to audibly remind the coaching staff, “Hear it? I’m TRY-ING out HERE.” Devin Harris and Yogi Ferrell tried to guard Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, and they tried really hard, but damn. Why are they being asked to do that? Salah Mejri, who is the clumsiest human being who has ever collected an NBA paycheck, had the nerve to scowl at Dirk during an offensive set. And Dwight Powell…

Dwight Powell pouts like my 4-year-old when I tell him he can’t have anymore Halloween candy. Judging by his reactions has both a) never committed a foul and b) been fouled on every play he has ever touched the ball, ever. One of the things I like watching closely when I’m covering a game is how players interact with officials – is it cooperative, or combative? Is it respectful, or belligerent? The only players I’ve seen worse at dealing with the referees in my five years of doing this are the Morris twins. And at least they’re good. Powell isn’t even an NBA player.

Rick Carlisle must be feeling the blues; he is, undoubtedly, one of the three or four best coaches in the league. But the Dallas Mavericks are now 1-10, and he’s stuck with this odd roster of players past their prime, point guards and petulant young big men. At least they have Dennis Smith, Jr. who appears to be the real deal. But the whole situation looks pretty bleak; tonight, they were fodder for a Wolves team that was nowhere close to firing on all cylinders.

The times appear to be changing. The Wolves did what they were supposed to do and won, handily. The next test comes Sunday night, when they take on the Hornets.

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2 thoughts on “Timberwolves 112, Mavericks 99: The Rick Carlisle Blues

  1. Finally, we see some ball movement and voila, we get easy scores. Now, the Mavs are probably the best matchup we can get in this league; with no true big man to guard KAT, and no one on the Mavs except Harrison Barnes that would crack our top six (Sorry Dirk, but you aren’t close to the player you were two years ago.) The lead we had (almost 30) got wasted because the starters started playing for their stats and not the team and I think it may show up today with the second half of a back to back against a more physical Charlotte. As the lead was drifting from 28 to 14, the guys were all standing around the three point line, instead of putting KAT down low and pounding the ball into him for easy buckets or free throws. That is a concern, because during a long season, games like this should be cherished for giving the starters breathers and the bench a chance to get some time to jell, giving guys like Cole and Brooks some reward for practicing and being good soldiers. Playing just good enough to win, is going to hurt you as the season goes on.

    Once again, Jimmy Buckets showed the way. He made an impact and only scored four points. His defense was good, he rebounded and passed the ball and overall was a professional. Teague still irks me with some of his lazy passes (he gets assists, and had a good stat line, but it seems he always has to have a couple passes that look like he is asleep and his defense needs to add the Ole! to truly be complete) Once again, I looked at Tyus and I bet he figures if Jeff Teague is worth $19 million, he must be worth $20 million. Sadly, neither is true.

    Gladly, they didn’t blow the lead completely (due more to Dallas isn’t going to win more than 20 games this year, then our determination) and they now only trail GState and Houston and atop the competitive NW division and that is something to smile about. I just wish Marcus Hunt could have played more than a couple minutes.

  2. Sorry, but you can almost hear the boredom in William’s voice in this write up. To be fair we did what we needed to do and there were videogame-like fun points in the game. But it’s just kind of sad playing a team like this. And not a good test. I couldn’t tell you why Dallas is playing this bad. There’s million little reasons. This isn’t a playoff roster, they have size issues at a lot of positions, Dirk is not Dirk right now, they have some injuries, and they just have not gotten on track yet. But even put together, this doesn’t explain the ghastly1-10 start. Particularly because I’ve seen lesser teams get hot and actually look like contenders for stretches… And particularly from a Carlisle team. That’s a good coach, and it’s stunning seeing one of his teams play this bad overall. As many issues as they have on O, it’s the defense that left my mouth agape. They were caught literally standing around on several plays, which led to us jogging to the hoop with no action whatsoever, just going up the floor right to the hoop against their full defense with a clear lane to a layup. From what I hear, Carlisle is not that upset by the start. Perhaps he wasn’t expecting much, but he does seem to think they will figure things out (more than this) eventually. I guess that’s still a common theme in this young season. The Wolves are still working on figuring themselves out too, but it’s less painful when you have the level of talent we possess. Many other teams are still trying to get on track and get an identity. I’ve been following the Jazz a bit and that is certainly true of them. I think Quinn is patiently trying to figure out the team and it could take quite some time. As usual, they focus on D, but even how they go about that is a work in progress. Some of these coaches, such as Carlisle and Snyder, seem to be a lesson in early season patience and grain of salt, even keel. I could take a lesson…

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