2017-18 Season

Timberwolves 120, Pelicans 102: The Funky Vultures


Before we do anything else… Behold, point Gorgui:

The opening part of this recap is an appreciation of Gorgui Sy Dieng, born in Kebemer, Senegal in 1990, and whose name means “The old one” in his native Wolof language.The 21st pick in the 2013 Draft, “G” was acquired by the Timberwolves along with Shabazz Muhammad (the 14th pick) in exchange for Trey Burke (the 9th pick), and all he’s done since is prove he is, by leaps and bounds, the best NBA player of the three.

Tonight, Dieng had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals in 36 minutes, his longest burn of the season, occasioned by the Wolves’ comically short bench and foul trouble for Karl-Anthony Towns. He hit shots (8-of-13 from the field), made smart decisions with the basketball, and most importantly, mixed it up with DeMarcus Cousins without backing down. He earned himself a flagrant-1 early in the third, which kicked off an entertaining stretch of the two big men pushing, pulling, and exaggerating one another’s contact. The bumped, they shoved, they jawed a bit, they laughed at one another, that sardonic kind of laugh reserved for a worthy opponent whose firmly on your nerves. This is Gorgui’s fifth season in Minnesota, but he’s acquired our passive-aggression, or at the very least, he knows how to turn it on when he needs it. But he maintained his cool (the flagrant-1 was, in my opinion, a bit of a stretch) and managed to guard Boogie effectively enough without getting himself into foul trouble.

Someone who didn’t keep his cool was Anthony Davis, who was tossed in the second quarter when he lost his mind:

That was, undoubtedly, a major turning point in the game; the Wolves outscored the Pelicans 16-6 to close the half after the Brow was ejected. New Orleans appeared ready to turn the game into a laugher early on, when the Wolves came out with no energy and the well-rested Pelicans smartly pushed the pace aggressively. But Minnesota weathered the storm and hurried back into it, thanks in large part to Gorgui, as well as Tyus Jones.

Behold, Tyus Jones, NBA-rotation point guard:

This part of the recap is an appreciation of Tyus Robert Jones, born in Burnsville, Minnesota in 1996 and whose name means “One of us” in the Fargo dialect of English that’s spoken in these parts. The 24th pick in the 2015 Draft, Tyus was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the 31st pick (Cedi Osman, who is a long-term developmental project) and the 36th pick (Rakeem Christmas, who now plays in Turkey). It can be argued that Jones has the brightest future of the three.

Tonight, Jones had 16 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals in 41 minutes, his fourth consecutive outing as the Wolves’ primary point guard, occasioned by the Achilles injury to Jeff Teague. In the past four games, Tyus is averaging 13 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 4.0 steals. He has played 152:40 of game time, officially, and turned the ball over 4 times. Read that again. He’s shooting 53% from the floor, 47% from three, and the team outscores its opponents by 17.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. Against New Orleans, he did what we’ve become accustomed to watching him do: he ran the offense smoothly and efficiently, knocked down opportunistic shots, and displayed active hands to force live-ball turnovers. He’s been anchoring a wobbly bench unit all season, and performing admirably; the past four games are a glimpse at what he can do with quality NBA teammates. Granted, his burden his lighter with the likes of Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and even Jamal Crawford (who handles the ball quite a bit when the two share the floor) around, but it’s clear that he belongs in an NBA rotation in some capacity, and likely will for the next decade or more. He doesn’t turn 22 until May.

Tyus and Gorgui are probably the two easiest players on the team to root for, in my view. They made the most of their opportunity on Wednesday night, on the second half of a back-to-back against a well-rested team (the Pelicans hadn’t played since Saturday. Despite Tyus’ recent brilliance, the Wolves are still just 2-2 in their past four; and despite Gorgui’s outstanding night, he’s still struggled to adjust well to his reduced role. Seems to suggest that two players are not, in fact, the entire story. So here are a few tidbits about the other guys:

  • Andrew Wiggins had 28 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He was particularly good, playing quality defense and confidently firing away on his perimeter looks (making 3-of-6) when they came.
  • Taj was Taj, Taj is good, Taj is always in the right place at the right time, Taj stays in his lane on offense, Taj seems to be able to finish around the hoop with either hand, death, taxes, and Taj giving solid minutes.
  • KAT struggled against the Pelicans once again, scoring 11 points and turning the ball over 6 times in 20 minutes. He has a tough time hanging against New Orleans’ deep front line. He’s definitely not the only big to struggle with that, but it’ll be interesting to watch that in future matchups.
  • Aaron Brooks played 7 minutes and managed to be a plus-1 during that time. Even with tonight’s performance, he still shows a negative -39.7 Net Rating over the Wolves’ past 4 games.
  • Bazz was a DNP. And at this point, I’d be more interested to see how Marcus Georges-Hunt performs with a couple of weeks in the wing rotation in his place. Poor Bazz. It’s just not working out.
  • Jameer Nelson might be the Pelicans’ fourth-best player. I cannot describe to you how sad it makes me that Jameer Nelson is Anthony Davis’ third-best teammate. Anthony Davis deserves better than this. What a weird roster.
  • Minnesota grabbed 44 rebounds. New Orleans grabbed just 28. Huge difference on the glass.
  • The Wolves shot just 23 threes, compared to 35 for New Orleans, but who cares, they won, let’s call it a night, shall we? I leave you with a Smiling Thibs:

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6 thoughts on “Timberwolves 120, Pelicans 102: The Funky Vultures

  1. I didn’t watch tonight, but man it’s nice to see Dieng and Tyus getting minutes and playing well. I hope Thibs inserts the bench with our starters and not have 2 separate units. It’ll build better team chemistry and we won’t blow leads or dig ourselves a hole when the entire starting lineup goes out. Dieng, Jones, Belly, and Crawford should be getting 20 minutes a night for sure WITH our starting guys.

    We did get lucky that Davis went out in this game though. We probably would’ve lost if he had stayed in. But it’s nice that when he went out, we blew them out and didn’t blow a lead.

    1. The starters and bench are already mixed due to Towns leaving at the halfway point of the 1st/3rd quarter and Butler and Gibson often leaving around the 3-minute mark. They could stagger more, but they already stagger some.

      1. They’re not staggered effectively. I think I’ve yet to see a lineup of Tyus, Towns, Wiggins, Belly, and Butler. Talk about spacing the floor. That would be a great lineup.

        I’d love to see that lineup and then Teague and Gibson in the 2nd unit more. I think having Teague as the primary ball handler instead of Crawford will get Crawford more open looks for 3.

        Thibs is incompetent at analyzing his players strengths and utilizing them in the best way possible. And he’s very stubborn in his ways and it shows. There are some easy moves he can make that make our team even more dangerous on offense.

        Clearly there’s a disconnect defensively that has to get figured out. I can’t even watch games because our D is so bad and our offense looks prehistoric.

        We need a new coach. Plain and simple.

  2. I think this is a bullet point game…

    -What is under the Brow’s (R) skin!? Whoa. That wasn’t like fake restrain me for drama, that was like, his teammates saved that ref’s butt restraint. Is he getting sick of being on, as William politely puts it, ‘weird’ rosters? Or is something tough going on in his life? It was odd.

    -I always find myself going in this direction after break out performances like Gorgui’s tonight; did Thibs note it (of course) and will he do anything different going forward? KAT is in many ways our most reliable offensive threat, and Gibson is in the right place as much as two normal NBA players. Still, we need more bench minutes, and Gorgui is a great place to start. He can do that ^ and he is durable. Will this game convince Thibs to give him more minutes? Probably not. Outside stimulus rarely penetrates Thibs’ decision making.

    -Lost in Tyus’ inability to fully match Teague’s scoring and assist numbers is the fact that the offense looks way better run under Tyus. I’m sure there’s advanced stats out there somewhere that show just how much better, but it is sufficient to say that it’s pretty obvious. I feel great for Tyus. He could be a starter in this league someday. That’s really cool. In the mean time, it doesn’t bode well for us. It shows how ineffective Teague has been at running even basic elements of an NBA offense here (after how many years in the league?). Thibs will never bench Teague with him healthy, on quality of play. In fact he might not even up Tyus’ minutes and time with starters when Teague comes back even though we need to cut down on starter minutes. So it’s fun now, but it just highlights a major problem that won’t be addressed going forward.

    -Crawford takes some bad shots. Yup, I said it.

    -I hate the nickname J Crossover, too. I said that.

    -Not that he didn’t play well in this one, overall.

    -Hey I’d be very interested to see Georges-Hunt. It might just be a case of always wanting to see what is around the next corner, even if it is known bench fodder. Either way (Shabazz or someone else) we need someone taking those minutes to be an actual team by the end of the regular season.

    -This game was ideal Wiggins. Give me that every game and I’m very happy. He’s trending toward less ‘bright shiny object’ and headed to more, ‘does useful stuff within himself.’ One can argue whether that’s worth max money (I don’t think it is) but I find it more helpful toward winning, more sustainable, and more fun to watch than what we’ve seen in previous seasons. He had an unusually hot shooting hand in this one.

    -KAT didn’t exactly get beat down by this tandem again. At moments he looked very effective, but just got into foul trouble. I wasn’t upset by the officiating in this one but it was a bit… odd.

    -There’s a bit of that going around: Grab the best talent you can pull out of the league to be on your team regardless of position, need or redundancy. Examples include Melo and George [with Westbrook] in OKC, Paul [with Harden] in Houston and of course Boogie ‘n’ the Brow (R). Overall, it’s not working out so well. Paul has been out and decidedly not needed on a hot Houston team. Seems like a waste of a buttload of money. Worse, OKC just doesn’t look that good, and obviously NO is not a balanced roster. They started two ball hungry star Bigs (at least one is clearly a C and one a PF) a guy with no skills definitive enough to assign a position to and two PGs. And yet their bench PG, Nelson, played 26 minutes, too. It’s just kind of fascinating in it’s haphazardness. We do have our own issues in this regard, but this team provides some levity and makes me feel less bad about our roster construction issues.

  3. I wouldn’t say Kat struggle against their bigs yesterday , 4 out of his 5 fouls were offensive fouls, 3 charges driving to the hoop and one ilegal screen reason of his turnovers as well.. Was I watching other game? , I think New Orleans makes that a focus to get him in foul trouble however they can many occasions it is flopping

  4. I just hope KAT learns from playing against bigs like Boogie and Brow. They are going to get into his head because they think they can. KAT shouldn’t care, when we win. Bird never cared if he scored less, if the Celtics won. Same with Magic. All that should matter to KAT is the W, since the Pels couldn’t stop Taj and G had a good night. When he gets a couple years older, KAT should be able to take these games and use them as fuel to return the favor, within the context of the team. Wiggins will also have those kind of nights with Kawhi, and Paul George and as long as they learn from playing these guys, it is part of the learning process in the NBA.

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