Warriors 125, Timberwolves 101: Canoe Way to Lose

Before we do anything else, make sure you watch this:

The Wolves entered Wednesday night’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors with a 7-3 record. Ten games is a small sample size, but the Wolves have already had several different kinds of performances this season: hard-fought, close wins (Utah, OKC twice, Miami, New Orleans), blowout victories (Dallas and Charlotte), a tough loss (at San Antonio to open the season) and two blowout losses (against Indiana and Detroit on that Jimmy Butler-less back to back). This turned into the first blowout loss with Jimmy Butler, a 125-101 drubbing at the hands of the defending champions, missing their clear-cut best player (Kevin Durant).

It wasn’t pretty. Even the first half, which the Wolves fought to a one point deficit, failed to inspire confidence. They shot 39% from the floor and 2-of-15 from three. . Andrew Wiggins looked spry and motivated, Gorgui Dieng had an excellent first stint, but their teammates either struggled or disappeared. Jimmy Butler was out of rhythm and unsure of himself from the get-go, and never got it corrected. Karl-Anthony Towns was aggressively doubled, trapped, and denied the ball, and couldn’t break through or make enough plays for teammates. Jeff Teague couldn’t get the offense into a rhythm, nor could Tyus, nor Jamal Crawford.

The Wolves’ first-half defense was encouraging – they got beat by Golden State’s warp-speed pace a time or two, but for the most part, they kept their eyes on the ball and their hands active, picking off transition passes and taking them the other way. The Warriors committed 13 of their 19 turnovers in the first half, leading to 12 Timberwolves’ points. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry needed 19 shots to rack up their 22 combined points, and their team got to the line just twice.

But in the second half, the script was flipped. The Wolves forced just 6 turnovers and committed 8; Golden State scored 23 fastbreak points in the second half to Minnesota’s 2. The Warriors shot 16 free throws. Klay Thompson went berserk, using his screen game with Steph Curry to free him to up to cut around and duck behind defenders for clean looks, which he drained to the tune of 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Steve Kerr’s bench group of Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Omri Casspi added 19 combined points of their own. By the time KAT committed a stupid goaltending violation in an and-1 situation, Golden State was pushing their lead to double digits. Shortly thereafter, it ballooned from 7 to 17 to 25, and the rout was on.

Perhaps most disappointing and concerning was that the Wolves really had no counter-punch. Jimmy Butler was being guarded by Steph Curry for much of the night, but Minnesota never really made Golden State pay for that decision. The Wolves have four quality bigs – Towns, Gibson, Dieng and Bjelica – but couldn’t leverage them in any discernible way. Thibs continues to roll with all-bench units, a decision that genuinely baffles me, as it seems one of Wiggins/Butler/KAT should be on the floor at all times. Then, of course, the starters remained in until there were under three minutes to go and the Wolves were down 25.

It was a new way for this current iteration of the Wolves to lose – Jimmy Butler had managed to will the team into close games or big wins every other time he’d been active this season. He looked terrible tonight, and the rest of the team followed his lead. Hopefully it’s a blip, something easy to fix, like losing your balance in a canoe in a foot of water. It happens. Everyone laughs when it happens to someone else, but it’s annoying if it happens to you.  No real harm is done. of course. But you do end up wet and embarrassed. 

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4 Responsesso far.

  1. Tom says:

    I have to admit that I turned off the game during the third quarter, but should have left at half and went to bed reasonably happy. I am worried that our team is still more interested in testing teams with iso ball then with ball movement and exploiting mismatches that were there tonight. Even Jimmy Butler seemed more interested in fighting through double teams than making the extra pass. Sadly, Wiggins started out so promising, even getting points off an offensive rebound, but in the third he was back to contested twos early in the shot clock. KAT had a poor game offensively, and reverted back to his mishandling double teams. He also needs to stop gunning up threes and work on his low post moves and setting up lower in the box. He could have been a beast last night, but he didn’t fight for position where he could use his baby hooks without dribbling.
    When you play the Ws, you have to run them off the 3 point line, begging them to shoot twos. Stay focused on making them work on defense by passing and hope you get a lead early because they will make a run. With all their early misses and turnovers, we should have led by ten or more, but Teague was content to give it back to them and not make them pay. Not the end of the world, losing last night, but I thought we were ready to give them a scare.

  2. gjk says:

    It’s mostly disappointing to see them lose by so much, especially without having to worry about Durant. They have to find a smarter way to crash the offensive boards while still making sure 3 guys sprint back when a shot goes up; even with this being the Warriors, they can’t continue like this because any disadvantage that leads to early-offense mismatches and trailer 3s will keep this team in the bottom 3rd defensively. It doesn’t help that they seem to try getting their points in the hardest ways possible (little transition except for off of turnovers, post-ups leading to fadeaways, trying to dribble through a set defense) when things aren’t going their way.

  3. pyrrol says:

    I guess you could call this a measuring stick game. I honestly didn’t expect us to win, though Durant missing gave us a bigger ray of hope. However, I did expect us to compete, to make a game of it and we really didn’t. I was hoping for better, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve been [annoyingly] focused on pointing out this team’s flaws for a while. One of their virtues seems to be generally tending to win games they should with more consistency and having a larger catalogue of teams they indeed should beat. But as far as competing with the big boys? We may still have some work to do.

    I continue to be surprised by how uncomfortable Butler still looks here, in a supposedly familiar system. Here’s something embarrassing: When the Wolves were looking for a coach, I was disappointed we got Thibs, in part because I though Van Gundy would be more fun and maybe better. But during the broadcast he said that Thibs runs more offensive sets than anyone in the league. For one, how do you know that? Did you get a legal pad out and watch every team and count every type and variation of offensive set they have so far in the season and add them up and find out the Wolves have 28 and the next closest team has 26? No? Maybe you are full of it then? I’ve been already suffering from Pete Benz fatigue, but I switched to our broadcast after Van Gundy’s little gem. Embarrassing… Our announcers did alright.

    The Wolves ball movement actually looked good again, but the caveat is that good for us is like nap time at kindergarten to a team like the Warriors. So we have to move the ball better and run better sets than we do even at our best to complete against the elites. That said, as soon as we got punched in the mouth, when GS got bored and kicked it into their next gear, we not only didn’t respond with a new gear of our own, we regressed and moved the ball terribly (as well as moved poorly without the ball, didn’t run good sets, didn’t get back on D, turned it over, and took ill advised, overly difficult shots).

    It seems like Casspi didn’t make one of those rainbows when he was a Wolf. As soon as he crosses the MN border, it’s back…

    Gjk rightly points out the dead zone we are currently occupying—we don’t offensive rebound well, but we also don’t get back on D fast enough. From a coaching/player awareness perspective we failed to make GS pay for their constant doubling of Towns. Bulter was often guarded by Curry, weirdly enough, and he didn’t make him pay in the post nor even get in a good hip check. Again, we played starters and Crawford too many minutes. Teague was ineffective and yet he played 34 minutes. Bjelly played only 14 for some reason. Gjk also is smart to point out our inability (or unwillingness?) to take easy and or high efficiency shots. We got murdered at the 3 point line 5-24, to GS’s 15-36. Too many mid range and fades, and as I’ve been saying for a while, no focus on transition and pushing pace. We don’t have to push it all the time, but it is important to know when it is a good idea and to be able to do it.

    There are other problems, including even when we were playing well in the first have we were hardly a compelling thing to watch, but I’m not too bent out of shape over the loss. This is the crème du la crème, and it is obvious, but now clearly defined that we have work to do as a team.

  4. Tom says:

    Bjelly needs to play more, but he also needs to have screens run for him to get more chances, when he is on the floor. With the poor 3pt shooting we have, only giving Bjelly five or less shots a night is counter productive. His shooting will give more lanes for Butler, Wiggins and Teague and they need more room than they are getting.

    Offensive Rebounding is sometimes a result of terrible shooting. Big clanks kick out past the defense, so it isn’t really something you want which is a bad shot, so bad you get it back to take another. An offense like ours that has several ball players that try to get to the rim, it can be hard to get offensive boards, unless you can quick jump and get your own miss or have a height advantage like Taj had against Dallas a couple nights ago, when he got several second chance opportunities.

    The sad thing is the slowness this team recognizes players leaking out and getting behind us is getting to be an every game problem. Being sound on getting back, shouldn’t be a trade off for offensive rebounding. The play that Wiggins made when he scored off an offensive rebound, shouldn’t have kept Butler or Teague from getting back and this problem shouldn’t come from a Thibs run team. He is supposed to be the perfectionist coach, but it seems that his team makes repeating mistakes. We added veterans to provide experience, so these things don’t happen.

    Even though we stayed close to Golden State in the first half, we didn’t play well. Had we played well, with all their turnovers and missed shots, we should have had a nice lead to fall back on when GS made their run in the third. We are still learning, so even without KD, it was an uphill task. It just seems like we always fall back into the same bad habits, instead of believing in the game plan and executing it. Hopefully we will win the next two and stay in first place in the NW division.

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