Before we do anything else, make sure you watch this:
jimmy butler falling out of a canoe into one foot of water is better than i could have ever imagined pic.twitter.com/sKgQSU0uHW
— Whitney Medworth (@its_whitney) November 8, 2017
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.