The Timberwolves played the second night of a home-away back-to-back in Memphis Monday night after defeating the beleaguered Los Angeles Clippers in Minneapolis Sunday evening thanks to Jimmy Butler’s 4th quarter heroics. On Monday in Memphis, the Wolves lost to a beleaguered Grizzlies team that is in tatters.
What happened (in Memphis)
The Timberwolves played down to the level of a team they should’ve defeated. This ain’t your five-year old niece’s grit & grind Grizz. It’s a worse version, with zero continuity. And it defeated a hapless Wolves team that, save Jimmy Butler, did not “effort” this game to a professional standard.
Yes, the Wolves were on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. But the Grizzlies team that defeated the Wolves is reeling. Before beating the Wolves Monday, the Grizz had lost 11 games in a row. Their best player, point guard Mike Conley, is sidelined due to injuries, as is another key player, Chandler Parsons. The Grizz are currently rocking a rock solid–and currently Kevin-Love-skinny–center in Marc Gasol, the ghost of former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans, and not much else. Z-Bo isn’t ambling through that door. Nor is Tony Allen.
Promising coach David Fizdale was recently fired by Memphis amid player and front office drama. Former Gopher star, JB Bickerstaff, who was fired by the Houston Rockets before they took off under Mike D’Antoni, replaced Fizdale as the Memphis coach. I haven’t done any scientific polling [dials up @PDWolves Twitter machine], but suffice it to say that few see Bickerstaff’s star rising at the rate Fizdale’s was last season, before calamity struck Memphis.
Butler or bust?
Jimmy Butler was the saving grace last night against the Clippers. Jimmy took over in the fourth quarter and helped wrest victory from the clutches of defeat. Monday in Memphis, Butler was again the brightest spot for a Wolves team for which there were few others. He had 30/11/5/4. He was the Jimmy we knew we were getting when we traded LaVine, Dunn and the #7 for him and the #16 on draft night.
It still wasn’t enough. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, lauded as offensive heroes and maligned as defensive villains (pejorative use), didn’t come to play: Towns only scored 7 points on 2-6 from the floor; Wiggins had 12 on 6-17. Both floated a lot.
The bench was also bad. Thibs again stuck to an 8-man rotation, with Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, and Jamal Crawford each getting 20-or-fewer minutes. Gorgui was workmanlike, as usual. Tyus, and especially Crawford, were net-negatives on the night. Neither scored or assisted well. Although it’s possible to argue that they’d play better with more minutes, the eye test, tonight, indicated to this writer that Thibs could’ve-should’ve-would’ve played them even less had he had any more depth with which to backfill these spots.
This is more of an indictment of their poor play tonight than overall, but I’m only commenting on tonight, not overall, so bear with me. Neither Crawford nor Jones is exactly a lockdown defender, and when neither offers scoring (Crawford) or passing (Jones) in his bursts of playing time, neither will be effective. Tyus was obviously playing more effective when he was starting in the injured Jeff Teague’s absence, but he is hit and miss in finding a rhythm in limited minutes off the bench. Tonight was a miss. Crawford’s 37-year-old legs might not be as effective on the tail end of back-to-backs as they used to be. Both are things to look at as the season progresses.
I’m not going to dwell on the minutiae of the close loss. We’ve seen it all before. Next up for the Wolves is the Clippers on Wednesday in LA at 10:30 Eastern.
LEAGUEWIDE UPDATE: In the course of watching MIN @ MEM, Twitter exploded and I got momentarily distracted when Lance Stephenson did cool stuff. Love it.
This may be the Lance-iest play of the season so far. pic.twitter.com/wToHU4BZKN
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 5, 2017
Finally, Memphis is a music town. After a disappointing victory, I’d be remiss not to share a tune for the road.