Game Analysis, Uncategorized

Timberwolves 128, Nuggets 125: All Jimmy, All the (Over) Time

[eds note: Both Patrick J & Andy G were in attendance tonight, and this is a co-authored game wrap]

Well, I guess we had better begin with Jimmy.

As so often seems to be the case with this year’s Timberwolves, they won tonight — the 22nd time that’s happened this season that’s just 35 games old — and they won because of Jimmy Butler. In a roller coaster of a game that saw a big Wolves lead built and destroyed, Jimmy took over in overtime. He scored 12 of the team’s 14 points in the extra period, demanding the rock in traditional Thibs “hero ball” sets and making play after play after play.

Things were looking pretty rough in the early part of overtime. Karl-Anthony Towns had fouled out of the game. Ditto Taj Gibson. Most unfortunately, Jeff Teague had left the game with what appeared to be a serious left knee injury. (According to Thibs, he’ll get an MRI and then we’ll know more.) The Wolves were down by 3 points after blowing a huge lead in regulation and a loss seemed almost inevitable.

From that point forward, here are the possessions:

  • Butler draws three-point shooting foul on Gary Harris, makes 2 of the 3 free throws, cuts Nuggets lead to 1.
  • After a scramble sequence that almost involved a turnover, Jamal Murray dishes to Jokic for an uncontested dunk. Murray then runs by the Wolves bench yelling celebratory trash talk stuff. (More on this in a moment.)
  • More Jimmy. Gorgui sets a ball screen, he doesn’t like what he sees, pulls it back. Calls for one more screen, this time Jokic dropped way back, so Jimmy pulled the J. Three points. Tie game.
  • Denver had nice ball movement leading to another Lyles dunk. Back up 2.
  • Jimmy uses another Gorgui screen to attack the teeth of the defense, draws a foul at the cup, makes both free throws. Tie game.
  • Jokic misses a corner three, Jimmy corrals the rebound. Wolves ball, tie game.
  • Gorgui comes to set another ball screen for Jimmy, this time he fakes and goes left. He takes Murray to the elbow and pulls up. 2 more points. He had something to say after this one.

  • Down by 2, Jokic drew a foul on Wiggins and made both free throws. Tie game again. One minutes to go.
  • Coming out of the timeout, another Jimmy shots was expected.

  • Not this time! With Denver committing a double to Jimmy moving to the right side of the floor, he waited until the 2-on-3 zone to his left committed itself to Gorgui by the rim and whipped the ball to Jamal Crawford, who was open on the opposite wing. Crawford took one dribble in and buried the 17 footer to regain the 2-point lead.
  • Murray misses a 3 that would’ve taken the lead, Butler again corrals the board.
  • Up by 2 with too much clock remaining to just dribble it out and wait for a foul, Butler drives the middle of the lane and draws (a highly questionable) blocking foul. In a rare screw-up, Butler only makes 1 of 2; he Derricks them.
  • Down by 3, Lyles heaves a lean-in trey (pun intended, I guess) and misses.
  • Butler allows “M-V-P” chants to shower him from the Target Center crowd.

Anyway, that was the Winning Time portion of the game. “Jimmy,” basically. I could dig up Thibs quotes, but it was a bunch of stuff we’ve already heard about everything he’s done, and he’s been doing in this league for a long time. He ended with this parting shot:

Other stuff happened in this game. The Jimmy Chapter was only like 3.5 out of 53 minutes, after all. (Though he did have 39 points, so he was obviously #DoingStuff throughout the whole show.) Here’s a bunch of other things that happened/were observed:

  • Jeff Teague injured his left knee. I said this already, but I’m leading off the non-Jimmy list because it looked bad, he’s the starting point guard, and if he tore his ACL it’s a season game-changer. While Teague’s fit on this year’s team is an ongoing source of discussion, he’s unquestionably a key player and if he’s injured they’ll need to trade for somebody; not necessarily a starter, but at least a reliable backup to replace the ostensible “next guy up,” Aaron Brooks.
  • The Wolves ball movement and three-point shooting in the first half was on point. They scored 71 points!
  • The Wolves ball movement in the second half was garbage. Sometimes it seems tied to their defensive performance.
  • Taj Gibson: scored 19 and was a possible game MVP until Jimmy struck #ftw
  • Taj and KAT fouled out (possibly the first time this season we’ve had both bigs foul out/in foul trouble?)
  • KAT vs Jokic could be the billing for a prizefight between two of the league’s best young bigs, but it never really materialized. The two bigs rarely matched up directly. For much of the game, Gibson guarded Jokic and Mason Plumlee guarded Towns. Towns played a strong all-around first half and didn’t do a whole lot in the second before his foul-out.
  • In his second game back from injury, Nemanja Bjelica played 10 minutes and didn’t make an impact. He scored one point and looked gassed when he was on the floor.
  • Denver’s bench gave them a lot. Will Barton was extremely effective off the bench for Denver. Barton scored 28 points in 34 minutes on 10-17 from the field (4-8 from downtown). And Trey Lyles, was also a problem for the Wolves all night. Lyles found seams in the Wolves interior defense for easy buckets and also shot 4-8 on three pointers, ending the game with 23 points in 31 minutes. It must feel good to have a high-quality bench.
  • Thibs was doing offense/defense subs at the end of the game, putting Marcus Georges-Hunt in for D and Tyus in for offense.
  • Wig had 21 points, but more importantly was 5-8 from three-point range. If that continues, look out. He was also 2-5 from the foul line. For some reason that isn’t getting better.

With the win, the Wolves improve to 22-13 and extend their ongoing winning streak to five games. Next up are the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow night, in The Good Land.

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4 thoughts on “Timberwolves 128, Nuggets 125: All Jimmy, All the (Over) Time

  1. Jimmy was a god tonight when we needed him, but this was a game that the wolves, including Mr Butler, let get too close because they didn’t play smart basketball in the late third and fourth Quarters. KAT has to know better than to get four stupid fouls on top of two suspect calls. Taj needs to keep his cool when playing the Joker (I thought Nurkic was cheap shot artist of those Two). And lastly, the team did so well running the Nuggets off the arc until the third Quarter and then it was like they didn’t want to keep working. If they had kept it up for a couple more minutes, they could have won in regulation.

    Andrew played great and Teague was good, but not as great as Petey and Benz made him out to be. I hope he just twisted his knee and misses only the Milwaukee game. Just because I think he may be getting his act together and Brooks isn’t going to be much help. We could have used Belly hitting a few shots tonight. I’m still hoping we can trade him for a reliable player.

    Beating solid teams any way is a good win. I hope Butler brings his Superman cape to Milwaukee tomorrow and KAT can stay in the game and Andrew stays warm from outside. Should be another close one.

  2. Jimmy was unbelievable tonight. He may not be an MVP in terms of stats. But he’s neck and neck with Lebron on who’s most important to their team.

    I thought the refs made some egregious calls down the stretch that affected the game. KAT was called for a bogus 6th foul. Wiggins was called for a foul when he had his hands straight up with a few seconds left in regulation. And then Taj was called for a 6th foul even though it was clear as day that Jokic was grabbing his arm. Horrible officiating tonight down the stretch.

    Our defense is so bad. Putrid. The Nuggets had an open shot on 90% of their possessions. Especially down the stretch in regulation and most of OT. It’s hard to watch. They know how to move the ball when they’re double teamed. It zipped around and someone was open for a 3. It is the complete opposite case with us which is infuriating.

    I hope the Teague injury isn’t too serious. It looked bad.

    Glad we got the win. We’re going to be a tired team tomorrow with a tough game against Milwaukee. It’ll be interesting to see how this team does against some actual quality teams. The last good team we faced was the PIstons I think and they beat us.

  3. Really fun game. I’m always looking at the big picture (playoffs), so I believe other players should start stepping up and help Jimmy if we want to win a 7-game series in April. Jimmy cannot do everything by himself. Andrew played well tonight, but I really wish he was more assertive during the last 3 minutes of regulation and OT. He was basically hiding, and didn’t ask for the ball. Just compare how Andrew and Jamal reacted when Jimmy got doubled with a minute to play. Jamal made an aggressive move from the other side asking for the ball. In contrast, Andrew did not participate in the play at all. However, I really like the way he defended in the last play. Anyway, off to the next game. Hope Teague is alright.

  4. Do you smell incense?

    First off, Jimmy is the consummate pro. He just knows how to do what needs to be done as an NBA player. It’s extremely valuable to have that on you team, obviously. Thibs says, “He’s changed our culture.” But has he? If he’s out are we going to look like this? Are we going to be tough? Is someone going to step into the hero role and do it as well as Jimmy does it? I don’t think so. I think he’s had an impact on our culture just by being who he is in the lockerroom and getting us so we are used to winning. But we are pulling off so many of these games because of his personal, unique abilities, not due to a culture change.

    That said, the Jimmy sycophantic praise from Pete and Benz is already cloying. Jimmy is the kind of player I’d hate if we were playing against him. And more than simply because ‘he’s good’ or ‘we lost because of him’. Granted we faced our share of questionable calls in this one, but Jimmy took 18 free throws for 16 points. I like aggressive players, and aggression is hugely rewarded in the NBA, but man that’s a lot. The next closest player was Jokic, with 12 taken. Jimmy drives to the hoop fairly often with the intent of only getting to the foul line. He’ll chuck up a prayer circus shot, but the point isn’t that it has much chance of going in on some of those drives. It’s Hardenesque. For me, it’s hardly a thrill a minute even if it’s someone on my team doing that. I feel sheepish. And bored. And in all honesty, I wouldn’t cheer very hard for Butler if he was on any other team. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I’m just not a fan of that. Drawing fouls is part of the game and a lot of Wolves I like, from KG to Rubio did it a lot. But there are limits. (To be fair, this doesn’t seem to be one of his focuses in some games, but it feels like it’s happening more).

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I like about Jimmy. His effort, and smarts, lately he’s more comfortable here and has not been as ugly, even showing some razzle dazzle. Obviously he’s a winner who will do a lot more than most players to get a win. So there are reasons to like him. But let’s just say that I hope Towns will develop into a Butler level player as he’d be a much more fun and interesting version of an alpha player to cheer for.

    I felt really bad seeing Teague go down. It didn’t look good, but he’s a tough guy. I’ve been open about not really liking Teague that much, but he’s a highly competent player and we don’t want him to go down. If he’s out for a while, the silver lining is that we really get to see what Tyus can do with minutes and starters. That will be interesting. It is easily within the realm of possibility that Tyus will be markedly better in the starting role than Teague or even just as good. That’s not so much the worry… You need 2 decent PGs and with Teague out we are down to one (who isn’t used to huge minutes). That’s a worry. We will likely need to go out and get someone better than Brooks if this is a long term thing.

    When this game started it was like the Wolves got the memo—we were moving the ball extremely well, getting really good looks and even playing with a bit more pace. Then we stopped doing those good things and needed heroics to win. We have not shown the ability to play the right way on either side of the ball for a whole game yet. In this respect, it is remarkable that we are 22-13. This basically shows our much extended margin or error, due to talent and vet leadership upgrades, mixed with a highly favorable schedule. I’ve been checking in with the mess over in Utah, and one thing I will say about that disappointment (other than it is a work in long term progress) is that they’ve had a crazy hard schedule. It makes our year so far look like a cakewalk. And it never seems to let up for them. Yesterday they played Denver (we got tired Denver today) and then they played GS tonight. I think the NBA needs to get the schedules a bit more even. In a way it isn’t a favor to us—we will get dumped on and by then maybe not have time to make adjustments we let ride due to easy wins for half a season. It gives us a false sense of security.

    In the tale of two halves, we also got to see a period of lights out team three point shooting. It was crazy. How unusual it felt seems to be a red flag, but it was fun. Jim Pete yaked about how people in the Wolves know shouldn’t complain about Towns shooting 3’s. But the point isn’t that he’s shooting threes, it’s that he’s spending too much time on the perimeter. Even though he didn’t take that many 3’s he spent too much time on the perimeter in this one, too. Good things happened when he was down low–not just scoring, but put backs, second chance rebounds, and better floor spreading. At times we have no player near the paint, with all five dotted around the perimeter. Odd for a team that kinda sucks at shooting 3’s. So, Towns scoring in the post good, Towns hitting 3’s good, but he needs to spend the majority of his time on offense down close to the basket.

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