2017-18 Season

Timberwolves 97, Mavericks 92: Vexing, Perplexing, Nevertheless Victorious


This is my fifth season writing in this space, and I’ve noticed something… every year, there comes a point where I start to write a recap and think, “I can’t write it this way, I’ve written one just like it already. I just wrote this last week. This is a loop. I’m a broken record. People will laugh at me. They’ll just say I’m repeating myself.” I’ll sit at my computer, staring at a blank, white screen, in sheer horror that I’m unable to come up with anything new to say. So, screw it. Year 5 is the year I just push through it.

Here I am, again, saying, the Minnesota Timberwolves won because they are more talented than the other team (in this case, the Dallas Mavericks). Much, much more talented. They won despite the litany of problematic facts I’m about to rattle off… They won despite committing 18 turnovers, assisting on just 18 of their 36 buckets, and giving up 12 more three-point attempts than they tried themselves. The Wolves were out of sync and lethargic, despite having the previous three days off, and could never put the foot on the gas and pull away (there were 21 lead changes, and Minnesota’s largest lead was 6 points). They won despite allowing some wide open shots when it mattered most; in the final four minutes, Dallas got excellent looks at corner threes that rimmed out, and on the Mavericks’ penultimate possession, Wes Matthews easily juked Karl-Anthony Towns for a very clean attempt that just couldn’t find the bottom of the net.

They won despite this call going against them:

They won despite the fact that Andrew Wiggins (6-3-1 on 1-of-9 shooting through three quarters) was invisible until Rick Carlisle sent six-foot-zero, one hundred and eighty pound Kevin Duane “Yogi” Ferrell to guard him, one-on-one in crunch time. (Rick. Babe. What were you thinking there, man?)

They won despite Towns tweaking his knee and briefly exiting the game after diving for a loose ball.

They won because Towns still put up a 28-12-3 line, with 3 steals to boot.

They won because they dominated in second chance points (20-to-8) and at the free throw line (23 attempts for the Wolves, just 9 for the Mavs).

And they won because they employ Jimmy Butler. 22 points, 7 boards, 5 assists, 10 of those points coming in the final period, six bailing the Wolves out after a shitty possession where everyone stood around and watched Jimmy dribble. The final of the three buckets, a turnaround j with 1:46 to go, wrestled the lead back from Dallas for good.

It’s an odd thing, having the Wolves be the talented team that wins games because they’ve got an All-NBA caliber player who can close things out. Watching J.J. Barea do his thing for the Mavericks tonight (and my god, did he do his thing – flops, arguments, 16 points in a sparkplug role off the bench, it was the full experience) made me think back on when it was Jub Jub getting those end-of-quarter shots, and making decisions in crunch time for the Wolves. How far we’ve come, right?

The Wolves are now 16-11, which is a 48.5 win pace, almost exactly one-third of the way through the season. Based on how things have gone so far, I think “vexing” and “perplexing” and “nevertheless, victorious” will be the tagline for most of the team’s games against inferior competition. I look forward to writing all of this again, very soon.

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10 thoughts on “Timberwolves 97, Mavericks 92: Vexing, Perplexing, Nevertheless Victorious

  1. Haha, William, I think a lot of fans and commenters feel the way you do, the deja vu thing. I know I do. Specifically, we are a winning team and I yet I feel compelled to complain after ever game, about the same things over and over. I feel like a curmudgeon. I feel ungrateful. But doggone it if the negatives of this team don’t stick out nightly more than the positives. As a fan trying not to be an obnoxious promoter of only the entertainment aspect of basketball, I try to look at it from a strategic, winning perspective. But the joyless, backward fashion in when we play isn’t all that fun for fans and that colors my mood even when that joyless, backward basketball leads to coveted wins.

    Great moments in Jim Petery: OK, the buzz is too strong. Pete and Benz had to have a talk about minutes. In doing so Jim said minutes in the NBA aren’t like concussion protocol or pitch counts. (Inset stunned confused face) He also started out the discussion saying not established teams like the Wolves cannot afford to rest starters like the Spurs. Uhh, no one is proposing sitting starters for ‘rest games’. This is a discussion of minutes, specifically, how we are a giant outlier in huge starter minutes in the league (I saw a cool graph the other day on the twitter. Wow.) Again, no one is treating this concept like concussion protocol or pitch counts, either. However, we’ve been over this before; there are a litany of reasons to not play your starters this many minutes, and the fact that no one else in the league comes close whatsoever kinda says it all. As the conversation wore on, it became clear Pete does have a problem with the minutes but for some stubborn reason didn’t want to admit it. Weird.

    As for this game… Towns looked good. He really does seem to be trying harder on D. At halftime when Marnie interviewed him, he seemed gassed and when when she asked a 2nd non-defense related question, Towns kind of instinctively went back underlining the need for strong D. KAT tends to speak in platitudes and say what he thinks people want to hear, but this felt like an instinctive, off the cuff moment. This is what I like to see. Towns hammering on O, us not going away from him, and him working hard on his D.

    Really, Towns was the lone bright spot. Butler did his thing, but on some level a 22-8-5 game from him isn’t that fun. It is effective, but only in a ‘beating the Mavs’ sort of way… I can say pretty certainly at this point that I do not enjoy watching Jimmy play as much as I expected to. Can’t explain it. Effort guys that sort of hack out ways to help their team might not sound that fun to watch, but if Rubio was any indication, they sure can be. Butler is certainly and effort guy, and a guy who hacks out whatever way and even when he’s very effective for the team, I don’t enjoy watching him much. It’s like a one or two play a night kinda thing. I don’t anticipate the wonders of watching Jimmy Butler. Teague was yucky. Wiggins was yucky. I miss Lavine.

    Am I seeing a mirage or are we seeing a slightest of slight concession by Thibs on the minutes thing? In this game Gorgui played 23 and Gibson 33. Lest we get any actual excitement, Tyus played 12 minutes and we went with the 3 player bench yet again. Next up, the Clippers again, but DeAndre Jordan is out! Just kidding. That’s just how our schedule feels right now. We have another relatively easy 5 game home stand coming before things start getting any tougher. I mean, barely scraping by the Mavericks (without Dennis Smith Jr. and starting guys like Yogi Ferrel and Maxi Kleber) while being terrible to watch isn’t encouraging.

    1. I might be in the minority, but I mostly agree with what Jim Pete said last night on the minutes issue. None of the players are clamoring for fewer minutes. And I don’t know any players, or former players, at almost any level, who want to be taken out of the game. I get the risk of the high-dosage minutes our starters are playing, but I’m with Thibs on this–at least for now. The Wolves are currently 8th in the NBA and 4th in the Western Conference. The games can be ugly–I get and appreciate that. And I respect your adoption of a longer, more strategic view. But I’d like to table the minutes discussion until the end of the month or the middle of January, and then take stock of where we stand, and then have a discussion about what course of action will be the most productive for the rest of this season and/or subsequent ones. I don’t think we’re really ready for that yet, and we can’t press fast-forward to see where this drama is going to lead.

      1. Of course a player isn’t going to ask for fewer minutes. They’re always going to want to play. But it’s up to the coach to look at the long term strategy. Thibs doesn’t do that and that’s an inexcusable error/way to look at coaching. Someone said on here once that Thibs looks at the season like 82 sprints instead of a marathon. I couldn’t agree more with that. Thibs needs to take a page out of any good coach’s book on how to play starters more efficiently and incorporate the bench. Kerr, Popovich are all coaches who give their bench guys time because they want to develop them and be able to rely on them as well as give their guys a break. Look at the Spurs right now. They almost beat the Thunder missing Aldrige, Ginobli, Leonard, Parker, and I think Gasol barely played that game. All those guys are nobody’s but Pop gives his guys a break and wants to develop his bench players and young guys to rely on them more. Our situation is different than that and I’m not saying we should rest all of our guys because we physically can’t. But incorporate your bench more. It’s not that complex or hard.

        For Thibs, if that player doesn’t play well right away, they ride the bench. Players need game time to get better. They need to be allowed to make mistakes and work through them. It’s the opposite for Thibs. You do one little thing he doesn’t like or wrong, and you’re on the bench. It’s horrendous coaching and we have guys that we can rely on, but he just doesn’t want to play them and it makes no sense.

        You say let’s wait until we’re in January but we already know where we’ll be this season based on Thibs past and his unwillingness to change the way he does things. We don’t have to press forward on the season. We all can see where it’s headed. We know who Thibs is and how he coaches. We’re not going to change so it’s pointless to wait it out and have something potentially bad happen. We’ll be in the exact same spot if not a little worse once our schedule gets harder. I listed some coaches below that I would like to see take over. Some probably wouldn’t happen until after this season but I don’t care if an assistant takes over for the rest of the year. Get Thibs out of here forever.

      2. As they say on Reading Rainbow, You don’t have to take my word for it. No other team in the league this season is close to our starter minutes average. I think the last time a team was at these levels for starter minutes was maybe around 10 years ago. This is extremely unusual, if nothing else. Almost as strange is playing 8 man rotations nightly even with only one bench player (and one roster player overall) being injured. Whatever way you want to interpret this trend, it is highly unusual. I think that’s why people can’t stop talking about it.

  2. It is a joyless event to see the wolves barely beat a team as beat up as the Mavs or Clips. You focus on KAT and his renewed inside game, Butler’s ability to score key buckets and Crawford and Taj playing like veterans should. You could even look at G and his steal and dunk and smile. However this team seems like it works against itself a lot of nights. Two guys in the same corner (Butler nailed the three thankfully) Yogi guarding Wiggins and only running two plays for Andrew. KAT eating up his Mav defender in the first half and then being ignored for a quarter. These things make you question if it is by design or if these guys are forced to play with each other when they would rather not. Teague looks like he would rather dribble out the shot clock than pass the ball. His assists are rarely ones that provide a dunk or a wide open shot.

    Then there are the things that make you get upset. Thibs waste of a TO night after night, when his team is gassed or last night when KAT was hobbling around on the floor and instead of calling a TO he would lose 15 seconds later, he plays on and Teague has to use his fifth foul to stop the clock, so G could come in. He then calls a Timeout at 2:00 minute mark, leaving him with one for the stretch run. He keeps Wiggins in the game, when Dallas has to foul (hack a Wiggins anyone?). These are the moments when you wish you had turned and watched Sunday Night Football or Its a Wonderful life for the countless time.

    The sad thing is that Target center is a great venue when the team gets on a roll. The fans create a fabulous atmosphere, when they are rewarded with team effort and some highlights. I thought we would have had a lot of that with this team. Wins we get. Fun, not so much.

  3. Same old, same old. Fire Thibs and this blog gets a lot more positive and Wolves get a lot better.

    Does Glen Taylor see what kind of basketball this team plays and how we’re coached? It seems to me the public wants Thibs gone. He’s got to be feeling some of that heat. This is a game I wish we would’ve lost so Thibs would get fired quicker.

  4. So IF Glen Taylor decided his team needed a fresh coaching change, who would you get? I’m not interested in a Van Gundy or another guy that has been through countless opportunities (Randy Whitman, Monty Williams, Alvin Gentry types.) I also don’t want a college coach, even though Boston got a great one from there. Most of them are more like Freddy Hoiberg. I would love to get someone who knows good defense, but is capable of seeing the new NBA with lots of three point shooting and movement. A guy like David Fisdale, or possibly a former player like Sam Cassell or Andre Miller. Personally, I like everything Pop and Buford do, so I would grab either Ime Udoka or Ettore Messina. Not only do you get a coach from a great coaching tree, but you also take a great assistant from a competitor for playoff position. Love to hear what others think

    1. These are in preferred order

      – Mike Budenholzer, who’s probably going to be fired after this year with the Hawks. Pop guy who Teague knows and has experience with. That might be the best fit.

      – Messina

      – Fisdale

      – Mike Brown

      1. I would rather not have Mike Brown. I like the other 3 in your list.

        I am a fan of Igor Kokoskov, Jazz are moving along better than anyone expected after losing their star, and even with losing Gobert to injury. Before he was with the Jazz he was with the Pistons during their playoff runs, and that teams make up seems to be a good comp the to current wolves.

  5. Yes, I agree with everything you, and the commenters, are saying. In a way, I see the current situation as positive, because some of the negatives, such as horrendous transition defense and poor ball movement/offensive breakdowns are so obvious that one has to believe they can be corrected. On the negative side, if they don’t correct these things, and soon, they will plummet off a cliff as soon as their schedule becomes less favorable.

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