2017-18 Season

Wolves 113, Clippers 107: More like Lost Angeles

(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

The Minnesota Timberwolves bounced back from their ugly loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday by yet again defeating the beleaguered Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night 113-107. The Wolves are now 8-3 in games after a loss this season.

Minnesota jumped out to a 29-22 lead after one quarter behind the fantastic play of (first half first-team All-NBA player) Taj Gibson, who tallied 10 points (5/5 from the field), seven rebounds, and three blocks in the frame. The Wolves, who at one point lead by as many as 19, pushed the lead to 62-49 by halftime (despite a consistent flow of turnovers) with an even shot and scoring distribution; the Wolves were lead by Gibson, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns who all had 10 points and every player had scored at least one bucket.

However, the Clippers slowly started to claw their way back into it in the second half, chipping away at the Wolves’ lead behind a barrage of Lou Williams’ jumpers and DeAndre Jordan tip-ins. The Clippers cut the lead to three with just under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter before two Wiggins’ dunks and clutch buckets from Jimmy Butler ultimately put it away.

Tom Thibodeau once again stuck with an eight-man rotation – Nemanja Bjelica remained sidelined with a left midfoot sprain, though there are indications that he may return sooner rather than later, and Shabazz Muhammad received yet another DNP-CD – and everyone in the starting lineup played at least 36 minutes. Butler led all players with an “it’s way too early in the season to be playing 43 minutes, isn’t it?” 43 minutes. On the bright side, the Wolves don’t play again until Sunday, so they should have plenty of time for their knees and ankles to recover.

Towns lead the way for the Wolves tonight after getting out to a slow, turnover-prone start; he finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, and two steals. He seemed to be out of sorts for much of the first half, drawing multiple offensive three-second calls and tossing errant passes when the Clipper would immediately double-team him upon receiving the ball. The Wolves did a much better job at working through Towns in the second half, pushing the ball up the court and finding him in transition for quick buckets. Doing so didn’t provide time for the Clippers to send a second man Towns’ way and allowed him to take advantage of his once in a generation touch around the rim.

Towns, though not exactly defensively dominant, did flash signs of improvement on that end of the court over the course of the game, tallying four blocks and disrupting a few other attempts around the rim. Tom Thibodeau, when asked after the game if Towns is more apt to play impactful defense when he’s getting consistent touches on offense, responded in a less than pleased manner.

Butler was simply LeBronian, putting up 19 points on 7/12 from the field and 5/5 from the charity stripe, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, and provided many instances of lockdown defense. However, as alluded to before, one of the major talking points on social media (the game was broadcast on FSN and ESPN) was the sheer amount of minutes he played. After the game, when asked by Wolves’ sideline reporter Marney Gellner about how he feels after playing 40 minutes, Butler jokingly(?) replied that he was going to have to talk to Thibodeau. “These 40 minutes is starting to add up.”

Taj Gibson finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds after his hot start and Jamal Crawford put on a show in his return to L.A., dazzling with a dizzying array of ball-handling techniques and Crawford-esque clutch shots; he finished with 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Jeff Teague finished 4/7 from three and finished with 19 points and seven assists.

Jordan (whom the Wolves have reportedly shown interest in acquiring) dominated the Wolves on the offensive glass on his way to recording 18 points and 21 rebounds, of which 12 were of the offensive variety. Austin Rivers chipped in for 23 points and four assists. Sweet Lou Williams, sending many a Wolves’ fan into cardiac arrest, finished with 23 points, 18 of which came in the second half, on 4/9 from three.

In all, it was another one of those “a win’s a win” type games for the Wolves. The majority of their problems remain unsolved – the ball stopped too frequently again in the fourth, they only attempted 19 threes, the starters played too many minutes, etc. – but once again they won. It’s not always the most aesthetically pleasing or easy, but the Wolves are finally winning again, even if at times it’s in spite of themselves. One thing remains true: winning ugly and “on talent alone” is much more fun than losing…constantly.

The Wolves now sit at 15-11 – a 47-win pace – and are currently the fourth seed in the West.

Minnesota is next in action on Sunday versus the Dallas Mavericks in the first of a five-game homestand. Tip is set for 6 pm.

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5 thoughts on “Wolves 113, Clippers 107: More like Lost Angeles

  1. Agree with a lot you said here. Here’s couple things I’ll add.

    – Teague shot the lights out from 3. That’s what we need from him. Get the offense moving and shoot from the perimeter. Those are the shots we need from him. I think he ended up 4-7 or 4-8

    – I thought the Wolves played 2.5 quarters of excellent basketball. Offense was humming and defense actually looked pretty good for the most part. With about 5 minutes to go in the 2nd and 6 minutes through the 3rd we looked really good. There was good ball movement. Towns had some great passing. The one on the breakaway that he bounce back to Gibson was pretty and would’ve been a top 10 play had Gibson been able to finish. I would like to see us run the offense through Towns in the post more and have him improve on passing out of double teams. He’s a very good passer.

    – I think Thibs should’ve pulled a good chunk of the starters when we were up by 19 with about 5-6 minutes left int he 3rd. They took their foot off the gas. Putting some bench players in might have invigorated them to not let the Clippers have that run and give your guys some rest.

    – I hated Thibs rotation decision making in the 2nd half. The starters were in way too long in the 3rd. I would’ve loved to see Tyus, Dieng, and Crawford all come in with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd when we were up 19. I would’ve pulled Butler, Teague, and Gibson out and let the young guys finish out the quarter. I hated that Butler and Towns started the 4th quarter. That is way too soon. They should be coming in with 7-8 minutes left. Jimmy can’t be playing 40 every night. I’d like to see his average come down to 36-37. That’s way more reasonable. Thibs needs to be rotating his starters in and out more to give them rest. But no, he doesn’t.

    – I can’t wait for Belly to get back. I want him to play in place of Gibson with the starters more often and see how they can really space the floor.

    – We are winning in spite of our coaching. We can win because of the sheer talent we have on our team against these lesser teams. When we face a talented team with coaching though, we get blown out. We have the talent to compete with the GSW and Rockets.

    – At this point, I would trade for DeAndre if I could get him for Gibson and a 1st rounder. I don’t know if that’d be enough but we badly need his interior D.

    – There was one possession where the ball was whipping around the court and someone found Tyus for an open 3 which he nailed. Not enough of that in our offense.

    – KAT also passed up an open 3 to get it to Wiggins with a WIDE open 3 which he nailed. Need more ball movement. Not these stupid hand off plays. Thibs doesn’t realize the ball moves faster than a player. Get the defense on their toes and moving around. C’mon man.

    – We would’ve lost if Danilo Galinari didn’t look so rusty. You could tell he hadn’t played in a long time.

    – So overall, same issues persist like you said. It doesn’t show signs of changing or getting better. So they’ll continue to trudge along in mediocrity. We are the 4 seed now but that will change as the season progresses, the Thunder and other teams get better while we stay the same.

  2. I only watched the first half, but I agree with most of what everyone has said. The part I saw, Jeff Teague was not the lights out player that DemBluez saw. I still think that Tyus controls the offense better than Teague, with less standing around and more ball movement. Andrew and KAT were both better than in Memphis. One of the things I did see, was KAT getting the ball lower in the box and having much greater success getting his shot off before he got double teamed. It is one of the biggest things this team can do to win on a nightly basis, get KAT to hustle down the floor and set up low quicker and have someone get him the ball early. Even a great shot blocker and Big like DJ, has trouble stopping KAT when he catches and makes a quick move and shoots. Eventually, teams will have to sag on KAT right away, leaving Buckets, Teague, Wiggins and hopefully Belly again with open three point shots.

    Of note, the play that Tyus scored the open three came with G and Crawford on the floor. See Thibs, your bench can provide more than 11 minutes of rest for your starters each night.

    Lastly, I thought Lindsey was great to listen to last night. She sees the game like a true PG, and I think will be an excellent coach once her WNBA days are done. Could she be the second woman coach in the NBA?

  3. I meant more shooting wise he was lights out. I thought overall though he did get the offense moving more than normal. But with Thibs offense, there isn’t much ball movement to begin with. I thought Teague had some nice drives and then passes finding the open guy. I agree Tyus still does a better job as a pure point guard though.

    I would still rather have Rubio over Teague any day. Bring him home. I’d trade Teague for Rubio straight up right now.

    Here’s some trades I’d love to see:

    Teague for Rubio
    Gibson, 1st rounder, and Bazz for DeAndre Jordan.

    Then you’ve got Rubio, Wiggins, Butler, KAT, and Jordan.

  4. Boy, Mark Jackson hearts <3 Thibs.

    Overall I'd say we looked better than usual in this game. We were active on D, protected the rim. On O we moved the ball a bit better, moved without the ball more, and pushed pace at times to get easy buckets in transition.

    That said, I get the feeling that this is an outlier, not progress. One reason is that I don't think Thibs is committed to most of these things… He might like some of them, but he's not working on improving a lot of these things as a coach in a proactive way, particularly pace and better action on O. That and the Clippers are awful right now, would make anyone look good.

    I like when Teague hits some threes… that's something we actually need coming from him. But I just plain don't like how he runs the offense. I'm running out of patience with it. That said a few days ago he said something almost sarcastic about being surprised that he's getting the minutes he gets every night with the way Tyus is playing. That kind of frankness made me like him a bit more as a dude.

    Speaking of that, the Thibs answer to the KAT touches question above… I get it. A lot of coaches have a short fuse. It's a tradition. Think Pop. And they have a short fuse particularly in pressers. But Thibs' response above is exhibit A in why he doesn't have the temperament to be a NBA head coach. He's so stubborn and defensive that he can't just admit that sometimes when players happen to get more touches they get more in the flow of the game and appear to be more involved, and have a larger impact. This is just a basic fact of basketball. Can players have huge impact without demanding the ball a lot? Sure. But not getting touches can often make players more listless, even very professional vets and great talents. To deny that is just stupid, angry stubbornness. If you go into coaching because you have to be right all the time, you are in the wrong profession. Coaching in the NBA is very difficult, and even the wizards of coaching like Pop make mistakes which they have to adjust out of all the time (on small and large scales). If you spend much of your energy denying you do anything wrong, avoiding adjustment, finding creative sources of blame in the face of pretty basic causes that you actually have some control over… You might not have the right frame of mind to be a successful NBA head coach.

    Speaking of KAT, someone over at Canis said something really good in the armchair psychology realm. Basically, you have KAT who is a pleaser personality. He has a strong need to please people. He wants to say the right thing all the time (to an almost annoying degree). He wants to be likeable. Thibs, on the other hand yells and picks as part of his aesthetic. There's plenty to pick at about this team, no denying that. But most of his yelling during game is inept and pointless stuff. There is also the fact that other coaches don't yell constantly at players during the game (and such useful phrases as go,go go, and get em'!). Why don't they? Well, a main one is that they teach this basic moment to moment stuff in practice and if the guys still aren't doing it in game this reflects on you as a coach and yelling at them won't help, by then it is too late. One gets the feeling that no amount of professional play could significantly cut down on the yelling. Nothing will please him. And one also gets the feeling that the yelling is a big butt cover for the coach–a constant public beat down of his players to prove he's done his job and it's the players who aren't doing theirs. This kind of attitude doesn't incubate fondness from players. With KAT in particular, he might be going numb and he might be going into apathy float mode because he wants to please his coach but overall, nothing seems to. And Thibs is critical, but doesn't make an effort to help his players on the court. For all his riding of KAT, in exchange he could make sure he gets touches and draw up some ways to get him involved or use him to get his motor running. If he made the extra effort to fit KAT fully into every game, both parties would benefit. This game showed what fully involved, clicking KAT can do. His impact was greater than the box score indicates. LA had no answer for him.

    Jimmy. I mean he does lots to help us win, he tries hard, he puts up mini LeBron type stat lines at times (like in this one). But I just don't care to watch him. And if that really was a mini Lebron stat line as far as impact, shouldn't we have flattened this team?

    Much has been said about the minutes. It continues and see my above stubborn paragraph and put that in as exhibit B.

    10 minutes for Tyus. Oh jeez. Seriously? Is this some sort of coach performance art satire?

    Wiggins fits into this team well. No sign of a max player there, though.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head with Thibs and KAT. We need a coach that is going to push our players no doubt, but meet them where they’re at and help them grow. Thibs just expects his players to play at a high level every night and be better without actually coaching them to get better. If I had someone yelling at me everytime I ran down the court and was guarding someone, I’d lose the motivation to play D. Let me play basketball. If I make a mistake, I don’t mind getting yelled at that because I know I screwed up. But when I have a coach that’s screaming from the sidelines how I should defend someone every second, I’m going to lose desire to play. That is what’s happening with KAT.

      I wish we had a losing record so we could fire this poor excuse for a coach. It’s frustrating to watch because we are wasting Butler’s prime and short time really good basketball Gibson has left.

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