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.
Thibs was asked about whether KAT plays better with more touches and it didn't go well pic.twitter.com/6vWwW7t7xh
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 7, 2017
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.”
Jimmy Butler says he needs to talk to Thibs about playing 40 minutes pic.twitter.com/a8MgqPboKO
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) December 7, 2017
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.