2017-18 Season, Uncategorized

Magic 108, Timberwolves 102: “Humble Our Damn Selves”

You’ve probably already seen this, but just in case you haven’t, this is the most compelling thing that happened in Tuesday’s loss to the Orlando Magic… FIGHT!!!

A couple of observations about the insanely cool and badass kerfuffle before we discuss the boring old basketball game:

  • There must have been a lot more going on prior to this, right? Like, more than just the techs they got 30 seconds into the 2nd quarter? Either that, or Afflalo really lost his mind over mild passive-aggression on Bjelica’s part, because nothing on this particular play seemed egregious.
  • Afflalo is really lucky that punch didn’t land. He wasn’t messing around, effort-wise.
  • Form-wise, though? My man, what is with the wild swing? Afflalo was flailing about like a faceless extra coming at Steven Seagal in a B-movie.
  • A-plus job by Nemanja to go with the head-lock in response. On the Wolves’ broadcast, Jim Petersen described it as a “big brother” move; put the smaller guy in a head-lock, wait for others to break it up while simultaneously protecting yourself.
  • I wonder: would Bjelica have been tossed had he not earned the earlier technical foul? Tough to say.
  • Watch the Wolves’ assistant coaches dart in front of the bench as soon as the altercation gets underway. It’s a smart move on their part – leaving the bench area is an automatic ejection for a player – but it’s still kind of funny to watch as it occurs.
  • Remember the last time someone took a shot at Bjelica?
  • I think, ultimately, Nemanja won this fight in a decision.

Right, onto the basketball game…

Jimmy’s postgame quote sums the evening up nicely:

The Wolves, who average over 24 free throws per game, only got to the line 10 times in Orlando. They were outrebounded 51-to-37 overall, and had particular trouble boxing out Bismack Biyombo (15 boards, including 6 offensive rebounds). Minnesota finished the game with 16 three-point attempts, but even that (low) figure is misleading. They took eight threes through the first three quarters, and five in the final three minutes of the game, when they were chucking and hoping for a spark. Once again, they failed to generate outside looks within the flow of the offense for most of the contest. Yeah, yeah, they’re still an excellent offensive team, I know – but it’s still an issue.

Minnesota’s defense was also a big problem in crunch time. A pair of Tyus Jones free throws put the Wolves up by 6 with 10:54 to play; they were outscored 35-23 the rest of the game. The Magic moved the ball pretty well in the final frame, but the Wolves’ defense didn’t stay connected, often failing to account for open shooters (D.J. Augustin, Mario Hezonja, and Evan Fournier in particular) and neglecting to close out.

Jeff Teague was especially bad; he seems to have nights where his defensive effort slips, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. When some players get caught out of position or ball-watching and have to recover late for a close-out, they at least make a show of attempting to pretend to contest the shot. They’ll raise an arm and do the fly-by or jog-by routine. But several times this season (and a few times late in tonight’s game) Teague hasn’t even bothered with all that. I don’t necessarily think those possessions alone indicate whether or not he’s a capable defender, but they stick in the memory, and this perhaps contributes to Teague’s polarizing status among fans.

A few other random odds and ends:

  • It’s a quiet week (just three games) so perhaps it isn’t surprising that KAT played 40, Jimmy 39, and Taj 38. Eight man rotation for Thibs tonight; Bjelica’s ejection didn’t help matters, but still.
  • Wiggins: 9 points on 4-of-12 shooting, largely invisible. One of *those* games.
  • What a night for Magic center Khem Birch: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks in 18 minutes, by far the longest (and most effective) stint of his NBA career. Good for him. He was a healthy scratch in 35 of Orlando’s 42 games entering Tuesday. I would hazard to guess he’s earned himself a spot in the rotation for at least the next week or so.
  • Birch and D.J. Augustin led the Magic with +13 lines. The Wolves had no answer for either.
  • Minnesota had more points in the paint, fastbreak points, and had 10 fewer turnovers than Orlando… and still lost. How odd.
  • It seemed like Never Google never missed, I was actually shocked to see he was “only” 12-for-22 from the field (for a career-high 32 points).
  • The Wolves now head to Houston for a tilt against the Fightin’ Rockets on TNT Thursday evening.
  • In conclusion:

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12 thoughts on “Magic 108, Timberwolves 102: “Humble Our Damn Selves”

  1. I guess our kryptonite is middling or bad east teams. Butlers right though. If they were on their high horse, they needed to be taken down a notch. They’re not going to win every game by 20. Orlando is basically the worst team in the league so losing tonight should do the trick.

    We had the 3 seed! And then we didn’t. I’m sure that’ll be back and forth. I’d rather not play the Thunder in the 1st round.

    We’ve got some tough games coming up with Toronto twice and Houston.

    Tyus only 13 minutes? That’s a shame. The dude is good and is a catalyst for our offense. Sad to see him continue to be under utilized. Thanks Thibs!

    Teague should not be taking 17 shots.

    Belly making Afflalo look like a little kid was satisfyingz He may not look intimidating, but he embarrassed Afflalo out there.

    1. Belly looks like he has been in a scuffle or two. DemBluez, you will like this one…..Wouldn’t it be nice to see Tyus come in to replace Teague after Teague takes 2 or 3 defensive possessions off? I would say the same about a Wiggs contested 2, but he no longer takes them in succession. He must be getting yelled at for them during the game, but he still sneaks at least one during each of his four shifts.

    2. And speaking of underutilized… I don’t like the way they use Andrew Wiggins. Way to often, especially when Teague is playing, they seem to freeze him out. Teague shoots way too damn much for my liking. He should look to get Wiggins more involved and let him get into a flow. This is to blame for that. Wiggins is a prolific offensive scorer, especially when he gets into a rhythm and feels like he’s needed or counted on to be. This only seems to trust Jimmy Butler in crunch time situations and I think they Wiggins has shown in the past that he can get buckets in that time. Plus, you need to develop more than one go – to guy if you want to be a championship caliber team. I see way too often, especially when Teague is playing, them running plays with Wiggins on the complete opposite side of the court and not even an option. Hell, that’s why when he does touch the ball sometimes he just chucks it up. With Teague, the man doesn’t know when he’s going to see the ball. But Andrew has to use his athleticism more and continue to drive the ball to the hoop and get to the free throw line. A guy of his caliber should be living at the free throw line. He has to realize that he’s only going to be 22 once and needs to take advantage of it. I do like the way he’s doing the little things now and playing defense. But he’s still to passive of a rebounder. Six or seven boards should be a given for him every night. He let’s his teammates come swoop past him at least 4 or 5 times a night and take his rebounds. If he ever wants to make an all- star team, needs to get a bit more selfish and demanding. Just saying! By the way, I know This doesn’t like to play young guys… But when Justin Patton is healthy enough I would find a way to incorporate him into the rotation some kind of way, even if it’s just 5 to 7 minutes a game. They can use his versatility and rim protection. Pair him with Kat or Diego. It’s okay to have a deep rotation and develop a bench. Golden State plays up to 12 people a night sometimes. I even think Shabazz should get a few minutes a night. He can provide a spark, plus he will attack and get to the line. But I’m proud of the direction the team is headed.

      1. That is some good stuff Gregory! I agree with your insights on Wiggs and Teague. When Jimmy and Tyus initiate the offense Wiggins gets the ball in better positions. With Teague it is Jekyll and Hyde. Some nights he crushes it on D and facilitates on O. Other nights he punishes the floor with dribbles and mails it in on D. All the while Wiggs sits in the corner building a fire. WE NEED AN ARTICLE ANALYZING WIGGS WITH BOTH PG’S. I am also curious what percentage of Teague’s assist go to which player. He rarely runs PNR on Wiggs side of the floor. Rabbit hole…….

  2. It was inevitable that we were going to have a letdown game at some point. How we respond in the next game is crucial. Speaking of… Wait, I need to talk about the fight!

    That was probably my favorite fight I can recall seeing in sports (I’m not a big fan of them). I remember saying after the first set of techs, ‘You don’t want to mess with Bjelly. Really.’ And I was enjoying seeing some spunk from the guy–it’s a good sign. Then for some reason Afflalo went nuts and threw a major (and wild) punch. Bjelly’s reaction is the reaction of a guy who’s been in REAL fights. And a mature reaction. He should not have been kicked out–the league should send him a thank you letter. He defused a fight that could have been very ugly for the league in one second. My Bjelly fandom just ticked up 8 points.

    Our kryptonite may in fact be the three ball. Part of why the fight was the most interesting part of this game is that both teams played poorly and looked flat. Orlando a little less flat, maybe, but we beat them or scratched with them on most important categories. But they beat us from three 11 to 7, or in three point intervals, 33 to 21. In close games or when we are off, we are vulnerable to getting beat by the 3 almost alone. 7-16 isn’t even that bad for us, but we need to do a little better, and we didn’t create good looks in this one well, so a lot of our 16 were iffy shots as far as quality goes.

    Last game I discussed Jim Pete going all in on Teague love, calling the fans myopic for suggesting Tyus does some things better and might get better results from the starters, and his claim that Rubio is already forgotten. Others came in and basically called it a corporate line. I guess you publicly commit to a guy like Teague and put down the cold hard cash we did, politically you have to start him if he’s playing acceptable and we are winning as a team. I don’t agree with this, but I get that’s how most do it. Still, given that, and the fact that we know Thibs is all in on Teague (for some reason, he’s not even a good defender. Doesn’t he hate that? Weird for him to hand pick a guy like Teague…) it’s not surprising there is no QB controversy, so to speak. But Tyus playing 12 minutes? How is that defensible? That makes no sense even from the most cautious, by the book, completely devoid of imagination coaching/front office style. Now you could say, ‘oh well Teague wasn’t great, but even for 12 minutes Tyus’ numbers sucked.’ Yeah, of course they did. Guys (esp PGs) really can’t get their game going in 12 minutes. This was a larger issue in this game and kryptonite B. Our bench. It is a self fulfilling prophecy that they will suck when you don’t give folks consistent minutes. Tyus only had 12. Bjelly doesn’t count because he got kicked out (looked like he was getting used a lot). Crawford got his usual license to do anything without losing ThibsTrust(R) to the tune of 18 minutes. Gorgui got 17 minutes which he did little with. No Hunt. No use of Shabazz or Aldrich to make up for no Bjelly. Those minutes went to the starters. This is a major issue which is basically a management issue for the most part. We’d like more depth, but we could be using what we have better. This will bite us in the playoffs if not before.

    We looked lethargic (whhhyyyy?). But more importantly, we looked like we stopped doing the things we were doing during the streak (started by Tyus, more or less, haha). Our ball movement sucked. We didn’t move enough without the ball. I hear tell that we won the transition game, but we were pretty flat in pace and getting out in transition. During the streak we housed teams this way. On D we weren’t snappy. We made some good plays, but the long spaces between were filled with pretty lame, late to the party D. Several players looked flat. KAT is usually a huge advantage because he can score in so many ways with an ef% of like 72 or something. He wasn’t his normal efficient self. Wiggins was bad Wiggins (33%, 9 pts no threes) but I expect that a lot. Much of the time that’s who he is. He’s not consistent and he’s not an effort guy. Jimmy put up an impressive line, but he labored too much for it. I think Jim Pete was still a little excited about Teague’s scoring at one point, but he ended up with 35% for 13 points on 17 shots. Quite simply, Teague is taking too many shots. It’s a bit of a chicken egg thing: Did we play poorly because we lacked energy or did we appear to lack energy because we played poorly? I don’t think we came out with enough energy, which as Jimmy noted is not acceptable. But we also are forgetting what got us to the next level, what we need to do. This ‘how we play’ issue is exacerbated by Teague’s style of running the O (and his lack of D intensity and instinct) as well as giving Wiggins and Teague too many shots, and not giving enough to KAT as a general way of running the team night in and out. Add to that the unwillingness to play the bench enough to let it develop and not letting Tyus get burn with the starters, and it’s no wonder we look like we stepped in concrete buckets. Hopefully we will rebound next game and this was a blip. Even if we lose the next one, I’d like us see us play to win.

    1. I guess I should have read Pyrrol’s response before I responded to DemBluez! Great stuff. I have a question for fans in the Twin Cities. I live in Sioux Falls and have little feel for the players in the community or their social lives. I am not suggesting the Wolves partied too hard Sunday night, for all I know they hopped on a plane to Florida after the game. But, seeing the lethargy last night got me thinking; is there a night life for pro athletes in the Cities? Are there bars/clubs/restaurants where athletes or coaches go?

  3. My Guess BerkesBBQ is that they got to Orlando and had some late night fun (Gentleman’s Clubs are all over the area, it isn’t just Mickey Mouse) or sat by the pool too long during the day. Whatever, they seemed to be in cement jordans last night and if Butler is calling his team out, they must have been pretty smug that the Magic didn’t need their full attention. It was ISO ball most of the night (I have to admit, that I turned it off when they got down seven.) with our starters seeming to be disinterested in passing around to open teammates. I shouldn’t be more vested in a game than the team is.

    With the way, the Magic were blocking all our shots, I wasn’t surprised that they went to the long two. Sadly, you would think that guys like Jimmy, Wiggins and Teague would find a way to get to the FT line and put an already small lineup in foul trouble, but the refs seemed to also be disinterested and let a lot go on both ends, which led to the dust up with Afflalo. Bjelly shouldn’t have been penalized for it, but with the first tech already in place, it was an easy out for the refs.

    Yesterday, I mentioned that in the next ten games, the wolves should win five with Orlando being one of them. That this team, unlike past Timbermutts, would not look past an easy win (Wasn’t losing to Phoenix and Nets enough of a slap in the face), thinking about a big date with the Rockets. The Magic were missing their best player and a strong bench player for this game and still ran around us like we were sleepwalking. Now comes Houston, with James Harden possibly returning and you think the threes were hard for us to defend last night, wait till we have to chase the ball with the Rockets offense.

    On the plus side, Bjelly showed he had a pulse and the rest of the team seemed to come to his defense.

  4. That fight was completely Afflalo deciding “I’m not going to let anyone think they can threaten me and get away with it” and then getting completely owned. It was so great; the loss was disappointing, but that’s one of the best moments in Timberwolves history. When Pek was still healthy, I always wanted to see if anyone would be dumb enough to try him, and it was fun to see a Wolf not let an opponent get a psychological advantage through rough play. I think my toughness rankings for this team would be: 1) Taj 2) Bjelly 3) Crawford 4) MGH 5) Butler … 11) Dieng 12) Towns 13) Aldrich.

    1. I did a google search to see if Belly did military service and didn’t find out, but prior to 2011 men were required to serve 6 months which would mean yes. Has anyone found out better info? Either way, I am glad to have belly and his attitude. We do miss Pek’s…solidity!

  5. I kind of had a weird thought that Frank Vogel ordered Afflalo to take Bjelly out of the game. Nemanje was a difficult person for the Magic to contend with up to that point. He could come in for Taj and let KAT go to the low post and hammer on their smaller bigs. If they double teamed KAT, you had Bjelly out in the three area, creating cutter opportunities for Butler and Wiggins. If you see Vogel’s face when he escorts Afflalo off the court, it didn’t look like he was too disappointed to be losing a veteran defender at the SG spot, when Ross was already injured leaving him with Fournier, Simmons as his only real SG to guard Butler and Wiggins and Crawford all night. Yet, he was able to trade a SG that had been really struggling as a backup to Fournier for a Combo Forward in Bjelly that had shown energy and some returning shooting prowess.

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