Game Analysis

Raptors 109, Timberwolves 104: Wolves Gain Big Lead, Lose It in 4th

The Timberwolves snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again on Tuesday night in Toronto, losing to the Raptors 109-104 on the second night of a road-and-road back-to-back against Eastern Conference teams.

Game Overview

On the heels of a bad loss at Atlanta last night, the Wolves came out with more energy against the Raptors, which at 34-15 have the second-best record in the East. Also, the Wolves have not won a road game in Toronto since roughly the beginning of time.

Yet things were looking up for a spell. The Wolves held a double-digit lead early for most of the 2nd. They continued to hold the lead through the third, but it decreased to about five and then dipped toward the end of the 3rd.

The Raps started pouring it on and took what would become a commanding lead that they managed to hold until the end despite a run by the Wolves that cut the Raptors lead to two, at 103-101, with a minute remaining. DeMar DeRozan, an All-Star again this season, countered with a bucket and a pair of free throws to ice the game.

Although the Raptors are a really solid team, this was another game the Wolves let get away from them.

A few thoughts:

  • Karl-Anthony Towns needs to get more than seven shot attempts up for this team to win. KAT has shown his ability to score at-will around the hoop, but he isn’t always aggressively looking to go into #beastmode.

  • Andrew Wiggins can’t score just 15 points on 7-22 shooting just 10 days after ago he scored 29 in a big win against Toronto at home where he carried the offense in Jimmy Butler’s absence. (Editor’s Note: Isn’t it supposed to be predetermined that Wiggins will explode offensively in games against Toronto?) He was ice cold from the start and took a long time to find a rhythm. That just isn’t going to work against a team as good as the Raptors–especially on nights when KAT isn’t scoring. Anyway, Wiggins’ cringeworthy inconsistency was on display tonight.

  • Jimmy Butler paced the Wolves in the loss. Butler had 25p/6r/5a. But he also shot just 5-10 from the charity stripe in what would ultimately be a five-point loss. That’s unfortunate.

  • Jeff Teague’s struggles continued. While Teague did not play as bad as he did last night in Atlanta on 1/20 (first box score), his numb#rs in the advanced boxscore aren’t pretty.

Advanced Boxscore from 2018-01-20

Advanced Boxscore from 2018-01-30

Recent Downturn

The Wolves are now 1-4 in their last five games. Their only win in that stretch was against the beleaguered Brooklyn Nets.

Cause for concern? It is difficult to tell. This feels like one of those teams that is going to continue to have ups and downs that feel a little bit steeper than what we’re used to. Unfortunately, we don’t know where those break points are going to be, so each game feels like its own rollercoaster.

4th Quarter Woes

The manner in which the Wolves lost this game is consistent with how they’ve generally lost this quarter. The Wolves are fifth-best in the NBA in 1st quarter point differential; fourth-best in 2nd quarter differential; and seventh-best in 3rd quarter differential. Not bad, right?

But get this. The Wolves’ ranking for point differential in the 4th quarter: 29th out of 30 (-1.63). (Eds. Note: Statistics come from nbaminer.com.) That statistic is going to have to move in the right direction if the Wolves are going to win the winnable games like good playoff teams do.

The Wolves next game is Thursday at home against the Jason Kidd-less Milwaukee Bucks. Tip is at 7.

Till next time.

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9 thoughts on “Raptors 109, Timberwolves 104: Wolves Gain Big Lead, Lose It in 4th

  1. At least for the moment, my concern has nothing to do with statistics or Jeff Teague. I can’t remember a game this season where the Wolves looked so joyless playing basketball as they did tonight. No smiles, no swagger.

    Something isn’t right with the chemistry of this team. There’s tension on this team. Something is up.

  2. To start on a positive note: Rubio and the Jazz destroyed the Warriors 129-99! Rubio had 23 and 11, and maybe just as impressive or more, Curry only had 14 and 5. And the Jazz had the most insanely over the top uniforms. They literally looked like they were on fire. I sort of want a Rubio jersey in that crazy color scheme. Too bad it probably costs $27,000 to get one from Nike (R). I think this was their ‘City’ uniform (Nike has a logic all it’s own that no one else can follow). I hear tell ours are gray! *Chirping Crickets*

    This was one of those, ‘does this 1-4 skid mean we should really start worrying?’ write-ups. Yes and no. We’ll pull out of it. It’s not like we won’t pull out of if. But…

    But in a larger sense, we definitely should worry. That’s why I’ve been so negative all season despite the good record. We’re a highly flawed team, led by a not very good coach who’s loath to change and improve. We have chronic problems. They are overcome by our sheer talent, some good vet presence and fortune on many nights. But that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have issues. And they have not seemed to have gotten better, for the most part as the year has gone on. Same problems bothering us just as much. Part of skids like this is playing later in the season (and thus with more effects of fatigue) and with a normal to tough schedule as opposed to the super easy one. This game strongly highlighted some chronic issues and there are other less obvious ones, too. They include:

    -Three pointer differential. Simply put, we do not take or make enough threes to expect to keep up with the scoring of good, three happy teams. This is worsened by our terrible 3 point D, so teams tend to shoot better from 3 than their average against us, expanding our deficit. We also do not obtain the spacing that faster paced teams with major three point threats get. So, we often get less dunks and layups than we could. This has the effect of making us inefficient, though potent on O. We can easily get outscored.

    -Poor D. In many ways we are an average D team, but our tendency to let teams shoot well from 3 and have breakdowns in the paint play into a lot of the better teams’ (and some of the bad east teams’ too) strategy. This hasn’t gotten better, although both KAT and Wiggins have improved individually a bit.

    -Jeff Teague at PG. This, nearing the All Star break tends to mean two things: Poor PG and wounded overall perimeter D and poorly run team offense. Teague has issues with basic entry passes, he manages pace poorly, he discourages ball movement and dribbles too much. He kills shot clocks. On top of this, his scoring is middling at best, not as advertised. And he doesn’t seem to be a very intense competitor. It’s becoming more and more evident that he is a net drag on the team this season.

    -Lack of KAT trust. Let’s be clear—this isn’t a new thing. Wiggins was always given more attention, takes, and developmental focus (remember Pt Wiggins! Smile!) than KAT for no known reason. I think people want a wing as their best player—it’s so Jordan, so Kobe. That’s so not Wiggins, though. And what about Tim Duncan, Shaq, Kareem… Anyhow, lack of KAT priority is a long standing mistake this franchise has made. But in the last 2 weeks or so, it’s gotten crazy. KAT routinely finishes with 5th most attempts among starters. During this time, the eye tells me that KAT isn’t playing in a lackadaisical way or in foul trouble. He’s just not used in the O enough. It’s crazy. He’s not only our best scorer, he’s also our most efficient player. This makes zero strategic sense and amounts to coaching malpractice.

    -All in on Wiggins. This team plays like it suddenly expects Wiggins to be the next great wing player in the NBA. It’s never going to happen. We need to stop running the team like suddenly, Wiggins is going to be an intense competitor, an explosive scorer, and efficient player, and a consistent player. Will he improve? Sure! But he’s a cog on a good team, not a number 1 talent we’re just waiting on to take over the team. Running the team like that damages our current chances to win games and is likely causing friction. We don’t want KAT to leave. I almost wish Wiggins would…

    -Chemistry. This team seems to have chemistry issues. Not sure why. But the KAT vs Wigg thing certainly is a starting point. How much of this is KAT going to put up with? The vets do their thing and their steady effort helps make this team decent. But it’s almost like they operate in their own parallel dimension. They have not rubbed off (esp on Wiggins) as much as hoped or expected. Also not sure if a Thibs run team is a real good petri dish for good team chemistry and playing loose, fun BBall. There may be other causes I am not aware of.

    –Coaching (THIBS). This game showed another poor x and o outing. THibs took his last TO too early and then ran something coming out of that TO not resembling a play whatsoever. This basic, in game, calling TO’s, marker board plays kind of coaching is showing a season-long pattern of incompetence. Then there is our offense. It is out of date, inefficient, and doesn’t play to the strengths of the roster. It feels as though Thibs mismanages talent and does not develop young player’s skills and consistency at a very quick rate. It’s also becoming clear that this isn’t just a slow learning team on D, but that our schemes are ineffective and need to be altered. They are particularly weak at stopping good 3 point looks and breakdowns that lead to lay ins and dunks. Good will, joy and a sense of brotherhood are lacking on this team and some of that is coming from the top down.

    Sorry if this is negative or repetitive, but it’s why we are losing games like the Atlanta game, up to this Toronto game. None of the above issues seem to be addressed in any serious way, so they are going to keep chipping at us and be really tough on us in the playoffs. Looking beyond this season, it’s hard to see how we improve. This game, the way it was coached, made me think like Dem Bluez. Maybe getting rid of Thibs is the only logical way to improve upon what we manage this season, which the way we look, doesn’t seem like much of a playoff run. Maybe we’ll get lucky and do better than a 1st round exit. But that might cement bad trends with this organization that will weigh our talent down for years.

  3. You could see last night coming. Toronto shooting threes, when they really are a two point team, like the Wolves. Wiggins was shooting away as if it is just assumed that they would go in because he was playing Toronto. Teague definitely wanted to be better than in Atlanta (how could you play worse), but for a top ten paid PG, he still isn’t in that league. Taj had a burr in his saddle for some reason and KAT seems to be like he is playing on a chain gang. I’ll do what you say, but I don’t have to like it mode. It looked like it was going to be a good game, when KAT had that running hook shot go in, but this team is all about their touches and not about winning a ball game and that starts with the PG and coach.

    Andrew started cold, but in the start of the third quarter, he was getting it going with a couple buckets in a row. Does Teague see this and feed him while he is hot? Nope. He still got a lot of shots, but when someone is struggling and then gets a feel, you need to keep it going. Sure enough, he was back to cold again. Belly hits a long three from the top of the key. Does he get another shot? Nope. A couple times, he was standing all by himself at the top of the key and still no one throws him the ball.

    This team is dysfunctional for a team that is breaking a thirteen year playoff curse. They should be on top of the world, doing everything possible to jell and win games. It just looks like they all want to score points and get their shots. It also looks like they are as bored with this offense as the league is. Thibs is supposed to be an elite coach, but outside of the fact that he has pushed KAT and Wiggins to play star type minutes, I don’t see it. He is going to be like Flip. A coach with strong opinions on how to play this game, but really doesn’t handle in game decisions well and will only get this team to the playoffs. I can’t see how anyone would think that Thibs is a championship type coach. He isn’t loved by his team, he isn’t a genius offensively or it seems defensively and he doesn’t develop a bench to be fast or deep. Just like Stan Van Gundy, he is playing for the now and doesn’t care if he is building anything long term. Maybe because Glen is meddling and putting heat on Thibs to be better, than a newly formed team should be. This coach has not improved the execution of his team from the start of the year. He has made simple blunders that only beginning coaches of bad teams would make. Last night, he calls his last TO with 45 seconds remaining and down five. Reason would state that you need to get a shot off with about 8-10 seconds remaining, so you can defend without fouling and still have a chance to win or tie the game. After almost using the entire shot clock, we get a terrible shot at the rim and the game is over. How is that even possible, with the three main cogs we have, that we can’t get a shot up sooner than that? Did he have Belly in the game to make a three? Did he have Crawford in the game? He had his starters in and couldn’t come up with a play that got a person open.

    I said this team needed to be .500 in the ten games after the five game winning streak to keep their place in the standings. They went 3-7 and now are basically tied with the surging Thunder. We are five games from ninth in the Western Conference. They need to go 7-3 in the next ten to preserve the fourth spot. OKC plays a pretty easy schedule, but the do play G-State twice and Cleveland once. We play Houston twice and Cavs at Cleveland once. That means that this team needs to refocus it’s mission to be a playoff team now and win the games they should and maybe beat the Cavs or Houston at home to show some growth. Losing one to Chicago is no longer an option.

  4. I agree with everything Pyrrol said.

    I’m finally getting somebody on my side about getting rid of Thibs.

    When a team vastly underperforms and shows inconsistency nightly, it starts at the top. Our defense is still trash. Our offense could use a makeover. Coaching is more than yelling “Execute! Execute! Execute!” That’s a drill sergeant’s job. The Wolves don’t need a drill sergeant. They need a leader that will praise the players in public, criticize them in private, and alter his strategy to fit the strengths of his players.

    A great example of a coach who tailored his system to match the strengths of his player? Look no further than now head coach of the Giants, Pat Shurmur. Pat tailored his system to match Keenum’s strengths when Bradford went down. Because of this, Keenum was I think top 5 in QBR, had the best season of his career, led us to the NFC championship game, and was more than a game manager. A lot of the credit goes to Shurmur for setting up his quarterback to succeed.

    Imagine if Shurmur hadn’t tailored his system, but instead forced Keenum to do it his way? What if he had forced Keenum to be a pocked passer 90% of the time? We would’ve missed the playoffs and he would’ve had a so so year at best. This is Thibs in a nutshell. He won’t tailor his system to match his players strengths. This is the greatest weakness and flaw in Thibs and why this Wolves team will never play to it’s potential. The Wolves need a Pat Shurmur type coach and why I find part of me wanting the Wolves to lose so that we get a coach like that. With our roster, we will have NO problem finding a coach.

  5. Also, does Thibs not realize he has a generational talent in Towns? He is hands down the best offensive player we have. He should be touching the ball every single possession and shooting 20 shots a game. KAT could be more assertive down low but it’s not like he can call his own number on offense. When you have ball hog Jeff Teague taking 15 shots a game and calling his own number every 3rd possession, it stalls the offense and is like having a 6th defender out there for the other team. Get Teague the f*&^ out of that lineup with Towns. It’s a travesty that Teague is allowed to do what he does on a nightly basis.

    1. Yes, good catch–thanks. The post is updated now. Writing recaps in real-time, after midnight, after a full-day-plus of day-job work, sometimes results in mistakes.

  6. I think Thibs has a model of KAT, as a better shooting Noah. He had his line-up in Chicago with a healthy PG in DRose and he hasn’t changed his offense since. Maybe he did something bad to Marquise Teague and is making amends by playing Jeff. I don’t know what he is thinking, but he doesn’t prepare his team well, for a tight game. He wastes TO, designs terrible out of bounds plays and out of TO plays. The Wolves turnovers become more prevalent in the fourth, This is the anti-Spurs. As the game goes on, the Spurs seem to pass more and get shots later in the clock, but usually wide open and close. They look for guys that can make a certain shot more and they play mismatches well. Our team panics and we all crash the lane and don’t keep ourselves spread out. Our defense is shoddy, so that gets exploited more in the later sessions. We are a team that can win with a big lead, but not the type of team that pulls out close wins or comes from behind much.

  7. Glen Taylor should bring in consultants for Thibs. I wanted to say Hubie Brown, but he’s 84 yrs old. Maybe Mike Fratello then. Also are teams allowed to talk to Sam Hinkie yet? … People are starting to grumble about Team Thibs, but he just needs a little help right now to tighten the team up. … Who passed on the OG guy when Patton could have been gotten later?

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