2017-18 Season

Timberwolves 114, Lakers 96: MPLS

In the name of Clyde Lovellette, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelson (pictured above), Slater Martin, George Mikan, Herm Schaefer, the U’s own Don Carlson, Hamline’s own Howie Schultz, Sid Hartman, John Kundla and Bud Fuckin’ Grant, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the visiting Los Angeles Lakers 114-96 on Monday night. L.A. had the temerity to wear Minneapolis Lakers throwback jerseys in Minneapolis, as visitors to the state whose basketball team they poached in 1960. The NBA’s exodus from the Twin Cities might be ancient history, but seeing those gorgeous gold-trimmed baby blues worn by the looting outfit that absconded with a dynasty in the making (the “Los Angeles” “Lakers” made nine Finals appearances in their first thirteen seasons in California) was an affront to our state pride.

They should have to abandon these and leave them in the Wolves’ wardrobe going forward:

An unnamed “Los Angeles” “Lakers” player wears the MPLS throwbacks in this undated file photo

The Timberwolves jumped out to a 16-0 lead, forcing the Lakers into 4 missed shots and 3 turnovers to begin the game, thus causing Luke Walton to yank all five starters at once in favor of his bench. After that, the scoring evened out a bit; L.A. won the rest of the half 48-44 after their abysmal start. The first half was marked by an insane amount of whistles – a total of 33 personal fouls were called, and a combined 43 free throws were attempted. Karl-Anthony Towns was tagged with his third foul with 8:59 to go in the second quarter, but Gorgui Dieng stepped up and filled in admirably, finishing the game with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Los Angeles got out to a much better start to the second half than they did the first – the sleepwalking Wolves saw their lead trimmed to 5 points on a Kyle Kuzma three just 2:30 into the third quarter. After some more back-and-forth, the Lakers once again cut the lead to 6 on a Brandon Ingram jumper. Karl-Anthony Towns answered with an emphatic putback dunk…

And over the next four minutes of gameplay, Minnesota’s lead ballooned from 6 to 19 points. The Lakers went 0-for-4 with 3 turnovers (much like they did to open the contest) during the onslaught, during which Jimmy Butler seemed to take particular delight in blowing up possessions and Tyus Jones swooped into passing lanes for easy steals. The rout was on; Cole Aldrich got some burn, Marcus Georges-Hunt dribbled into a three attempt, and Jimmy Butler only logged 37 minutes, all telltale signs of a blowout victory.

L.A. finished with 24 turnovers compared to just 18 assists. They had Alex Caruso and Josh Hart assigned to guard Butler, who ended up with 28 points and 9 dimes. Corey Brewer was asked to dribble a lot, and finished with 4 turnovers, and he was also asked to take two corner threes, neither of which touched the rim. Kyle Kuzma, who dropped 31 on the Wolves on Christmas Day, mustered just 6 tonight on 2-of-7 shooting. Julius Randle had 15 points and 12 boards, and was the closest thing to resembling a bright spot for Los Angeles, but even he got some serious tunnel vision (especially running the break) and committed 4 turnovers of his own.

The Wolves are now 24-14, 4th in the Western Conference, winners of 7 of 8, and on a 52 win pace. They head out east next for games at Brooklyn (very winnable) and Boston (who’s scuffled a bit recently) before opening up a 5 game homestand (where they welcome, in order, New Orleans, Cleveland, OKC, New York, and Portland). Jimmy Butler is asserting himself, Andrew Wiggins’ shot appears to have returned, and Tyus Jones seems perfectly capable of steering the team while Jeff Teague is away. And, of course, they beat those insolent “Lakers.” Things are good.

A few other odds and ends from this one…

— Aaron Brooks sucks. Give me one good reason why the Wolves shouldn’t use their open roster spot on literally any other available point guard. I’ll wait.

–Andrew Wiggins – 9 rebounds? 4 assists? He is what he is at this point and I don’t think it makes much sense to trumpet every time he has more than 2 boards and 1 dime but yeah, he was very good in this game. Credit where it’s due.

–Bazz stayed firmly glued to the bench. On New Year’s Eve, he snapped a 13-game DNP streak. I have a feeling this next one will be just as long. He couldn’t even get garbage time burn in this one. Sad.

–And finally… Happy New Year to all of the readers out there. This website is fun as hell and we are all very humbled that you come to us to read about the Minnesota Timberwolves. From our AWAW family to yours, blessings and joy (and lots of victories to celebrate!) in 2018.

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9 thoughts on “Timberwolves 114, Lakers 96: MPLS

  1. This is what it feels like to me: I think the Lakers are so egocentric (as a franchise) that they actually think coming to MN in their MPLS jersey is a nice gesture. Like, ‘we’re acknowledging you. Ain’t that big of us fancy showtimers!?’ Don’t they know we are still mad they stole our team and kept the crazy inappropriate name!? Not forgiven!

    This was kind of a throwaway. A lot of those this season so far…I’m not used to being a good team. Maybe that’s a good team problem. Lots of junk games. Who’s up next Phoenix without Booker again?

    Aaron Brooks should have never made this roster. It’s not serious to continue with him. It’s not something real good teams who expect to compete in the playoffs do.

    I’m totally from the ‘Wiggins basically is what he is’ school of thought. And you know what? I generally don’t like what he is. When we acquired Wiggins from Cleveland I was hoping for much better. I’ve accepted that those all star dreams won’t be happening (quite a while ago). Still, while I don’t expect to see 21 pts with 6 rebs and 4 assists very often, I hope it is a sign of less 2 reb 1 assist type games. Just kick the averages and consistency up a tiny notch. Baby steps.

    I mentioned this in the last post, but Thibs’ deep end of the bench feels like a shaming, punishment type thing more than anything. We all HOPE Bazz will get better, but it’s dicey to hope for him to get much better. Thibs knew exactly what he was getting into with Bazz, but won’t even play him in garbage time. That’s punitive. And not really helpful to anyone. Not to mention, in every way Thibs knew exactly what he was getting into, so this basically reflects on him the most. That said, it’s sad to see Bazz just not get it. He’s got some talent, and… he tries hard and isn’t scared out there in that frustrating Bjelly way. But man, I see China in his future.

    Nice to see these lower minutes games the last couple. I don’t expect a pattern to develop. But Thibs, in the past, has been reluctant to lower minutes even in back to back and blowout situations. Baby steps.

    Again, a comment from last game, but it bears repeating: It’s striking how little (if at all) we miss Teague in the starting lineup. We only miss the depth. If we had a pretty good 3rd PG in as our backup right now we might not miss Teague at all. At times I’ve rolled my eyes at Teague, and critiqued him, but also defended him when he seemed to be playing well. But this kind of shows him for what he is on this team and it is embarrassing. For Thibs as much as him. We will see if this trend continues against tougher competition. I think it can and will for a number of reasons.

    I’m unhappy with Lonzo so far. He’s flawed. He’s like a Rubio level shooter who shoots like he thinks he’s Ray Allen. Can’t see any problems arising there! But what excited me is his passing. And it’s been above average esp for a rookie, but not as good as hyped at all. And he’s given opportunities in the system and with minutes. This team has a lot of problems. And Kuzma isn’t a savior. He’s a cog. Maybe a good one, but not transcendent. The roster has weaknesses and overlaps like crazy. Ingram is a big hope for them, but he’s like a KD style Wiggins. Which is to say, lower the ceiling on that prospect. Even given all this, I’m not so sure Walton is handling this correctly at all. This team is in a tailspin. It will probably pull out of it soon, but I wonder how much Walton has to learn before he becomes a viable coach in this kind of win now market.

  2. It’s nice that we’re blowing out teams that we should. I wonder what changed…

    Please Thibs, put Teague in a Wade type role with the 2nd unit. This team will be better for it.

    I don’t like Butler and KAT playing the entire 4th quarter. I would like to see them come in around the 8-9 minute mark. That would cut their minute average down to about 35 instead of 39-40. I really hope that changes but with Thibs, any sort of change is a pipe dream. Sometimes, I feel like I could manage this team better than Thibs. I don’t usually like saying that sort of thing but he’s that bad and stubborn.

    Tyus for President.

  3. I think that if KAT could stay out of stupid foul trouble (caused by his carping at calls, as much as his play), we could move Teague and Taj to bench and provide a solid second unit to help starters. Teague, Taj, Crawford, Belly and maybe our first round pick some day soon would give us more depth and not hurt our starters much either. Baz, Hunt, Cole and Brooks give you nothing but warm bodies and should be used as filler on any trade or Layton should earn his salary and find some players that can provide something (Defense, 3point shooter, shot blocker) for bench support and get rid of them. G seemed to play well with Starters, although Taj has been fabulous and deserves to start, and we all prefer Tyus to Teague in managing pace.

    The tough part of the schedule is coming up and it would be great to see Thibs balance his two units now, so we don’t waste starter minutes by losing leads whenever the second unit comes in.

  4. I realize that the Lakers (but more specifically the fans and West Coast Media) have an egocentric view of the NBA, but when I heard that Shaq paid for Mikan’s funeral costs, that kind of choked me up. The first great Laker big man, who was a gentle giant and friend to future centers in the league, needed help to have a proper memorial and the most recent Laker big man opens his wallet and pitches in; that is pretty special. When you hear about the new stars thanking the people that preceded them to make the league as great as it is today, it is a great feeling that the game is still in good shape. I have heard that Shaq has a special relationship with Russ and was a fan of Wilt and others, that shows why the big Diesel is so well liked.

    I do wish that we still had the Lakers name, and had built a stadium back in 1958 to keep them. They would have had Elgin Baylor and Hot Rod Huntley as part of the era after Mikan. Bob Short would have the same coach and GM he took to LA and probably drafted Jerry West. The Los Angeles team would be the Stars or the Kings or something as a start-up franchise in the new growing city of angels. Or they would have gotten the Nationals with Wilt Chamberlain, Royals and the Big O or Hawks to move. They wouldn’t have had Jerry West as a GM after his playing days, but I bet that Nicholson and others would have come out to support their team and the money would have been so much more than we would have gotten and the results would probably be about the same now as they were then. We would however, have a bunch of Championship banners and great light blue and gold unis.

  5. This team is coming together – yes we should have beaten the Pacers and Lakers, and 20 points isn’t unrealistic, but we did win, and starter minutes were reduced. (Perhaps Thibs really believes we are playoff bound, and need something from the starters for postseason play.) Yes it is frustrating that Bazz is getting no minutes – it is a shared responsibility between Thibs dog-house and Bazz not having been productive. GMH is better than I thought, who knows if he will stick and be a valuable bench contributor? Wiggins is far better than the fan appreciation shown him in reader comments. The adjustment from the close of last season with KAT and Wiggins sharing 60% of the offense productivity – to sharing the floor with 4 other scoring options (yes Gibson has been playing both ends of the floor) is an adjustment for both our young stars. For Wiggins finding a way to be productive and score, for KAT pushing his opportunities so hard he is being called for charging is a learning curve. Jones with the first unit benefits KAT and especially Wiggins (primarily because he doesn’t think of his own shot as first choice) and perhaps Teague with Dieng/Bjelica/Crawford and Wiggins or Butler on the floor would make the 2nd line harder to defend and more productive offensively. MGH is looking better – more than just fluff on the bench – and Brown/Patton are playing well in Iowa. Brown getting minutes as a longer term part of their roster – Patton playing into shape, perhaps Thibs/Lydon actually saw some potential and when we likely purge Aldrich/Brooks/Bazz as well as an open slot these young players will find a place on both the bench and floor.

  6. Ha, I like to get a little silly about the Lakers thing. One thing that really drives me up the wall is when teams move and they keep their name, even if it is wildly inappropriate. I think leagues should have rules barring that, basically, ‘if you are going to move a team at least change the name and let the city keep the rights to their name in case they can get a new version of the team someday.’ As funny as the Jazz are in Utah, they should not have that name. There are lots of cool creatures in the Utah mountains to name a team after. Ditto the Lakers. There are few less Lakey cities, although they have a few man made things tucked around, I think. I guess the name stealing rubs me the wrong way. It’s kind of funny, due to all their bluster, to see the Lakers struggle the way they are. I think they are worse than I was expecting even, so far.

    Hunt is doing what he could have been doing all season. He’s OK. You generally don’t have guys who can contribute in no way on your roster, but often that’s how Thibs seems to feel about lots of his bench. So that can make it feel like a revelation that Hunt can do stuff for the team. But he’s the definition of replacement level.

    Between Gorgui, Aldrich, Brooks, Bazz, and Hunt we have a lot of stuff that it would be nice to clean out and get some upgrades for. As it is, Thibs ignores the end of the bench almost completely, so packaging guys to get fewer, better [fitting] guys makes sense mathematically. That said who wants any of that stuff? I don’t have much faith in us getting much of any combo of that group. The outlier is Gorgui. I like him so I hate to include him in that group, and he’s clearly the best of them, but he’s completely expendable. For instance, if we were to trade Gorgui for nothing and give Aldrich all his minutes we’d be almost exactly the same team. For the amount of money we are paying him, that’s just not enough to justify keeping him with the needs we have. Because, he’s the only one of that group who might be able to garner a usable piece in a trade. Still tough though with the contract he has. I really hoped he’d be a major force against bench competition because he doesn’t play that great with KAT and has proven to be a borderline starting talent now on a team with bigs clearly better than him. Moving to the bench was an opportunity for him to step up his game against lower level competition and he failed. Still, I think odds are slim he gets sent out this season. We might be very conservative this season. Not even sure we’ll see Patton at all.

    ‘Wiggins is far better than fan appreciation has shown him in reader comments’. I’m not sure what that means. It isn’t that Wiggins is bad or doesn’t contribute. It’s just that he’s been overestimated his entire NBA existence. That makes it look like folks don’t appreciate what he does, but this isn’t necessarily true. It’s all about context. If Wiggins was drafted in the second round out of Weber State and no one thought he’d even stick in the NBA, what he’s doing would look really impressive and be a great, ‘in spite of his flaws’ story. But given the hype, and the going to Kansas, and the getting picked #1 and the rumblings of him being the Lebron of his generation it becomes more of a ‘this guys is more flawed than we realized’ story. He still is helpful. But holding our breath and balancing the direction of the franchise of him isn’t a good idea, and with a max contract we kinda did that a little. Which makes fans grumpy sometimes.

    Some folks, in their rejection of Brooks, have called for only using Crawford, Butler and other non PGs in that position when Tyus is off the court. This is a bad idea, too. It might in some ways be as bad as keeping Brooks and giving him minutes. For general security I wish we’d go out and get a better #3 PG now.

  7. No fun for me to be reminded of that great name — Minneapolis Lakers. Minneapolis is basketball and St. Paul is hockey. Minnesota Timberwolves sounds like Ely. However, we are better off than St. Louis. During the 1959-60 season, I watched the St. Louis Hawks play the Minneapolis Lakers in the Minneapolis Armory. I sat under the basket and watched Cliff Hagan of the Hawks and Elgin Baylor of our local team get in a fist fight. The Hawks had won the NBA in 1958 and word was that they didn’t have much tolerance for racial diversity. Also on the floor with the great Bob Pettit, were former Lakers Clyde Lovellette and Slater Martin. That summer of 1960, the Lakers moved to LA and picked up Jerry West in the draft. Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968. Today, no NBA team in St. Louis, while Minnesota is getting sell-out crowds.

  8. It is somewhat surprising that the St. Louis area has not gotten a NBA team again. Nor does it seem interested in trying. Now that the Rams have left, you would think that NBA team interest would be growing in the area. They have a pretty loyal base of fans for their sports teams. Not many fortune 500 companies, but neither does OKC. It would be nice to have another central US team. If they would add St. Louis and Seattle back, you Could have:

    Boston, NY, Brooklyn and Washington
    Cleve, Det, Toronto and Philly
    Bulls, Bucks, Pacers and WOLVES
    Heat, Orlando, Atl, and Charlotte

    ST. LOUIS, Memphis, NOLA and OKC
    Houston, SA, Dallas and Ariz
    LA, LAL, GS and Sac
    Port. Seattle, Denver and Utah

    a balanced schedule and much closer natural rivalries.

  9. Tom, I love this division idea!

    I have a friend who really likes St. Louis. All I can say is that it can be really hard for ‘flyover’ and smaller markets to keep teams. I like when places like KC and St. Louis have teams. It would be fun if even smaller met areas like Des Moines or Omaha could support a team, too. Seattle is a cool town and I hope they get back into the NBA. I also like Canada being involved, but the market thing is in play with that. It was cool when Vancouver had a team. It would be neat to have maybe 3 Canada teams in the NBA someday.

    One thing that’s kind of nice about losing the Lakers and rebooting the NBA here is the chance to make it a state team. Esp with it being a non-giant met area, I think it helps to have it officially a whole state team. NYC and LA alone can support a team, but I’m sure teams in the Twin Cities need out state (and Western WI) help. But it’s just a nice, inclusive gesture. I always thought the New England Patriots were cool for that reason. They represent a whole region! Even Maine! I think the Timberwolves is a cool name, too. What is a laker, even? Few states in the union support a healthy wolf population and it represents something really cool about the state. Plus wolves are cool, they symbolize a team well with their pack behavior, make a cool mascot and so fourth.

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