Andy G: We’re gonna recap this Wolves-Raps tilt, live INBOX style. This is a first time for us, so apologize in advance if this wheel starts spinning out of control.
BREAKING NEWS FROM TIMBERWOLVES PUBLIC RELATIONS:
No Jimmy tonight. No Jamal tonight.
Patrick J: Oh sh*t, why? (I assume these won’t be ‘DNP-Rest’ absences so long as Thibs is driving.)
Two potential implications heading into the Raptors game tonight:
- Might tonight we see the Bazzman cometh? Shabazz Muhammad, a rotation player on last year’s team to Cole Aldrich siamese bench-twin this season. “Bazz” (Eds. Note: Is this Muhammad’s legal name yet, ffs?) hasn’t given any reason for optimism based on his early-season play, but it would be nice to see if he looks any better in extended run after a few months of watching from the bench. Especially with two rotation guys out who play the wing. But–since Thibs ‘be Thibs–Bazz might never again see the light of day. If Thibs decides to remain forever stubborn and stingy with Bazz’s minutes, well, sit back and behold the sight of MARCUS GEORGES-HUNT, who has played relatively well in a limited role. (Eds. Note: Seriously, his defensive effort alone is worth the price of admission, depending on where you sit.)
- FREE TYUS JONES (more than previously). Everyone who follows this team closely has clamored for Thibs to give Tyus, who averages 18.5 minutes per game according to basketball-reference.com, a bigger role. The #analytics and eye test agree. Absent Jimmy and Jamal’s ball handling, Thibs shouldn’t play Jones fewer than 30 minutes tonight, even if Jeff Teague goes full ironman.
Andy G: Jimmy, apparently, has a sore knee. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. If it is, we can look forward to revisiting all of those super exciting Thibs #MINUTES debates.
In any event, Wolves are gonna need to get Spring 2017 Wiggins tonight — the one who drops 25 a game.
Patrick J, 7:43 PM CST: The Raptors are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps in the NBA. They’re currently the second seed in the East, behind Boston. The Wolves have fared poorly against Eastern Conference teams this season so far at 6-11, whereas they’ve gone 23-7 against Western Conference opponents.
As of now, Toronto ranks 4th in the NBA in both Offensive Rating (109.8) and Defensive Rating (102.7) and 3rd overall in Net Rating (7.1), per NBA.com, and they’re 2nd in the league trailing only Golden State in the NBA’s Player Impact Estimate (PIE) statistic–the NBA’s one-number, catch-all answer to former ESPN and current Memphis Grizzlies analytics guru John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) statistic. The Wolves are currently 3rd in the NBA in Offensive Rating and 7th in Net Rating. Despite recent improvement on defense, the team’s Defensive Rating is still only 21st in the league.
I wanted to take a quick look at whether the Eastern Conference teams the Wolves have played so far this season were better than the Western Conference teams, so I checked the winning percentages.
|Conference||W||L||Wolves Win%||Opp. Win%||Pts. Differential|
Andy G, 8:02 PM CST: The game is about tip-off. More on conference disparities when time permits. Game on!
Jimmy has some type of designed t-shirt on under his suit. I want to know what it is — odds it’s cooler than Pek’s Mike Tyson tee?
Patrick J: I didn’t see Jimmy’s shirt. But with all due respect to Pek, Jimmy might be the only player on the team’s current payroll who could give The Godfather a run for his money.
Andy G: Thibs started BELLY! Tonight.
Andy G: Ahem, BELLY! (Belly just scored a couple with a steal in between. Good start for him.)
I need some shades to wach this game. Highlighter green jerseys are burning my retinas.
Andy G: [Raptors leading 14-13, Thibs calls time.] Wig is being aggressive, as we needed. Has 6 points in 6 minutes. Kyle Lee Lowry is a problem. He can shoot. Hopefully that was on the Ryan Saunders Scouting Report. Marcus Georges-Hunt (all caps) is about to check in…
KAT just checked out at 5:04. He barely touched the ball in his first stint. I suppose, versus Canada, this is Wig’s time to shine?
Patrick J: Perhaps. Canada is very nationalistic about its sports. (Somewhere, Jay Triano is smiling.)
Andy G: Wig at the stripe: Derrick or No Derrick?
Patrick J: (/looks back late — Wig doesn’t Derrick!)
Andy G: No Derrick!
Andy G: What Kyle Lee Lowry is doing to Jeff Teague in this first quarter is illegal in 48 states. Not sure about Canada.
Patrick J, 8:28 PM: I think there’s a binding UN Resolution against what Kyle Lee is doing to Jeff T right now.
Patrick J, 8:28 PM: Twins 2nd baseman Brian Dozier is getting interviewed. Naturally, they’re talking Super Bowl.
Andy G: WIGGINS DUNK OMG
Patrick J, 8:30 PM: PINCHES SELF REALLY HARD–yep, that really just happened! Possible top-10 dunk of the season?
Andy G: Makes mental note to search Twitter for gifs/vids at next time out.
The rim lived a good life. pic.twitter.com/AKS3H7M8nL
— Kyle Ratke (@Kyle_Ratke) January 21, 2018
Andy G: BAZZ MINUTES
Patrick J, 8:32 PM: #LeaguePassAlert
Patrick J, 8:33 PM: Jim Pete is talking about the quality of the Raptors’ second-unit, which is a real strength for them. Already down a Butler and a Crawford, the Raps’ depth could be a real factor tonight. Something to watch during the second-half grind.
Andy G: [Raptors lead 28-26 after one.] Good stuff from the Wolves bench. When Lowry was abusing Teague, I was afraid this one might get away from us. Also, Wig has 14 after one. Dude is beasting.
Patrick J, 8:36 PM: The Raps were 4-8 on threes in the 1st and the Wolves were 0-3. But the Wolves made 4 free throws and the Raptors made zero. Sort of a microcosm of how the Wolves manage to run a competitive offense despite their lack of three-point shooting.
Andy G: So. Bazz is still out of control.
Patrick J, 8:34: It looks like he’s even forgotten how to execute his bread and butter jump hook from the left block. [EXTREME WOOD HARRIS IN ABOVE THE RIM VOICE]: “It’s a got-damn shame what happened to Bazz…”
Andy G: This Raptors second unit is interesting – tons of energy and maybe some raw/untapped ability out there.
Andy G: Okay, no more Jakob P jokes. He’s officially a problem. Nobody is boxing him out. Maybe that’s the actual problem. Hopefully the Wolves got the memo that just because he spells it “Jakob” doesn’t mean he can’t play. Raps are up 47-39 and Thibs calls time to discuss.
Patrick J, 8:51 PM: I’ll go out on a limb here and say that we’re going to need #ThibsToPutKATBackIn and get production from him if we’re going to have a chance. Foul trouble be damned. A really weird half so far with 5:21 remaining in the 2nd.
Patrick J, 8:54 PM: MEMO TO JEFF TEAGUE: YOUR SCORING IS NEEDED TONIGHT. SIGNED, THE MANAGEMENT.
Andy G: ANDREW WIGGINS POSTER DUNK NUMBER TWO
Patrick J, 8:59 PM: After WIGGINS DUNK NUMBER TWO, FSN-N play-by-play guy Dave Benz questioned whether it was as filthy as WIGGINS DUNK NUMBER 1. Commentator Jim Peterson immediately corrects him–”Yes, it was.” It wasn’t Pete’s first jab at Benz tonight and it won’t be his last
Andy G: [Raptors lead 62-54 at the half.] Wig has 22. That’s the good. Give the man the ball and he will get buckets. Kyle Lowry has 20. That’s the bad. Teague (and, to be fair, the entire Butler-less defense) can’t get stops.
What’s the first-half takeaway? Positive vibes knowing that Wiggins is a $150 Million Dawg if you feed him the ball? Or negative ones, knowing that Teague still (kinda) sucks and they can’t play D without Jimmy? Toronto is good.
Patrick J: Being down by 8 at halftime with no Jimmy/Jamal and basically nothing at all from KAT and Teague is encouraging, assuming KAT gets going in the second half. I don’t know what’s going on with Teague right now, but he looked really bad on both sides of the ball in the first half.
Here’s a summary of key statistics for the first half, brought to you by NBA.com:
Andy G: KAT just tried a poster dunk, but got fouled. Being in foul trouble and watching Wiggins, well, do poster dunks, got him antsy I guess.
Patrick J, 9:36 PM: Wolves are on an 11-0 run with 7:30 left in the 3rd after a KAT above-the-break three to finally reclaim a lead with 7:46 in the 3rd. After feeling like the Wolves were out of the game for much of the 2nd, it feels like a game again in the 3rd.
Patrick J, 9:39 PM: We need to give a shout-out to Taj Gibson for once again doing work around the hoop, rebounding hard, defending well, and scoring with both hands. Continues to be the guts of this team’s front line and a legit two-way player.
Andy G: Kyle Lowry takes another turn of abusing the Wolves.
Patrick J, 9:45 PM: Lowry is a killer. Toronto went on a 10-0 run to take back an 80-75 lead with 3:30 in the quarter. The Wolves are going to have to make shots because they can’t get any stops. This is a reminder of why our recent defensive improvement made winning so much easier. You can really see how bad it is without Jimmy on nights light this.
Andy G: HAVE NO FEAR BAZZ IS HERE! (He just made an ill-advised mid-range jumper.)
Patrick J, 9:50 PM: Did you see how he held his follow-through on that one like he was MJ in Game 6?
Andy G: #UAlreddyKno
A Marcus-Georges-Hunt (I can’t keep track of where the hyphens go on this team) clear-path foul, followed by a Bazz free throw has the Wolves back ahead. Interesting game…
Patrick J, 9:54 PM: Bazz Muhammad REVENGE GAME kind of feeling tonight…dude is hunting the ball and going HARD!
Andy G: DIENG FOR THREE. OFF THE GLASS. AT THE HORN. [Wolves up 87-83 after three.]
Patrick J, 9:56 PM: GORGUI! Dude is the kind of guy you just expect to hit the weird ones. #respect
Patrick J, 10 PM: Every once in a while, Belly’s slow-mo push shots look like one Arvydas Sabonis used to do. He missed this one, but still, good for him.
Andy G: MGH is showing me something here. Some tough scores off the dribble.
Patrick J: Bazz is running hot.
Andy G: watches Bazz attempt to score on 4 Raptors, get blocked six ways to Sunday, get bailed out with a call
Yes. Yes, he is.
Patrick J: Derrick/No Derrick?
Patrick J: (Bazz Derricks again)
Andy G: KAT scores And-1 in the pick and roll. They should run that play more. [Wolves up 5.]
Patrick J: I’m surprised how strong Poetl has played on D (despite the vicious dunk on him by Wig). He has given KAT a difficult time with his body until now. KAT finally looks fully engaged.
Andy G: Tyus feeding KAT for dunks, Wolves moving the ball all around. Beautiful basketball happening. Wolves up 100-92. 8 minutes to go.
Andy G: Wig draws 2 quick fouls and Wolves are in the bonus at 7:10. That helps.
Patrick J, 10:10 PM: According to ESPN’s in-game win-probability estimate, the Wolves have a 92% probability of winning the game with 7:15 left in the 4th while up 100-92. Seems too high without Jimmy, against the Raptors, and given this team’s 4th quarter history.
Andy G: Refs were bad to the Wolves in the first half, amazingly great to them in the 2nd Half and they just called a phantom foul on Wig, so maybe they’ll swing back the other way.
Patrick J: Nice Tyus stint here in the 4th. Teague has 9 assists but team has functioned much, much better with Tyus at the point. Thibs pulls him for Teague after a bad turnover. Teague to play it out…
Andy G: Teague comes back in and tries to score over Serge (I’ll let the readers guess how that went) and then gets scored on, again, by Kyle Lee Lowry. Raps back up 1.
Andy G: Out of the most chaotic of possessions (and there have been a ton of them in the second half of this stanky fourth quarter) WIGGINS BURIES A TREY. Wolves up 107-106. 2 minutes to go.
Crowd is chanting Skol. It is what it is. (A Vikings state.)
Patrick J: That Wiggins trey was naughty.
Andy G: Lowry has 39 points (with 1:23 to go) but honestly it only feels like 37.
Patrick J: DeRozan has 20 points (with 1:23 to go) but honestly it only feels like 14. /yawns
Andy G: Wiggins with a great defensive rebound!
Andy G: Wiggins with a great offensive rebound! [MGH free throws put Wolves up 5 with 24.8 to go.]
Andy G: MARCUS GEORGES HUNT just took a charge on DeRozan after icing the game with free throws. Dude had a career night tonight.
Patrick J: Marcus Hunt’s level of composure on the court is like a 40-year-old, in a good way. At least not a bad quality to have in close games like this one.
Andy G: After this timeout and 7 seconds of formalities, the Wolves are gonna beat the Raptors. Without “Jimmy” (Thibs voice) that’s damn impressive.
Patrick J: Beating a team as good as the Raptors without Jimmy showed what’s possible now. The young guys can get it done. Huge games and a huge win for Wig and KAT.
Patrick J: SKOL!
Andy G: resists urge to point out that Jamal was out tonight, which might’ve helped more than Jimmy’s absence hurt
Patrick J: Perhaps on average, but I tonight’s game was the EXACT type of game when Jimmy gets (too?) turrnt up and doesn’t pass in the 4th quarter. His numbers would’ve been more consequential for +/- than Jamal’s I’d think, despite #TheJamalEffect you mention.
Andy G: Wolves beat a very good team without their best player. Here’s the final box: