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Wolves 115, Raptors 109: The Live INBOX Edition

Pregame

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.

Immediate thoughts?

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.

They aren’t.

Conference W L Wolves Win% Opp. Win% Pts. Differential
East 6 11 0.353 0.493 -1.29
West 23 7 0.767 0.478 6.1

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.

Gametime

First Half

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!

Patrick J, 8:25 PM: Remember that Wolves @ Cavs game we attended in 2013 when CJ Miles singlehandedly destroyed the Wolves’ D? I’d rather not see a reenactment of that tonight.

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.

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.

JAKOB POELTL!!!

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:

Second Half

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:

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6 thoughts on “Wolves 115, Raptors 109: The Live INBOX Edition

  1. Better D without Crawford – Better Balance on offense without Butler – lucky to survive without our team leader. GMH – Bjelica – Jones possibly Dieng/Bazz all need more floor time. It shouldn’t all come at the expense of Butler or Crawford. Crawfords value is going to become depth 3rd option at PG if Teague or Jones is injured. GMH – Bjelica – Jones all need more floor time. Iowa wolves Patton/Jefferson/Brown – all need a serious look – floor time in Vegas this summer, and an opportunity to win a roster spot. Bazz/Aldrich/Brooks should not be back – all of them better than their use, but none will ever again be in Thibs plans. This team is best when riding its hungry young players – with Gibson/Butler/Teague supporting, defending, and making them better.

  2. This is a make-up for the Orlando loss. So they are back to getting .500 for the ten game stretch following our five game run at home. I hope that with Jimmy and Crawford out against a good team, will show Thibs that winning with a deep bench is important. Giving guys a chance each night to bring something to the team is important for morale and for protecting your starters from overuse. This is a long season, and the more you can create new challenges for your big three the better. It was nice to have Jimmy out and KAT in foul trouble and see Wiggins rise up to be the alpha male. Now if he could do that against a team other than Cleveland and Toronto where he has a motivation to do well, I would be much happier about young Andrew. If he can score like that against a good defensive team like the Raptors, why is he so silent in games against teams that can’t defend? Quality win and hopefully a learning experience for our coach and our third option.

  3. The win tonight shows that we don’t have to play every starter 37+ minutes. Our young guys showed up. MGH got 30 min and made the most of them. Also, why can’t Wiggins play with this kind of assertiveness every night? Wow. Did not expect us to win this one, especially when down early. But man what an effort by everybody. Love and enjoy seeing the effort, ball movement, and getting the W.

    I don’t think Thibs will learn from this nor will he change his philosophies. He’s shown that with not playing Tyus enough and giving him a short leash even though he performed well when starting. My hope is Thibs will learn but from what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to believe he will, which sucks. I’m loving seeing these young guys step up and play hard. They are actually very capable players when given some allowance to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s hard to practically learn from your mistakes when you are yanked right away. Yet Teague can allow Lowry to score 40, albeit not all his fault, but Thibs still plays him way more. That’s what makes Thibs so frustrating.

    All in all, really happy about the win against arguably a top 5 team.

  4. This game was really, really, strange. I think what most made it feel like a funhouse was the fact that Thibs was forced to play unusual combos and large minutes for bench players rarely seen. It’s just not something he lets you get a glimpse of even, unlike most coaches. And then wham! It was a strange game also because in some ways both teams looked really awkward and bad, but they both had really good individual performances.

    Oooff duh, I think Xbox live recaps give me headaches.

    Love those Aurora Limes. Another win should encourage us to wear them more. I wouldn’t mind every home game. You can’t see the guys in the paint on TV when they wear the navy. I like that we went to a darker main blue, but they made it a too dark and black. The guys just disappear in them on TV and they look pure black on some broadcasts.

    Anyone getting deja vu? Wiggins. He isn’t what he was in this game. Or more accurately, he is this on rare occasion. You’re never going to see this every night or even once a week. It’s not in here <3 But I will say, it's fun and very helpful when it happens. And comical how there's always a cheesy 'reason' like playing his hometown team. So weird. I've never seen anything like it.

    Maybe I'm a KAT apologist, but in the first half the team made zero effort to feed their most potent and varied offensive player. It's really strange. And yes, he got in foul trouble, but Thibs was way too cautious about that. I was really impressed when KAT came out in the second half and left all that behind and produced big time. I wonder when he's going to want out of MN.

    Teague. Yikes. Seriously, how on EARTH is that possibly a 10 assist effort? So inexplicable. At one point Jim Pete was ragging on him, saying he needs to play better, but this is kinda what he is, like an extra bad version… He has games like this or not as bad, but otherwise that feel like this all the time. The numbers keep saying we are a better team with him sitting. At some point is that reality going to sink in: Jeff Teague isn't that good of a player.

    With normal leadership, with a normal coach, you have a game like this, called a 'breakout' for Hunt, and in which we saw the Shabazz can actually help us without destroying earth, and you think maybe a hint of it will sink in. Maybe Bazz will get minutes, maybe Tyus will get more minutes, maybe Bjelly will get more minutes, maybe Hunt will get more minutes. Maybe some trust has been developed. Not a chance with Thibs. It'll be like in never happened.

    This was such a weird game, so it's hard to tell if you can really come to good conclusions based on it… But man, I expected Toronto to look better. I understand they were tired, but still. Not that scary a team. That said, Lowry is a Wolves nightmare, esp with big Teague minutes. Still, I am proud of Casey for getting better as a coach and evolving to meet the demands of a changing league (cough cough). Good for him!

    Fun win. I'd like to see more of these games with more guys involved with energy and passion.

  5. Two things about Jeff Teague. First, I think he would be a great backup PG for a championship level team. He can score and he can sometimes get crafty and steal a ball or two. He can be that guy that comes in and scores without taking the ball away from the big three. He could use his veteran skills to break down a rookie or fringe PG on the other team. His inability to be a star PG is why Atlanta got rid of him and Indiana didn’t see his worth in FA..

    Secondly, I wouldn’t be nearly so hard on him, IF we didn’t pay $19 million dollars to get him. If he made Rubio or Collison money and we used the additional $5.5- $9 million on a wing or three point shooting specialist, then I would be firmly in Jeff Teague’s camp. He isn’t elite like Chris Paul, Steph, Westbrook, Kyrie, Lowry or Wall (there is a longer list of PG, he is not, but those for sure). His assists are as mundane as can be. Rarely does he throw an alley-oop to his players, or a clever bounce pass between two defenders to an open cutter. It is usually a simple hand-off or pass around the horn that goes to a player and he gets himself open for the score. But he is a crafty driver to the basket at times, and can hit a three once in a while. Not elite skills, yet elite money (top 10 paid PG). Except for George Hill, he doesn’t have better numbers than any other top 15 PG. Rubio is seventeenth.

    Thibs is going to live and die with Teague, at least for this year. The team is capable of getting the third seed in the West and possibly getting to the second round of the playoffs and play Houston. Then Teague will be a liability, and we will see what Thibs does then.

    1. I was in this place about Teague when we got him–was open to seeing what he can do, but grumpy we wasted so much money to get him. But now I look at him quite negatively. It isn’t because he’s not a star. We don’t really need a John Wall or Chris Paul on this roster. But our offense and defense both are clearly better (now with a decent sample size) with Teague off the court and Tyus on. For perspective, that means the team is statistically better with a third year back up point guard that few believed would be a starter in the league than it is with Teague. Part of this is that Jones is playing better than people imagined and he’s able to cover his flaws remarkably well. For instance, his size and athleticism was supposed to make him a poor defender. But he’s already obviously better than Teague on that end. He’s a little more stubby, but he’s actually the same size as Teague and has shown surprising athleticism (two dunks, does Teague even have one this year?). However, much of the difference comes from Teague’s mediocrity. I’ve talked quite a bit about it. The gist of it is that he doesn’t control pace well, he dribbles the ball too much, he hogs the ball, he wastes too much shot clock, he has trouble with basic entry passes, his assists tend to be of the most mundane kind (no team is scared of his passing) he doesn’t defend well enough, he’s very inconsistent, he doesn’t play hungry. He’s a better scorer than Tyus, but he’s not an outstanding scorer and he starts with a bunch of guys who can really score the ball, so his least needed skill is his scoring. He’s also not a very good 3 point shooter, so he doesn’t help take pressure off the team in that regard. It won’t be long before Tyus is better than him at three point shooting. So, Teague is an overpay and particularly a bad fit for this starting lineup. Losing Rubio hurt me a lot as a fan, but a lot of people were accusing people grumpy about Teague of being too biased and emotional about the issue. ‘Give Teague a chance. The poor guy stepped into the shoes of a fan favorite… I feel sorry for him!’ Well, a good amount of chance has been given, and the numbers say we’re better with our third year backup on the court.

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