The Cavs beat the Wolves in overtime, in an action-packed, three-pointer heavy, devoid-of-defense affair that unfortunately ended like this:
LEBRON. JAMES. FOR. THE. WIN. pic.twitter.com/ua5aUBm48N
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) February 8, 2018
Before LeBron broke the 138-138 tie, lots of stuff happened. Lots of “stuff” is required for teams to combine for 276 points.
From the outset of the game, nobody was playing defense. Facing the worst defensive team in the league, which also has the most tumultuous locker room at the moment, the Timberwolves decided to play down to their competition. This meant JR Smith was able to get hot from three in the first half and Kyle Korver was able to get hot from three in the second half. It meant role players like Jeff Green had wide open dunks. It meant that the Wolves threw away one of their best shooting performances… ever? and lost to a team that played (and lost by 18 to Orlando!) the night before the game when the Wolves were on extended rest.
This primetime game on ESPN was great for fans looking for excitement. It was also a pretty bad Timberwolves performance.
What went right? The Wolves did score 138 points, after all.
They shot 58.1 percent as a team. More significantly (and definitely more UNUSUALLY) they were 19-33 from three-point range. Wiggins (19 points) was 4-8 from three. KAT was 6 for 6! Butler was 4 for 5. Teague was 2 for 4. Jamal was 2 for 5. Shots were going in.
Jimmy Butler was the star for the Wolves and he was the most frustrating player on the game’s key possessions. He had 35 points on 14-21 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. He guarded LeBron better than anyone else. However, it seemed like every time Jimmy would do something great in the overtimes, he would then take it upon himself to dominate the ball for the next, entire possession, and throw away every opportunity for a dagger basket. His alpha dog leadership sometimes morphs into raw selfishness, and that’s what we saw at key times in the game. Most notably, and embarrassingly, was this shot — one that should’ve been the last shot either team took in the overtime:
3 angles of Bron's block on Jimmy, you could see it coming pic.twitter.com/Mmd3MiVtvJ
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 8, 2018
Jimmy’s a great player, one of the best 10 or 15 in the entire league. But he’s also an imperfect one and his false sense of offensive superpowers can be hard to watch. Put simply, with better decisionmaking from Butler in the overtimes, the Wolves probably win this game. Also: without Butler in the game, the Wolves would’ve lost by double digits.
A few bullets to bring this home:
- Hubie Brown called tonight’s game on ESPN. The former Kentucky Colonels coach was probably having ABA flashbacks when watching each team run down the floor and score easily.
- This was a classic Jamal Crawford game. He shot the ball frequently, he shot the ball well, and the horrific defense played with him on the floor meant that all of that good shooting led to the team being outscored by 12 in his 20 minutes of action. In this Wolves team’s regular rotation, Jamal is the weakest link.
Bjelica was involved in some of the uglier defensive breakdowns. He was (-6) in 17 minutes of action. When LeBron was on the bench the Cavs outscored the Wolves by 3 points. The Wolves benched failed them in this game.
Oh, one more thing about LeBron: He had 37 points, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds. I guess that’s 62 things.
KAT had 30 points and 10 rebounds. He had just 12 shots. If you’re one of the “KAT should shoot more!” zealots, you hate the 12 shots. If you’re in my camp — the one where we’re not sure if more KAT shots = more Timberwolves points (I mean, they scored 138 in this game!) you’re less worked up. Either way, he played a great offensive game. His threes from the top of the key are wonderful and he needs to keep trying those, whatever else the offense does around him.
With this loss, the Wolves fall to 34-23. They have an easy upcoming schedule, but strength of their opponent has not seemed to matter much to this team, this year. Who knows what comes next.
[An earlier version of this post said the game went to double overtime. It did not. That was an error — “fake news” if you will.]