The Wolves hung around tonight against the best team in the Eastern Conference, closing to within six late in the game before a couple of dagger threes by DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver put things away for the Hawks. After falling behind in a brutal 2nd quarter by as many as 18, and trailing by 14 at the break, the Wolves refused to give in and fought their way back into the game behind some hot shooting, especially by Thaddeus Young, and strong work on the offensive glass. But ultimately they couldn't get nearly enough stops against an efficient Hawks offense that shot 56% from the field and moves the ball as well as any team in the NBA.
A big story tonight was how Flip Saunders' horrible roster management was exposed at the point guard position. Mo Williams helped keep the Wolves in the game in the first quarter, only to see the Hawks go on a big run to start the 2nd as Zach LaVine entered the game. This was not a coincidence, and LaVine was removed after committing three fouls in three minutes.
Clearly frustrated with the rookie's play, Saunders did not want to send him back out there in the 2nd half. As a result, when Williams finally had to go to the bench for a rest, the Wolves were reduced to trying Troy Daniels and Robbie Hummel at the point, It didn't work, as the Hawks forced consecutive turnovers and halted the momentum the Wolves had built through most of the third quarter. Injury was added to insult when Robbie Hummel hurt himself at the end of the quarter.
It's ridiculous, and has been for a while. Mo Williams--let me repeat that, Mo Williams--is the Wolves most indispensable player at the moment. He's a guy who should be playing 20 minutes a night, and they can't take him out of the game right now, because there is no other playable option. And it's been this way for two months. We were subjected to just horrendous attempts at point guard play from LaVine and Daniels, which of course we expect, because the POBO wouldn't go out and find a competent point guard.
We deserve better, and it really chaps my hide that we are still talking about this, but it was clearly a big story tonight.
In good news, Thaddeus Young played his best game in months, scoring 26 points, adding 7 assists, and 6 boards, including a few big ones on the offensive end. He was converting around the hoop better than he has since early in the season, and looked spry and active. Mo Williams also had a good shooting night, finishing with 20 on 8-15 from the floor.
The other big story tonight was that the Wolves started a twin towers lineup with Gorgui Dieng at the 4 and Nikola Pekovic at the 5. Hard to say how it worked; the Wolves hung in during the 1st quarter, but both Paul Millsap and Al Horford did damage for the Hawks. Later, after the Wolves started staggering players, Millsap did plenty of work against Young too, so it's not obvious that there was a better option.
I thought that under the current circumstances, it's worth trying. I'd give it another go I suppose. I'm still skeptical of Dieng as a four, and certainly he had some struggles out on the perimeter, but it wasn't awful. Offensively I don't love it either, as Dieng isn't terrible from the elbow, but he isn't great either.
What did you think of that experiment?
- Another tough one for Andrew Wiggins, who got up only 11 shots (making 5) in 41 minutes. He really struggled to find space, and wound up turning it over 3 times as well. Seven boards on the night, but it was not a strong one for the rookie.
- AB. Oof. Got in the game at the end of the 2nd quarter, and promptly committed a dumb foul. Was not heard from again.
- LaVine wound up having to come in in the 2nd half because Troy Daniels was a catastophe, but still wound up playing only seven total minutes.
- GRIII, playing in front of his dad, got in the game and scored in the third quarter.
- The Wolves struggled with turnovers, including 4 24 second violations, as the Hawks really can clamp down and take things away. But still, they had one of their better shooting nights, going for 52% from the field and making 20 of 25 free throws.