The Minnesota Timberwolves have lost, now, thirty-eight games this year. There have been blowouts, there have been heartbreakers, there have been run-of-the-mill losses, and there have been embarrassments. The two losses to the Philadelphia 76ers this year have been two of the most embarrassing losses of the year. Tonight's 103-94 loss to the Sixers featured allowing former Wolf Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to lead the Sixers in scoring with 18 points, among many other details.
The first half was okay at least on the scoreline. Neither team led by more than six points throughout the half, and no player had a +/- more than 3 points away from 0. This was mainly because neither team could stop the other from scoring. The Wolves shot 59% in the first, the Sixers 68%. Nikola Pekovic had an outstanding half, scoring 16 points and bullying Nerlens Noel inside, using his larger build to seal off paths to the hoop and create space for himself. The interior was clearly where the Wolves needed to focus, letting both Pek and Gorgui Dieng draw fouls and get easy baskets and rebounds against the Sixers' big men. However, as noted by the Sixers' shooting percentage, the Wolves played little to no effective defense. Mbah a Moute was open for looks all over the court. Michael Carter-Williams got to the hoop with very little resistance. It felt like Robert Covington was permanently open for 3. At the end of the half, the Sixers led by 2, 61-59.
The third quarter was some pretty awful basketball by both teams. The hot hands from the first half were gone, and the shooting percentages dropped like rocks off a cliff. This is also where the turnover bug began to bite the Wolves. At the end of the first half, the Wolves had only turned the ball over five times, and other than a couple of Thaddeus Young fast breaks, had taken good care of it. In the third quarter alone, the Wolves had seven turnovers. The putrid shooting kept the game close, but the trend continued into the fourth, as a 14-1 Sixers run put the first bit of separation into the game and the lead ballooned to 10. Andrew Wiggins scored five straight points to bring the Wolves close again, but they couldn't hold onto the ball long enough to even score much, turning the ball over nine more times in the quarter (for 10 Sixer points). Pek, after carrying the load offensively in the first half, scored only two points in the second half.
For the Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams got his tenth rebound to seal the game late, completing his third triple-double of the year (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). Nerlens Noel did a little bit of everything with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 blocks, and 4 steals, including 3 blocks in the fourth quarter alone. For the Wolves, Kevin Martin led with 19 points, but shot just 5-18 from the field and 2-8 from 3. Pek had 18 for the game along with 7 boards, and Gorgui Dieng had a double-double with 14 and 10.
Some notes and observations:
- Andrew Wiggins scored in double figures for the 20th consecutive game, finishing the game with 15 points, but other than the short stretch in the fourth quarter mentioned above, was largely anonymous. I didn't feel like he saw enough of the ball when the Wolves were struggling from the floor in the third quarter, where he went merely 0-2. When Noel was benched at 5:09 in the 3rd with his fourth foul, that should have been a signal to attack the rim. The Wolves only took 3 of their 9 shots the rest of the quarter in the restricted area, and missed all three of them.
- Zach LaVine twisted his ankle during the third quarter and hopped around for a bit, eventually limping off when play was stopped, but returned for most of the fourth quarter and looked like he was moving fine. Lorenzo Brown again closed the game for the Wolves, but was not as effective as on Wednesday. Kevin Martin actually led the Wolves with 5 assists on the night (but seven players had three or more assists, so it balanced out).
- Most frustrating stat I found while looking at numbers from the game? The Wolves shot one 3 in the entire fourth quarter (they missed it). Troy Daniels, he of the vaunted 3-point shooting, had another DNP-CD. This during the quarter when the Wolves finally had a deficit that needed chasing. Jim and Dave on the broadcast both mentioned it as time slipped away, and even in the final minute, when the Sixers were careless with the ball and the deficit slipped to 5, there was not even a thought of a 3.
- Neither Anthony Bennett nor Chase Budinger missed a shot tonight! Should have given them more minutes. AB's one shot was a good one, too:
- Pek had this quote after the game, which is worth reading: "Nobody wants to be last, everybody wants to win games. I think that's why we play sports, because you like to win. Why else? Otherwise you can work in [an] office and have a regular job. Go finish your paperwork and go home. You don't have to win anything. That's why we play sports. We like to win, we like to compete."
- Finally, in the delights of single game plus/minus, two Wolves finished with positive +/- tonight: Gorgui Dieng +3, and your team leader with +6: Zach LaVine.
The loss puts the Wolves at 8-38 on the year, and they continue to have the worst record in the NBA. Next game is back home at Target Center tomorrow night for Mike Miller's Cavaliers.