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Wolves Fall to Bulls in Winnipeg, 114-105

Atrocious defense was the main story, but there was plenty to talk about in another preseason loss for the Wolves.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly seven minutes had expired in the first quarter before the Wolves made their first field goal, a post-up bucket by Karl-Anthony Towns. By that time, they were down by 10 points, and would never realistically challenge the Bulls in this contest.

It was on merit. The beginning of the game featured the worst of Wolves offense--no ball screens, no real movement, and possessions devolving into isolations that resulted in contested jump shots that had very little chance of going in. Meanwhile, on the other end, the Bulls were getting wide open looks from beyond the arc, a trend that started early and continued more or less unabated throughout the game. The Bulls finished 16-36 (44%) from three.

The Wolves were saved from a true embarrassment in the 2nd quarter by the play of Tyus Jones, who started hot from beyond the arc--making all three of his attempts early in his shift, and then showing off a bit of a drive and kick game to get open shots for Damjan Rudez, Shabazz Muhammad, and Karl-Anthony Towns as the Wolves hung in the game and managed to be down by only 10 at halftime.

The Bulls had a small spurt to start the third quarter, and the game essentially over. Once again, the Wolves failed to defend the three point arc, especially in the corners, where the Bulls were able to find open shots nearly at will.

The Wolves were able to find some offense themselves at the free throw line (39 attempts) and, surprisingly, beyond the arc, as Jones' confidence seemed to spread and they finished an excellent 11-22 from three. They were a disastrous 20-56 inside the arc, however, as they consistently settled for contested jumpers of the type we are all too used to.

Jones was the clear top bright spot for the Wolves, especially if we ignore his defense. (The entire team was so bad defensively that it seems churlish to single anyone out in particular).  He finished with 18 points and nine assists in 25 minutes, shot 5-9 from the field, 3-3 from 3, and made all 5 of his free throw attempts while turning it over twice. It was an excellent performance that gives hope that there is a quality change of pace backup point guard in there somewhere.

Not a lot else to be excited about as far as individual performances are concerned. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with a double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, and while he made all five of his free throws and 4-9 from the field, his shot selection left something to be desired. He also committed four first half fouls, something that is to be expected as a rookie big. On balance, he was alright, and seemed to do a creditable job on Gasol in the post.

Nemanja Bjelica finished with 11 points and 9 boards in 17 minutes on 3-4 from the field. He also passed up some open looks and turned the ball over four times. Still. He was one of the only guys out there who looked like he knew what he was doing. He was generally able to keep the ball moving and make smart plays, something we are coming to expect from the Serb.

Beyond that, it was a continuum of non-descript to horrific for the Wolves. Andrew Wiggins was once again MIA, playing the first seven minutes with no impact, then not appearing again in the first half. He was equally invisible in the 2nd half, and was finally re-inserted (along with Zach LaVine) in the 4th quarter in an attempt to get something going for himself. It didn't really work, as he finished with 9 points on 2-8 from the field, and zero rebounds in 24 minutes. LaVine was...not good. His one basket came at the end of the game when it was already decided, and he finished 1-8 from the field with three points.

On the whole, is was another poor performance by the Wolves. Preseason is not particularly indicative of anything, but I can tell already I'm going to get tired of this if it continues in the regular season:

"We're young, we've got a lot of work ahead. We did a lot of good things. We've just got to come out to a better start defensively. First game we gave up 42 points, tonight we gave up 34 points. Way too many points in the first quarter."

We understand that we've got some young guys, it's going to take awhile. We'll keep working.

--Sam Mitchell (emphases mine)

It couldn't be more clear that they desperately need Ricky Rubio out there to stabilize things at both ends of the floor. Their desperation for him is not particularly comforting, but hopefully when he gets out there things will look a lot better. They really need to.

The Wolves next play in Toronto against the Raptors on Monday.