MINNEAPOLIS – We all know that old saying, "Save the best for last."
Cliche, yes, without a doubt, but tonight those words seemed like a fitting way to describe the Wolves win over the Bucks in the preseason finale at Target Center.
Andrew Wiggins finished with a preseason-high 24 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Tonight was easily his best game of the preseason, in which he flashed an improved three-point shot and played aggressively on both ends of the floor from start to finish.
"After working all summer on my shot, trying to make it better and more consistent, hopefully the hard work all paid off," Wiggins said when asked about his development beyond the arc. "I think we executed well. Everyone played well. Everyone that went into the game played a big part: defending, rebounding, scoring. I feel like everyone did their part."
Karl-Anthony Towns provided more evidence as to why he was the No. 1 pick, nabbing his second double-double of the preseason with 18 points and 12 rebounds (preseason-high). Towns makes the game look unbelievably easy with his wide range of skills, especially at age 19 and with the lofty expectations that come with being the first pick.
"He played like an animal tonight," Wiggins remarked after the game, as Towns sat in the locker stall next to him watching highlights on his phone, quietly chuckling to himself. One can only imagine he was replaying his explosive, powerful dunk over Middleton (or at least that's what I like to think).
"Every rebound that came his way, he got," Wiggins added. "He fought for it. Offensively, no one could stop him. He played like a beast."
Nothing seems to phase Towns, at least thus far. That's my preseason hot take. The Big KAT was 8-12 from the floor, adding two completely jaw-dropping plays (more on that later) in his best showing yet.
Shabazz Muhammad joined the party too, scoring a preseason-high 19 points off the bench. Sam Mitchell mentioned Muhammad's catch-and-shoot game during the postgame press conference and specifically how he's comfortable with him launching from deep when he gets his feet set. Muhammad talked about how diligently he worked on his catch-and-shoot three in the offseason in the locker room (2-3 tonight) and how it's going to be a big part of his progression moving forward.
I couldn't agree more. Bazz becomes a completely different player when the three-pointer is falling for him. Remember the game in Utah last season when he went 5-6 from three-point land, all out of the catch-and-shoot? So... it's something to keep an eye on throughout the season.
Then there's Kevin Martin, who was abysmal in Madison earlier in the week. He missed all ten of his field goal attempts in that contest. Tonight he dropped 20 off the bench on 8-15 shooting. And to top everything off, Ricky Rubio looked healthy and ready to lead the Wolves. The offensive execution and defensive rotations were the best of the preseason by a wide margin tonight, and Rubio had plenty to do with that. He finished with 13 points, six assists, and three steals in 29 minutes. There was no apparent lingering effects to that quad strain that limited him early in training camp and kept him on the sidelines for the first four preseason games.
"There are no Cliffs Notes in this league for young guys to learn and get better," Mitchell said. "Our guys played hard and I'm proud of the effort."
No arguments there, coach.
Mitchell on structuring the lineup:
"I think you guys saw what Tayshaun and KG did... They're not going to score a lot for us. There may be some nights where they might have some flashback moments, but they're not going to score a lot for us. Getting Karl to understand and Andrew or Ricky to understand that those guys are going to defer to them and you saw Shabazz and Kevin Martin coming off the bench to give us 39 points. That's kind of been my vision for this team. If we have some experience to get us off to a good start, then when teams come in with their bench, we really feel like with Gorgui and Bjelica and Martin and Shabazz, and Zach made some improvements tonight, that second unit is going to give us a chance to do some things."
Martin on the team's offense:
"You don't have to be thirsty for the ball in this offense. As long as the team is playing together, shots are going to find you."
- We saw the best five-man lineup of the preseason tonight in the fourth quarter when the Wolves made their big run and took control of the game. Rubio, Wiggins, Muhammad, Towns, and Dieng were on the floor.
- Bjelica and Martin were the first two players off the bench for Prince and Garnett. Mitchell said he would play the rotations as close to how he will against the Lakers in the season opener. Dieng entered the game for Towns during the next whistle. Then, Muhammad came in for Wiggins later in the quarter. LaVine subbed-in at point guard (Argh! The coaching staff should be playing him off-ball if they want to maximize his skillset) for Rubio after Ricky was called for his second foul in the first. For the time being we should get used to these substitution patterns.
- Towns posterized Kris Middleton tonight on the fast break and also had an unreal no-look, behind-the-back pass to Tayshaun Prince who was waiting unguarded in the corner for three. Boom, triple. After the game, Martin said Towns reminds him of Anthony Davis, saying he's already shown shades of AD and that he's been extremely impressed. High praise from the veteran.
Karl-Anthony Towns fast break slam over Khris Middleton https://t.co/4DOGbipTnm— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) October 24, 2015