In hindsight, the Minnesota Timberwolves probably should have won this basketball game. They led by fourteen points at halftime, having held the Orlando Magic to 32% shooting, and were comfortably going to leave Florida with their first road sweep of the two teams since November 2003. Ricky Rubio and Karl-Anthony Towns' connection continued to blossom, and Andrew Wiggins continued to score the basketball effectively.
In hindsight, the Wolves probably should have lost the game in regulation. The second half brought them crashing back to earth, as turnovers and bad decisions let the Magic blow right past them. The Magic led by seven points with 4:11 left, and it took a game-tying bucket by Andrew Wiggins with 2.1 seconds left in regulation and a game-saving block by Karl-Anthony Towns to get them to overtime.
The second half continues to be problematic for Minnesota. After the Atlanta Hawks stormed back from a thirty point deficit, this should not have been a surprise, but as this team continues to show, they are not quite a good team yet. Questionable decision-making on offense, bad turnovers by Zach LaVine, unnnecessary fouls by Nemanja Bjelica, all things added up to a situation in which Sam Mitchell played a lineup of Rubio-Kevin Martin-LaVine-Wiggins-Towns late in the game, which is not exactly a long-term solution to anything.
It is good to remember this was the second half of a back-to-back, with no Kevin Garnett, and with Rubio on only his second game back from the hamstring injury that kept him out of several games last week. This could easily be penciled in as a "schedule loss", but had the Wolves kept the energy of the first half alive through the third quarter, this was a comfortable double-digit win waiting to happen.
The discussion of whether or not the Wolves are a "good" basketball team is still out for the jury of the NBA world to debate. There are moments still where it appears that this team could challenge for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, especially in light of the turmoil with some of the expected playoff teams in Houston and New Orleans. However, there are many moments, such as in the third and fourth quarter of tonight's game, where they still look like the lottery team of 2014-15.
It remains very early in the season, and expectations for this team should realistically remain low. However, the peaks that even some of the weaker players on this team have showed are quite the temptation to expect more. One hopes that a time will come, possibly later this season, when a young team will have grown and matured to close a game like this out. Tonight, it was not yet their time to do so.
- Bjelica really struggled with fouls tonight. He did not appear in the closing stages of the game where he usually is at the power forward spot because he fouled out with 9:10 left in the game. He only had 3 points and 4 rebounds on the night, but was +10 in his 18 minutes, and the Wolves badly missed his presence on the floor at the end of the game.
- Towns continues to be absolutely ridiculous. Tonight's line: 21 points, 12 rebounds and SIX blocks, including the one on the final shot of regulation. He faded a bit near the end of the game, but was still a major factor on defense in overtime. Unfortunately, he was not close enough to Fournier to take care of the game-winner.
- Rubio remains the key to everything, and even though he also tired at the end of the game, his distribution keys so much of what the Wolves do. His stat line tonight was also fascinating and unique: 8 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists (tied with Towns for the Wolves' rebounding lead, which is both great and indicative of problems elsewhere). It is his first career double-double scoring less than 10 points, the 97th such game in NBA history, 25 of which were Jason Kidd. John Wall was the most recent player to do so, in February 2015.
- In an interesting note: down three points with 3.1 seconds left, the game-winning shot attempt was drawn up for LaVine rather than Wiggins. LaVine mishandled the inbounds pass before getting the shot away and missing badly, but had he caught cleanly, he would have had a decent look. The Wolves have fewer reliable options down three than down two, so this was informative to see in practice.
- This was the Wolves' second loss on the road of the season. They fall to 5-2 on the road and 5-7 on the season, and will look to break their home losing streak in their next game on Friday against the Detroit Pistons.
Play of the Game
Rubio. Towns. Enjoy.
Ricky acts like he's going to call a timeout, then hits Orlando with this... https://t.co/2JroOOb1Dl— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) November 19, 2015