Once again the Wolves failed to compete in the second game of a back to back. Following a solid first quarter, particularly defensively, things fell apart in the second and got no better from there as the Pistons pulled away in the second half for an easy win.
In many ways, this game was an exhibition of the Wolves key weaknesses.
The Wolves made 5 three pointers in 14 tries, and three of those makes were in garbage time. Meanwhile, the Pistons, who started cold from three, continued to take them when open, and eventually broke the game open in large part from beyond the arc. They finished 14-35 on threes. Old friend Anthony Tolliver was tonight's MPE, finishing 5-7 (all threes) for 15 points off the bench for the Pistons.
You simply cannot put yourself so far behind on threes night after night; it puts too much pressure on every other aspect of the game. At this point it's clear that it's a combination of personnel and coaching; they don't have players who can consistently make that shot, and the staff clearly disdains it--if the last two years show anything it's that the brain trust simply doesn't value getting threes up there, or indeed finding guys who can do so effectively.
This has to change. It has become clear that whoever is in charge of the roster has to address this problem, and whoever the next coach is must recognize the value of the three pointer. It's simply too hard to win in today's NBA without it.
Karl-Anthony Towns is already, in many ways, playing like a star. Once again tonight he did many excellent things, finishing with a team high 22 points and 9 rebounds on 10-17 from the field. Towns is also 20 years old, and asking him to control a man with the size, strength, and agility of Andre Drummond is just a bridge too far at this point. The Wolves were dominated on the glass, outrebounded 52-36 and 12-6 on the offensive end. Much of this was Drummond, who finished with 23 and 18 on 10-14 from the field. He was just too much for the Wolves' bigs to handle, as he has been for many teams this season.
After a relatively strong start on the boards, things are beginning to go south in that area for the Wolves, something we expected prior to the season. As good as Towns is, dominating the glass is just not something he is quite able to do on a nightly basis at this point in his career. The Pistons are very strong on the glass, and showed their dominance tonight.
A few bullet points:
- After a series of excellent performances, Ricky Rubio struggled tonight, with five turnovers, as well as his share in the defensive problems. Looked like his ankle was bugging him a bit, and I do wonder if he was fatigued, but it was his weakest game in a while, despite his 8 assists and 6 rebounds.
- Zach LaVine, who was benched for much of the Jazz game, didn't appear until the 2nd quarter tonight, and then played 25 of the last 36 minutes to little benefit. He was forcing it early and never found any rhythm, finishing 1-8 from the floor. He also looked terrible defensively, getting completely lost on simple pin-down screens throughout the night.
- Shabazz Muhammad was the only bench player to bring anything tonight, finishing with 15 points on 5-7 from the field. He was at his aggressive best offensively, but his defense remains such a mess that I understand why Mitchell doesn't play him more.
- Finally, it's clear the staff decided to see if they couldn't jump start Nemanja Bjelica with a bunch of minutes, as he played 26 and Adreian Payne didn't play at all. There were one or two signs, notably the lack of egregious mistakes, but overall it was not the return of the early season Bjelica. I think giving him minutes is the right approach though, since there is a chance he can regain the form that made him useful early on.