Generally I'm not a fan of West Coast games--after all, it's midnight, and here I am writing about yet another dispiriting Wolves loss. But one thing it does let me do is watch an early game before the Wolves. Tonight I saw an absolutely terrific performance by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who used his prodigious physical gifts to score 29 points along with a helping of other goodies as he went toe to toe with Anthony Davis. In the end, Davis and the Pelicans were too much for the Bucks, but watching a 2nd year wing player with spectacular athleticism putting it together got me excited to watch our own wing phenom perform.
Unfortunately, it was not Andrew Wiggins' night, as he finished with 11 points on a miserable 5-16 from the field, and aside from a brief stretch in the 1st, was passively settling for jumpers that weren't on target. It's a reminder that there are still going to be nights like this as he heads down the stretch of his rookie year.
I imagine it's nice to root for a team that regularly makes shots. On the rare occasions that the Wolves do so, like the other night against Portland, I certainly enjoy it. Tonight, however, they were back to their clanking ways, and as a result had no chance against a Clippers team that took advantage outside the arc and at the rim throughout in an 89-76 game that was roughly as unsightly as that final score.
The Wolves made 10 total shots outside the paint tonight, including their two (2) three pointers.
The Clippers, meanwhile, made 11 three pointers alone.
That more or less tells the story of this one. The Wolves "won" the paint points, had more free throws, more offensive rebounds, and fewer turnovers, but couldn't hit the broad side of Glen Davis in this one. A not uncommon circumstance. In addition to Wiggins' struggles, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin combined to shoot 3-14; it was an all around miserable night from the perimeter for the Wolves.
Defensively, watching this team's bigs--particularly Gorgui Dieng and Adreian Payne, try to defend pick and rolls (or, really, almost any action) is like watching the Three Stooges minus one Stooge. Their ability to wind up totally out of position off a simple high screen is something to behold, as were the half dozen DeAndre Jordan dunks that were the result.
Having criticized Payne, I should note that despite his troubles defending, he had his best night as a pro, starting in place of the resting Kevin Garnett. He was the only guy to have the range tonight, and he finished with 16 points on 7-12 from the floor, and 15 rebounds in 37 minutes. He had a couple of highlight plays including and And-1 dunk over Jordan that must have felt good after giving up so many at the other end. He looks awkward as hell even when producing, but tonight he produced.
- Flip continues to pretend Zach LaVine is his backup point guard, but continues to not actually want to play him. 4 minutes in the 1st half, a slightly longer (and worse--yikes) stretch in the 2nd that was only as long as it was because the Clippers went cold to start the 4th too, so neither team was scoring.
- Justin Hamilton got his first action for the Wolves in garbage time. Made a couple of buckets, so into the record book he goes!
- Gorgui Dieng continues to struggle; he managed 10 boards tonight in 27 minutes but shot 3-8 from the floor and continues to look out of sorts defensively.
- The problem is Nikola Pekovic isn't looking much better. He did have 12 and 10 in 24 minutes, but it took him 12 shots to get there. I'm a little surprised that he was -16 (compared to Dieng's -6); things do tend to look a little better when he's out there.
- Either way, the front court needs serious attention.