MINNEAPOLIS – What can I say that hasn't already been said? There's no new tale to tell. The Wolves lost again on Monday night as the Jazz used their stout defense to overwhelm them throughout the game.
Entering the night, Utah was allowing the fewest points in the NBA this season at 95.1 ppg. You know what's even more impressive? Since Feb. 20 the Jazz have only allowed 86.9 ppg.
Gordon Hayward (22 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four steals), Rudy Gobert (15 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks) and Trevor Booker (17 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks) led the way for the Jazz starters. Trey Burke trolled the Wolves again by scoring 19 points in 24 minutes off the bench. I guess he's bitter about being traded by Flip Saunders (%).
Make that 58 losses with eight games remaining (16-58) in what's become a long, frustrating year marred by injuries, inexperienced lineup combinations and ancient offensive sets. There's really nothing new I can tell you that hasn't been discussed in-depth throughout the season. Tonight brought more of the same, which is a consistent theme I've stuck with in my recaps over the last two months. I didn't learn anything new.
I desperately want to walk away from the Target Center with some profound realization one of these nights. I want a new tale to tell. But that's not coming this year. Minnesota lost again, ultimately doomed by a short-handed roster with only eight active players.
Andrew Wiggins had two highlight reel dunks over Rudy Gobert that made the Target Center crowd go wild, but the game as a whole was rather boring. Aside from Budinger the rest of the active roster was made up of rookies and sophomores who understandably couldn't keep up with the Jazz. Utah grabbed control with a 14-0 run at the start of the second half and there was no chance after that.
Let's take a look at the battle between Wiggins and Gobert at the rim tonight, because nothing else was particularly interesting.
Verse 1: Rudy Who?
Verse 2: WOW... He Did It Again
Verse 3: Revenge of the Gobert
Wiggins v. Gobert Quotes:
Was the emotion after the dunk a sign of feeling more comfortable?
Wiggins: "I didn't do nothing like that all year, so it was the first time you've seen it."
Did you see Gobert's reaction (he flexed his muscles) after the block?
Wiggins: "I don't care about that stuff, that's part of the game. It's like if someone dunks and they scream or someone makes a three and they do something. It's all part of the game and nothing serious."
This is classic Wiggins. He's incredibly humble for being such a highly touted rookie. His modest nature is quite refreshing. While he doesn't give the media good quotes to run with, to frame however they desire (which is probably annoying to reporters), I absolutely love his attitude. There are no highs and lows with him. He's always the same bashful basketball prodigy.
Gobert on his meetings with Wiggins at the rim:
"Of course. Like I said, I'm going to get dunked on. The most important thing is to never be scared. I was waiting for him to come back and he came back pretty quick."
Searching for a Bright Spot
If there was one bright spot tonight it was the ball control of Zach LaVine, which was noticeably better. He had only two turnovers and finished with 21 points (7-19), 5 rebounds, and 6 assists in 44 minutes. He's averaging 3.8 turnover per game in March, so it was satisfying to see him take care of the ball against a tough defensive unit.
You also have to give Wiggins credit. He never stops competing and plays around 40 minutes every time out even though he appears to be physically exhausted. He guards the opposing teams top wing player. He's asked to be the alpha-scorer. He's asked to create his own offense. He's asked to be the man night in and night out, and he's just a 20-year-old rookie learning the ropes. I couldn't care less if he was -38 on the game. He busted his ass all night for a team that's currently going nowhere.
The last point I want to make is that the Wolves need to keep Robbie Hummel on the squad this summer. He's too consistent to let go. He does all of the dirty work, he's versatile, he can shoot from deep and can hold his own defending a wide-range of players. Hummel finished with nine points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench in his second game back after returning from a non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand. That injury occurred against Atlanta on Jan. 25. He's also a closet rapper (not really).
Saunders on Andrew Wiggins after the game:
"He hasn't gotten frustrated. Do I want more out of him? Yeah, that is what a coach is supposed to want - you set higher expectations. He continues to expand his game. When you think about that first month of the season, and now you look at him how he's attacking the rim, getting to the free-throw line. Before he had layups at the rim, now he's trying to dunk over people. He has really expanded his game, there's no question about that. He's Rookie of the Year. Anyone that throws anything else out - they're dreaming - he's the most dominant rookie. He's playing in a situation where because we've been so under-manned, he's the guy. Like tonight, when he got the ball, they've got three people over there trying to guard him."
Here's a song that I love. It seems fitting.