This game started with an emphatic dunk by Ryan Kelly. It was hard not to view the rest of the game through that lens: watching the Los Angeles Lakers shred through the Minnesota Timberwolves' idea of interior defense (for it could not be called anything more than an idea; there was no physical concept to it) time and time again for easy dunks for Tarik Black and layups for Jordan Clarkson. The Wolves put up a good fight and came back from trailing by as many as eighteen to lose by only eight, but chalk up another loss to the defense.
The Lakers' broadcast crew was the chosen NBA TV group for the night, and an interesting note was that one of their pregame keys to the game was to keep the Wolves off of the free throw line, as the Wolves are third in the NBA in free throws attempted, and second in free throws made. They pretty conclusively did not succeed in that goal. The Timberwolves' 34 free throws on the night tied for their eighth highest total of the season, and the 31 makes was their second highest of the season. Andrew Wiggins in particular continues to flourish in drawing contact and getting to the line. He went 15/16 from the line, both makes and attempts being season highs for both him and the team.
This James Harden stat is kind of crazy. pic.twitter.com/5z2KX2janZ— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 10, 2015
The stat above focuses on James Harden, but look who's up there in second. This isn't a one-off trend.
However, the free throws were not enough to save the game. The Wolves only shot 43.2% from the field on the night, and 20% from 3 on 15 attempts, not a single one by Kevin Martin, the team's most reliable three-point shooter. And the defense...yeah. Take a look at the Lakers' shot chart from last night.
The Lakers took over half (43 of 83) of their shots from five feet or less. Had they made more of them, this game wouldn't have been as close as it was.
- Wiggins' whole stat line was pretty beautiful: Another double-double with 29 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers, all three of which were in the first half. He's finishing the season strong, and his claim to Rookie of the Year is so, so strong.
- I try not to take much stock in single-game plus-minus, but watching the game, I feel like this was especially telling last night: Zach LaVine -18, Lorenzo Brown +14. Brown scored in double digits for the third time this year with 10, and added 4 assists and 4 boards.
- Kevin Martin made the start after being listed as questionable, and had very little impact on the game. He went 2-8 from the field with 6 points, and was a team-worst -24. For the jokes about him conveniently being sick for tanking purposes, him playing last night may have been just as bad. Martin's first shot of the third quarter hit the side of the backboard. It was that kind of night.
- The Lakers actually distributed their scoring nicely with five players in double figures, led by Ryan Kelly's 21 (5-of-6 from 3). Clarkson, who stole Wiggins' Western Conference Rookie of the Month award this month, had 18 points and 9 assists.
- We'll end with a positive: those Wiggins dunks. Holy moly.
If those don't warm the cockles of your heart, I don't know what will. The Wolves finish their four-in-five West Coast swing late tonight at the Golden State Warriors, who might rest their entire starting lineup and will probably still win comfortably. What a ridiculous team.