"We had breakdowns that we usually don’t have, and it cost us at the end. We were starting to pick it up in the second quarter, third quarter we came out a little flat, fourth quarter we played well. While winning the second and fourth quarter, we gave up too much in the first and third."
Karl-Anthony Towns said it as well as anyone could have. The Minnesota Timberwolves came out flat in the first quarter, and even with some small runs, they could never really get back into the game against the Chicago Bulls. They fell behind by double digits early and eventually lost, 84-71.
Rookie Bobby Portis was the key to the Bulls' attack. Portis went right at Towns throughout the game and played very well, shooting 9-14 from the field and 3-4 from three-point range for 23 points to go with seven rebounds. The Bulls were able to punish the Wolves inside, scoring half of their points in the paint. Doug McDermott made several plays that didn't make very much sense, but somehow ended up with 20 points in the game as well.
He's not the only one that didn't play an ideal game and scored 20 points, though. Let's talk about Zach LaVine.
Looking at the numbers, he had a pretty abysmal game. He was 5-20 from the field, didn't hit a shot the whole first quarter and generally looked out of sorts. His last two shots in the fourth quarter were complete air balls. But while he had the usual problems of supreme confidence leading to bad shot selection, his shot may have also been affected by his finger laceration from yesterday's game.
"I think it did a little bit," coach Ryan Saunders said. "We'll revisit it in the morning and see how it looks." There's hope that a day of rest will help him heal.
With LaVine struggling mightily in the first half, Adreian Payne carried the scoring load. Payne had 13 of his 16 points in the first half, including 2-3 from three-point range. While Payne has still very much been himself, the form on his jumper has looked as good as it's looked since he's been with the Wolves.
However, Payne's shot selection may not be fully supported by the coaching staff. When asked about Payne exerting himself from outside the arc, Saunders paused for a few second before answering:
"In moderation," he said. "We've watched a lot of film. We want guys to be confident and shoot with confidence, but we address good and bad shots too."
Tyus Jones was the other bright spot. Jones looked far more comfortable now that the first game jitters were gone.
"It was a big jump tonight from last night. I was just more comfortable out there, used to the pace of the game, so I'm just going to try to keep getting better every day," Jones said.
He was able to get to the basket and "play his game," a common thread in his comments. "I would say I didn't overthink things," he added. "I kinda just let the game come to me, and just play off of feel instead of thinking."
Towns also played a more comfortable game today, and was able to find spots to both shoot and rebound, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds (five offensive, where he was a force).
"You're finding more and more ways to get to the basket and get rebounds. And also, the nerves are out from yesterday. I felt very comfortable on the court today," he said. "I was just trying to use as much of the energy and be running the plays and execute as much as possible.
Towns was limited again by constant double- and triple-teams on offense, but was still able to help others and be effective on defense with two strong blocks.
The biggest highlight play for the Wolves was a series of passes, from Towns to Jones to a thunderous dunk from Payne.
"I think it just shows that we're going to have some excitement surrounding this team," Jones said after the game.
The Wolves are still building their chemistry as a team, and the potential remains great, individual struggles aside.