That was a disappointment.
Following a terrific first quarter in which the Wolves scored 38 points and took a 13 point lead, and still leading by nine at halftime, the Wolves completely capitulated in the 2nd half and watched as the Pelicans blew by them for what turned out to be a fairly easy win for the home team.
The Wolves were red hot to start the game, shooting 75% in the first quarter thanks to their own efforts as well as some truly porous Pelicans defense. The second quarter was rockier, as the Wolves inevitably cooled off, but a couple of plays by Andrew Wiggins late on allowed them to maintain control and a nine point lead at halftime.
It couldn't last. The Wolves reverted to their usual ways, settling for bad shots often early in the shot clock during the third quarter, and the Pelicans, led by Anthony Davis and a revived three point shooting game took control. Still, the Wolves were within three late in the third when the Pelicans scored, stole a lazy inbounds pass and scored again at the buzzer to take a seven point lead to the 4th quarter. The Wolves would never mount a challenge, as by the time the starters returned to the game, the lead was double digits, and the Pelicans had all the confidence they needed to close things out without any drama.
It appeared that the Wolves' strategy was to let Anthony Davis get his, as they rarely double teamed, and hope that they could stop everyone else from hurting them. It worked for a while, but ultimately the Wolves suffered far too many defensive breakdowns, and the Pelicans got hot, especially behind Jrue Holiday who finished with 19 points on 7-14 from the field to compliment Davis' 35.
I could describe what happened further, but what's the point? This was embarrassing. It looked for a moment like the Wolves were going to build on their win over the hapless Suns on Sunday with another game against a relatively weak opponent, but it wasn't to be. Their flaws re-asserted themselves with a vengeance tonight: Rushed offense, confused bench play, huge 3 point shooting deficit, terrible defensive rebounding, and no understanding of what it takes to win.
Nobody deserves kudos tonight. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 20 and 13 and had some moments; he also shot 7-17 and turned it over five times. Andrew Wiggins looked terrific in the first half, rushed and callow in the 2nd. Ricky Rubio started very strong, but couldn't stem the third quarter tide. (A note: A recent trend seems to be that Rubio is scoring more but assisting less; perhaps that's a sign of better and more even ball movement, but I also noticed tonight that for whatever reason the ball was not in his hands as much as it should be given the alternatives).
The bench was no better, in fact it was worse. The second unit (tonight LaVine, Martin, Muhammad, Bjelica and Dieng) were all between -14 and -17 on the night, on merit. They were particularly grim defensively, as the Pels found their footing against the 2nd unit in the 2nd quarter, and then blew them out late in the 3rd and early in the 4th.
The Wolves fall to 13 and 30, and you have to squint pretty hard to see signs of improvement, the Suns anomaly notwithstanding. The Pels were coming off a tough game on the road last night and were clearly beatable, but the Wolves simply lack the consistency and talent to put teams away.
Next up the Wolves play in Dallas tomorrow night, but the bigger question is what's next for this team? Will things go on this way through the end of the season or will changes be made? Given the consistency of their poor play over the last couple of months, you really have to squint pretty hard to see sings of improvement. Once again we are staring down the barrel of another lost year.
This was one of the worst losses of the season, and with the Mavs, Grizzlies, Cavs, and Thunder the next four opponents, it doesn't look to get any better.